Firstly, dear family, (Wendy) boo, surprise, I am not dead!
‘they say’, that everyone’s Camino is an entirely unique experience, and as a result you can read as much as possible, but nothing can really prepare you for how you will think and feel until you do it. Words so true.
When I was chatting to the guys as I was buying some of my gear, they gave me a couple of pieces of great advice (they are both hikers and long distance walkers). 1 if you keep overanalysing and researching you will talk yourself out of it, just do it. When I asked what shoes? they both said the ones that feel most comfortable, you know your body better than anyone. (I bought the lightest, comfiest, waterproof, hiking boots I tried on, also highly recommended online).
I am now three days in (the technical bits will be below), and it has been quite different to what I thought. Despite being the un fittest person in the Southern Hemisphere, I knew I would find the mental side more challenging than the physical, and that in the main has been the case, at the end of day three however, the physical has started to take a toll. With the worst being a searing pain through my hips and my feet feeling like they are very bruised. I have 0 blisters, (the most common ailment), but I put this down to my amazing merino and angora socks (two liners and full pair), and the fact that I change my shoes or cuddle my feet, the second, I feel a hot spot. I have actually not worn those fancy hiking boots recommended by everyone online, and am now swapping between using my old Adidas light weight trainers, + some sexy must have walking sandals worn with my wonderful socks.
My walk has started out at stages grade 4 & 5, (grade info below) probably not the wisest decision, (that happens with a lack of research) but it is remarkable how quickly cardio fitness increases from a place of 0.
Everyone keeps telling me, I am nuts, including all the cyclists on the route, who seem to be surprised at the kms I have committed to walk per day. I thought cycling would be harder (especially given the hills), the cyclists genuinely seem to respect the walkers and think walking is worse.
I am finding that the stretches I find the hardest are actually the physically less demanding, the long flat, through the countryside with no villages towns or pilgrims in sight. I struggle with these because it is when you are completely alone with thoughts, and you can’t see an end point in the distance, I find I am not thinking about anything deep, I am just thinking, when will this bloody path end, although there was a wobble today, that is no doubt a sign of things to come.
The easiest I find, are the ones that most others complain about, the really crazy terrain, climbing up big rocky slopes, or the sprawling industrial estates, which everyone finds ugly, but I find a kind of beauty by looking at what is stored and the businesses and coming up with ideas in my mind about how I could use the products to create some kind of sculpture that would represent the business and promote the town I am in, and which city or town across the world
I seem to also take longer to walk than anyone, and take more steps, this may be because I really meander, I take a million photos, walk backwards and forwards, looking at a lone poppy, rocks placed for others, I spend ages in villages looking at the architecture of the homes, the plaza, going into supermarkets to see how products change from town to town, looking at the graffiti, a plant I have never seen, messages written by pilgrims, crazily placed solar panels, spending time in the main squares to see what is important to that town.
- Party 1- Hola
- Party 2 - Hola Buen Camin
- Party 1 - Gracias Buen Camino
- Party 2 - Gracios
- Party 1 - Adios
- Party 2 – Adios
Meal times are when people connect and come together, for me (staying in places with private rooms), this means at breakfast where a standard breakfast means we chat and share dry bread, cheese, chorizo, oranges and coffee. For lunch this means a stop at any bar = café | restaurant where for about 9 euro, you chat over a 3 course pilgrim meal, that is usually a fish soup or pasta dish, followed by chicken with potatoes, finished with either fruit, custard or ice cream and includes as much wine or water as you like. Dinners, if you are staying in an albergue, are very communal. If you are travelling like me as a non albergue solo, you wander into the nearest village and join a table at a restaurant with anyone, pilgrims are obvious, if you want time to yourself, just sit alone.
I have met some lovely people, Alejandro and Sofia, Fernandos, Helen from Australia, Marg from Canada, Abe and Greet, and a weirdo who latched onto me for about 6km (I think from Germany), he said he was Dutch but given I spent a lot of time there with Juan … me thinks no … all he kept saying was ‘Kaput Obama’ … and then ‘1 bunk’ … (kaput in german means broken, maybe he was actually trying to tell me something quite deep).
I have shed three sets of tears …. no doubt there will be more to come … odd tears … and perhaps the start of my emotional journey.
1 – my mind started to wander back to when I lived in the UK for the first time, when I bought my place in Sth Ken. I started to think about the renovations I did, and how I still wished I had that place, then I started thinking about my dear friend (xx), who I first lived with in the UK when I decided to stay, we lived in Sth Ken, and she could not afford to do renovations, she shared so many plans with me, we looked at so many designs, designed so much together, she had to give up that place that she loved, and so did I, for mine in Sth Ken, but my tears were for her, we have not spoken for ages.
2 – then I started to think about the fact, that I not spoken to (xx) for ages, and this led me to think about all the people that I have been shitty at staying in contact with, those I turn away and what a shitty friend I can be, despite how wonderful friends have been to me, the more the gap, the guiltier I have become, there are no excuses, maybe my camino ‘why’, is about reconnecting.
3 – finally, my third set of tears. I was bloody exhausted, my hips were killing me, the tag on my top was rubbing and I could not find my nail scissors to cut it off, I was out of water and every time I tried to peel my orange and move my arm, the tag would rub, the orange was not happening #weep.
How so very silly … it was also at this point, that I thought of Liz, Marco and Maximillien, who do the Marathon des Sables, thank god a year off for all, from this death race. I know I have an addictive personality, and started to think about my Camino, moving to greater, I actually started to picture us running this together … it’s okay.. I slapped myself out of that …
The stats - 3 days in, averaging 47k steps per day (according to the ‘fitbitch’), 24 kilometres a day, blisters 0. 2 x Grade 4 stages, 1 x Grade 5. 11.5 hours sleep in 3 days.
A lesson in Grades:
1 = for everyone, 1-2 hours, short works no slopes terrain in good condition
2 = with a little training, 3-4 hours, small slopes and dirt roads
3 = people accustomed to hikes, 4-6 hours, moderate slopes, dirt roads and sometimes rocky
4 = people in very good shape, less than 6 hours, big slopes and narrow roads difficult
5 = very experienced hikers, mountain routes, big slopes, difficult paths over rocks, use of hands needed
· 1 x 3 star (single bed, own bathroom, super clean, no air con)
· 1 x 2 star (single bed, own bathroom, no air con, bites x 4)
· 1 x 4 star (should be rated 5, all the goodies plus amazing hydro spa)
Camino tips & very helpful folk:
· Merino or Angora socks – get 5 pairs and spend as much as you can on them
· Merino undies – buy 5 pairs true stories
· Bladder rehydration pack 2 or 3L – better than bottles
· Schedule rest days post the big walks
· Hiking boots not needed on the 360km and below walks
· www.wifivox.com – (for 6e portable wifi delivered to your door, unlimited)
· www.mountaindesigns.com (the best advice for hiking)
Day 2 - I thought ... this could be harder than I thought
Day 3 - I thought ... yep, mental stuff harder
CBT - x