I would like to dedicate this post to the wonderful Facebook group CAMIGAS ~ A Buddy System for Women on the Camino.
The Camino is safe, probably even safer than the average downtown neighborhood in an average sized city. That being said, if you are travelling alone it is always good to stay alert and follow your gut feeling. If you travelling alone in a foreign country, a number of buddies to ‘have your back’ is a comforting feeling and there’s nothing wrong with some comfort in our lives. You can read more about safety on our special safety-dedicated page.
‘CAMIGAS is a networking group for women who are traveling on the Camino de Santiago and who want to buddy up with other women for companionship and safety’.
This is their introduction on the page about what CAMIGAS is. I have been a member of the group for a while now and I can tell you it is MUCH more than that.
I am a member of many camino-related groups and I am an info-freak. There’s not a question that pops up in my head without feeling the urge to google for answers. One of the top website types you will encounter when looking for answers are online forums, a lot of them on Facebook as open or closed group pages. Most of them, if not all, provide really helpful information.
However, what makes 99% of these communities sometimes a little bit annoying, is the attitude of certain members. Don’t get me wrong, I know a forum is a very realistic sample of normal society in which there will always be folks that know everything better, judge fast without being informed first, ventilate their opinion in ways that disrespect others, etc. I wish society were different and I hope it changes some day. The day that happens I might consider quitting our yearly Camino escapades ;-). NOT happening…
Why you should consider joining us
The CAMIGAS group not only provides companionship and safety, it is also one of the nicest and most valuable Camino resources I have encountered on the internet, mainly because it belongs (imho) to the remaining 1% where respecting others is high on the list of every member. Wherever you want to start the Camino, how many miles you walk per day, whether you transport your backpack or not for whatever reason and whether you chose to skip stages or not: it’s your camino, and these ladies get that!
CAMIGAS is nice and pleasant. “Hold on, ‘nice’ doesn’t get you information”. Correct, that’s why CAMIGAS is also an invaluable community, because its members provide real-time and essential information AND they do it in a nice, respectful, non-judging way.
Having said that, I would like to get to the part that probably triggered you to visit this post…the sections on the Camino Francés you should be aware of before starting your walk.
These are mostly verbatims from one of the posts in the group that caught my attention and a perfect example of how the members go above and beyond to share their knowledge. All credit goes to these members and I hope this will work both ways: this post’s information should reach more people and more people should be aware that this group is out there ready to help them on their journey to Santiago de Compostela.
Be aware of these sections on the Camino Frances that some find potentially hazardous:
“The downhill into Roncesvalles via the Napoleon Route. The obvious route is a steep, rocky incline which is slick in the rain. The less obvious route goes to the right along what appears to be an old road and descends a little more gently to Ibañeta and then to the albergue in Roncesvalles”. For pilgrims walking in winter time it is good to know that The Napoleon Route can be closed for safety reasons (in 2015 it was closed from November until end of March) and your alternative would be the Valcarlos pass.
“The last mile or so descending into Zubiri is also rocky and is extremely slick and muddy when wet. I once read a description that suggested you might as well consider sliding down all the way”.
To add some humor to these warnings: a mud slide can be indeed fun. Like these elephants are having in this short video I found on youtube – too cute. Imagine looking like this on the camino. Their tread is similar to mine with a backpack on LOL…
“The descent from Alto de Perdon. I know people who have injured themselves here. It is rocks, uneven terrain mixed with pebbles and scree. Since it is not fun when dry, it must be downright dangerous in the rain”.
“The descent right after Cirauqui”.
We included the profile maps of all the stages in this info site. Cirauqui is in stage five of the Camino Francés, about 8 km after leaving Puente La Reina.
“Climbing up to the top of the hill out of Atapuerca, you suddenly find yourself on a section that is all jagged, sharp, pointed rock face. If you do not tread carefully, you could trip and land face down”. You will cross Atapuerca on your way to Burgos just after leaving Agés.
“The descent from the Cruz de Ferro all the way to Molineseca is the section where lots has been written about it. The first time I did the camino, I remembered it ever after as being hot, not well marked, rocky like some canyon trails in the American Southwest, and just darn unpleasant. On my second camino I insisted we walk down the road”.
“After Manjarin I remember it being very rocky that we actually walked on the road for a while when we could. Then it’s very rocky walking down into El Acebo so watch that section . Then you go through Riego de Ambros heading to Molinaseca. You walk down rocky tracks going around the mountains and valleys. I remember some of the tracks were narrow & rocky with some big sections to step down & it’s all downhill into Molinaseca so really take care & watch your every step. That stage Rabanal to Molinaseca it’s a tough day from the start going up but tougher going down so take care and use poles if you have them”.
“To avoid the long rock and shale descent from El Acebo you can walk on the road to Molinaseca. It is no longer than the path, a quiet road with not much traffic and was probably the original route before it was tarred”.
In my personal experience, it was more than enough for 1 day to do Foncebadón Riego de Ambrós. If I do this part of the Camino again, I would definitely break it off in El Acebo, which is a far nicer village to relax. What can I say I’m a camino turtle who spends time enjoying every inch.
“The first two thirds of the way up to O Cebreiro is rocky, deeply rutted due to centuries of use both by pilgrims and cows, and steep. If you are climbing up at the end of the day, pace yourself and pay attention”.
I can’t emphasize enough how much using two hiking poles helps me on the Camino. I wrote some information on the use of walking poles here.
“The section just before Portomarín. There is a big sign regarding it but it could be missed. The sign shows an alternate route and it is much better particularly when you know that once you cross the bridge you have a flight of steps to climb”.
Finally, I want to add a comment one of the members made that I totally agree on:
“Actually, the best advice when hiking is to be aware and notice your surroundings, the terrain, and the condition of the path or way. If you find the ascent or descent more taxing and challenging, take the alternate if there is one, and go slow deliberately picking your way to maintain stability, balance, and security – even if everyone else seem to be happily bounding down.”
If you are a woman and you’re planning on walking the Camino I personally recommend becoming a member of this group. There are over 2300 CAMIGAS waiting to help and be helped and you can become part of this amazing community. They even have a beautiful patch you can attach to your backpack so you can identify other camigas on the trail. This buddy group helps you decide, plan, execute safely, and can even help you during those dreaded post-camino feelings. But remember: no judging, be respectful, and help preserve this rare and wonderful reflection of the Camino Spirit.