Camino popularity about to boom

As I wait patiently for the opening of the new, and much heralded (on this blog at least), UK release of the new Martin Sheen film 'The Way', and keep my fingers crossed that it is a general release and not confined to a few arthouse cinemas, I wonder what kind of additional footfall this film may create for the Caminos next year.

Opens 13th May 2011

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While digging for more information about the film I stumbled across a site 'On Foot In Spain' which offers a number of guided walking tours across Galicia with stops at interesting viewing spots and evenings/nights in out of the way monestaries and casa rural. They aren't cheap - the next trip advertised is €2,695 for eleven nights - but it does seem like a very civilised way to do things. There are plenty more companies around offering similar tours and at all costs and points on the comfort spectrum.

Traditionally the original pilgrims walking the 'ways' would do so without spending any money, or by begging, or receiving alms from christian wellwishers. Many of the hostels along the routes can still be lodged in for a few euros a night and are fine so long as you are happy to sleep in mixed-sex dormitories an share washing and eating facilities with many of your fellow shell wearers.

The new film will likely swell the numbers of Camino walkers beyond the 100,000 who have regularly made some sort of pilgrimage for each of the last few years (ranging from 1,500 to 100km in length). Not bad to say that the figures had dropped down to a few thousand per year in the early 1990's.

A colleague who was out in Santiago de Compostela earlier this month told of large numbers of great unwashed sandal wearing pilgrims on foot and bicycle arriving in the main square in front of the cathedral, and queuing for entry, and we're only just starting prime walking season.

The film can only be a positive influence and will futher demonstrate the breathtaking beauty of Spains green lung. I am bursting to see it, if only for a much overdue view of Galicia.

As far as I am concerned, the more the merrier.

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