Is it safe to walk the Way? Can I get lost? Are the routes well sign posted? What happens if I fall and hurt myself? Do many routes include stretches on open roads? Are there wild animals that could attack me? Would I be mugged? … and we could go on and on with similar questions…
Queries and doubts like these are normal when we face something unknown. Even more so when what we are considering is a physical challenge of walking long distances for many consecutive days. Leaving to one side the possible minor muggings, losses, or small accidents that we may incur, anything more serious are only isolated incidents which, as such, tend to attract more media attention. But in broad terms, we can state the TOTAL SAFETY of the Way.
I hope I will be able to resolve all of your queries on this post, and that it will help you face El Camino in the right spirit : happy and motivated.
The Way is heavily signposted, making it verydifficult to get lost even if you are distracted. This, of course, does not mean that you should take your eye off the ball. Continue to monitor the different posts that will guide us on route: yellow arrows, milestones, scallop shells signs, posters or those stone mounds that the pilgrims themselves leave along the route. If at any point you doubt your way and think you might be lost, the best advice we can give you is to retrace your steps back to the last signpost you encounter, and verify your way again from there. If in doubt, it is always better not to take the risk and explore blindly, as this behaviour can end up in disorientation, loss, and even accident. Of course, if you are users of Vojo Way you can relax, as none of this will become a problem. Through the app´s tracker, you will be able to see at any point the entire route, as well as access a wide range of statistics on how your journey is progressing.
LOSS OR ACCIDENT
What happens if, after taking all precaution, we end up getting lost or having an accident? The Way has a high density of ´traffic´, and it would not be long until you encounter another person who could assist you, either another pilgrim or somebody local. However, Vojo has taken all this into account and has built in ways to ensure that whoever uses our app will be protected:
- The main menu and the tracker both provide channels to access localisation data, as well as details for emergency services (police, hospitals, town halls,…etc)
- We could send a direct message to other Vojo Way users by accessing the “people” option under “search nearby” on the main menu. All these users will appear on the map.
- Our Barry Dog is also here to help. Through him, you will be able to reach the Vojo Way team directly, and we will be able to track your exact position at the time.
OPEN ROAD SECTIONS
The great majority of kilometres along any of the routes go by footpaths and hiking trails in the middle of nature, but there are unavoidable stretches of tarmac road. When this happens we need to employ our five senses and bear in mind a few suggestions:
- Wear bright clothing to increase your visibility. If you have any reflective elements, such as small lights or reflective straps like the ones used by cyclists) they would not go amiss, even a light at the front.
- Caminar por el lado contrario al sentido de la marcha de los coches (para verlos de cara) , es decir caminaremos por el lado izquierdo de la carretera, utilizando el arcén si lo hubiese o lo más pegados posible al borde de la carretera.
- If walking on the left side feels dangerous (ravines, obstacles, low visibility, etc) walk on the right side but always aware of what is coming behind our backs and always looking for an exit route out of a dangerous situation.
- Never cross on a bend or at elevation changes, like at the top of hills. If you decide to cross, you have to be decisive, be quick and make sure that no vehicle is coming or that they are not too close. When crossing, first look left and then right, then again look left before crossing.
- If you are walking as part of a group, you must make a line and walk one after the other and keeping some safe distance of between 3 and 5 metres.
It is surprising but it is a question that appears in many a forum and a doubt that many people have when they decide to go walking. I am yet to know someone who has ever been attacked by a wild animal on El Camino, but it is true that sporadically there have been cases of attacks by a dog, although not serious. We must bear in mind that we are going to go through rural landscapes, sometimes far from urban spaces, and where animals are still used in a traditional way: for labouring, for food and to protect other animals that are of value to them.
Most of the time the dogs you will come across will be “much ado about nothing”, but just in case, it is best to avoid trying to caress a dog that you don´t know, even if he looks lovely and cute, a bit dishevelled sleeping next to the sheep. They are its sheep and its duty is to protect them. If there are no fences and you see a dog walk towards you, the best thing is to put your arms up and make a loud noise. This will probably make him stop and just make him bark at you from afar.
Como anécdota os puedo contar que a mi me persiguió un cabra unos cuantos metros y me tuvo dando vueltas a un coche hasta que se canso de mi, pero salí totalmente ileso, jaja.
THEFT AND PETTY CRIME
People with “sticky fingers”and opportunists take advantage of gatherings (especially in high season) and El Camino is not different from other places in this sense, nevertheless, it is not a common occurrence. Petty thieves usually make the most of pilgrims little distractions to steal things from the outer pockets of backpacks, steal phones, tablets or small items that are usually kept in these pockets. Sometimes even the whole backpack can be stolen if the owner has left it unattended long enough, even if only to take a break from it. The best practice to avoid any mishaps is to get used to your backpack and take it with you anywhere you go, and never let it out of your sight. Obviously, once accommodated in the shelter you don´t have to take your backpack everywhere, but it is advisable to put all of your valuables in a small bag to take with you at all times. It is also advisable to close your backpack well while away or when in the shower.
YOUR FITNESS LEVEL
Walking on El Camino is a wonderful experience and also a tough one, a good fitness level is essential. Sadly, nearly every year there are casualties amongst the older pilgrims, the most common fatality being heart attack due to the physical strain under which the bodies get. It is a good idea to check with a doctor, if you have doubts of your fitness suitability for El Camino, that way you could avoid nasty surprises.
I hope you find these little tips useful and they help you dispel some of your doubts about safety on El Camino. And please remember that Vojo Way is there to help you and make your Camino a fun and safe experience.
Cheers, and buen camino!