FAQ : Who


                                                           Who does the Camino


  Confraternity of Saint James of South Africa



  How fit do you have to be?


- It is sensible to be relatively walking-fit, so some training beforehand is strongly recommended.

- For those who are not fit, start your practices with short distances and build up, eventually carrying a backpack up hills with the full weight.

- Try to do a couple of consecutive days training, preferably in the shoes, socks and other gear to build up stamina.

- Other suggestions are to walk up and down flights of stairs, walk barefoot on the beach for ankle and knee strength, do weight training on the upper body and strengthen leg muscles with specific exercises.

- It is also important to stretch properly before you start walking and afterwards.


- Age doesn't have to be a deterrent. Pilgrims range in age from babes being pushed in prams to octogenarians.

- However, if you have led a sedentary life it is advisable to train beforehand and have a thorough check up with your medical practitioner before starting out.


- Remember that every pilgrim experiences some days of discomfort as the body becomes acclimatised to walking day after day.

- At times it's hard to accept and you'll wonder why you chose to do the pilgrimage.

- Find consolation in the fact that it does get better - and find your own pace.


    American Pilgrims FAQs          



  What kinds of people walk the Camino de Santiago?

- All kinds of people walk the Camino de Santiago! According to the records of the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela, 145,877 people completed the pilgrimage in 2009. Of them, 83% arrived on foot, 17% arrived by bicycle and a few hearty souls rode horseback. Pilgrims came from Spain (54%), Germany (10%), Italy (7%), France (5%), Portugal (3%), the US (1.7%), Canada (1.5%), the UK (1.2%) and over 100 other countries.

- A little over 9% were 18 years of age or younger, 35% were between 19 and 35 years old, 50% were between 36 and 65 years old, and just over 5% were older than 65 years.

- Finally these 2009 pilgrims included students, salaried employees, technicians, retirees, teachers, blue-collar workers, civil servants, homemakers, artists, farmers, unemployed people and priests - among many others.


  I'm not Catholic. Can I walk the Camino?

- While the Camino de Santiago is based in Catholic lore and tradition, one does not need to be Catholic to walk. Indeed one does not need to even be religious or spiritual.

- About the only time this will be a question is in the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos in Santiago when you appear to obtain your compostela. You will be asked your motivation for walking and those who do not include "spiritual" in their reason for making the pilgrimage will be offered another document, a certificado, to commemorate their having completed the Camino.

- While many will walk the Camino for out and out religious reasons, others will look on it from a more secular viewpoint. A pilgrimage, after all, is not necessarily religious. Consider the throngs who take a pilgrimage to Graceland!


  How difficult is it to walk the Camino?

- Every peregrino will have a different answer for this question. The Camino is not a Himalayan expedition, but it is not a Sunday stroll through the park either.

- On the Camino francés, the terrain from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago will include crossing a lower ridge of the Pyrenees, walking on farm roads through areas of rolling vineyards and across the meseta, the high, flat plains of Castilla-León, climbing and descending several mountain passes with altitudes of up to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) and finally traversing the forested river valleys of Galicia.

- Weather varies according to the season, and can range from extremely hot and dry to cool and wet to cold and snowy.


- Camino veterans will say that physical preparation is absolutely necessary. It is one thing to take a hike of 25 km on a nice afternoon, but it is quite another matter to repeat this hike day after day for a month.

- Those who have had previous camping, backpacking or hiking experience will be a step ahead.

- That said, there are still multitudes of pilgrims who begin their Camino without having done any physical preparation at all.

- Carrying a pack will pretty much be a necessity but because there are support services all along the way—places to stay and eat—carrying a large pack is not at all necessary.

- In fact, packing light may be the most important ingredient for a successful Camino.


  What can I do to get physically and mentally prepared before leaving for Spain?

- You are about to undertake a serious venture, both physical and psychological - or mental or spiritual or religious.

- As for physical preparation the essence of it is to walk and to be sure that you are comfortable with your pack and footwear. Your daily distance on the Camino will depend on your personal desires and abilities but you must remember that to walk some distance, say 20 km, one day is one thing - to do it day after day for several weeks or a month is something else entirely.

- So practice your distance but try at least once to walk your distance two days in a row.


- Mental preparation should involve becoming prepared to not be too hung up on making a plan and the becoming upset when it doesn't unfold as you had hoped.

- It is often said that the Camino is life writ small, that it is an analogy for life and there is some truth in that. Developing the ability to accept what is imposed on you and to making the best of it is an admirable trait generally.

- You will not really understand this until something stares you in the face on the Camino, something that will require you to make a new plan, to accept the change.

- Every year a portion of those who set out on the Camino have to drop out due to an emergency at home or something like an injury that prevents finishing.


  Confraternity of St James : Frequently Asked Questions  



  Isn't the pilgrimage just for religious people ?

- By no means. You will in fact meet relatively few pilgrims with an expressly religious/catholic motivation, though you'll meet equally few who deny any interest in its spiritual side. Precisely because it is so broadly defined, it attracts seekers of many different kinds who, almost invariably, will be willing to exchange their life-stories for yours.

- Moreover, you'll come face-to-face with people from all over the world, whose approach to the pilgrimage may be radically different from yours. As a sample, we are including a French pilgrim's answer to this very question, virtually untranslatable into English. http://www.csj.org.uk/croyants.htm

- You may like to read two essays by our former chairman, Laurie Dennett (To be a pilgrim  http://www.csj.org.uk/spirit.htm ... and Gifts and Reflections http://www.csj.org.uk/gifts.htm ), which accurately reflect the present-day experience of the pilgrimage.


  Are there facilities for the disabled ?

- www.ibermutuamur.es/camino_santiago/inicio/inicial.htm sets out to be a guide to the Camino francés for the disabled. Click on the heading "Resumen de etapas" for a colourcoded assessment of the feasibility of each stage.

- There's some information at www.chemindecompostelle.com

- In general, we'd like to include more information and advice about the pilgrimage for people with disabilities, and would welcome any thing you can offer us.


  Will a disabled pilgrim using motorised transport or with back-up be given a Compostela?

- This question has been debated thoughtfully and thoroughly in the Pilgrim Office at Santiago. They do not have a hard-and-fast rule about disabled pilgrims and power-assisted modes of transport. They consider each case individually, giving particular attention to the person’s motivation and effort.

- Their view is that if the person makes their way albeit with assistance for 100 kms and collects sellos on a credencial they will issue a Compostela.

- They suggest that you ask the CSJ for a letter of introduction and (if possible) have the CSJ tell them by e mail when you are about to arrive.


  I'm a diabetic ... (and other medical problems)

- For the experience and advice of a diabetic pilgrim who offered to share his experience with us: http://www.csj.org.uk/diabetics.htm

- For more advice for diabetics, go to the Forum, and put "Diabetes" into the Seach box.

- For medical problems in general, go to the Forum's discussion thread "Medical issues on the pilgrimage": http://www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com/board/medical-issues-on-the-pilgrimage/

- Advice given to a pilgrim suffering from Sleep Apnoea: http://www.csj.org.uk/i-faqs.htm#electricity






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