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.
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.
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!