Ready, Set, Go!

We are ready to go! Our “To Do” list is checked off and now all we have to do is try to keep a lid on our excitement. It is hard to believe that tomorrow we fly to France and on Thursday we start walking the Camino de Santiago. It has been a dream for such a long time and now the dream is about to become reality. The last few months of planning this journey have been interesting, fun, and building to this very moment. Now we are as prepared as we’ll ever be.

We estimate that we hiked about 220 km. during the previous fifty days, a fraction of the distance we will walk during fifty days on the Camino. To help make up for the difference, Dave spent time on the treadmill and I got in many hours at the yoga studio. We didn’t train as much as we’d hoped, but it will have to do.

It was a spectacular summer with very little rain, making for pleasant hiking in the forested hills of Dean Park. Because it has been so dry, the forest floor became littered with dry leaves towards the end of August, making it look like autumn already.

Finally last week after the long dry spell it rained lightly for a brief period. It wasn’t enough to cause even a trickle in Rambling or Raven Creeks and the ponds were still mud holes, but it was enough to freshen the air and bring out a few mosquitoes and green slugs, some carrying backpacks of their own. The moss quickly soaked up the moisture, turning it brilliant green. It seemed like we were walking in a cloud forest for some of the time.

The rain was just enough to warrant hauling out our waterproof pack covers to see how well they serve the purpose. We discovered they fit very loosely and will, no doubt, fly off with the slightest wind. Maybe that’s where our supply of safety pins will come in handy (and I thought the safety pins were just for hanging our damp laundry on the outside of our backpacks as we walk!).

A better solution might be to use rain ponchos that would cover not just our packs but ourselves as well. Rain ponchos seem to be the chosen raingear amongst pilgrims, and whether to take a poncho instead of my Gortex jacket and pack cover is still a dilemma. I am leaning towards the Gortex jacket and pack cover, though, partly because the extra warmth might be welcome towards the end of October in the higher altitudes.

Our first rainy day after our dry summer was followed the next day by strong winds for half an hour, enough to bring down a few big trees over the trail. According to the weather channel, the dry soil makes the tree roots weak and more vulnerable in a wind storm. That would have been a bad time to be walking in the forest!

Now the weather we are getting is what we expect in September: a mix of rain, sun, warm, and cold.

Dean Park





2015-05-31 09.37.02


Everything we need for the next ten weeks is in our backpacks. Our small supply of such things as toothpaste and sunscreen will need to be replenished along the way, but mostly we have what we need to keep us going the whole distance. To carry no more than 10 per cent of one’s body weight is the rule of thumb for pilgrims and carrying more than that will only result in sore hips, back, knees and a very sore temper. Dave’s backpack weighs 17.1 lbs. and mine weighs 12.0 lbs.

It is astounding to think about all the things we think we need that we can actually do without. That is the first lesson we have learned from the Camino, and it’s a hard one. Even now, the day before we leave, I wonder whether I will be able to resist replacing the knee brace that I might use for my mascara and eyelash curler which I could definitely use and will miss terribly. That is one “frill” I’d rather not do without!

Our backpacks fit within the allowable dimensions and weight of Air Canada’s carry-on luggage: 9″ X 15.5″ X 21.5″ and 22 lbs. The only things that might not be allowed in the carry-on luggage are our hiking poles. According to Air Canada’s rules, walking aids are allowed but hiking poles are not. Maybe those are old rules that don’t apply to the new-fangled poles that fold up very small, and measure only 13″ (mine) and 16″ (Dave’s) and fit neatly inside our backpacks. We’ll try to get through security with them, but won’t be surprised if we have to go back and check them in. There is always that risk of our poles not reaching the destination if they must be checked in, but I suppose that’s where travel insurance comes in handy.



The size of a “personal item” which can also be carried on board is 6″ X 13″ X 17″ and 22 lbs. Our personal item weighs 4.1 lbs. We’ll figure out later how to distribute its contents between us, keeping in mind the “10 per cent of body weight” rule. Happily enough, our backpacks haven’t felt burdensome on our training hikes, so we should be able to manage the extra 4.1 lbs. easily.

Waterproof pack cover
Sleeping bag liner
Collapsible hiking poles with extra tips and gloves (poles might have to be checked)
Water bottle (collapsible)

CLOTHING: Short-sleeved merino wool shirt; long-sleeved merino wool shirt; shorts; Gortex jacket; waterproof pants; briefs (1); Merino wool socks (2 pairs); sock liners (2 pairs); metatarsal pad for Morton’s neuroma; sunhat; sandals (waterproof); infinity scarf; sunglasses

HYGIENE: Toothpaste; toothbrush; dental floss; Neutrogena soap for multi-use; washcloth and towel (quick dry); hairbrush; shampoo/conditioner; shower cap; vaseline; moisturizer; sunscreen; tweezers; nailclippers; razer; emery board; toilet paper (flattened in baggie)

MAKE-UP: Tinted moisturizer with 30 SPF sun protection; lipstick; blush

OTHER: Glasses cleaning cloth; glasses case; extra zip-lock bags; safety pins; wax ear plugs (for a quiet sleep); all-in-one plastic fork/spoon/knife (hope security doesn’t think this is a weapon!); head lamp and three AAA batteries; camera; knee brace (might need this); mole skin (2 small squares in case of blisters); copies of credit/debit cards and passports; receipt for paid accommodation in Orisson; Compostela passport in baggie; scallop shell (symbol of St. James, to hang on pack); dedication for Carole with heart-shaped rock; little bag of lavender (might ward off chin-ches – Spanish bedbugs!)

