The most popular English language Camino guidebook is John Brierley’s, A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago. It’s a full of maps and information for planning a camino but it certainly isn’t the first guide book for this pilgrimage.
The original guide, the Codex Calixtinus, was written in the 12th century. It laid out the routes to Santiago and included information on the people along the way, how to treat pilgrims, even the good and bad rivers. Centuries later the routes are unchanged and the pilgrims continue to receive hospitality from the people along the way. Fortunately, the rivers seem to have improved a bit. Here’s an excerpt from the Codex:
The horses die at Rio Salada
At a place called Lorca, to the east, flows the river known as the Salt Stream. Be careful not to drink it or water your horse there, because the river is lethal. On its banks, as we were going to Santiago, we found two Navarrese sitting there, sharpening their knives, waiting to skin the horses of pilgrims which die after drinking the water. When we asked, they lied and said the water was safe to drink. So we watered our horses, and two died at once, which the men then skinned.
Today, pilgrims will find many safe water sources along the way. In particular, there is a wine fountain in Irache where thirsty pilgrims can get a little free wine to spur them on, or put them to sleep.
As for Brierley’s guide, I digitized all 288 pages and loaded it onto my iPhone. The tedious job saved ten ounces in my backpack and was worth the effort. Now I just need to remember to bookmark the page with the Irache wine fountain location!