Final Thoughts

Would I do this again?

Yes!  I will probably do the French section next from Le Puy to St Jean Port de Pied which is also 800k. Then the Portuguese Camino, then from Switzerland, and then tackle Norway. After that…
Did I mention the Camino can be addictive?

When?

I think spring and fall for the Camino Frances is probably best: less crowded and the temperature is better. I couldn’t hike it in 40+ degrees C.
Many people hike for a week or two, then come back the next year and continue on. You don’t have to do the whole 800k.

Packing

 
A couple of people asked if there were things I wished I had taken or things I wished I left behind. There isn’t an easy answer for some things as it can depend on the weather, but here is what I would change or add or definitely bring to my list next time:
– umbrella. I ended up buying a good quality one that I used mostly to cover me from the sun. The shade made it so much more comfortable to walk in the sun! Of course, it was also useful when it rained. I would look for a very lightweight small, windproof one. 
– the first aid kit would contain Cipro antibiotics for intestinal problems; antibiotic cream; lukotape ( or some such medical tape); a variety of good bandaids preferably waterproof or with good sticking tape; Gerwhol foot cream. More Body Glide for the feet…and for chaffed body parts.
– really good quality of socks, the ‘blister-proof Wright socks sucked. I wore through my favourite Mungo socks and lost one pair. Darn Tough brand was a good second choice but I would look for thin, wool or wicking socks that really fit the foot, you don’t want excess sock to rub against your skin.   
– My North Face shorts were great! Zip-off shorts/pants were good but a bit too stiff. Something softer would be better. 
– Before I left I tested my clothes for 12 hour drip dry times and I am glad that I did. This means I could wear the same outfit every day and know that it would be dry by morning, although it would often be damp at 9pm so I brought the laundry in and hung it on the bunk bed, which also gave me some privacy. Otherwise, you may need to bring more clothes. My underwear took a bit too long to dry but I brought 3 pair anyway in case drying took longer or I didn’t have time to wash one day. Socks also took longer so at times I dried underwear and socks hung from the backpack with safety pins when needed and let them dry as I walked. One day I had socks, underwear, Tshirt and shorts hanging from my pack as I walked.
– my sarong was great! I slept in it, used it as a light blanket and as a scarf. 
– the battery charger was very useful. It provides 3-4 charges so I also charged other people’s phones. I would bring it again or a lighter weight 2-charges version. It was also good to charge this overnight and keep my phone by my side for security.
– I took a light string-strap backpack as a purse. Very useful but next time I would take a stronger one as this one I had to repair.
– my down vest was useful. But next time, I might bring the down jacket instead. It doesn’t take up much more room and if the temperature did drop it might be more useful than the vest.
– layering clothes worked really well. Thin, lightweight layers.
– my sister gave me an Eddy Bauers shirt which was the best shirt! Breathable and lightweight. I could scrunch it up and stufff it into the pack, unpack, put it on and within minutes the wrinkles dissapeared. I am glad I didn’t take any Columbia shirts, someone who did complained about them as being too hot and not breathable.

Top:  Mats pack with wine and baguette.
 Bottom: my pack with socks drying and pack peeing.  

– my backpack worked very well. The outside pockets made it easy to organize and find things. Here’s how I used the pockets:
     – side zippered pocket on the same side of the pack as the water tube comes out, I used for food. I called this the fridge side.
     – the other zipper side was the foot care side. I kept a ziplock filled with foot items. Yes, a whole pocket of foot care!

Foot care kit: bandaids, toe socks, body glide, toe spacers, tape, Vaseline,
 Compeed second skin blister pads, pre-threaded needles.

     – on the foot care side, I used the mesh net for sun care: baseball cap which Linda had thrown away and I took, then threw away as the umbrella was much better; sunglasses, sun protection cream.
     – mesh net on the food side was hardly used. When it was, it was usually food or drink related, ie a can or two of Aquarius.
     – top pocket which has a zipper behind your neck which you can reach up and get into without taking your pack off.  This pocket  was used for the guidebook; smartphone and a few times I put music on and could hear the phone speaker just fine without disturbing others; battery charger so I could charge my phone and other people’s as we went; phone cables and plugin in case it was needed for quick stops on the way.
– bottom outside access to the main pack: sleeping bag, down vest and lightweight polar tee jacket. The sleeping bag had to go somewhere and it left enough space to stuff in the vest and jacket for easy access.
– main pack area, accessible once you undo the pack hood: a net bag with all my clothes, which made it easy to get clothes in and out but not as efficient as stuffing things into tight corners; a bag with my sandals; my overnight bag, and on top of this was my rolled up raincoat and on top of that my string backpack come purse with passport.
– down the inside back of the pack was a thin space where I ‘hid’ important papers and my iPad, in front of that was a waterproof pocket where the water ladder went.
– my pack also came with a rain cover in its own zippered pocket on the bottom. It had a little extra space where I could put things like clothes pegs.

Shoes

Everyones’ feet are different.  What works for me probably won’t work for you.  I read and was advised to buy shoes 1/2 to a full size larger as your feet will swell at the end of the day.  Well, mine didn’t, so that extra space meant my feet were looser in the shoes which probably contributed to my blisters.  One I bought shoes that were tighter my problems ended.
Of course, the best thing to do is to buy shoes two months ahead of the trip and break them well and truly in.

Buen Camino

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