Posted in Travel sparks

Camino Preparations

So, here’s a fun fact: in two months, my friend Steph and I will be arriving in France to begin our Camino adventure. We land in Paris and then catch the train to St Jean Pied de Port, where we begin our 800km+ walk on the Camino Frances. Since everyone has been asking about our training & preparation, I felt as though I should provide an update here. It’s not much of an update, I’m afraid – last week, our ‘preparation’ consisted of Steph coming over to my place, where we ordered in Thai food, drank wine and watched a bit of ‘The Way’ (the movie about the Camino featuring Martin Sheen and, albeit briefly, his son Emilio Estevez).

Those boots weren't made for walking in, so hopefully these shoes will do the trick...
Those boots weren’t made for walking in, so hopefully these shoes will do the trick…

I had bought a new pair of hiking boots for the big walk, but as they have not been nice to my ankles on some experimental walks around Sydney lately, I have decided to stick with my trail shoes. So, these shoes will become my new besties – at least from now until the end of September, when I will probably not be able to stand the sight (or smell) of them.

I haven’t yet bought my backpack, but have bought some more cool things to put in it. Apparently, you’re meant to keep the weight of your pack to 10% of your body weight, which should be a bit of a challenge. Although, I am looking forward to having limited choices when getting dressed each morning: it will come down to which of my alternate pairs of things (trousers, undies, socks) is clean and which shirt is closest to the top of the pack. No dithering in front of the mirror with a wardrobe dilemma on the Camino!

Hand and Body Wash Paper. Uh huh.
Hand and Body Wash Paper. Uh huh.
Shampoo in paper form? Yes, please!
Shampoo in paper form? Yes, please!

I’ve bought some travel shampoo and travel body wash for the trip. Both in paper form, which is intriguing. I mostly bought them to feel like an astronaut or extreme adventurer – just need some of that dehydrated ice cream in a bag and I’m good to go. The good folk at Kathmandu seem to be suggesting that these paper soaps will help me to ‘live the dream’. I will report back on the truth of that post-September!

Posted in Travel sparks

Countdown to the Camino

I am excited. REALLY EXCITED. I have just booked my flights for a European trip later this year. But it’s not just any European holiday – no sunning it up in the Greek Islands, no David Hasselhoff gigs in Berlin, no Portugese tarts in…um, Portugal. Not this time. Not for me and my friend Steph (you may recall her as one of the Color Run Stephs). We are going to walk the Camino de Santiago – starting in France, popping over the Pyrenees and then trekkin’ across northern Spain. Because, why not?

The modern sign of the Camino - this shell marks the path. It's hard to get lost, they say. We'll see.
The modern sign of the Camino – this shell marks the path. It’s hard to get lost, they say. We’ll see.

If you’re not down with the Camino (a.k.a. the Way of Saint James), it was a super-important medieval pilgrimage – with many different ways to walk (as in different paths, not different walking styles) to reach the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are reported to be buried. Apparently, the route was very popular in the middle ages, but numbers dropped due to things like the outbreak of the Black Death pandemic and the Protestant Reformation. Pesky little things like that.

But in the late 1980s, the Camino was declared one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and the tourists came back – undoubtedly a lot of religious and spiritual pilgrims, but also a lot of people looking for a unique physical and psychological challenge. Apparently tens of thousands of peeps walk the Camino every year (with an increasing number of cyclists too), generally starting from somewhere in France, Portugal or Spain. If you walk at least 100km (or cycle at least 200km) of the Camino, as evidenced by stamps collected in your Camino passport along the way, you get a special certificate when you reach Santiago de Compostela.

The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.
The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.

Steph and I are walking the Camino Frances, which starts on the French side of the Pyrenees. Reports vary, but from start to finish, it’s approximately 800km. We’re hoping to walk it in around 30 days. Which means getting up and walking every day with our backpacks, regardless of the weather, regardless of our mood, regardless of our aches and pains. Needless to say, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really excited about the challenge ahead. We will get into training shortly and I’m looking forward to getting my walking poles and hiking boots like a real trekker. Well, like a real trekker or like the 250 year old man who uses walking poles to walk along the path near my home. The countdown has begun!