How To Get To Garabandal

Garabandal is located 15 miles inland from the Cantabrian coast some 3.5 miles (50 miles by car because of the winding mountain roads) west by southwest of Santander, the capital of the small Castillian province of the same name.  Santander is an important port and because of its beautiful, expansive beaches and temperate summer climate, a vacation favorite for Spaniards who go there to escape the heat of the central plateau.  It is 250 miles straight north of Madrid and 140 miles west of the nearest port of entry from France, Hendaye-Irun.

Garabandal lies in the foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains at an elevation of 1, 630 feet.  The Pena Sagra Ridge which rises to 6, 000 feet behind it, is hidden by fog much of the time.  To the west are the majestic Picos de Europa and Covadonga from where the Christians launched their successful 800 year reconquest of Spain from the Moors in the eighth century.

Listed on area maps as San Sebastian and called such by many local people, other Spaniards add “de Garabandal” probably to distinguish the small “pueblo de las apariciones” from the large port city.  Previous to 1961 one would have had a difficult time finding anyone in the province who could point the way to Garabandal. Today it would be just about as difficult to find anyone there who doesn’t know where it is.

What does one need when preparing to attend the Miracle prophesied to take place in Garabandal on a date not yet revealed?  Firstly, a plan based on thought and research to determine the minimum number of items needed for such a trip and secondly, patience to wit for the best time to purchase equipment and supplies.

Since the Miracle will take place within a 12-month period after the Warning, it is recommended that you wait until after the Warning before investing in camping equipment for your pilgrimage.

A Mountain Setting
Garabandal (altitude 1,630 ft.) is located in the foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains in what is considered the “damp” part of Spain.  Therefore, in March, April or May when the Miracle is prophesied to take place, which are months of heavy precipitation, one should be prepared for moist and cool weather.  In fact, it can be quite cold especially at night and in the daytime even in May.  The relatively flat meadowlands that surround the village proper will undoubtedly be marshy and will call for extra ground cover and caution for those choosing to camp there.

The following guidelines can apply to everyone’s circumstances for the trip and the common starting point is to prepare for eight to ten days of camping out with adequate but minimal provisions and supplies for the number of people in your group.

The main item for consideration is the backpack.  We recommend that serious thought be given to the design best suited for the person carrying the pack.  Some stores keep a loaded pack on hand which you may try on.  When looking at the various packs, check for the following:

  1. See that the padding of the shoulder straps is not too soft because it will compress too much under the weight of the pack and become uncomfortable.
  2. Make certain the bag is stitched with nylon thread.
  3. A good quality hip belt is necessary as it carries most of the weight.
  4. See to it that the pack has outside pockets for frequently used small items.
  5. Operate the toggles and see that they perform as needed.  Even try to operate them with gloves on, which is important in cold weather.
  6. After strapping the bag on your back, pull hard on the shoulder strap retainers to see that they do not slip and let go under the load.
  7. Have a plain canvas bag, a little bigger than the fully loaded pack, made to fit over the pack.  Conveyor belts of commercial carriers can play havoc with your straps and the pack frame, sometimes causing irreparable damage, necessitating the purchase of a new bag.

Sleeping Bag
The most expensive items in your pack are the sleeping bag and a good quality, waterproof stuff sack to contain the bag. The use of down filled sleeping bags has been abandoned due to the cost and the care they must be given.  Bags filled with man-made fibers can protect to a minimum temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are considering a tent, check out rentals.  Nylon is much lighter than canvas.  Tents range in size and cost from $20.00 to $400.00.  Nylon self-standing, six-man tent weighing about 20 lbs. costs approximately $300.00. If you purchase a Nylon tent, go over the lower portion seams and zipper seams with a waterproofing substance. You will also need a good ground cloth to prevent condensation from forming inside the tent.

The most difficult subject is food.  Freeze dried food is best for weight and ease of preparation. It is available from camping and outdoors stores and through catalogs. But it is expensive. Here is a suggested basic menu that will sustain one person for eight to ten days with a normal weight loss of six to ten pounds during that period (alter as desired). The total amount needed for a 10-day supply, per person, is: 60 tea bags, 10 cubes of soup, 10 cans of chili, stew, or hash, 20 pieces of chocolate, 10 cans or bags of assorted specialty items, 12bouillon cubes for emergency use, and 12 One-A-Day Multiple Vitamins.  Approximate total weight: 10 lbs.

Contents of Backpack
Suggested items for the backpack are: Toilet case, multipurpose knife (Swiss or Boy Scout) not a sheath knife, fire starter (metal match, butane lighter, waterproof matches), nylon twine, 1/8″ x 50′, metal mirror, canteen (1 liter), water carrier (3 gallon), sportsman (space) blanket, flashlight with two spare Duracell batteries, lantern with 6 volt battery, portable toilet, roll of toilet tissue, not packets, towel, assorted plastic bags, knife, fork, and spoon set, metal cup, “Sigg” pot with lid, plates, salt shake, folding shovel, folding “Swen” saw, first aid kit, tent if small and light, ground cloth, water purification kit, cooking screen, hot pot tongs, 2 one-liter red “Sigg” aluminum fuel bottles (empty) with special pouring caps, Ace bandage, air mattress, small baby bottle to fill canteen from shallow streams, backpack grill with canvas cover, 1 SVEA 123 stove with lid pot.

Your clothing should be what you wear plus one change to carry.  Basically it should be warm and waterproof, such as-jeans, wool sweater (which can be worn under a an EMS Wind Parker), 3 pairs of warm socks and shirts-one should be wool, 3 sets of underwear, 1 poncho large enough to cover the backpack, 1 pair of rain chaps, and 1 pair of hiking boots, carefully selected.

These are a few suggestions to help you get started.  You know best the needs of your family and yourself (keep in mind the airline regulations for weight and size of luggage).

Your local library’s section on camping and backpacking can give you much more detailed information.  If you are fortunate to have a good sports (camping) store in your locale talk to them.  If you have a large family or if you are not too eager to buy equipment that will not be used after the Miracle, look to see where you can improvise.  A couple of examples are: A large tarp with grommets (metal ringed holes) draped over a rope and pegged down can serve as a tent.  Plastic garbage bags for raincoats; reinforce the neck and armholes with waterproof tape.  Regular wooden matches dipped in paraffin wax that makes them waterproof.

There are many dried soups, beverages, vegetables, fruits, individual canned meats, fish, cereals, etc., found in the supermarkets that can be used.