These are the responses to frequently asked questions about the Ignatian Camino:
1. I am wondering what would be the best month in which to undertake Ignatian Camino? — especially in terms of the heat and the weather.
The best season may be April or the end of September, beginning of October.
2. Is the Ignatian Camino safe for women to undertake?
Yes, especially if you are walking in a group.
3. Is the Ignatian Camino well-marked?
Yes in Catalunya. In other parts the way is the same as the Catalunyan way to Santiago, except you are walking in the opposite direction. The Basque sections are not well-marked yet. However, the descriptions on the official website are very specific.
4. Is there a guide book in English on the Ignatian Camino (as there is for the Camino Frances)?
No. There will be shortly. It will be published in 2015 (in Spanish only at this stage).
5. Could we join in with another group of other pilgrims?
Maybe, if there are others walking.
6. What numbers are walking the Ignatian Camino each year?
Very few at this stage compared with the 100,000 or so who walk the Camino de Santiago each year.
7. Are there farmacia (pharmacies) along the way for the treatment of blisters and other ailments?
No problem about that. Plenty… but you should buy a blister kit at the beginning of your pilgrimage… in Barcelona or in San Sebastian.
8.If someone wants to set off early in the morning before breakfast, could the guesthouses/hotels prepare breakfast packs for people to take away with them? Could the whole group do this at some/all places?
In some places, yes, it will possible. Depends what time they request it! Breakfast usually starts at 08:00 am in Spain, though in many cases we can get breakfast at 07:00 am. Any earlier will be difficult! The 3 and 4 star hotels are more adaptable and flexible and more likely to pack breakfasts to take away. Some of the more humble guesthouses won’t be able to do this – as they don’t have the staff starting earlier than 07:00 am (in fact, some won’t have the fresh bread delivered until 07:00 am) and also considering that their breakfast is “continental”, e.g. toast/croissants, jams, butter, juice, coffee, it is harder for them to pack. We encourage walkers to get onto the “Spanish rhythm” (breakfast at 08:00am, lunch around 14:00pm, dinner at 20:00 pm). In September it’s still light until quite late (sun sets between 20:00 – 20:30 pm).
9. Are there lunch places (cafes/restaurants) on offer every day?
Every day pilgrims will walk through at least one village or town (sometimes more). In the final information we prepare we will indicate which towns/villages have restaurants/bars etc. Most bars serve “bocadillos” (filled bread rolls, baguette-style) or restaurants offer the ubiquitous “menu del dia”; a three course meal including starter, main, dessert, water, wine and coffee (often no more than 12 € or so). Where there is no restaurant/bar on the trail before lunch hour, we will advise the day before, so that pilgrims can buy supplies in local shops in order to make up their own bread rolls. Most of the inns and hotels can also prepare bocadillos. We recommend pilgrims also carry their own snacks (e.g. fresh or dried fruits/nuts, energy bars etc.). These can all be purchased in supermarkets/small stores on the Camino.
10. What about toilet facilities?
No toilets on the trail (e.g. Port-a-loos). Obviously in the towns and villages pilgrims can use the toilets in the bars and restaurants (always best to purchase at least a coffee or bottle of water when they use it). Otherwise, on the trail they will have to find a tree or bush to go behind!
11. What portion of the Camino is paved/path as opposed to unpaved?
It’s a real mixture (like the Camino de Santiago). There are dirt trails that traverse the mountains (particularly during the first week in the Basque country); wide dirt farm/agricultural tracks (the type that a 4×4 or even a car can follow) and also paved roads that connect villages and towns. Approximately 70% would be on dirt/gravel roads. The trail is never dangerous (e.g. exposed, where they can fall off a mountain into a ravine etc!).
