Planning a camino for a busy guy and his 31kg dog


This post was written by Maria J Bellido.
Maria is an awesome Virtual Assistant who helped Mike plan his Camino. She is super organised and a great executioner of plans and a fountain of creative solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Maria speaks 5 languages and lives in Zaragoza, Spain.


First of all, I need to thank Mike (and Maya)  for this challenging opportunity.  Walking El Camino de Santiago Norte with Maya really makes a difference!.

Although I began my planning duties in a quite common or ordinary way, I quickly realized that Maya, a 30kg dog, had the starring role in all this walking experience.

No Room At the Inn for Pilgrims’ Dogs

WhatsApp-Image-20160427There are many blogs sharing a few experiences and I only have to agree with one statement.  Most of the “albergues” – the hostels catering to the pilgrims – are not open to host dogs.  They have tons of excuses to say no, even when I only focused in “casas rurales” with plenty of space to camp.  They argued that they also had (barking) dogs that disturbed pilgrims during their restorative sleep hours.

After contacting a few of them, I thought it was better to change my mind and start looking for camping places that welcomed Maya.

And issues came up again! Some of the areas Mike and Maya will be walking through are quite small villages, nearly deserted, where only elderly retired people live and campings prefer to chose touristic areas, close to the beach.  A good example could be Lezama, 2406 inhabitants.  All the camping areas are located at a reasonable distance… with a car… and the purpose of El Camino de Santiago is walking, right?

When all the ordinary options seemed to be too complicated, some other options appeared.  Thanks to the magic and fascinating world of new technologies, there are new startups that are putting together all the dog friendly hostels and hotels in Spain and other European cities.  After a good research it looked like the most convenient option was in Portugalete or Bilbao.

For the rest of the waypoints on Mike’s walk where official camping options have been nearly impossible, I guess wild and discrete camping becomes an alternative. But sshhh! Let’s keep this between you and me!  

Not Planes or Trains, just Automobiles

Maya’s accommodation was not the only challenge.  

Mike wanted to drive from Granada to Irún, park the car there, walk El Camino, rent another car to return to his starting point and then finally drive back with the initial car back home.  Complicated, right?

We quickly eliminated trains and planes as options for Mike to get from Granada – in the south of Spain – up to Irún in the North. Most regional plane operators don’t allow animals in the hold on domestic flights and for the ones that allow pets on board – they have to be small pets (less than 12kg) and have their own rigid travel carrier. The train regulations were not much help either.

While I was researching car options, I confirmed that whilst Irún is a fantastic place for transport companies operating in Spain and France, it is not a target place for rental car offices.  All of them chose Hendaye instead.  Although the walking distance between both places is just 4,6 km, we shouldn’t forget that we are crossing the French border.  And you know how expensive it is to leave your car in a different country, right?

After a funny chat with Mike, we thought that a good choice would be changing the initial route.  He will now be walking from San Sebastián to Santander instead.  Another good reason to change the initial destination is that we couldn’t find reasonable options to rent a car in Laredo to come back to Irún. Santander is a bigger place with sort of a world of possibilities.

If you are planning to walk El Camino de Santiago Norte on your own without the company of your dog, you have tons of opportunities to find affordable accommodation at albergues, sharing cars or travel by train, bike or plain.  Anyway, nothing is impossible and I think this experience (both walking and planning) will be a good one to remember.

And please, do not forget to join and donate to Mike’s cause here and share your thoughts!


Photo by yoppy

 

#MikesLongWalk: An update and my first training walk

The Latest News

It seems like ages since I committed to walking the Camino and raising money for ME/CFS activism and awareness. Quite a lot has happened over the last month. Here’s the latest news:

We’ve raised £2,128.66 out of the £3000 target and I’ve confirmed 2 sets of friends joining Maya and I on bits of the walk and I’m gradually acquiring my gear.
The route is pretty much all finalised – I’ll publish it on my next post (early next week hopefully) – I’m just finalising the camping locations at each of the stops and Albergue options for my companions who aren’t able to tent it.

I’ve bought my backpack which is a Forclaz 40 Air from Decathlon , holds up to 40 litres of my stuff. My target weight for gear is about 8kg and at the first trial this all fits in rather nicely.

Just this week I completed my first training walk – had to happen sooner or later – here are the details and pics.

My First Training Walk

With just 7 weeks to go until my Camino starts, I need to get some consistent training walks in. I’m targeting about 24km per day during the Camino and my training walks need to be at least that distance – fully loaded with the expected back pack weight, the right shoes and generally the kind of clothes I’ll be wearing. The aim, of course, is to test everything – the kit, the dog and ME!

My first training walk was from Nigüelas and across the mountain and down to Lanjarón, mostly along the GR7 route.

face on with line

My companions on this walk were Mark and Giles, Mark’s dog – Luna and my trusty mutt – Maya.

We had a pretty dreary start to the walk – the almost consistent sunshine and blue sky typical of Southern Spain decided to take the morning off but thankfully the rain held off for the entirety of our walk.

From Nigüelas, we took a shortcut to meet the GR7 – cutting out Acequias – and continued upwards until we reached 1260m above sea level and then pretty much stayed on this for 10KM after which we began our descent to Lanjaron. I don’t much mind the climbing, the 5km descent on mostly concrete road was a killer on the knees.

Needless to say, the landscape – inspite of the weather – was stunning and being out on the open road with the promise of beer at the end – well, what’s not to love.

Training is supposed to teach you something and it did – here is what I learnt:

  • I need layers – when the cold wind blew, my single fleece was just about enough but not cosy. We like cosy.
  • My running shoes might do for the walk  – they are really light but around the 12km they got a little rubby. I’ll know for sure after the second training walk.
  • I need to add Compeed blister plasters to my gear list!
  • As much as I love my trusty walking stick, I will probably be better off with walking poles and the one that my mate Mark recommends are the Leki poles – they are super light and strong.
  • I could have walked an additional 7 – 10km on the flat – which is great news from my first training walk!
  • My pack weight was 8kg and I could probably manage and extra 2 – but 8kg probably will do – especially given I need to factor in food rations for Maya.

Enjoy pics of the training walk and look out for the horrible processional caterpillers!

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What Next

I’ll be purchasing my tent – I’ve got my hopes pinned on getting a Tarptent Double Moment – it is a seriously lightweight and well reviewed/recommended setup by people who know tents!

And getting the rest of my gear together – especially a sleeping bag!

More training walks and multi-day ones too. The next one is pencilled in for early April – 24km one day, a camp out and 24km the next – that should sort the men from the mice!

Please help

I’ve written about why I’m doing this walk – to help raise awareness and funding to cure ME/CFS.

Donate and share this post – ask your friends and family to do the same. Also really really important is that you find out more about ME/CFS – the more people ask and discover, the less isolated the sufferers feel and the more we can hold our governments accountable for funding research and effective treatments for this.

Thank you for helping fix this.