There are 2 or 3 Camino guidebooks that just about everyone uses to determine what path to take, how far to walk, and where to spend the night. It appears the most popular book is by John Brierley. But, regardless of the author, most are organized by days and have the same stopping points each day.
Picture large groups of pilgrims hurrying toward a specific village in order to be sure they get a bed. Mind you, there are beds aplenty if the pilgrims weren’t all walking lock-step, in accordance with “the book”. But, early on, we were all hooked on the books. And, here’s what happens to the “cook-book piligrims”:
* If possible, they walk the distance prescribed regardless of fitness level or pain.
* They get injured. One of the recommended treatment for most injuries is rest, but that’s not in the book, so they bandage, compress, medicate, and continue until they can’t.
* Use a van-service to send their packs ahead – easier to walk the distance with less weight.
* Start walking very early, in the dark, to beat the other pilgrims (& to get a bottom bunk)
*Catch a bus (fondly referred to as the ambulance) part way, then walk.
* Walk quickly with very few stops along the way – none of that “smelling the flowers” business.
Although it takes awhile to rip oneself from the security of “The Way According to Brierley,” now that we have gone half-way, we (& many others we have met) are developing confidence to construct our own plans each day.
So, yesterday was the day! We took a good long rest in Leon, and proceeded by bus to a town 2 cook-book-days away and from there walked to a Brierley mid-point. We were immediately rewarded with a small albergue, only 1/3rd filled – plenty of opportunity to wash clothes, hang them out, shower with hot water, dress privately – all the creature comforts we have been missing.
Then today, I miscalculated. We only walked about 12 miles, which isn’t bad, but the last 5 were very steep (stopped at 1,330 meters), on a rocky path, and boiling hot. I arrived to a very crowded albergue (36 bunk beds per room) feeling sick and grumpy. Oh well, I’ll remember to check elevation next time and tomorrow is another day. Here’s hoping the majority of the 72 people in the room tonight do not snore.