Packing List for the Camino

Hello there,

I promised awhile back to add a video for packing for the Camino. I did the video the day I finally took my backpack out of quarentine but forgot to ‘publish’ it. So here it is. Sorry it’s late for those who asked. (Yes two people asked…here you go.) This is only worth reading if you are actually thinking about going on the walk.

You can scroll to the bottom if you only want to see a video. I actually did that as I pulled items out of the bag so if I missed something here it would be on the video.  Here’s the list of what I’d pack if ever I walked the camino again (which I have no plans of doing…but if I did I would allow 50-55 days so I could take my time and enjoy it more):

CLOTHES: 2 pairs fast dry pants (make sure they don’t rub any where. I couldn’t wear the zip off kind as the zipper irritated my skin, 1 pair leggings (I put these on after the walk and slept in there…nothing appealing about my butt showing at night…), 3 undies (TEST THEM…sounds silly for underwear and the clothes but you want to make sure nothing rides up and they dry fast…it took me a few tries to get the right ones), 2 sports bras, 2 long sleeve fast dry shirts, 1 short sleeve shirt. (Obviously in summer shorts would be the norm…but even then my legs are past the ‘short’ years.)

OUTER WEAR: Keep in  mind we walked the Camino from late September into November so we had a wide variety of weather. Downpours in the cold, downpours in the hot, thirty degrees as a low and into the eightys as a high. So it was all about layering.

Vest: A North shore vest of something like down (but not down) VERY compressible and light. Wore it EVERY day and those few days I didn’t wear it I put it over the front of my shoulders as a cushion for the backpack. I had another

Jacket: North shore jacket (no hood) that was again very light to pack and easily squished.

Rain Jacket/pants: The rain jacket actually became my GO TO jacket since when combined with my vest it was a great combo for the majority of days when it was 40-50s. The rain pants I wore when it was in the downpour. Not sure I’d buy them again but since I had them I wore them over my pants on the rainy days AND on the cold days as an additional layer.

PONCHO…didn’t pack one BUT almost every pilgrim that walked around our time and got hit by the downpour bought one. There was a little cafe/shop just beyond O’Cebreira that sold some with sleeves and hoods that went over Backpacks for 6 Euros/about 7 US dollars. Adriana bought a poncho in O’Cebreira because she didn’t have a rain jacket but it didn’t have sleeves. She gave that one away and bought the one for 6 Euro with sleeves. They really helped keep our stuff dry. NOTE: Our backpack had a rain cover but the kind of rain we had was no match for it and the cushions on the shoulders acted like sponges and took a long time to dry.

Sock hat and gloves: These both came out on the cold mornings. The gloves also came out on the cold rainy days but wish they were waterproof.

Brim Hat: I had a baseball hat but next time (though I don’t plan a next time) I’d bring a wide rim hat. The sun was to the left a lot of the way so the baseball brim didn’t help.

Socks: 3 pair of smart wool socks, and silk liners. Two pair of the socks were double layer, Wright socks. I would have brought more socks because while I didn’t mind wearing the pants and shirts again, the socks took longer to dry and with wet weather sometimes I couldn’t wash them for fear they wouldn’t dry over night. (Every few days we made a point to find an albergue with a washer and dryer so we could catch up on laundry.)

SHOES: I brought a pair of Merrils that I already had. They weren’t the high tops (those bothered my ankles) but they weren’t the sneaker height either. They were partially waterproof. Worked well for puddles but when the rain was coming down my feet were floating in water. I started using a pair of grocery bags based on one pilgrim’s recommendation and though my feet were still cold, they were dry.  I also brought along a pair of sketchers for the evening. I knew it would be cold so wanted some lightweight closed toe shoes. I thought they would be enough but in Leon I finally brokedown and bought a pair of plastic/rubber slip on sandals for less than 10 Euros.

MISC: Oster backpack 36 liter. Would recommend that you pack like you are carrying a 36 liter but take a 46 liter. They have more outer pockets and daily packing was easier. Mine was also a woman’s I think the Kester/Kyte series. Very comfortable. I’m 110 pounds, 5’2″ height and surprisingly I took a medium when they measured me at REI. I packed 17 pounds and could have easily added a few more things. (Like my supplements/vitamins/protein shakes that I left behind.)

MINI-Head lamp (Amazon 8 bucks or so). Used to pack up in the morning when I wanted my hands free.

