Ever since I watched the Martin Sheen movie ‘The Way‘, about a man who walks the Camino (or The Way of St James) to Santiago de Compostela, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of walking it myself.
I’m not driven by some deep religious longing to go on a devotional pilgrimage, but rather I’m drawn by the idea of doing something that’s vaguely healthy and might also be a very interesting experience.
There are many different routes that people take, and some of them are as much as 800 km long! I’m not sure I have the time or stamina to do something that long. However it seems to be entirely feasible and a popular option to do the last 100 km in about a week.
The idea is that we would walk this last section into Santiago, and then maybe fly on somewhere afterwards to spend a second week lying on the beach – no doubt tending to my bashed and bruised feet.
Nothing’s booked yet, but we’re thinking of doing it in September. The weather will still be nice (but hopefully not too hot) and it’ll be past the peak holiday season, and so not as expensive.
It may be five months until we go, but that doesn’t mean the initial preparations can’t start now.
For me that doesn’t mean practising walking. No, it means starting to obsess about the size of my rucksack!
Do I get a medium-sized one, or a small one? We’re planning to stay in hotels along the route (I didn’t do shared hostel rooms in my youth, so I’m not going to start now), so we don’t need to carry any camping gear or bedding.
So in theory, if I packed light, I could carry everything I need with me. After all, what does a modern-day traveller need these days except for a change of clothes, a smartphone and charger, and a credit card? Actually, maybe a few more things, but I’ll worry about that nearer the time.
If I do decide to bring a lot of stuff then there are services available to transfer bags between hotels on the route, so I won’t need to carry it all if I don’t want to. During the day I could make do with a good pair of shoes and a water bottle, and meet the rest of my stuff at the next hotel.
My mind is also undecided about whether to use walking poles. Some people advocate their use as they can reduce the strain on the legs, while others say they are more of a hindrance than a help.
The problem, I guess, is that there are seemingly hundreds of websites offering camino walking advice to newbies and experienced hikers alike, and it’s difficult to know what to believe when they often contradict each other! Certainly the suggested packing lists can seem quite daunting, and I worry that it might get quite expensive to buy all the specialist gear they recommend.
At the moment I think I probably need new walking shoes. I have some existing ones, but they’re quite cheap and a bit old and battered, and also quite heavy – so I worry my feet might suffer in them over the long distance.
I also think I probably need some proper walking socks. I had a bad experience a couple of years ago walking 26 km in one day and getting huge blisters on both feet, and I think it was entirely down to the socks. They were cotton, and they got sweaty and stayed sweaty and then started rubbing. So good socks are a definite.
I’ll park the decision about the rucksack and walking polls for now, and perhaps obsess about hydration instead. They say you should carry around 2 litres of water with you each day. I don’t like those hydration bladder things, as the whole experience of sucking on the rubber tube to get a drink is just horrible! So I think I might need to invest in a nice water bottle. After all they’re very useful in normal life as well – whereas you’d look a fool walking around the office with a water bladder strapped to your back!
I’m sure there’s a whole load of other stuff that I’m going to need as well, and I think I should start compiling a list. Otherwise I know that I’m going to end up panic-buying high priced outdoor gear at the last minute.