Although pedestrians are in the majority, bicycles or horses gain followers.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, 28 October (EUROPA PRESS) –
So far this year, 94% of pilgrims who have reached the ‘compostela’ have done so after reaching Obradoiro on foot after covering the required 100 kilometers. According to data from the Pilgrims’ Office in mid-October, this is the distance required for pilgrims who choose the horse to move, a method chosen by 529 people so far in 2022.
There were more pilgrims arriving in Santiago on their bikes, who were required to travel at least 200 kilometers if they wanted to take home the official accreditation of having completed the Camino de Santiago.
In total, around 22,000 people chose the bike to make the pilgrimage to Compostela in the second year of the biannual Xacobeo. Despite just under 32,000 people cycling the Camino in 2010, the last Holy Year, there are almost 3,000 more in total pilgrim volume than in the whole of 2019, a record year to date.
Despite the significant change in the world of pedals in the last decade, namely the spread of the electric bicycle, they are less. Assisted pedaling allows you to face the steep terrain of Jacobin trails with the guarantee of being unduly damaged by the slopes that, in the case of the French Way, give you a break in the Castilian plains but force you to climb the mountains before. It’s constantly getting into the ‘up and down’ of Galicia.
In Santiago it is common to see pilgrims packing their bikes in cartons near the Post Office on Rúa do Franco, just over 100 meters from Praza do Obradoiro, to send them back home after finishing the Road.
Over the years there have been different companies specializing in bike rentals to make the Camino. “The customer connects to the internet and we ship the bike to the point where the Camino starts, usually to an accommodation,” says Tournride manager Xavi Rodríguez.
Located in Ensanche, the capital of Galicia, this business is facing the last weeks before closing after a very busy season. “We went from zero to surface,” the businessman told Europa Press, conceding that 2022 was a good year with more than 100 bikes arriving on the Camino.
Xavi Rodríguez appreciates the extension of both the rental period and the season – “the pilgrims seem to start from farther away”. “There has never been so much work in October. And in fact, we expect the season for next year to start in early March, as it normally does at Easter,” he said.
The rent for about ten stages of the Camino ranges from 180 to 350 euros, depending on the equipment (helmet, panniers, etc.) and the bike model chosen. “If we had 1,000 electric bikes, I would rent them all,” says Xavi Rodríguez, underscoring the significant demand for pedal-assisted bikes.
This company from Compostela has included this type of bike in its catalog for the first time, considering couples or groups who are not used to cycling or who prefer not to face such a physically demanding challenge.
“When we rented an electric bike for the first time, we rented it for a US customer who had a heart problem and wanted to share the experience with his partner who had been doing the Camino on a regular bike,” says Tournride manager. .
“Now there are people who want to do more kilometers, longer stages than those who rent electric bikes. We do not recommend it. We say that they should do normal bike stages between 40-50 kilometers and enjoy it. It is the Camino. It is not the Tour de France”, comments Xavi Rodriguez.
ON THE HORSE
Doing the Camino on horseback may be less physically demanding than doing it on foot or by bike, but if you’re not used to riding a horse, it’s not immune to body aches as the miles pass.
“You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to handle the horse a little bit. It’s not just handling the horse, the body is used to riding, otherwise the person will have very strong muscle aches,” says Manuel. Muíños is the founder of Caminos Galicia, a company that has been taking thousands of pilgrims from all over the world on horseback along the Jacobean routes since 1993.
The Muíños guide the final expedition of this season, fueled by pilgrims from Menorca and the United States, the country of origin for many of the travelers who choose the horse as a mode of transportation themselves along the Camino routes.
One of them is Gary Nentyre from Saint Paul, the capital city of Minnesota. He suffers from partial blindness, so he took the Camino de Santiago as a challenge for his personal growth. “I wanted to have the experience of doing something that wasn’t easy for me. Horse is my way of seeing,” she says in a conversation with Europa Press.
Although he is used to riding horses every week in dressage lessons, he is aware that the physical demands of the Camino are different. “It’s resistance. In the saddle for four or five hours, you have to be strong,” he says, emphasizing that “crossing valleys and mountains just by listening to the horse’s hooves” rewards muscle soreness.
The horseback stages have the same duration as the pedestrian stages, but the horses are ready to travel up to 40 kilometers per day. “But what’s normal is about 30 a day,” says Jesús Muíños, who has lost count of how many times he walks to Obradoiro in Camino guidance groups.
To come to the front of the cathedral on horseback requires permission from the municipal authorities, who limit this possibility to doing it first thing in the morning.
Therefore, groups of gentlemen should indicate what day they will arrive in the Galician capital and make the journey connecting Monte do Gozo with Obradoiro between 07:00 and 09, descending from Avenida Xoán XXIII to the church of San Francisco. :00 morning.
Additionally, the Santiago City Council reserves the possibility of forcing groups to travel within the city accompanied by a Local Police patrol or a team of Civil Protection volunteers.
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