My typical day on the Camino de Santiago started about 6am. I was a mature student before hiking the on the Camino de Santiago for the first time; at that time I would have been doing well if I was awake before 9am, (I had got into student life and loved it). So six in the morning was initially shocking, however, I easily got used to the early morning.
There are the “bag rustlers” – these are pilgrims that think it is a good idea to start in the dark anywhere from 4.30 onward. Personally this was never attractive for me. Sleeping in albergues demands tolerance and the bag rustlers test it to the limit. There are quite a few pilgrims on the Camino who start very early and intend to finish their walking day by noon or the latest 2pm – in many cases this is the due to the fear of not finding somewhere to sleep the next night due to albergues being full – this was never an issue for me until after Sarria the last 100km or so on the Camino Frances.
The only other people that push the tolerance to the same extent are the snorers, (afraid I am one, hay-fever made it worse than usual – I’m told). Buy good ear plugs, a must. The worst snorers are the ones that have had a few drinks, to be expected.
The first big difference for me was no coffee first thing in the morning, usually I had to walk to a cafe which was often 3 to 5km in the next village where I would stop for breakfast.
At home I would not leave the house in the morning without having a shower. This is a luxury that is not available while staying in hostels or albergues. The only time I was able to have a shower before starting my walking was the few nights I stayed in a pension, (B&B). Being a bit smelly is just a fact of life for pilgrims using albergues on the Camino.
So given my aversion to mornings at the time, I would often be the last to leave the albergue in the morning, about 6.45 or 7.00am. Many albergues close in the morning at 7.30 or 8am, though this is changing slightly due to the high number of private hostels.
Then simply walk. I did not hurry and walked at my pace. Some days I walked with other pilgrims, sometimes on my own. Simplicity itself, just bloody wonderful. Nothing to do but walk and eat and talk – if I wanted to – an incredible break from my norm.
Often I would not finish walking until 3 or 4pm, after having lunch somewhere I would rest from the heat under a tree.
Once I reached the albergue I would shower and wash my clothes. I had one set of clothes for the evening and another for walking, no others. More often than not I hand washed my walking clothes – this again has changed quite a bit over the years and almost all private albergues have washing machines.
Then perhaps an afternoon sleep for an hour, read, or chat with pilgrims, some that I might not have seen for a day or so. It was surprising that I could sleep for an hour in the afternoon and then easily sleep again at 10pm.
Sometimes some pilgrims need help, help fixing blisters, advice on how to care for very hot feet, (a basin of very cold water for 20min, great).
Then about seven in the evening I would eat a pilgrims menu in the local village bar or cafe; the pilgrim menu is sufficient and I never went hungry, however it is not exciting food, (and I lost a lot of weight without trying). Some albergues cook an evening meal or have a kitchen where you can cook, if there is a communal meal I suggest participating as they are a great way to meet more people and the food is usual very good.
I would be in bed and fast asleep by 10 or 10.30pm, I would wear little to bed – usually my shorts that I was planning to walk in the next day. After a few days getting used to sleeping in rooms with other people I slept great almost every night.
Then get up and do it all again, Buen Camino.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.