I am still unsure about whether to post this or not. A travel blog is supposed to be happy, it is supposed to promote the destination. I want to promote the Camino de Santiago as it has so far been an unforgettable walk for me. Alas there are a few things that irk me, things I wish I knew before coming on the trip.
One The original route has been changed. This was the biggest bummer for me. The albergues/hostels and people who stand to make money out of the route have formed a consortium/union/interest group that has enough power to change the route to pass certain venues or shops.
Two The prices for food and accommodation on the route are double (sometimes triple) what they are in the big cities or if you perhaps wander off the route by a block or two. A ham and tomato sandwich will cost you 4.50Euros on the route compared to 1.80Euros just a block away.
Three Unless you can live on processed white bread and lots of Iberian ham, you are going to suffer to find good quality and fresh food. We have started buying fresh fruit and nuts at the little supermarkets and staying clear away from the supposedly cheap, but wholesome menus put out everywhere for weary pilgrims. If anyone wants more tips on how to find good food, send me a message.
Four The albergues resort to aggressive marketing either by putting up hideous billboards in beautiful settings or stapling them against trees at rest areas. For goodness sake, the route passes every albergue already! The owners sometimes drive up and down the route to hand out pamphlets or accost you in the street on foot. I have just started speaking Afrikaans to them.
Five Some of the albergues have bed bugs and really, really small beds squeezed into big halls.
Six The pilgrims apparently don’t care about what they leave on the trail. You will find toilet paper on the WHOLE route, water bottles in places and even discarded hiking shoes.
Now, having gotten that out of my system, I must stress that the Camino is still worthwhile. Nowhere else will you find a walk where you can hike for months on end without having to worry about having food and accommodation handy at roughly every five kilometres. When you do hit the original sections of the Camino (hiking into Molinaseca and up to La Faba), away from the billboards, advertising and commercial aspects, it is something so magical you can’t explain it to someone who has not walked the route themselves.