FAQ : Orientation


                                                               To follow the route

                                                          American Pilgrims FAQs       




  How easy is it to follow the route?

- In Spain, especially on the Camino francés, the entire route is extremely well marked with yellow arrows. Sometimes these are crudely brushed onto a wall or post, sometimes they are 'formally' created signs. You will always encounter them at division points or intersections in the road or path.

- Following the Camino through the larger cities is probably the most problematical issue, as the arrows can tend to get lost in the clutter of other signs and sometimes you may walk straight ahead for many blocks after which there will be one arrow pointing left or right.

- Still, if you go astray, usually a 'local' will quickly straighten you out. And you can always use "¿Dónde va el Camino?" ("Where does the Camino go?") or something like that.


                                                                  The Camino

                                                     Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011




- The route of the “Camino de Santiago” is well marked for pilgrims to follow. In recent times it has been marked with yellow arrows to show the direction.

- These are painted on trees, curbs, streets, sides of buildings, rocks, backs of signs, even power line poles - wherever there is a need to confirm or change the direction.

- The designation of the Camino de Santiago as a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987, followed by the Pope’s visit to Santiago in the Holy Year of 1993, resulted in upgrading of the markings in several areas, particularly in Galicia, where there are now concrete markers and milestones. After using the arrows for so long, I did not find the improved markings more useful. As pilgrims, we were so used to looking for the yellow arrows that when we reached Santiago we joked among ourselves about continuing to look for them after we returned home. Despite the markings, it is possible to get lost, or at least confused, particularly in cities and large towns but you are always able to find someone who can help you get back on the trail. Years afterwards, you will notice a yellow arrow somewhere and recognize it for what it is. in 2008, I noticed a series leading away from Montmartre in Paris. Recently I was in Tavira, Portugal and noticed them crossing a bridge. I backtracked and found they started from the Igreja (Church) of São Tiago (Santiago) and there was an association of friends of the Camino de Santiago in Tavira (Associação dos Amigos do Caminho de Santiago de Tavira).    

- The route that constitutes the “Camino” varies from foot paths to field roads to wide crushed stone paths to verges of busy highways. For example, in walking from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles, I walked on the edge of a highway for several kilometers, and also on a path less than a foot wide with a steep drop-off on one side. That same day the route went along a rock fault upthrust for 1/2 kilometer and across several other rock fault upthrusts, as well as passing through several villages. Later, in the (comparatively) flat Castillian plains, I followed a long, straight, essentially level Roman road for 12 boring kilometers and afterwards, along with other pilgrims, complained of the rough surface. However, weeks later, approaching O'Cebreiro, I walked for almost six kilometers in a steep uphill climb over a rocky path that was not only rougher but also had flowing water, mud and liquid cow plops.

- The Camino frequently passed through farms and led into fenced areas through gates. I was astounded on one occasion to come out of the cover of the woods only to realize I was passing through a horse pasture with about fifteen horses. There was a woman, another pilgrim, standing among them entranced by the sight. Just outside of Burgos, I walked among four horses who were grazing, including a playful young colt. For the first time, watching the colt, I truly understood the word gambol. As I completed the climb out of Nájera, I passed near a farm building. As I did so, the doors opened and a flock of newly shorn sheep came out, led by a goat, and kept in their places by two dogs. I have walked behind several small droves of cows (but not too close) and through them and have had to prod strays out of the way to get by. Many were obviously milk cows but others appeared to be destined for the dinner table.

- In all of the villages, barns are an integral part and the cows and sheep were led in and out through the streets and paths to and from their pastures. Someone once told me of a village in Germany where every morning the cows would be led out of the barns and back in the afternoons. In that magic village, a man with a machine would come out each time shortly after the cows passed by and sweep the streets. I assure you that none of the villages on the Camino had such a wondrous machine. In some places the stench of the urine and piles of manure was almost overpowering and the road was slippery from the manure.

- Most farmers in the areas we passed through used tractors, although the shift from oxen has only occurred recently in some areas and many farms still have the old wagons, plows and other implements to be pulled by the oxen. In Galicia, en route to Palas de Rei, we walked by two farms where they were still using oxen to pull their plow. In another sign of the past still lingering in Galicia, twice I saw women walking with heavy loads balanced on their heads.



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