Prologue

June 15,2016

Sometime in 2014, I read an article in the Times Colonist about the Camino de Santiago. I am not really sure what exactly drew me to the article. I read it and was quite fascinated about this 800 km journey across the top of Spain.

A movie was going to be playing up at the University of  Victoria in the weeks following the article, and I suggested to my two children, Reagan and Taylor, that they should come with me. Perhaps as a family we could do part of the Camino.

I went to the movie and I was hooked. The Camino is a pilgrimage, which of course people do for different reasons. I have my own which I will share at some point in this blog.

Both my kids now have children of their own, and we realized that it was really not practical to think that we could do this together. Nevertheless, Dad…Granddad..said he was going! I originally planned on starting in the Fall of 2015, however everything I had read about the weather at that time of the year convinced me to start instead in the spring of 2016.

I fly from Victoria, BC to Paris on April 23rd, I take two trains from Paris and on April 25th I will start my Camino in St Jean Pied de Port, France . I will simply put one foot in front of the other and stop about 800kms later in Santiago, Spain. From everything I have read the journey should take me about 35 days or so.

I had a ” Camino ” Christmas..I received a number of items that I will need to put in my backpack for the journey. I have bought my “credencial” from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, which I will get stamped at the hostels or “alberques” along the way. More about them later . At the end of the journey you need to produce this stamped credencial to prove that you are indeed a true pilgrim! For that, you receive a parchment with your name spelled in Latin. After my Camino, I expect to be addressed by my Latin name at all times!

So, how am I feeling now. Nervous as hell, thats how I am feeling.There is no turning back. I know this will be the adventure and a journey of a lifetime. I expect it’s the fear of the unknown that I am a bit wary about. Will I indeed be able to walk that far? What if I fail? Will I be well enough prepared? Can a 64 year old fart sleep in a hostel?

After I have told people about my plan to walk the Camino, usually the first thing that most  ask me is if I am going with a group or going alone. I am going alone. I know I have to go alone. From the books I have read and stories I have heard, many folks who travel with a group soon find that for a number of reasons the group breaks up. For simply selfish and practical reasons, quite frankly, I don’t want to debate with anyone on any particular day how far we should walk, when we should stop to eat, or  where we should stay for the night. Mostly though, I want to travel alone because I think to take the entire adventure in for what it is, to experience the pilgrimage of the Camino, I have to do it on my own. And it’s not like I will truly be alone. In fact, there are thousands of people who walk the Camino so I expect I will meet many pilgrims along the way. But I am not stuck with them for 800kms!

As far as walking the Camino, some people really get it, and some just don’t. They shake my hand and wish me well and say have a great time, but they just don’t get why someone…me in this case..would want to walk 800 kms across the north of Spain.

Let the Preparations Begin

January 19, 2016

The journey of walking the Camino became a reality the day that I purchased the plane tickets. I had always said that I would buy an “open” ticket , rather than a return ticket. However when I went to purchase the ticket, I discovered an open ticket was almost twice the price of a return ticket. So, I built into my journey what I hope will be a sufficient buffer…6 days.

The bible on the Camino ” A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago” by John Brierley tells me that it should take 33 days of walking to complete my journey, and on top of that you should build in a couple of rest days.

So ticket purchased, what’s next? Those that know me ,know that I really like to research things. Now that is mostly when I am about to purchase a wide screen TV, a sound system, a new car etc. So I started to research the Camino to sort out how to prepare for the trip. Searching the Internet on the Camino is enough to scare you away from making the journey. There are literally thousand and thousands of pages on the Internet about the Camino. And of course the problem is, like when you go to the Internet to diagnose an illness you have, you can scare the shit out of yourself. You convince yourself that mole is cancerous and you will be gone before the years’s end!

Researching the Camino is frustrating because there are so many opinions about when to walk, what to take with you, how to get there, where to stay…that you find yourself going round and round in circles. Information overload. In my first blog entry I mentioned that I decided to walk in the Spring as opposed to the Fall because the weather was supposed to be much more favourable in the Spring. Um, maybe not! Now I read many Camino reports that I will be walking in the rain for a good part of my journey.