Electric adapter and charger for my cell phone BUT I’d recommend you bring one that has splitter so you can attach multi items to charge since many albergues had VERY few outlets.

Walking sticks MUST MUST MUST have if you are not in the top physical shape. Saved me a jillion times from going in mud and twisting ankles on rocks. And when I did pull my tendons I used as a crutch. MUST HAVE.

Camera I brought my cell and a GO PRO camera.

Small items: extra pen, Safety pins/various size plastic freezer bags/clothes pins/rubber bands/band-aids (though didn’t use), antibiotic cream

MAP MUST HAVE …it was very nice to have the maps from one of the guide books. For the weight I’d bring the whole book. We had Brierly version.

Sunglasses

Pen and little note pad (very little)

Money belt for the waist. I didn’t always wear it but I had it with me at all times and could wear it when we went out at night.

Backpack Organizers (VERY HELPFUL): There are a number of types but you want bags of various sizes (and colors if you can find them) So you can grab your item: toiletries, larger one for clean clothes, one for dirty clothes, one for electronic cords/chargers etc, one for medicine items. I also didn’t take my compressible bag that the sleeping bag came in. Figured out the large size organizer bag was plenty big for my liner/sleeping bag/pillow.

Duffle bag for transporting backpack/boots/walking sticks while you fly. Get one with wheels!!!!!!  We were glad we bought the duffle but could likely have easily slipped the backpack into one of our big suitcases with wheels. Check it out as that was a real pain to carry at airport/train. Once we got to St Jean we put our ‘traveling clothes/items/books/boots etc’ into the duffle (There were two of us traveling together but we only shipped one duffle to Santiago since the other one collapsed into it.) So anyway consider something with wheels.

MEDICINE BAG:

LUEKO tape (THIS BECAME A MUST HAVE FOR ME!!!!) I only brought one roll and by the end I was wearing plastic bags into the shower so I didn’t have to rewrap my feet. I might have been overkill but we saw so many people with blisters and infections that I didn’t want to chance it. I put it on the bottom of my feet (balls and heels) around my big toes and around the back of my heels to start. When I got a blister on my second (to the baby) toe I started wrapping that as well. People made fun of me but I didn’t have any problem with blisters!!!  So I’d bring at least 2 next time if not more.

NIKKEN MUSCLE DUK TAPE: This came out a few weeks before our trip so I took it along. It’s the kind of tape athletes use PLUS it has infra-red technology. I saw a few people with knee issues using something similar. I used it on calves, back and then ankles. (need scissor to cut)

IBUPROFEN I brought some but you can buy it cheap over there at any pharmacy up to 600MG (took off the edge when I hurt my ankle and had sore muscles). The only reason I’d bring a bottle is so you have some on the first day so you didn’t have to worry about buying it.

Sewing kit: I did use the needle and thread once on the blister I got on the toe. It didn’t take up much room so I’d take it.

Sunblock, you need to use it a lot! Even on cloudy days.

Little scissor: (mine was a small Swiss knife with a scissor and a couple of other things but very small. Didn’t need a big one. Needed the scissor to cut the tape. (you can use this to cut your nails as well.)

Nail file came in handy and didn’t take up much room.

Toothbrush/toothpaste/hair brush/moisterizer/soap for body/hair/clothes and something to put the wet soap in.

Rubber band or clips for hair if needed

Ear plugs: make sure you know how to use them. It took me a few days to figure it out.

Chapstick: my lips got very dry so this was critcal.

Tissue/toilet tissue: You can buy it there but might want some to start with. The first part of the trip has many places without tissue…be sure if you go out in nature that you have a plan for disposing of your waste. I had baggies and a pocket on the legs of my pants solely for that purpose. It was sad to see so much tissue laying around.

OPTIONAL??? I had a vaseline type cream can’t remember the name…something feet. It was recommended online. Don’t know if I needed it since I wrapped with tape but by week three I started putting it on the bare skin since I had it.

Benedryl: I didn’t use it but we gave it to some folks who were bitten by bed bugs to help the itching.

Sleeping bag: I brought a light weight sleeping bag (35.00 on Amazon) since I knew we weren’t going to sleep outside. We sprayed it and our backpack with the bug repellent. We didn’t have any trouble with bed bugs but some of our fellow travelers weren’t so lucky so would definitely recommend treating everything.

