I had heard about dogs on the camino and dogs were on the top of my list of fears. Even in Newfoundland I hate walking around Quidi Vidi or on the many trails around town, with dogs off leashes or large dogs looking very mean. Sometimes The owners look mean too. So going on a 790 km walk alone one conjures up many scenarios. Especially if one has a great imagination in the middle of the night.
Scorpions, bears, pickpockets and dogs! Read all the stories about the camino. Fast drivers on narrow roads! Bedbugs in alberiques. Food poisoning in small pubs. Yes, you can read about assaults in isolated parts and I’m sure that happens. I did hear about money being stolen while pilgrims slept. But for my month in Spain, having encountered big loud dogs, I was not attacked or bitten by anything. Not even one mosquito bite!
Always being aware of your surroundings is key to staying safe on the camino. I didn’t go anywhere at night and I kept my eyes scanning at all times. The scariest times involved walking the big climb up from Pamplona. A guy named Peter wAs sitting to the side of the trail begging for euros, right in the densest forest. I didn’t give him a glance, just read his note quickly before moving on. Another on that same part of the trail I met a Spaniard without a backpack walking towards me on a very narrow part of the trail. He stepped aside and I knew I could be pushed over very easily, so I decided to step to one side and let him go. Nothing happened but I trusted my instincts. Another time at 7 a.m. in a very dark canopied section of the trail before Santiago I could see a very tall person coming towards me. I knew there was no one around to help me, but I psyched myself up by self talk and body language. I stomped on with my sticks hitting the ground strongly.
There are times to relax and times to be fearful. Often the fear is unfounded but I think it helps keep you alert and safe.