How to Walk the Camino :: Part II

Signpost from GR 10, Pyrenees Mt. trail.

Camp in the Pyrenees Mountains

One difficulty I encountered was ambiguous sign postings along parts of the route. A path continuation may have two or three options and occasionally there was no clear choice.

It seems like the folks who posted the arrows along the Camino through France assumed walkers already know where they are going.  I had detailed topographic maps (IGN 1:25,000) and even with the maps, the camino guidebook, a compass and a fair amount of experience in backcountry walking in France and elsewhere, I still had to check out a few dead ends and wrong turns.

The French part of the camino guidebook through some regions is written for people walking westward, but I inverted the instructions and was walking east.  Still, several times there were notes mentioning one bridge or an old farm, etc.  and there would be two or three bridges within 50 feet of each other, many old farms in view.  I guess I’m just hyper-observant.

Large signposts noted estimated walking times to the next village or lodging, but times are not really useful, because everyone has a different pace. Distance notations are more helpful.  If you are hiking long distance, you know whether you walk a 15 minute kilometer or need 30 minutes.

Logo for hiker’s lodging.

Some walkers prefer calling or emailing ahead to reserve a room (when rooms are offered) or bunk.  If the information is left on an voice mail or an answering machine, there’s no way of knowing if a bed will be there.  Some hotels and farm stay lodging are closed on certain days of the week during the low-season.  Check with the establishments in advance to ensure there will be a place to sleep when you arrive dead tired in late afternoon.

Logo for lodging at local farms.

Research the history of the camino (called “chemin” in France).  If you plan to carry an electronic reading device, acquire the appropriate guidebooks in advance.

Contact the local hiking clubs to meet the people who maintain and mark the path.  During my trek, at one point a man stopped his car and greeted me, saying he’d placed the signposts in that mountainous area near Mirepoix.

Without information on where or when the next village farmers’  market might be, I had to carry food supplies. Research the route and know which day of the week is market day.  Or, ask the locals which is a great way to make contact.  In remote areas during the low or shoulder season, it’s difficult to predict when a restaurant might be open. Some of the hamlets along the way are too small to offer any services.

Study the regional tourism websites for information on gites, hostels, hotels and other lodging options.

If you don’t know the local language, at least learn a few useful terms:  please, thank you, good day, farewell, where is, I need, please help.

The obvious answer to most of your questions is just ask the gite or hotel manager as they are accustomed to handling the needs of foreign visitors.

Use the extensive tourism resources offered by regional offices.


Gers – Gascony


About pyreneespilgrimage

Traveler, artist, writer and new media advisor. Author of Travel Writing: See the World, Sell the Story. Author of Pyrenees Pilgrimage, available through Amazon print on demand.
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