Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking forward to being a 'touro-grino"!!

Having walked long Camino routes in 2002 , 2004, 2007 and 2009, I think I've earned my stripes as a 'real' pilgrim.  I've had horrible blisters, black toe nails, aching back, bursitis, worn out shoes, gypo tummy and a funny summer tan. 
And, I've tried to encourage hundreds of others to have the same experience!  I've organised Regional St James Feast Days since 2003, annual practical pilgrim workshops for hundreds of wanna-be peregrinos since 2004, and  I've trained 120 South African pilgrims to be hospitaleros.
I've queued day after day with all the other 'real' pilgrims for a bed, for the loo, a shower and a wash tub to wash my clothes. I've slept on the floor on numerous occasions and have eaten frugal meals and gone to bed hungry.
Like any 'real' pilgrim, I've slept in up-market, college-dorm-like pilgrim hostels and in basic shelters with no beds, no electricity, running water or toilets.  I've worked as a hospitalera in a 20 bed pilgrim albergue, scrubbing floors, showers, and loos and cooking meals for pilgrims every night.   Over the years I have evolved as a pilgrim.

In 2002 my backpack weighed over 10kg. I sent 3kg on to Santiago after three days walking and struggled on with a 7kg pack. I swore never to carry such a heavy load again. In 2004 my pack weighed 6kg and I still got bursitis swellings on my collar bones and aching feet at night.

By 2006 (on the Via Francigena) I managed to get the pack down to 5kg. By 2007 it was still  5kg and that's where it stays. No luxuries, no perfumes, no day and night creams - 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 3 panties, bras and socks. Everything lightweight, wash 'n wear.

Now, in 2011, I'll be doing a completely different Camino, as a touro-grino! Tourogrinos are those people you see walking with little daypacks while their large pack is transported from one place to the next. (Mine is a nifty little 20 litre Sea-to-Summit pack that weighs nothing - well, everything weighs something and this one weighs 2.4 oz / 68g).)
Tourogrinos can't stay in traditional albergues because they have their backpacks transported.  They have to stay in small hotels, inns, casas, pensions and private albergues.
They book these ahead of time so that they don't have to scramble for accommodation, especially in the height of the summer crowds. They sleep in a bedroom (instead of a dormitory) in a bed (instead of a bunk), with sheets, blankets and pillows (instead of a sleeping bag). They have a bath or shower en suite (most of the time).
Even though I know that I might still have horrible blisters, black toe nails, aching back, bursitis, worn out shoes, gypo tummy and a funny summer tan, I  am really looking forward to this new Camino experience. I'm looking forward to sleeping in late and having a leisurely breakfast.
I'm looking forward to ambling along the paths, stopping for tea, taking time over lunch, maybe enjoying a siesta under a tree if it is a hot day; having time to wait for a church or museum to open or doing a detour off the Camino path - all because I know that there is a bed waiting for me at the end of the day.  I might even send my pack ahead on some sections. Whoopee! I'll be able to pack a few extras this time! Shampoo AND soap instead of an all-in-one body, hair and clothes wash. I might pack a little number for evening meals!
Wow - imagine that!! Its going to be a very different Camino experience for me.
I anticipate a few disapproving looks and maybe even a few disparaging comments from the first-timer, pilgrim fundamentalist! But, hey - I think I can live with those!
Most of all, on this Camino I'm looking forward to walking with a wonderful group of like-minded people who are all just as excited about this Camino as I am. We are going to take our time, share good food and wine, go on a few side trips - lunch at a typical Basque restaurant in St Jean, visit the castle at Clavijo, Las Medulas World Heritage site and watch the sun go down over the Atlantic at Finsiterre snacking on a basket of Galician Regional pinchos and wine - what a pleasure!!  I can't wait! 


  1. "Touro-grino"! Sounds like a good plan. Might decrease the number of "Who's idea was this?" conversations.

  2. I'm sure I'll revert to 'real' pilgrim status again when/if I walk the el Salvador and Primitivo (still on my bucket list!)

  3. This sounds great fun, Sil! Bravo!

    Godde willing and body permitting, we will walk from Grilly to Santiago via Arles. Maybe I have already told you this. And we should be still 'real' pilgrims, even though after four Caminos as well, I think I am finally relaxing about a lot of things:-)

  4. PS: It is true that you are a super-pilgrim, having done so much of everything that is to be done. You are a pilgrim at her best!


  5. syl, am looking so forward to being the other half of this venture, leading a group of wonderful people through this amazing journey and sharing our passion with them. i am indeed priveliged to be with you and to share in this venture together. love pam

  6. Hello
    which company are you doing your Tourogrino with ?


  7. HI there, I'm not going with a company. I am taking a small group on a three week walk of the best sections of the Camino Frances. You can check it out here:

  8. Excellent information Website.

  9. Anonymous2:25 pm

    Hi. This is the third time I'm writing and the other two times my comment has gotten erased during the verification process! I hope this works.

    My name is Nancy Frey ( Amongst other things I am an anthropologist and I wrote a book on the Camino called Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago (1998, UC Press). I am working on a new project and I am interested in exploring how new technologies (internet, cell phones, emails, blogs, forums) play a role in the pilgrimage experience along the Camino de Santiago. Could I talk with you about this via email?

    PS - I noticed that several times you bring up in your blog posting the concern of being or not being a 'real' pilgrim. Don't you think that authenticity comes from within? That being a pilgrim to Santiago is a lot more about a way of being than a way of doing (or is that what it comes down to)? Who is the judge that says who is and isn't a real pilgrim? Mustn't we each walk our own Camino, find our own realness and authenticity rather than wear the expectations of others? What I think the Camino needs nowadays is a lot more tolerance and fewer pompous snobs (not you!) who want to impose their views on everyone else. - and a lot less concern about what is 'real' - live your own experience and be true to yourself and it won't matter anymore.