Hiking the Camino Compostala Series – Part 2


Hello Fit N Meet members!

Today we are continuing with our “Hiking the Camino Compostela” series.

What is the Camino Compostela?

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Camino Compostela, is like a real-life pilgrimage adventure that’s been popular for centuries. It’s a network of trails that all lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where Saint James the Great is believed to be buried. People from around the world walk or bike these paths to connect with their spirituality, reflect on life, and discover new things about themselves.

You can think of it like a giant maze with different starting points all over Europe, such as Portugal and France. Some routes are longer than others, but the idea is to walk or bike and stay in hostels along the way. The journey isn’t just about the physical challenge; it’s a cultural and spiritual experience where you meet fellow travelers and learn about different places and people. Whether you do a small part or the whole thing, the Camino de Santiago can be a life-changing adventure.

Note about Part 1

In Part 1 of this series, I embarked on an unexpected adventure after my wife encouraged me to join her friend Rose on an 800+ kilometer hike along the Camino Compostela Pilgrimage Trail in northern Spain. I shared my initial hesitations, my willingness to embrace the challenge, and the historical significance of the pilgrimage, which traces back to the Middle Ages and commemorates St. James.

Along the way, I highlighted the diverse experiences, from witnessing the running of the bulls in Pamplona to exploring cathedrals and forming connections with fellow pilgrims. I emphasized the importance of preparation, from physical training to gathering the right equipment, including my trusty hiking shoes and orthotics. The journey was a lesson in persistence, and I learned to savor the small moments amidst the long walks. Throughout Part 1, I aimed to convey the unique camaraderie and special connections forged among pilgrims on this remarkable journey.

Click here to read part one if you missed it.

Training for the hike

Now, on to the next part of my journey.

My path was to a bucket list item I
thought I would never be able to even try. Many of the pilgrims had similar
thoughts. We realized that this was a special event in our lives, and we quickly
formed a special connection.


When my wife offered me the opportunity to take this 800-kilometer (about 497.1 mi) hike I was willing but not immediately able to. I had to train a lot to be able to do the hike well.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago is a physically demanding and potentially long journey, so it’s essential to be adequately prepared. While it doesn’t require the same level of fitness as an extreme mountain expedition, you should still engage in specific training to ensure a more enjoyable and manageable experience. The primary focus should be on endurance, strength, and flexibility.

Endurance training is crucial because you’ll be walking long distances day after day. Start by walking or hiking regularly, gradually increasing your distance over time. This will help your body adapt to the demands of walking for hours on end. To build strength, incorporate leg and core exercises into your routine. Squats, lunges, and planks can help strengthen the muscles you’ll use while walking. Flexibility is equally important to prevent injuries, so consider adding stretching and yoga to your regimen. Additionally, practice carrying a loaded backpack to get accustomed to the weight you’ll carry during the pilgrimage.

Being well-prepared ensures you’re less likely to experience physical strains and can fully enjoy the cultural and spiritual aspects of the Camino. It’s also an excellent opportunity to appreciate the beautiful landscapes and meet fellow pilgrims without the distraction of physical discomfort. Remember that training isn’t just about the physical aspect; it also mentally prepares you for the challenges and rewards of this remarkable journey, making it a more enriching experience.

The picture below is me at the halfway point, with my trusty walking stick. I prefer the old fashion stick to the two- handed hiking poles. (I like having one hand free.)


I needed a great deal of training. Nutritional, physical, and spiritual.

(The pocket Thomas Merton study is small and gave me many thoughts and ideas to dwell on during my walks). I needed a great deal of study. And an entire array of proper equipment. I was able to get a great deal of my equipment from fitnmeet.org. See the list of what I used and what others preferred. In the next blog.

The first step was the hiking shoes and other equipment that was provided by the Palmetto Running Shoe store. They proved to be perfect tools for the long hike. I still have them even though I have two other sets of new hiking shoes.

I had several months to train and prepare for the hike. From the research I did, I quickly found that persistence and perseverance were the greatest muscles I needed to develop. I learned very early in the hike I had to teach myself to take in the small points of the journey not just the large point.

Stone cave with door

Hostels, farm animals, and more:

On your journey along the Camino de Santiago, one of the key elements that will shape your experience is the network of hostels, known as “albergues” in Spanish. These hostels play a crucial role in accommodating pilgrims and offering them a unique sense of camaraderie.

Albergues come in various forms, ranging from simple dormitories to more comfortable private rooms, and are strategically located along the pilgrimage routes. They provide a budget-friendly option for travelers to rest, recharge, and connect with fellow pilgrims.

Many hostels are run by volunteers and offer basic amenities such as bunk beds, communal kitchens, and shared bathrooms. These humble abodes are places where people from diverse backgrounds come together, share their stories, and form lasting friendships, making the Camino de Santiago not just a physical journey but a social and cultural adventure as well. The top photo is a centuries-old pilgrims’ hut and another one of a  cow looking at the camera that we saw on our way.

I also found that most of the hostels had a free collection of books built by books left by other pilgrims. You do not want to carry the weight you no longer need.

Animals and Wildlife

As you hike the Camino de Santiago, you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with nature and observe various types of wildlife along the way. The pilgrimage routes traverse a wide range of landscapes, from lush forests and rolling hills to arid plains, each of which supports its unique ecosystem. While the animals you encounter can vary depending on your chosen route and the time of year, common sightings might include birds like hawks and sparrows, small mammals like rabbits and squirrels, and insects like butterflies and dragonflies.