12. What portion of the Camino is signposted?
The Camino Ignaciano is not uniformally signposted. It is a very new initiative. The Camino Ignaciano Association <http://www.caminoignaciano.org/> is trying to get governments of the 5 different “Comunidades” (Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Aragon and Cataluña) to uniformally mark the trail, but it is going to take time. The section in Cataluña is now fully signposted, with orange arrows painted (and also signposts with a metal plaque with “Camino Ignaciano” on it. In Cataluña the trail is shared with the Camino de Santiago so often the post is for both trails (Camino Ignaciano and Camino Catalan or “San Jaume”), though obviously pilgrims going to Manresa walk in the opposite direction to those walking towards Santiago. The Association hopes that this summer the Camino Ignaciano in the Basque Country will be painted with the orange arrows. In other areas, walkers will follow PR (Pequeños Recorridos) or GR trails (Grandes Recorridos) for small sections; painted respectively with yellow/white and red/white paint (e.g. from one town to another town). We will also provide print outs from the Camino Ignaciano website – instructions & maps that must be carefully followed (please see example attached in PDF form). Each pilgrim needs to be responsible for route-finding (people walking the entire Camino Ignaciano are still pioneers!) It is not as easy to follow as is the Camino de Santiago (where there are yellow arrows painted throughout its entirety (in all Comunidades). At the moment there are no guide books or commercial maps available for the entire Camino Ignaciano. The best information is on the website, which will be – by the way – updated in the next month or so.
13. How hilly is the terrain?
The first week is the most mountainous section, in the Basque country. They will be up around 2000 m! After that, they will following the course of the Rio Ebro and the terrain is gentle (through La Rioja, Aragon etc.). Around Montserrat it gets hillier again.
14. What if someone gets lost? Can they all have phones with local SIM numbers?
If someone gets lost, they’ll get found!! There is always a chance on any self-guided walking tour that people get lost. However, they are not walking in extremely isolated or dangerous mountain ranges. Most days they walk through villages and/or towns. To avoid getting lost we recommend that no-one walks alone (best to have a buddy system!), particularly as there is no Spanish walking guide included in their package. As they are away a month, I would assume that everyone will be bringing their own mobile phone. As Roaming is expensive, we recommend that walkers bring their own mobile phone and purchase their own SIM card (in Barcelona) or even just purchase here in Spain a cheap mobile phone (with SIM card) so that it doesn’t cost them too much. We can make suggestions in the final information package.
15. How many days does it occur when the minibus needs to shuttle people from the end of their day’s walk to the village where the accommodation is?
There are 9 days (Day 5, Day 7, Day 11, Day 15, Day 20, Day 22, Day 26, Day 27 and Day 28) when we will use a mini-bus at day’s end to transport pilgrims from the end of the day’s walk to the accommodation.
16. What happens when people finish the walk at all different times? Is it possible that someone who finishes the walk 2 hours before the others may have to wait 2 hours for the bus to take them to the evening’s lodging?
We have provided costing based on one direct group transfer from end of walking stage to the accommodation. They can easily “kill time” exploring the village…visiting a church; having a beer or coffee in a bar, having a siesta under a tree etc. Otherwise, if they are anxious to get to the next hotel they will have to get their own taxi. We will calculate how long the walk will take and organize the coach transfer time accordingly. If, for example, the entire group arrive early in the town or village than the organized pick-up time, the Australian group leader can call ahead to the bus driver and ask him/her to come a little earlier. Most days pilgrims can choose to have a shorter walking day by finishing up in a village or town – for example – half way along the trail. Here, they can organize a taxi to take them to the next hotel. What we will have to do is have these pilgrims stay in touch with the Australian leader by phone (so that he knows that they won’t be on the coach transfer, if there is one, at the end of the day). As mentioned previously, the Australia leader will have to be on top of all these details!
17. How many trips back and forward could or would the minibus do to ensure people don’t wait around too long?
As mentioned, we have costed on one transfer for the entire group. This is not a fully escorted tour with a coach available all day and with this kind of flexibility.
18. How big is the minibus that you have quoted on? Would it fit all 22 passengers?
Where we have transfers from/to the trailhead/hotel the coach is big enough to cater for the entire group in one transfer.