As many of you know, my first two weeks on the Camino has been as a solo pilgrim. I have purposely not written too much on these details, in case there are any creeps lurking in cyberspace. Call me over cautious, but I purposely booked a self-guided tour with caminoways.com – just for a little more piece of mind.
I walked by myself every day, and the tour included breakfast, dinner, nightly accommodations in hotels, a 24/7 emergency number and they drove my ‘other’ bag to each location every day. It worked out to be about 200 Euros a day which, when you convert into Canadian, it was a big splurge for me. In all of my times in Europe, Michael and I have never spent this kind of budget before. But, it was a fantastic travel experience. Here’s my list of pros and cons of this tour:
- No interaction with other pilgrims in the mornings or evenings. Part of the Camino experience is staying in Albergues (hostels), and enjoying the camaraderie between all the pilgrims.
- Fewer pilgrims walk the Portuguese route, and many of the hotels I stayed at were quiet – so limited human interaction.
- The cost for a single supplement (worked out to be an extra 500 euro I think) – included in the price mentioned above. I know this is an industry-wide fee, but felt like a gouge.
- You had to make it to a certain destination every night, so if you wanted to explore anything along the way, or spend more time in a city, you didn’t have much flexibility.
- Safety – I had the emergency number provided, as well as the number of each hotel, so there were many options to call for help. If you’ve been reading all my blog entires, you’ll know that on the first day I did call my hotel to pick me up 6km out, as heat stroke hit me.
- Pre-vetting of hotels. I didn’t have to spend time and organize or book accommodations.
- A few days I had the driver who was transporting my bag, drop me off down the road. This was extremely helpful in managing my limitations of my cold, as well as the heat. It gave me options to pace myself.
- The hotels (for the most part) were 3 or 4 stars. I loved having access to swimming pools for swimming and stretching after a long day of walking, and soaking in a tub was ace.
Overall I recommend this tour, and it was the best choice for my solo travel experience. My last day of this tour saw me walking 20km from Sao Joao da Madeira, into Grijo, then they sent a taxi to pick me up and drive me the last 15kms into Porto. I was supposed to be driven back to Grijo the next day and walk into Porto, but I opted out for a rest day a la tourista instead.
My Angel today was a gentle faced man mopping the stone floors of the monastery in Grijo. I arrived to the piece and tranquility of a small garden and sat awhile to cool off in the shade. I walked through the cloisters and saw nobody. Was wanting to get a Carimbo and stay awhile. As I was about to go, this man asked if I wanted my ‘stamp’. He led me into the Sacristy, and using a large, old decorative key unlocked a wooden door and pulled out the Carimbo. Then he opened up the Church for me to pray, and while I’m more spiritual than religious, I couldn’t say no.
I said a thank you and left feeling a great sense of peace.