And so it goes. For me, I have broken the preparation down into three parts. The physical preparation, that is, getting myself in decent shape to tackle the long journey ahead. The mental preparation, which includes reading as much as I can about the Camino to be as prepared as possible, and attending local Camino workshops. Thirdly, the material preparation, that is, borrowing, buying, scrounging everything that you will be stuffing into your backpack to take with you.

Which leads me really to my first major decision..what make and size backpack. Backpacks are measured in litres, and in part, the time of the year that you walk the Camino determines what size to take. However as previously noted, there are many many opinions on exactly what you need to stuff into that thing you will be lugging around for 5 weeks! The rule of thumb, which I of yet have not been able to figure out who’s rule or who’s thumb, is not to carry more than 10% of your body weight. So, its really my first major decision and I have been fussing and fussing over what size to buy.

I have narrowed the backpack down to the Gregory Z40, a 40 litre bag, and an Osprey Stratos 36..indeed, a 36 litre bag. Clever how they name those. Do I go with a smaller backpack and cram stuff in, or a larger backpack and then carry too much! I will let you know what I decide. Once I have purchased the backpack I will stuff the pants, the layers of clothing, the headlamps and energy bars , the first aid kit and of course the iPad mini into the backpack and see if it all actually fits in.

As far as the mental preparation, I have now read three books about the Camino, each of them about an individual’s journey. I have purchased the Brierley guide, and I have watched the Martin Sheen movie The Way. I have attended a Camino workshop locally and I will attend one later in March. One remarkable thing though is when you start talking about the Camino, there are many people that I know even around the Greater Victoria area that have walked it. Some walk it in stages, and some walk the entire length in one go. I never considered walking it in stages..never.

As far as the physical preparation, in the Spring of last year I was probably in the best shape that I had ever been in, in my entire life. I was chosen to participate in the Times Colonist Health Challenge, and working with my trainer Angela Turnbull I exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, in late summer I managed to get an inguinal hernia, and when I went to the doctor he told me in fact I had two inguinal hernias. I had the operation to repair them on November 30th, and the recuperation period was 6 weeks. Virtually no working out, no lifting anything for 6 weeks. I am a regular attendee at the Panorama Recreation Centre, so not being able to work out for 6 weeks combined with all the Christmas goodies spelled a whole lot of weight gain and setback for me. However I have been back to working out 9 days in a row now, start back with my trainer tomorrow, and I expect to be in excellent physical condition when I start the Camino.

In about a month or so I will start walking Elk Lake, John Dean Park and other venues with my backpack and walking poles. I will look like a nerd but it will all be worth it!

These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking

February 6, 2016

I continue to fuss about two essential ingredients to a successful Camino..the right backpack and the right footwear.

In preparation for my Camino I have been walking a lap of Elk Lake which is 10k, and walking on the treadmill at Panorama Recreation Centre. I mostly walk on the treadmill when it is pouring outside. However, I also like to set the grade on the treadmill at a significant incline. Often my one hour workout on the treadmill , cardio wise, is better than my 1 hour and 40 minute walk around Elk Lake.

 

The problem however is that I can’t wear my hiking footwear on the treadmill. Well, I guess I could but I would l look like a dork and we simply can’t have that.

I say footwear because I am still trying to decide if I should wear boots or trail shoes. The problem with boots are that they are much heavier than light trail shoes. I have heard 1 lb on the foot is equal to 5 in your backpack, but I suspect that this may just be a Camino urban myth. However, there must be something to be said about a heavier piece of footwear.

If you saw someone in Save On Foods the other week putting bags on and off the scales in the bulk food section, that was me weighing my footwear! My old boots came in at 2.8 lbs, while the two pairs of  trail shoes I had purchased to try each weighed less than 2 lbs. Not obviously comfort is of paramount importance , but the weight of the shoe should be considered as well. My Fitbit tells me that I took 22,984 steps walking 20km today ,so you can imagine how much better off you would be if each time you lifted your foot to take a step your footwear was considerably lighter.

Of course, a trail shoe just doesn’t have the same cool factor as a trail boot..decisions decisions.

Today, because my amazing weekend plans went in the shitter thanks to Mother Nature, and I had much free time on my hands, I decided I would do not one but two laps around Elk Lake.