Sleeping bag Liner/sack: I brought one very soft/light liner that was treated with Permethrin insect repellent) I cut it down the side so it wasn’t a sack any more. I used it around my shoulders as a pillow case, covered my eyes with part of it when lights were on etc.

Blow up pillow: I brought one. again it was pre-treated with the bug spray. I didn’t treat it myself as I didn’t want to inhale it. I hated the pillows across the board. I like gooshy ones. The provided ones were always on the hard, flat side.

Day Bag WITH WATER POCKETS: The day bag I bought didn’t have water bottle pockets. I didn’t realize it at the time so I had to make sure my bottles were tightly shut and hope they didn’t leak. If you have no intention to shipping your bag forward you might not need this but it was less than 10 dollars and you could use it as a ‘purse’ at night or sight seeing (I only went on one or two evening excursions (to Templar Church was one) but we did ship our bag 3-4 times. After Leon it only cost 3 Euros to ship and we thought it was money well spent. My ankle was hurting towards the end and Adriana’s shoulder was hurting so we opted to do it a few times.

RE WATER: Both Adriana and I carried two water bottles each and had no trouble finding a place to fill them along the way.  The water tasted great so no problems there either. We usually filled them at the albergues vs the water fountains along the camino.

Well I think that’s it. Below is the video that I did when I was unpacking. (I left everything in the garage a couple of weeks in case I brought home something unwanted. Again we didn’t have any trouble with bedbugs but others did so we didn’t want to take any chances. If I missed anything on this list that’s on the video give a yell and I’ll add it.

And of course some cash and credit card(s). Make sure you check with your bank and know you can use them in Spain and that you know your pin. A few people struggled the first few days because their cards weren’t workable. The vast majority of transactions will be cash so have some to start with (I think 500 Euros but some folks don’t think that much was necessary. I didn’t want to panic when I was running low since some villages do not have ATMs and even when the city does, often you need to to out and find it and trust me when I got to a place the last thing I wanted to do was go out to hunt down an ATM. So I would stop when we saw one along the Camino itself and stock up…just like you do with toilet paper and tissue!!!)

BUEN CAMINO!!!

I’ll write how I’m doing since the walk in the next day or so. This post was longer than I expected.

Celeste

And Here!

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Home sweet home!

We got home last night! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be home. The girls had the house looking fabulous…lots of organization, super clean and they even got a start on putting up our Christmas decorations….

Despite the fact we got home at 3am Paris time I still got up 5am Texas time. Going downstairs to fix my green tea for the first time in weeks was almost surreal. I could be simply overtired with travel and time change but I got really emotional.

As happy as I am to be home I’m feeling disoriented somehow, like I don’t quite fit. I guess that’s normal after being away so long????

Regardless there’s no place I’d rather be and I’m looking forward to processing what I’ve gone through the last couple of months and see where it takes me…thanks for all the support and I’ll let you know how things go!

Eating escargot in France…and doing a Julia Robert’s move.

5 SnailsYou can tell we’re not locals when I lose my escargot tongs while trying to get the snail from their shell.

Adriana managed to hang on to the tongs but she flipped butter everywhere in her battle with one of the little critters.

(Hence the reference to Julia Robert’s awkward moment in the movie Pretty Woman.)

In any case it was still good…assuming you like garlic, olive oil and basil since the snail’s themselves don’t have much taste. Only reason we got them is after our bus tour today I needed to use the restroom (nothing new there) and we were told that the cafe was the closest place with a rest room (only for clients of course).

So we had coffee and escargot of course…seemed appropriate to get something so utterly associated with the French. We did make a bit of a mess of it but they’re not going to see us again…
We will be back in Texas tomorrow and we can’t wait. While we were walking along today we ran across a mother and daughter we met on the Camino. It was so funny seeing someone you actually know on the streets of Paris.

They are French Canadian and we stayed at the same albergue as they did a few times. They asked when we were going home and we said tomorrow. They said they envied us as they were going to be in Paris for two weeks. Like us, taking a vacation on the backend of the walk sounded like a good idea a few months ago but none of us knew that when the Camino is over you just want to go home.

celesteParisWe cannot wait. To be in our own home, in our own bed, to be able to shut the door or have tea when you want with no one (even your mom or daughter) interrupting you or sitting across from you will be heaven….we’ve learned that walking the Camino is NOT a vacation, it’s physically and emotionally exhausting and it takes a toll.

