Preparations have begun. I leave in 11 days for Pamplona. Then an Alsa bus over the Pyrenees to St Jean Pied de Port in France for a September 6th start.
Those first few steps are always the most difficult. Getting to St Jean is no mean feat. But actually setting out is the hardest part. Putting yourself on a trajectory. Setting a goal so far into the distance.
I know I could stop and quit any time. Hop on a bus or a train and just go home. But for my part, once I’ve decided on something, there is no way I’m giving up. Sure, it might take me longer. I may take a few more rest days than last time. Or do fewer kilometers a day than four years ago. But it is not a race. And I am determined I will keep going, right to the moment I walk through our gates.
My daily training has resumed. So that first morning waking up in Orisson shouldn’t be the Total Body Pain Fiesta that it was the last time. I swear, I wondered if I had aged a hundred years overnight. My bones creaked, and my muscles screamed ‘Please girl, don’t do that to us again!’ Little did they know I would put them under torture for another month. But, by then they craved it. Encouraging me to jump up out of bed at 4:30am and lace up my boots, strap on the pack and light up my headlamp. ‘Come on, slow poke!’ They’d yell. ‘We have some road to hoe, and daylight is just beyond the horizon!’
This time, I decided to front load the pain. Get it out of the way, so to speak. After my daily training walks, I can go home and shower, or take a hot bath. Soak my feet in Epsom salts at night. And break in my new boots.
My feet during the pandemic have become so soft as to be ridiculous. I’m like a tender baby cow. Living in slippers and flip flops did nothing for my arches or my ability to carry the extra weight of a pack. My old comfortable boots, my beloved ones, gave up the ghost after Jeff and I walked right before the pandemic. He bought me some replacement pairs. One high, one low. And I’ve been braking them in as my feet shout at me to ditch these torture devices and put the slippers back on. I’ll take the pair that feels the most comfortable.
Each day, I feel stronger on my feet. And more mentally prepared to take this on. And for the past few days, I’ve seen this guy ride past me.
It seems the Cruz Roja Española (Spanish Red Cross) are patrolling the Camino Frances between Palas de Rei and Melide. Likely, they do other stretches, too. This guy has a portable defibrillator and a first aide kit at the ready. He is trained in CPR, and at his post – or on his bike – each day while the majority of Pilgrims are walking. It will be interesting to see if these volunteers patrol other sections in Navarra or Castilla y Leon.
Galicia is pulling out all the stops on trying to make the Camino as safe as possible. The Guardia Civil is patrolling more and more frequently. On horseback, ATV, and by car. And they have an app to summon them for assistance on the trail with a single button. But I am unafraid.
Slowly but surely, my pack is filling up. I have retired my old REI pack with my Camigas and American Pilgrims on the Camino patches, for a new, smaller one from Decathlon. New tech and lighter weight. But, I do have some of my old standbys from last time. My favorite sleeping bag. My trusty pocket knife – with a roll of duct tape to close wounds, clothing tears, or any number of mishaps. My old sewing kit and my favorite hiking skirt.
I’m starting to get excited! Because I have something in my pocket I didn’t have last time. Wisdom and experience. I don’t have to try to anticipate every eventuality. I know how to navigate in Spain, and even in Spanish. Carrying everything over the Pyrenees is a fools errand. I can pick up whatever I might need, just in time, as I discover it. And I can take all the time I want to get from wherever I am standing to wherever I need to go.
And, pssst, I have another secret weapon. ME! Surprising as it may seem, so far, after 55 years on this planet, I’ve navigated the whole kit and caboodle. Ups, downs, and sideways. And it’s worked out better than I could have imagined. So, I’m pretty sure, walking solo, I got this, too. One way or another, likely on a rainy Fall day as the leaves are turning red and gold, sometime in October, you’ll find me walking into the square in Santiago. Lighter in spirit. Stronger in body. And a little more me. Buen Camino🙏