2014: A New Zealander reviewing Camino Downunder’s all-weather walking maps and… | Camino Downunder

2014: A New Zealander reviewing Camino Downunder’s all-weather walking maps and…

Last week (December, 2014) I received an email from a Kiwi who with his wife, had just completed the pilgrimage walk from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela in the second half of 2014, using Camino Downunder’s 30 all-weather walking maps. Alan Rowe gave me permission to quote his email in total, plus his very informative text which was emailed as an attachment.

Marc,

My wife and I have just completed the Way of St James, walking the Frances
route from St Jean Pied de Port. We started in September and finished
near the end of October. The experience was wonderful and made great
through the use of your book of maps.

We have made some notes and would like to share them with you. Please see
the attached note – I trust these are of some use to you.

Alan and Gay Rowe
NZ

Behold the turtle who makes progress
only when he sticks his neck out.

Camino Downunder's major publication: addressing the needs of every pilgrim-walker.

Camino Downunder’s major publication: addressing the needs of every pilgrim-walker.

Here are the notes produced by Alan and Gay Rowe for future pilgrims – 2015 onwards.

Notes for Caminodownunder.

We have recently returned home from an overseas trip, the last part of which was walking the St James camino from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago.
We had an awesome experience and now have wonderful memories that will be with us for years to come.
Part of the reason for the positive experience was that we used your book of maps to help us navigate our way across Spain. We found the book very useful and more reliable than the signs around us, especially when it came to distance information.
At one point we were talking with others and one gentleman complained about the books available and said that in this day and age with satellite mapping available, it should be easy to produce a decent book of maps of the route. He was determined to go home and produce one. I showed him our book, and he then gave up his idea of producing his own –it has already been done, he said.
However, there were some things that we feel could be improved, and I would like to share them with you.
1. The key one is that when we reached Rabanal, we went to one of the albergues recommended by your book, only to find that they were going to turn us away. The reason was that they do not accept anyone who has not carried their own pack. As we had health issues on that occasion, we had used Jacotrans to carry my wife’s pack on some days. That was one of the days we had used that service, and the custodians were going to say no to us. However, when we explained the full situation, they allowed us to stay on compassionate grounds. My point is that if we had known about this restriction, we would have made different decisions. This particular albergue also refuses entry to those who travel in groups of 7 or more. The albergue in question is Refugio Gaucelmo and is run by the English Confraternity. Apart from this issue, our stay there was very comfortable and we would support your three ticks. But we do feel that a note to inform pilgrims of the restrictions would be useful.
2. There was another alberque which had a sign outside which informed those who had biked or ridden a horse, or had their pack transported that they would be admitted only if there was room after the walking pilgrims had been accommodated. We did not stay there and therefore cannot comment on the standard of accommodation. This albergue was at Ribadiso, some 4km before Arzua.
3. The albergue in Las Herrerias offers a vegetarian meal. Deserves two ticks!!
4. Albergue de la Piedra in Villafranca del Bierzo deserves 4 ticks! We arrived there in the rain and dripping wet. To be greeted with “Put your wet gear over there. Would you like a hot drink? was music to our ears!!
5. Please add Alberque Primero Anniversario (Pilgrim House) Ph: 6225 66468. The host is a gentleman called German; in San Justo, is worth a mention – one tick.
6. The alternate route from La Virgen del Camino was poorly signed. We found it, but we know of others who missed it and ended up walking the highway. Not much you can do about that, but a note in the maps about that might alert the pilgrims.
7. Leon was a wonderful place to enter. We were welcomed near the river by a group of volunteers and provided with a map of the city and clear directions to the alberque of our choice! The way out was less helpful!!
8. Albergue San Nicholas (just before the Pisuerga River) closes late October. Deserves to be marked on the map and the seasonal closure mentioned.
9. Another albergue that closed as we arrived there was and the small albergue at San Bol.
10. Alberque Municipal de Burgos you list as new. It is worth three ticks. Big establishment and on the alternate route into the city. Good facilities and good drying spaces. Lift to the upper floors!! Bit hard to find from the river route (via Castanares).
11. Albergue San Anton Abad at Villafranca Montes de Orca. Three ticks!!! Good facilities – two rooms with eight bunks, one with 25, and one room with about 16 single beds.
12. Alberque de peregrines Caminante in Belorado. 3 or 4 ticks!! Great hosts and great pilgrim meal available. Also offers breakfast.
13. Albergue San Saturnino in Ventosa. Excellent venue – three ticks!! Offers a very real pilgrim experience but without a meal. Two good café/restaurants in town though, both run by the same family!

Thank you for the work that has gone into producing the book of maps. It was a very useful addition to our equipment and we wouldn’t have been without it.

Alan and Gay Rowe.
Onewhero, NZ.

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