I for one will be processing it for awhile and as lovely as Paris is, it does not compete with home…

Paris…it sounded like a good idea at the time…

A few months ago as I made flight arrangements to go on the Camino I thought it seemed a shame to fly in and out of Paris and not stop and see the city. I had been there before but Adriana hadn’t. So I got this bright idea to spend a few days in Paris on our way home.

Little did I know that all we would want to do when we completed the Camino is to come home.

I’ve talked to other pilgrims (after I already had non refundable tickets) and was advised that you take the vacation days before the Camino not after. Too late.

We arrived in Paris yesterday about five and were dropped off outside the building that was to be out home for a few days. I reserved a bedroom using Air Bnb. We didn’t have a working phone to call our host, the streets were packed and the door was locked. We stood at the for with our huge duffel bags trying to figure out what to do next.

stairwayAdriana said her famous words…I think I’m going to cry…We weren’t there long, maybe five minutes when an Asian couple opened the door. But they didn’t speak English.

They let us into the foyer and we looked at the mailboxes and saw we had the right place but they didn’t live there and they didn’t have a phone either. They showed us how to get out of the building if we wanted to and left.

We were closer to our room maybe but still no way of getting upstairs (we also didn’t know what room)

As luck would have it two young women came out and one spoke English and she had a phone. She called the number we had for our host and we learned she was upstairs on the third floor…We made it.

We lugged our duffel bags up a very small spiral staircase (I wondered how they ever moved furniture up it) and were greeted by Grace. We sat down with her a few minutes with a cup of tea, she gave us a map of Paris, warned us about pick pockets and showed us to our room.

It is a small bedroom with a full size bed in the corner. We assured her we were fine as she had dinner plans and we proceeded to finish off a bag of Snickers we bought at the airport.

We decided tomorrow would be soon enough to go back out into the crowded streets with all the new sights and sounds and figure things out.

Went to the end of the world today…Finisterre

banner sea

Yesterday I took an excursion to the Spanish coastline. Some pilgrims chose to take the four day walk. I on the other hand didn’t have the time nor inclination to walk another 90 kilometers to Finisterre… yet I wanted to see it. We found a day trip that took us to several coastline cities. The most notable and the ones I was most interested in seeing were Muxia and Finisterre.

They were both beautiful but in different ways. The water of Finisterre was calm and serene while the coastline of Muxia was covered in large rocks and there was a power in the waves as they hit the rocks on what our guide said was a calm day.

But back to Finisterre. Back in the day the people of Spain (and maybe all of Europe) believed the end of the world to be Finisterre, a village on the Atlantic coast side of Spain. Obviously over time they were proven to be wrong. Just as at one time people didn’t believe man could fly, or there was no way a voice could come through wire, many of us insist on putting limitations on ourselves, and others, that don’t really exist.

Yet all it takes is for one person with a dream and a persistence to follow that dream despite everyone telling then they are crazy to break through and show others it can be done…once they prove it people will follow. Running a mile in under four minutes was once considered impossible, now it is surpassed with surprising regularity..all because Roger Bannister proved it was indeed possible. Despite ridicule Orville and Wilbur Wright hung on to their belief that man could fly…even they would be surprised that from their less than auspicious beginning Neil Armstrong came to walk on the moon.

celeste seaNot that I’m saying that walking the Camino was ever impossible or in any way comparable to the above feats… What I am saying is that earlier this summer I would have said that the likelihood for a sixty something woman who wasn’t in the best of shape, one who never walked or hiked and one who genuinely disliked discomfort let alone pain would commit to such a journey was next to nil.

Yet I did and despite bed bugs, cold showers, wet feet, rainy and cold weather, a twisted ankle and a head cold, I saw it through.

Now comes the difficult part. It’s time for me to put all the pieces together and figure out why I put myself through it all…was there a deeper reason that I felt compelled to walk 500 miles across Spain? Other than I wanted to take a long walk?

The Santiago Botafumiero flies

While outside in the streets of Santiago the rain continued to come down and the skies were dark and gloomy, inside the cathedral we were excited to learn that we were going to get to see the famous botafumiero fly.

TSantiago Botafumierohere are those who argue that the incense burner is simply a meaningless tourist attraction and nothing more. This may be so but I for one got excited when the mass came to a close and I saw several men enter the sanctuary and it became obvious I was going to get to see the botafumiero swing.

I watched and thoroughly enjoyed it, finding it more emotional than I expected. Perhaps it was because in some small way it was the icing on the cake celebrating the 500 miles I just walked.