The Last Way

The bigger the crowd the bigger seems the disconnect. Walking the last 100 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago this year was startling, to say the least. Most of the way markers have been defaced with graffiti. Piles of empty  plastic bottles and other rubbish is carelessly left on the path. Pilgrims complain that a growing number of tourists – I wont call them pilgrims – are abusing the albergues for wild all-night parties. Groups of cyclists have the habit of aggressively pushing the slow-walking pilgrims off the road. 

One of the reasons why so many people are walking the last 100 km is to obtain the Compostela certificate as ,,proof,, that one has walked the Camino. I observed hundreds of people standing in line for hours at the Pilgrims Office in Santiago waiting to get their Compostela – many of them still wearing their cycle gear. There are also a fair number of tourists who book the short walk with tour operators. I have my doubts that you will have much of a Camino experience if you race through on a bicycle or on foot just to get your Compostela. The Path is so much more. 

So for those readers who now seem disheartened, I recommend walking the Camino early May or September outside the main European holiday season. The Camino Primitivo or ancient route from Oviedo to Melide is breathtaking, farthest from the madding crowds and the Path to walk within. Also recommendable is the Aragonese route from Col du Somport that joins the Camino Frances a Puenta la Reina. 

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Last Way

  1. We encountered FAR more such walkers — I too won’t refer to them as pilgrims or peregrinos, for the same reason! — this year on Camino Frances than we met just two years ago. I even met a woman at the albergue in Melide who readily proclaimed that she started in Sarria because she “had to” to receive her Compostela. . . I refer to such folks at “paper-grinos” — they’re only in it for the “paper” (Compostela) in Santiago! And while I truly am reluctant to judge anyone else’s pilgrimage approach — after all, not everyone is able to walk the entire route, with a full backpack, etc. — all I asked of ALL those out on the Camino is to journey with some sense of respect for their fellow pilgrims. It seemed to me that respect for others was sorely missing quite often this past June-July. . . so sad.

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