I´ve encountered a good dozen pilgrims each day going in the opposite direction from me. It´s difficult to follow the camino since the markers show the way to Santiago, not away from it. It´s sort of like New Jersey - it costs nothing to get in, but you´ve got to pay to get out. I´m paying dearly with the wasted half kilometers or so trying to leave towns... they add up. Even though I´m 'only' logging 33 kilometers of progress a day, I'm really walking over 40. I'm giving it up soon, too. After tomorrow, I'm veering off the trail to make my way to Salamanca shorter by cutting through the northeast corner of Portugal. Note to self: learn how to say 'hello, I'm a pilgrim in Portugese.' It'll work out, and being off the trail will be easier not trying to follow the markers. (People get pretty irate if a pilgrim is seen straying from the trail.)
Since I last was in the area, the required fee for a shower and bunk bed in a municipal pilgrim house has risen from 3€ to 5€, which adds up pretty quickly. Consider that the going rate for a cold beer is 1€. The fee is for a bunk bed that you can't sit up in, in a crowded room, a tiny shower cubicle with warmish water that has to be reactivated from the push-faucet every 60 seconds. The wash sinks for clothes have no hot water and washing clothes in the showers is deeply frowned upon. Pilgrim life, for the masses.
Worse now is the propensity of pilgrim-tourists. Since the economic squeeze has intensified, the number of people looking for inexpensive holidays has risen and the camino is a perfect place. These tourist 'pilgrims', from all over Europe I´m told, get a credenziale, take a bus to a pilgrim house and pay the required fee. The next day, they take a bus or taxi tour around the area for the day, arriving at the end of the day at the next pilgrim house, to do the same thing. Getting to Santiago is in no way a priority, but if they happen to, hey, they get a certificate. Apparently this has lead to a lot of petty theft in the pilgrim houses - backpacks, boots, even pots and pans from the kitchenettes - over the last few years, so the municipalities have raised the fee. I'm told some of the municipal pilgrim houses in the cities beyond the province of Galicia have even higher fees. A crying shame, it is, but what´s to be done? A letter from the pilgrims' Bishops authenticating the pilgrimage as in the Middle Ages? Can't see that happening... although I happen to have a stamp in my credenziale from the Bishop of Denver...
The right side of my body is three shades redder than the left, walking southeast as I am. I've got a few hot spots on the balls of my feet as the callouses are trying to form. Aside from the barking dogs (peculiar American euphenism for tired feet), everything is in perfect working order. I'm loving every minute of it, heading toward Portugal.