List of things I am leaving at home because the pack weighed too much (drats!): Leggings; tunic top; vest; buff; body lotion; Q-Tips; mascara; eyelash curler; mini electric toothbrush; extra pair of boot laces; calcium; needle and thread; soap dish; small note pad; hand sanitizer; small padlock; Swiss knife.

Waterproof pack cover
Sleeping bag
Collapsible hiking poles with extra tips (poles might have to be checked)
Water bottle (collapsible)

CLOTHING: Short-sleeved shirts (3); shorts; rain poncho; waterproof pants; briefs (2); boxer shorts; wool socks (2 pairs); sock liners (2 pairs); sandals; sunhat

HYGIENE: Toothpaste; toothbrush; dental floss; Neutrogena soap for multi-use in soap dish; washcloth (quick dry); wash gloves; comb; shampoo/conditioner; hand sanitizer; vaseline; sunscreen; razers (2); toilet paper (flattened in baggie); foot file

OTHER: Knee brace (hope not to need it); Glasses cleaning cloth; Extra baggies; Safety pins; Moleskin/bandades/roll of cotton medical tape for blisters (just in case!); wax ear plugs (for a quiet sleep!); all-in-one plastic fork/spoon/knife (hope security doesn’t think this is a weapon!); medications; extra glasses; compass; camera charger; battery charger/cord; electrical adapter; copies of of credit/debit cards, passports; little bag of lavender (to ward off chin-ches – Spanish bedbugs!)

Passports (keep two copies separate); tickets; itinerary; travel insurance; tablet and keyboard; cords for tablet, keyboard, and cameras; electrical adapter; battery chargers(2); stylus/pen; earphones; John Brierley’s Camino guide.

Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at Santiago de Compostela. Our pilgrimage can’t be as traditional as that, given the broad expanse of the North American continent and the Atlantic Ocean we have to cross to get to St. Jean Pied de Port, the starting point of the Camino Frances. From the time our flight from Victoria takes off, it will take 26 1/2 hours, nine time zones, three planes and three trains to get there. We will, however, be as traditional as possible by walking the two kilometers from our front door to the Victoria International Airport. That will be very early tomorrow morning, but first there is turkey dinner and an early bedtime. Stay tuned!

Ready to go!

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7 Responses to Ready, Set, Go!

  1. Trudine svisdahl says:

    Hi Judy, Wish you and your hubby loads of best wishes on this fabulous journey on Camino de Santiago de Compostela . Wow, can’t believe you are finally departing!!
    Look forward to reading your blog updates. The 10 weeks will just zap by, but first, and forth coming some online details of your incredible journey.

  2. Diane Vigeant says:

    What a grand adventure and spiritual journey you are about to start! Thanks for your willingness to share your experience. Happy Birthday and Bon Voyage!

  3. Bobbie says:

    Good luck to you both. Hope you can find the time and energy to continue your blog as I love reading about the adventure. I certainly enjoyed reading your daughter’s adventures.

  4. Barb says:

    I’m enjoying your blog – beautiful pictures, useful info – thanks! My husband and I will be starting the Camino on April 25 this year. Can’t wait!

  5. Albert Dorey says:

    Seems strange to write three years later. I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. I am leaving on the 15th of September to walk the Camino with a friend. We will have 33 days of walking and hope to stay in places that you mentioned in your blog.
    My friend,Wanda, has 40 days of vacation from her nursing job. I am a retired teacher and will turn 70 just before starting this adventure. Wanda and I will be traveling as brother and sister. Would like and advice you can give about how to enjoy the experience.
    Thanks Albert May 2 2018

    • Judy says:

      Hi Albert! I’m glad you enjoyed my blog and hope you enjoy the Camino as much as we did. On Day 17 we met Jen who had great expectations that the Camino would be more “magical” than what she had experienced so far. The best advice I can give you is to go without any expectations and simply allow the Camino to do its magic (or not) because whatever will be will be… My favourite days for a wonderful “inner journey” were always when we could avoid the Camino “rush hour.” Getting a later start, taking an alternate, rural route, and/or stopping for the night “mid-stage” were favourite days as well as our Day 10 coming away from Los Arcos. Try to make a reservation at Orisson for the communal meal – a great first night introduction to the Camino. Buen Camino, Albert! I wish I was going again!!!

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