My pack is packed. No more will be going in or coming out. It’s done. When we leave for Pamplona on Saturday morning, all I need to do is put on the clothes I’ve laid out, lace up my boots, grab my pack and poles, and head out to the car. The count down has begun.
As I’ve said in previous posts, unlike 2017, I will be carrying a one-person tent and a sleeping pad. Who knows if bed shortages may become a problem. We know what that’s all about. So I need to be prepared to camp, as a last resort.
Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
And speaking of camping on the Camino. There is a ton of misinformation out there, so I thought I would provide some clarity about camping in Spain. This is hot off the presses from our conversation with the Guardia Civil.
As most of you are aware, we have been trying to help out during the Great Camino Covid Bed Shortage-a-palooza of 2021. Where many many (sometimes hundreds) of Pilgrims have been forced to sleep rough in town because the Albergues that survived the pandemic in Galicia had a 30% cap in availability. Ouch! So Jeff and I have been operating our Free Pop Up Albergue Campground. Easy.
But then we got a visit from the Guardia Civil. Gulp. The Cops! I’m a huge fan of the Guardia Civil in Spain. They have helped me out numerous times and are always courteous. One held my hand when I was very ill once. So kind.
Our experience with the police in Spain has been very different than contact with the police in the US. In the US, the police are trained like the military. And they have the military gear and hardware to prove it. It’s as though they are anticipating a deadly confrontation every time they come into contact with the public. I guess since there are something like 4 guns for every citizen in the US, and mass shootings are a near daily occurrence, this approach might be somewhat understandable.
But in Spain, no one has a gun. Except a few people who hunt. So the police are more focused on community engagement. And helping people. Sure, there are drugs, domestic violence, etc., but crime here isn’t like it is in the US. So when the Guardia Civil rolled through the gates, we didn’t freak out.
Basically, the stop by our house was a What’s Up, Buttercup? type of deal. They are charged with Covid enforcement and they wanted to know what the heck we were doing.
Jeff gave the Inglés speaking officer the lowdown, showing him our Covid measures, Peregrino log book, and how we clean the tents daily. Then they asked for our license, which we do not have – and were told we don’t not need because it’s free here at the Happy Camper Pop Up Albergue Campground.
The cop was like ‘What?!? Why are you doing this then?’ Jeff explained, and said we tell Pilgrims to donate something to the church in Santiago. Which meant it was all OK.
‘What you are doing is legal.’
Which is what we were hoping they would say. So, Camping along the Camino – on a personal property with the permission of the property owner, is perfectly legal. No more of this ‘Camping is illegal in Spain’ nonsense on Social Media.
First, Spain has many many Campgrounds. Google it. Second, if you find yourself short of a bed in a hotel, Albergue, Air BnB, or chicken coop, knock on a door and ask a property owner. Explain you are a Peregrino on the road to Santiago. I bet they will take pity on a Pilgrim, on an actual Pilgrimage, and say yes. And then you do what all responsible campers and hikers do – leave no trace. As in, the next morning when you leave take everything with you.
To recap – Camping in Spain is allowed. We were at Decathlon in Lugo yesterday and they were sold out of tents. And these people purchasing these tents aren’t all camping in France right now. But if a campground isn’t available on your walk, just talk to a local. Spaniards, in my experience, are generally generous with giving assistance, if it is in their power to do so. And in Galicia, even more so. And according to our Guardia Civil friends, it’s completely legal.
So I will head out on Saturday with confidence that as the weather turns colder and stormier, I am equipped with my Camino camping back up plan. And who knows? Perhaps, if all else fails, I will make some new friends by knocking on a door and pitching my tent. Knowing that in Spain, camping is totally cool.