Getting your Credencial del Peregrino stamped and rolling with the punches

looking out across the Spanish landscape

Here’s a riddle for you:

What do call a false noodle?

Let me get one thing straight. I’m not walking the whole Camino de Santiago this time. I’d love to, but I only had a week. Making the most of my week, but this is a kind of a snapshot of what one might expect of this pilgrimage

Because I joined later on in the pilgrimage and am not walking all the way to Santiago, I’ve had to get over some feelings of being an imposter on this journey. One way I’ve done this is to simply immerse myself in each day of walking. 

People come on and get off the Camino all the time. Nobody’s got the time or wherewithal to judge what you’re doing, anyway. Too much else to busy one’s self with anyway. 

You get in from a day of walking and often by the time you’ve hand washed your sweaty clothes and figured out what to eat, you collapse on your bunk. 

For everyone who’s been here, the next part is now second nature, but for those of you following at home? I’d like to introduce you to the world of albergues

tonight’s albergue: Cuatro Cantones in Belorado

While you can call ahead and reserve a room in a hostel or even a hotel along the way – again: no judgement if that’s the way you choose to do this – however, most pilgrims choose to stay at an albergue.

Some are run by the municipal government in the villages along the way, while others are housed within the town’s monastery or a convent. 

In Santo Domingo de la Calzada last night, we slept with the nuns. Don’t take that the wrong way, though, because it’s the Cistercian nuns who run that albergue.

How do you get a bed at one of these places?

here’s my Credencial del Peregrino

First you’ve got to have a Credencial del Peregrino, which is a little passport like booklet each pilgrim starts out with. Upon arriving, and it’s a first come, first served basis (no reservations taken), you get your Credencial stamped with a decorative stamp. 

How do you know you have a bed in the next town before you get there? Well if you’re staying in albergues, you don’t. It’s possible you try a few places and finally a bed is available. If everything’s full, you might be walking on to the next village. Hasn’t happened to me so far, but I’ve heard plenty of stories of woe. 

a few nights ago in Nájera

It might sound a bit too improvisational for your taste. Here’s the thing, though: part of this whole experience is that there are some things quite simply out of your control. How one rolls with the punches could determine the quality of one’s entire journey.

Oh, back to how I started: 

What do call a false noodle?

An im-pasta!

Update: for reasons of factual accuracy, I feel I need to make it clearer about the different types of albergue

Here’s how a friend described it: 

The deal is this: there are municipal albergues, parochial albergues and private ones. Only at the private ones can you reserve in advance which some people do but it takes away from the spirit of the Camino which is essentially to walk as long as you can on any given day and then check in where you end up at the end of your walking day. That, of course, depends on what kind of condition you’re in and how far you can walk, which is something you can not necessarily predict in advance.

For the heathens among you, I’ll say hello to God on your behalf

follow the little man in the funny hat

Arrived yesterday, but didn’t feel comfortable talking about the Camino de Santiago, because I’d not even started it. Standing on the main square in front of the cathedral in Logroño

right in the middle of the middle of La Rioja


…listening to the pilgrims grinningly go on about their myriad of ailments, I felt so out of place. On the outside looking in, as it were. Many of them had been at this for upwards of a week or more. They were hobbling into town regaling one another with the status of their injuries, while I was chipper and ready to go.

While waiting impatiently for my start the following morning, I strolled around the capital of Rioja and mindfully appreciated my fresh and unchallenged legs and feet. ‘Enjoy this while you can,’ I reminded myself. ‘Soon enough you’ll have your own well-earned philosophies of proper foot care on the Camino.’

breakfast in Navarette

At an ungodly hour, I was out the door of the albergue and far from the only pilgrim already on the streets out of town. By leaving that early, there were few, if any, options for breakfast. Hoofing it the twelve kilometres to Navarette was certainly sweetened by the thought of a café con leche and pretty much anything they were offering in the way of food.

It might be a cliché that you appreciate the smallest things on such a trip, but there was nothing cliché about the taste of that coffee.

There was a church there, too, and if you’re one who gets easily bored of pictures of churches, you might consider not reading this blog for the next little while.

It’s pretty much guaranteed to be a mix between a lot of sweaty hikers and Spanish religious architecture from here on out. You’ve been adequately warned.

churchin’ it up in Navararette

For the heathens among you, I’ll say hello to God on your behalf.

Just waiting to go

packed and ready to go

The last blogpost about leaving for the Camino resulted in so much interest from both people on social media and folk with whom I interact in my daily life. I was thrilled by comments from people who’ve been on a pilgrimage or those who were curious what it was all about.

Some insisted that they wouldn’t feel safe walking alone, and my assurance that you’re never really alone on such a trip was met with incomprehension.

There are plenty of things I’ve read and heard about how people are protected and provided for as they’re walking the Camino. It all sounds a bit unbelievable at this point, but I’m doing my best to suspend disbelief and see what it’s like with my own eyes.

That’s the funny thing: I’ve read everything I can get my hands on. I’ve watched documentaries about pilgrimages in general and the Camino de Santiago in particular, but there’s one thing left that I’ve not done.

I’m packed.

The dogs have gone to the sitter.

I’ve cleaned out my fridge, so I don’t have to throw away any food upon my return.

There’s just one thing left that I haven’t done. I’ve not actually left yet. That’s it. I’m just waiting to go.

With all of this Vorfreude, which is this German word that means something like ‘the joy of anticipation‘. That’s exactly where I am now.

Just waiting to go.