Mud, Music and Menthol

The Camino humbles the proudest Pilgrim. And it makes us laugh at ourselves.


After climbing up a mountain immediately after breakfast, today was miles and miles of mud. Chocolate pudding mud. No grit, so you slip and surf. Poles are your salvation. But it sticks to your boots, your gators and the legs of your pants like a plague you can not shake. My only similar experience was riding two up on Jeff’s motorcycle on The Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle in Alaska. It took 11 hours round trip that day. Fighting mud and slop to stay upright.

I felt that way today. Along with everyone else. We are all caked in chocolate frosting. And drained. I look like I’ve been rolling around in a pig pen.. If anyone ever asks me why I walked the Frances again I will be sure to tell them it is an entirely different experience this time. The Meseta is less desert with blazing sun in June, and more freezing Alaskan mud-pit in March. Its true, you can never dip your toe into the same river twice.


My musical playlists are always controversial. As a former DJ in high school, my musical pairings drive Jeff bananas. As a result, I rarely play them on the stereo at home.

‘What is this mix of songs?! You can’t have Flo Rida next to Andre Bocelli. Its an auditory crime! You have to take the listener on a journey. Start out slow. Build up to something. Then you ease them to the end.’ He moans.

But I am the only listener and I disagree. Has the man never heard of shuffle? I like big music with a serious baseline. And I like to sing along. Rap, opera. It doesn’t matter. This Camino I have some theme music. Pink’s All I know So Far and Ava Max Kings & Queens. There are others but when those songs come up I am singing!!!

Walking alone means I have my headphones in and you can find me in the mist belting it out. Am I a good singer? Uh. No. But I take advantage of alone time to indulge. Like driving alone in a car. If you pull up next to me I am singing like no one is watching.

Today walking along the Castilla canal to Fromista I looked around. No others anywhere in sight so I sang along with Katy Perry, John Legend, The Eagles and Lady Gaga – with gusto. My poles were batons directing strings in symphonies. Pounding out drum beats. I was dancing and singing with the soundtrack from A Star is Born when suddenly there was a man next to me. A short little Yorkshireman from the Albergue in Castrojeriz last night. He was flying by and smiled a knowing smile at my startled red face. Poor guy. He will need eardrum surgery after that, for sure!


And finally today, I have a tip for the ladies in the audience. When I was packing my pack I decided to skip my usual glasses. I needed to save space. And I had this pair of readers that I had bought in Paris a few years ago. They fold completely flat. Perfect.

I only need distance glasses driving at night so readers should work just fine for this trek. Except, well, not really because my eyes are not quite what they were a few years ago. And I find that when I have a mask on they fog up instantly. Not usually a problem as I am not normally reading with a mask on. Except…

I already mentioned stopping at the Mercadona on the way out of Burgos. Stocking up on supplies. And I picked up a 10 pack of those little tissues your grandma used to keep in her purse and hand you in church when you had a runny nose as a kid. Along with those Butter Rum lifesavers. But you never buy the little tissues for yourself except on the Camino.

Outside the store I broke open the plastic wrapping and stuffed them into my coat pockets and various spaces in my pack. They are great for cold mornings on the Camino. And when nature calls on the trail. I was ready to go. I like to be prepared.

Yesterday afternoon was my first opportunity to take advantage of my tissue supplies, on a long lonely stretch before San Anton. And what a surprise it was! Sure, menthol tissues are great when you have a cold. Like built in Vicks Vapo-rub. But for your bum? Holy moly! My eyes widened on the first pass, then I looked at the package after telescoping my arm out as long as I could. And there is was ‘Menthol’. Plain as day.

So it will be a minty fresh Camino for me. In all areas, it seems. Perhaps a purchase of new, more powerful readers at a local farmacia this afternoon is in order, to avoid any further embarrassment. Wait! Who am I kidding? The new glasses won’t even make a dent.

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