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Learn German (French, Spanish or Italian), buy one of their Northern Camino guidebooks!
on 3 October 2014
Before embarking on the Camino, I had this down as a 4 star book. The advice on choosing the Camino and what to pack are excellent and the author(s) are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about their subject.
BUT as a guidebook while actually on the Camino it is lamentable in comparison with the numerous German (the best!), Spanish, Italian and French equivalents.
1. The detailed directions are completely arbitrary. Sometimes tens of kilometres are described in 3 lines. At other times great detail is given over a few hundred metres. The reader very rarely knows which.
2. Words like 'shortly' have a number of different meanings. On one occasion, "shortly before a roundabout" meant 5 metres. On another, we only found a carpark "shortly afterwards" the following day and several km further on from our Albergue!
3. There are no profile maps detailing height / distance ratios as in all other European guidebooks.
4. The stages are also arbitrary. Some are as few as 16km long, others 40km. It is possible to walk far more even stages and when comparing with European fellow travellers, they were at times astounded by our book's recommendations. We deviated frequently from the recommended stages.
5. Apart from occasionally noting an outstanding Albergue, there is no information on the calibre / style of the Municipal albergues. Other guides gave far more information. Recommend downloading a current list of all Municipal and Private Albergues before you go (easy to find and any Albergue can look it up for you if you struggle)
6. And finally... The airport bus from Santiago takes 40mins (in good traffic) from Plaza Galicea, not 25!! Be warned.
Every English-speaker we met had this book, and it is better to have something than nothing. The history is in parts interesting, and the recommendations on alternative routes are also helpful. However I recommend you do not rely on it, and if you do speak either French, German, Italian or Spanish you investigate some of the excellent guides they have on offer. Where way marking was particularly poor, we also used the guides from the Confraternity of St. James, which were good (available on their website).