Tag Archives: Camino

The great pack shake-down

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I’ve been gathering my supplies for weeks, but today was the first real assessment of what I will bring and what I will leave behind. The rule of thumb is to try to keep your pack under 10% of your body weight. Mine is well under that, but I’d still like to keep it as light as possible.

First, I spread everything out…it looked like a lot. Of course, I’ll be wearing some of the clothes and layering as needed. When I stuffed it all into the pack, it weighed a little over 14lbs.

Next step – bug-proof my bedding and backpack. Bedbugs and other critters can be an issue in the albergues (hostels) and I was advised to spray everything liberally with permethrin. So my down quilt, silk sleep sack and pack are now all well-doused and drying on the back porch.

Daily walking clothes include convertible hiking pants, choice of long-sleeved, short-sleeved or tank top, supportive bra, quick-drying undies and darn-tough brand socks.

Traveling/resting clothes are a Macabi skirt (very comfortable with deep pockets), a loose-fitting t-shirt, a pair of wool leggings and a comfort bra. Also a pair of non-skid travel “slippers” which are great when you’re on a plane, train or bus and want your feet to be able to relax.

For layering/weather I am trying to be as well-prepared as possible. I hate being cold, but I heat up very quickly when walking. And the weather in April could be literally anything. So…I’ve got a set of silk long-johns (which can double as pajamas), the afore-mentioned wool leggings, a very light zip-up hooded shirt/jacket by Ex Officio, a thin, zippered fleece, a felted cashmere sweater (extremely warm) a down vest and an Altus poncho. The Altus was specifically recommended to me by Someone Who Knows. Unlike a typical poncho, it has sleeves, a snap-front, a huge hood and a specially shaped back so it can go over your entire pack or be tucked away if you’re not wearing the pack. Apparently, it’s the “in” thing to wear on the Camino. And it rolls up to a tiny size.

Bits and bobs – I’ve got two bandannas, a tiny first-aid kit, a large-brimmed sun/rain hat, “dirty-girl” gaiters to keep pebbles and dirt out of my shoes, two buffs (one wool, one polyester,) a pair of thin gloves and both an ankle and knee brace in case my old body goes wonky.

Toiletries have all been put into little bitty containers and include toothpaste, medication, lotion, deodorant, and a starting supply of ibuprofen/aspirin. Also a puff for scrubbing, a teeny-tiny travel towel, a bar of laundry soap, earplugs and a toothbrush. And the all-important charger and adapter for my i-Phone.

And finally – footwear. I’ll be wearing an almost-new pair of New Balance 410s, which I find the most comfortable and supportive for my feet. And I’m bringing a pair of Tevas, to change into when I get to the end of of each day and maybe even to walk in if the weather is good and my feet need a break. I plan to pick up a pair of hiking poles when I get to Pamplona.

So….I don’t feel completely “ready” yet. But I’m getting there. And anything I forget or need after I leave, I can buy in Spain…as well as leave anything superfluous behind in the albergue for another pilgrim.

What IS the Camino (and why am I doing this, anyway?)

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The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.  The most popular route is the Camino Francés which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.  This route is fed by three major French routes and also joined along its route by routes from various places in Spain, Portugal, England and further away.

The network is similar to a river system – small brooks join together to make streams, and the streams join together to make rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés. During the middle ages, people walked out of their front doors and started off to Santiago, which was how the network grew up. 

Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the Way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in churches and monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.


The first I ever heard of the Camino was when I watched a movie with Martin Sheen called “The Way.” (“Camino” means, literally “way” or “road” in Spanish.) My sister-in-law recommended it. I was fascinated and intrigued and determined to someday “make the road” myself. It has been in the back of my mind ever since…and after I retired last year and my plans to go volunteer in Africa did not come to pass, I began to plan in earnest.

I decided to take the French Way (the most common and popular, with the best infrastructure.) And rather than worrying about hiking up and over the Pyrenees, I determined that I would start in Pamplona. I choose the beginning of April…when it was warming up, but still not really packed and crowded with pilgrims. Rather than follow the typical “stages” of walking (most of which were further than I wanted to walk in a day, anyway) i created my own itinerary with shorter days, for the most part. And contrary to what many pilgrims do, I booked almost every accommodation ahead of time.

Because the Camino connects towns and villages, there are plenty of places to stop and rest and plenty of people willing and able to help you on your journey. And…if I become truly exhausted (or my feet get too blistered) there is always the option of calling a taxi to take me into the next village. By my calculations, I will be walking about 432 miles in total…and I’ve given myself 38 days in which to do it.

I’ve been walking each day, and I splurged and purchased a new backpack. (I already had a couple I was considering, but one was a bit too small and one was a bit too big. So I now have the Goldilocks of backpacks.) There is an over-abundance of information and advice available for walking the Camino, but my best info came from a wonderful woman named Annie Carvalho who had both a Facebook page and a blog. She’s a little older than I am, has walked almost all the routes numerous times and was able to present practical, matter-of-fact advice and suggestions for almost every question.

As to the “why” I am doing this…well, I am not yet sure. Because I can – and because it’s there of course. But also because there is something very appealing about 6 weeks of simply getting up every morning and walking from one place to the next, with no other agenda or goal in mind. People walk for all sorts of reasons and everyone walks their own walk. I expect to be tired, achy and sore at the end of every day. I expect to meet all different kinds of people from many different places. I expect to walk in the rain and the sun and who knows what other kind of weather. And I expect – I hope – to embrace the journey and add a bit of blessedness to my life.

¡Buen Camino!

Getting ready to walk the Camino…

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I figured it was about time I reactivated my blog! Anyone out there? I’m going to be walking the Camino de Santiago starting on April 2. 432 miles from Pamplona to Santiago. I am both excited and terrified. I’ll be using this blog to post thoughts, pictures, experiences and imaginings. I hope you come along with me on the journey.