If you’re particularly lucky and observant, you might even catch a glimpse of larger wildlife like foxes, deer, or wild boars, especially in the more remote and less frequented sections of the Camino. These encounters with nature, alongside your interactions with fellow pilgrims, contribute to the holistic experience of the Camino de Santiago, connecting you with the beauty and diversity of the world around you.

Walking tips

As technology has developed I would now load my cell phone with a great playlist of tunes and podcasts and download new ones suggested by my fellow pilgrims. I would download my phone’s photo files to give my phone plenty of room to load more photos.

Let’s be honest, hiking is just walking. But a long walk! You need to walk at least six to nine hours for several days at a time. And that is only if you are not on a tight schedule. I planned to stop for one day each week. I wanted to rest and/or research a town, cathedral, or historical site. That became a reality except for one time. I fell in step with an Italian special forces officer. We talked for hours regarding our separate plans about what we would do after the Camino. I walked 12 hours that day. It was a great day. However, the next day I had very painful shin splints and needed to rest for two days.

You too can expect many of the same types of experiences and share them with your fellow pilgrims and with friends and family when you get back.

I found that many of the hostels had outdoor kitchen equipment and my fellow pilgrims picked up pasta or vegetables or Spanish ham (very popular in Spain) or sausages and we all shared in our meals together. My specialty was cheese, sausages, and pasta.

One of the many gifts I personally received was the fact that English is spoken by many of the Spanish speaking natives. It is only spoken as they said “a little bit, “ but still much better than my Spanish. And my wife is fluent in Spanish. The general atmosphere is very welcoming and inclusive.

I did have to accept the custom of eating on the Spanish timetable. To avoid any trouble, I carried a small snack. Just in case. I also found that I would meet and re-meet many hikers along the way.

Equipment needed

This blog is about the tools one needs for a Camino Compostela hike. The Camino is not a camping exercise. It is a hiking adventure. It is an adventure along a well-established trail where over several million people have done the full 8oo kilometers and several million others who hiked parts of the Camino.

The Camino has a history of centuries of pilgrims doing this trek. Also, the trail has many small villages along the route. You will find in those villages at least one hostel, one restaurant and one store where you could buy many of the common items needed. Lastly, for many reasons, the men and women who are doing the Camino and the men and women who are servicing the Camino have shown me that they are working a mission above and beyond what I expected.

So, the equipment is for what you need to comfortably walk for 15 kilometers per day and then enjoy a friendly evening and a safe, clean, and comfortable environment.

Thus, I must impress upon you that camping is an entirely different animal and requires an entirely different set of tools. I am not a camper. However, I would like to challenge our members to review our store and note what you would recommend for a two-week backpack camping trip. The website has many strategies, technical programs, and systems we will use to help you draw your friends and family into your team. All of those methods are provided to you for free. We want to help you succeed.

What to Expect on the Hike?

Well, you have done your research for your upcoming Compostal hike. You bought all the equipment you will need. You even purchased your flight and train tickets. What do you do next? 

When you get off of the train in St Jean, France you will quickly discover that you and thousands of others are now in a hiking country. It seems that everybody has a backpack and hiking sticks. I had reservations at the local hostel, but needed directions there. 

I discovered that everybody spoke a little English (or it seemed that way). I also quickly found that there were several hostels and Camino restaurants in St Jeans. I stepped in with a group who seemed to know the way. I also quickly found that the hikers (now pilgrims)were a talkative crew.

It seemed as if we all fell into the same group spirit. The pilgrims throughout the Camino were very friendly and helpful. The hostel was next to a Camino restaurant. By Camino restaurant, I mean a menu that was both inexpensive and designed to provide lots of carbs to burn up the next day. My first hostel was operated by the local Catholic church (they were a secular operation but the church was prominent on the grounds). From my research, I knew that all hostels were co-ed. I expected, at least some of the pilgrims to stay up all night talking but I was wrong. This was true except for very few nights. The pilgrims were tired and were quick to quiet the talkers and rise early.

The next morning the hostel had strong coffee (bring your own tea, it is hard to find in Spain ) fruit, and pastries. This was part of the hostel’s fee. The hostels were, by my American sense very affordable, very rarely over ten euros per night in 2014 . I checked the pricing for 2023 and it is about the same. 

On the first day of walking, starting at about 7 a.m., I found, of course, that the pilgrims walked at different speeds, but after three hours of walking most of us ended up at a small village that had a small restaurant.

And the pilgrims joined again. The pilgrims would split again and rejoin for dinner. I found it very easy to meet and rejoin throughout the entire trek. In fact, I met several pilgrims at the end of the hike with whom I started and joined some others that I hadn’t seen in weeks

How does one spend one’s time walking for 3-4 hours at a time twice a day? The landscape is always interesting, the architecture always throws quirks and each village always has at least one interesting church. I particularly liked the smaller locally built churches. And of course, you will be joined by other pilgrims. We all want to know where we are from and how we landed on the pilgrimage, so conversation is good. 


I can assure you that you will meet very interesting pilgrims, tourists, and Spaniards and have a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. I strongly advise you to reach out to your family and friends to encourage them to join you as a pilgrim. Enjoy each day.

The easiest way to reach others who are interested in doing the hike is to post a message on www.fitnmeet.org to get started.

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