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Published: July 27th 2017
I didn't take any photos of my living room preparations, or our "too heavily laden" packs, so I must jump the gun and show some of the first things we encountered on the trail. Lauren had a guide book with maps, but in actuality we followed the yellow arrows and the scallop shells that are pilgrim signs to alert us to the path as well as albergues and hostels.
EL CAMINO de SANTIAGO
My living room was a morass of camping and hiking gear almost from the moment that my daughter, Lauren, agreed to go with me on this adventure; walking the French Way - 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain. I thought, with this early start, things would automatically divide themselves into equipment and clothing to carry in my back pack and that which we would leave behind. Preparation for hiking the Camino was also an opportunity to eliminate unnecessary items from our hiking closet. I anticipated wrapping up this part of the preparation in a week or less and then I could enjoy with anticipation, the comfortable, light weight pack beaming at me as it stood against the wall waiting for the big day, the departure for our adventure.
The facts were far different. For the duration (more than a month), until we put our luggage into the car to drive to the airport, my living room floor was a confused mass of small and large piles and stacks of clothing, toiletries, medicine, and other essentials.
We read. There are many books, plus forums on the internet,
There were so many murals along the way to delight us and inspire us.
personal accounts, and suggestions for walking the Camino. And, of course, we watched the movie, The Way. We absorbed a lot of information. We finally were able to schedule a meeting with a friend of a friend who had done the Camino herself. Denise was a great help and an inspiration. She loaned us a small guide book that was invaluable during our pilgrimage.
There were two pieces of advice I thought I took to heart: Pack light, the suggested limit is 10% of your body weight, making mine 14 lbs; and “The Camino is not backpacking.” The first I know from experience…I am constantly looking for ways to lighten my load, but in the end I just kept stuffing things “I needed” into my pack. The other I didn’t really “get” until I had been on the trail for a couple of weeks. I think if I had really heard this and believed, I would have packed better, lighter, and with more purpose. Yes I needed two pounds of vitamins. No, I did not need a whole bottle of aspirin. While walking the trail you pass through several big cities where you can buy whatever you need, and
Lauren and I in our matching shirts and shoes, join these pilgrims after a long hard haul up a never-ending steep climb in the hot sun. Temperatures remained in the high nineties and over a hundred degree weather for days.
in even small villages you usually see a pharmacy. For example: I carried two knee braces and an ankle brace, which I needed on one over-packed hike, in my thirty years of back packing. I had no ankle or knee problems at the start of the walk…so why borrow trouble. I could have left them home. The questions I should have asked were, “What do I need when I get up in the morning? What will I need during the active part of my day (hat, sunscreen, etc.)?” and “What will I need at night?” Pilgrims (those who walk the Camino) buy their food and water, and sleep in an albergue, hostal or hotel. No need for tent, stove, etc. My pack weighed in at 28 lbs…way too heavy.
My daughter-in-law planned on joining us to walk several days on the Camino. She is a WWII bibliophile and planned an entirely different trip from ours, traveling to Paris, Ireland and England. She bought her ticket with a departure date a week before ours. When I finally bought our tickets it was a guess and a compromise. We had a graduation in another state to attend and that sort of
pinned us down to a start date. Lauren and I sparred about the length of our trip, settling on 40 days (I really needed at least five more days). I bought the tickets, leaving from Vancouver, Canada on May 20th
and returning on July 1st
. We both waited impatiently for our new passports to arrive. The day of departure crept closer.
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