It's 20 days since we returned to Oz. After our chauffeur driven ride home from Perth airport (thank you Chris), we returned to Perth the following weekend, caught Covid (ughhh), and in the midst of that managed to get mostly up to date with community work (me) and work work (Janet). A fairly crazy 20 days. So today is a bit of "catch the breath" day (no pun intended).
On several occasions when we were walking I talked about the various places we stayed, and I had committed to providing a bit of a summary of those accommodation choices for anyone interested. The link below will take you to a pdf file with all our accommodation listed, plus a bit of a commentary, costings, and a somewhat rudimentary rating for each. It's our thoughts only, and with few exceptions, shouldn't be taken as cast-iron recommendations.
As people will already know from my earlier posts we tended not to use the albergues, instead opting for casa rurales, pensions, apartments and smaller hotels. This has its pros and cons. Arguably less social (although the Via is not a particularly social experience in itself, see below), this choice gives us (me) the personal space which I prefer.
Our choices probably doubled the cost (maybe even a bit more) of what we would have spent had we stayed solely in albergues. That's obviously a personal/horses for courses decision.
If the list above prompts any questions for anyone, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or drop me a note off-line.
I've been reflecting on something else too, something which I know came though in my on-Camino writings, and that is the number, or indeed lack thereof, of people on the Via del la Plata. (And I needed to wait until the end of November to do the research necessary for this segment.)
La Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino (the Pilgrim’s Reception Office) in Santiago de Compostela keeps detailed statistics of the numbers of pilgrims who register their Camino. Naturally not everyone will register - for some, I imagine, the walk is sufficient, and they do not want or need to receive a Compostela at the end. I would think, though, that this is a very small cohort. I would be surprised if the vast majority - me included - would not seek the official recognition that the Compostela bestows, even if just as a souvenir.
So I decided to dig into their statistics a bit. Here's what I found:
This first chart shows the number of pilgrims across the Via, the Francés, the Portguése and the total Caminos, from 2015, when we first walked the Francés to now (2023 being a YTD figure and therefore incomplete, but representative all the same as historically only a very small number of people arrive in Santiago in December). Covid aside, the upward trend of the Francés, the Portguése and the total Caminos is clear. Whereas the Via is a flat line, even trending down.
Here it is in more detail:
Of the 7,809 registered as having completed the Via de la Plata in 2023, the statistics show that the main starting points were:
Ourense - 3,638
Sevilla - 1,741
Salamanca - 335
Ourense is just over 100 kilometres out from Santiago; Salamanca is at around the half-way mark. So it's no wonder that, especially in the early days, figuratively speaking no-one is nearby.
The next thing I looked at, just for fun, is the record of Aussies completing a Camino (and I should point out that the vast majority of pilgrims, around 50%, are Spanish, followed by a very distant second/third, etc by nearby Europeans or Americans).
Here's the Aussie picture:
Covid and the post Covid kick aside (I've adjusted for them), the average number of Aussies on all Caminos over the last 7/8 years is a little under 5,000 per annum, and 3,500 of them on the Camino Francés.
And then look at the Via. An average well under 100.
The last one I looked at was the November stats (these are the ones in which we are included):
197 Aussies competed a Camino in November 2023. 128 of them on the Francés. 5 of us on the Via!!
And of the 199 people in total who finished the Via in November, their start points were:
Sevilla – 82 (that's less than 3 people/day starting from Sevilla)
Ourense – 47
Granja de Moreruela (about 360 klms out) – 26
Salamanca - 8
So when I look at all this in total, it's little wonder that there was little social connection on this walk.
This will lead onto another post in a little while. I've/we've found ourselves falling into the pattern of describing the walk in negative terms. Some of the tough days loom large in our minds. But when I stop myself from doing that, not only can I easily congratulate myself for actually walking some 850 klms (yes sometimes in tough conditions), but then I can look back at the fabulous and interesting days, even if they were rather devoid of the social environment one gets so used to on the Camino Francés. This will be the subject of my "learnings"/reflection post which I will do when the time is right.
Until we next meet ...