And now for something completely different. I came across a post on a Camino forum the other day and couldn’t stop laughing. I contacted the author, Gerald Kelly, and he kindly gave me permission to post it here, in slightly edited form.
I haven’t walked the Appalachian Trail but I have read that book by Bill Bryson, so I feel qualified to comment on the differences between the Camino de Santiago and the Appalachian Trail.
The Camino is very different from the Appalachian Trail, and a lot easier. However, I wouldn’t like you to be lulled into a false sense of security, so I’ve put together this short list of “Camino Dangers” which I hope you and all new pilgrims will study with care.
There are no bears on the Camino however you have to be constantly on the watch out for impromptu bear hugs! (Especially from Lederhosen-clad Bavarians.)
You don’t need to carry much food on the Camino. In fact you can spend your whole time stuffing your face with delicious pinchos/tapas and all the other regional delicacies you find along the way, to such an extent that putting on weight is a real danger. Think of the embarrassment if you went home with the dreaded “Camino paunch.” (Quite apart from the fact that your family, friends, workmates will find it hard to believe that you walked 700 kilometres and put on 10 kilograms!)
You don’t need to carry much water since “liquid refreshment” is readily available in every Camino village. In fact dying of thirst is not something you need to worry about at all.
Dying of alcohol poisoning is another kettle of fish. If you’re not careful and don’t set reasonable limits (for reference mine are: no beer before 10 a.m. and no more than one bottle of wine with dinner) you could end up with your Camino turning into a drunken fiasco with village blurring into village and one sacred relic indistinguishable from another.
I’ve seen these sorry creatures with my own eyes staggering into Santiago disorientated and bedraggled, parched lips mouthing the words “¿A que hora abren los bares?” Or sneaking out of Mass half way through because the smell of the alter wine is driving them demented.
Finally. If you are a single gentleman (and I’m assuming here that you are indeed a gentleman) you may skip this section. Otherwise it’s best that you be warned: the Camino Francés (especially in summer) is crawling with beautiful women.
Literally crawling with them. At every turn of the road, behind every bush, in every confessional. There will be times when your head will be spinning and all thoughts of the sacred will be far away.
And as if that wasn’t enough, let me conclude by saying that the scorching heat of the Spanish plains isn’t a climate conducive to “modest attire.” You must resist with all your forbearing because, as my maths teacher from school used to say as he flicked his leather strap above our cowering heads, “the flesh is weak, the flesh is weak!”
So, you have been warned!
The Camino may not have grizzlies or vipers or hornets nests but its dangers are many and varied, and many’s the pilgrim has fallen foul to them down the centuries.
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Gerald Kelly is the author of the Camino Guide, a free on-line guide to several Camino de Santiago routes: the Camino Francés, the Via de la Plata, and the Camino Aragonés. Visit the Camino Guide website at www.CaminoGuide.net.