“A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago” by John Brierley and the Camino on-line forum have been invaluable sources of information in getting ready for this journey. We’ve learned about bedbug infestations and how to prevent blisters. We’ve read the pros and cons of water bottle vs. bladder and rain poncho vs. jacket. Breaking in hiking boots beforehand is crucial and so is packing light. The biggest challenge is not to carry more than 10 percent of our body weight and, as a result of that challenge, the list of things I have taken out of my pack is growing longer by the day. More than anything, I am going to miss my hair dryer, electric toothbrush, eyelash curler and mascara!
Much of what we are taking is already in our backpacks, and we carry them with us when we hike the hills of Dean Park. I try to get some form of exercise every day, whether it is a hike or a 90-minute hot yoga class. It isn’t always possible with other things on the calendar, but one thing is for sure: “Not feeling like it” isn’t an option for me. I can’t say the same about Dave, though, because he doesn’t like exercising in the heat. Will he walk on a hot day on the Camino? Time will tell!
The greatest distance we have hiked in Dean Park in one day is about 12 km. We hope that will be enough to prepare us for walking an average distance of 16 km. per day. Some days will be shorter such as the first day from St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson which is only 8 km. A few weeks later there will be a day that is considerably longer, 24.5 km.
Much of the walking on the Camino won’t be as steep as Dean Park, so maybe we’ll even think walking the Camino is “a piece of cake.” That’s a big “MAYBE!” because we certainly haven’t been walking every day like we will soon be doing. We expect to arrive in Santiago fifty days after the start on September 10th, close to Halloween.
John Brierley advises giving equal attention to preparing for the “inner journey” as for general logistics. He says “We take our tired bodies and neglected souls and dump them at the start of the camino and trust that all will be well. And, of course, all will be well and our physical and spiritual muscles will become rejuvenated – it’s just that warm-up exercises will maximise the benefits and speed our rate of recovery.”
Much of my reading material this year, besides Brierley’s guide and the online forum, has been geared towards those “warm-up exercises.” Teachings from two weekend retreats I went to this spring will also be food for thought when all there is to do is walk, eat, sleep, repeat.
Another book to prepare me for my inner journey was given to me by my friend Bonnie. It is “Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed,” by Sonia Choquette. Sonia’s life was falling apart. Within the space of three years, she suffered the unexpected death of her father and brother and her marriage was imploding. To regain her spiritual footing, Sonia turned to the age-old practice of pilgrimage and walked the legendary Camino de Santiago trek. Day after day she pushed through hunger, exhaustion, and pain to reach her destination. She also rediscovered the gifts of humility and forgiveness that she needed to repair her world. The moment I finished reading this book and was drying my tears, I wanted to read it again.
The opportunity presented itself on August 4th as Dave and I were enjoying our post-lunch cup of tea in the sunroom. I told Dave about how much I enjoyed “Walking Home” but knew he wouldn’t read it as he generally reads only science-related material. Sonia’s journey took 34 days with one chapter devoted to each day. I then did some mental calculations and discovered that as of August 4th we had exactly 34 days before leaving on our journey. How serendipitous! If I read aloud one chapter per day during our tea time we would finish the book the day before we leave on our own journey. It was a win-win situation with Dave getting to walk in Sonia’s footsteps for the first time and me for the second.