What to take on your Camino - page 2
Clothing, equipment, medical supplies, food, preparation etc
- You may find the next item a bit odd but believe me you will more than likely need it. It's a toilet roll. Most Albergues will provide toilet paper, but if you are doing your Camino at a busy time of year they could quite easily run out of the necessities. The toilet roll can also be used as tissue/Kleenex so you don't have to pack these separately.
- A small torch may also be useful. Many places now sell wind up torches so you don't need to worry about batteries. These are good to find your way in the dark around villages with minimal lighting and also used in the Albergues when you need to get up in the night so you don't disturb your fellow pilgrims.
- Some websites state that a Swiss army knife is a useful thing to take along with your. I would be very careful if you do take one along, especially if you are likely to be flying and putting your back pack into hand luggage. Many airlines will not allow you to carry this type of item and will confiscate it.
- Depending on what time of year you go consider taking some form of mosquito or bug repellent as well as some soothing ointment to treat those bites.
- On these long treks you will need to keep yourself hydrated and an essential item to take along with you will either be a water bottle, or better still a hydration pouch, also known as a bladder, which can be filled up at any of the numerous village fountains you will come across on your journey.
- If like so many people you are a contact lens wearer it may be worth investing in some daily disposable lenses. They weigh a lot less than all the cleaning paraphernalia you will usually have to take along with you and it's also more hygienic. Alternatively you could just take along your glasses, however these are not so good when it rains.
- You may wish to take along your camera to keep a record of your Camino. Using one of the modern lightweight pocket digital cameras will help keep the weight down in your back pack. Most of us can't live without our mobile phones. If you are going to take one with you it will have to be either a dual band or tri-band phone to work in Spain, also don't forget your charger.
- And finally you may want to take along a couple of walking poles. These are collapsible and a great help when you are going up and down mountains and hills.
In addition to all the equipment you will need to take with you there are some essential bits of documentation you will need to take.
The main ones are:
- The Credencial (your pilgrim's passport)
Travel insurance documentation
E111 card (if you are a coming from the UK)
Other items to pack are:
- A credit or debit card
Your Camino guide and a map
A word of caution – don't leave these items in your back pack when you are no with it, always take your documentation and cards with you, even when you are taking a shower. You can get a waterproof wallet to put them in. Remember it is always best to be safe than sorry. It is advisable to take a list of useful numbers, for example your embassy, credit card company etc. so you can deal with any emergency.
Take something like a money belt in which to put both your money and these important documents. When taking money out don't withdraw too much in one go – budget for a certain amount each day so you are not carrying to much spare cash with you. Most towns along the route have cashpoints.
As I have just mentioned think about how much you are going to spend each day. Include in this your meals during the day, factor in 3 meals plus any snacks you may eat along the way. For breakfast most places usually offer a continental breakfast, lunch is usually a sandwich of some sort and for dinner quite a lot of places offer a pilgrim's menu (menu del peregrino). Along the route there are also a number of bakeries, supermarkets and some restaurants. Some bars offer food as well.
Food and Drink
When in Spain thro out your usual eating times, Spanish people usually take a 2 hour break in the middle of the day and lunch is usually between 1 and 3pm, evening meals don't usually start until around 10pm. You can however eat at whatever time you wish but be aware some places may not serve meals outside of the usual times.
You can get food from supermarkets at most times of the day, but some supermarkets in smaller towns and villages may also close a lunch time, so prepare in advance.
If you are a vegetarian you may find it pretty difficult to find vegetarian meals, even some foods that may look like they may be suitable may be made with meat derivatives, for example soups may be made from chicken or beef stock and lard is still used widely throughout Spain.
Breakfasts usually take the form of a pastry or toast, but if you leave your Albergue in the very early hours you are likely to be starting your Camino before the bars and panaderias (bakeries) are open. If you are likely to do this it might be worth taking some chocolate with you, it will give you some energy until you can get a proper breakfast. Alternatively you could buy some breakfast bars from a supermarket to keep you going.
Many restaurants will serve a menu del dia which is more often than not a 3 course meal including a glass of wine and usually costs around 10 to 12 euros. As mentioned earlier some restaurants on the camino offer a pilgrims menu or menu del peregrino.
You can get bocadillos (sandwiches) at most cafés and some bars. These are not your usual 2 slices of bread with a filing. They are usually pretty substantial, most are made from baguettes or the local speciality bread. The fillings can vary from tortilla (Spanish omelette), calamares (fried squid), chorizo, various meats or salad.
There will also be a variety of fruit available at supermarkets or if you are lucky enough to enter a town during market day you will be faced with many different foodstuffs, including churros, a form of long doughnut. These are delicious and sweet, especially when dipped into thick chocolate.
Unlike the UK and other countries the shop opening times are completely different. Many shops don't open until 9.30 to 10 am and close for lunch around 2pm. Some then won't re-open until 4.40 to 5pm, then closing around 9 or 10pm. Spain is still predominantly a catholic country so many stores do close on a Sunday. So make sure you get some shopping done for food on a Saturday. Most cafés, bakeries (panaderias) and bars are open on a Sunday so you will still be able to get something to eat.
Unlike bars in the UK most bars in Spain offer coffee. Most Spaniards drink more coffee than they do alcohol, well that's how it appears to me both as a Spaniard and someone who visits Spain regularly. The coffee in Spain is usually pretty good, as vouched for by my husband who looks forward to holidays because he can have a good café con leche (coffee with milk). As a tea drinker I'm in the minority, the tea bags used in Spain barely colour or flavour the water and not every place will offer it.
If you like strong coffee you could order something called "un cortado' which is basically an espresso with a little milk or alternatively if you prefer it without the milk ask for a "solo", but beware it's pretty strong. Some places offer a piece of cake or something similar when you order a drink.
If you like hot chocolate most places will offer a version called Cola Cao which is a slightly sweeter version of cocoa. It is very similar to drinking chocolate and not sickly sweet as someone has commented. There is a slight variation to drinking chocolate. This is the rather thick chocolate drink that is served with churros. If you are a chocoholic this one's for you.
As mentioned earlier you usually get wine served with a meal and on your Camino you will be passing through some of the most famous wine producing regions of Spain including La Rioja where the world famous Rioja wine originates. Once you reach Galicia you must partake of a glass of either Albariño or Ribeiro, both delicious white wines and an absolutely perfect accompaniment to Galicia's famous seafood.
Spain also produces some excellent beers on a par with many lagers from around the world. They are great served chilled and are a refreshing end to the day. Someone called these beers bland and tasteless, I can only assume that they don't know the difference between a good and bad beer. Most beers are either served from a bottle or a can but if you want draught beer ask for a caña.