I did the first lap of the lake today in one hour and 39 minutes and I surprised myself in that my second lap was only two minutes slower at one hour and 41 minutes for a total of 3 hours and 20 minutes for the 20k. Now, I was walking much faster than I would expect to walk the Camino, and I didn’t have a backpack on.

Having walked the 20k though I have come to the conclusion that the boots are too heavy and I will have to quickly find a decent trail shoe. I say quickly as I want to break it in before heading off.

Surprisingly, my feet don’t feel too bad. Its my calfs that hurt the most followed by my hamstrings. I need to stretch which I didn’t do today and was mightily scolded for that from my son Reagan and his wife Aimee. I expect I will feel a bit more pain tomorrow.

To make up for my less than cool trail shoes I will have to get some cool stuff to dangle from my backpack!

 

 

A Big Big Week

This has been a big week for me as I countdown to my Camino adventure. This past Tuesday marked exactly two months until my date of departure. I am getting very excited but certainly remain somewhat anxious and nervous. I am told that once I take my first step that feeling should all disappear as I begin what certainly will be a journey of a lifetime.

This week I walked with my backpack for the very first time, albeit not with it ” fully loaded “. Everything I read and heard told me to gradually add more weight as I get used to it. I met up with Geoff who was a facilitator at a Camino workshop that I attended, and he helped me immensely as we sorted out the proper positioning of the backpack and adjusted the weight of the contents in the backpack. It is a bit of an art, one I gather that I will get quite used to. You have to make sure that all the weight is squarely on your hips, and not on your back or your shoulders. So off we set on a lap of Elk Lake  ( 10 kms ) with trekking poles and backpacks. We moved along at a great clip. The backpack felt great. I was pretty happy with my first outing with it.

Geoff answered a number of questions that I had about the Camino on our trek around the lake, and more and more my list of things to inquire about is decreasing. I also have made my final decision with respect to my footwear. I have been struggling with the issue of shoes or boots. I have read quite a bit that boots are overkill, and that decent trail shoes will suffice. Another advantage of the shoes is that they are lighter. However, after talking one on one with people I know who have made the trip I have decided I am going to go with a boot. However, I have also decided that the ones I have are too old and worn so I must now quickly try a few pairs of boots and then break a pair in. I have two pairs ready to try and one on order, and I will choose one of those. I actually tried out 7 different pairs of trail shoes and although I had narrowed my selection down to a choice of two..boots it is!

I continue to walk or ride a stationary bike every day and in fact I think I walked too far and too often this week. I have to learn to train at a pace that will increase my endurance without injury. I am a slow learner..I rarely do things at a slow and steady pace! I am actually taking the day off today but it is hard to do and I feel quite guilty!

Just today I have booked my train ticket . The train  leaves from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and travels to Bayonne France. It is about a 6 hour and 30 minute ride on a high speed train and I am riding First Class. It sounds pretty classy  but its actually only $25 more than standard fare. I overnight in Bayonne at a hotel a short walking distance from the train station, then I catch a train the next morning from Bayonne to St Jean Pied du Port. This is just a one hour ride.

I will be arriving mid day on Monday April 25th and I understand Monday is a busy day with all the pilgrims leaving St Jean. I will happily leave well after the ” main rush” and walk only part way to what I initially  thought would be my first day’s journey. More about that later.

Lions and Tigers and Bears..oh my

Less than a month to go before I head off, and I have one piece of advice for those who might be thinking of walking the Camino. Don’t read as much as I have!

I may not run into lions and tigers and bears on the Camino, but if the rabid dogs don’t get me, or if I am not struck by a car on one of the busy highways, I am sure to fall off a cliff in a blinding snowstorm over the Pyrenees. Or robbed by bad guys in the deepest darkest woods. Seriously, as Dave Barry says..I am not making this up..these are all the things I have read that I have to be wary of. So, don’t read that shit. The Camino is going to be fun..right..right…RIGHT?

So, I have about 4 weeks to put on 20 pounds! I had better get eating. You see..as I said in an earlier post..your backpack should be about 10% of your body weight..so I have to gain 20 pounds..and right quick. Well, I know that is not going to happen so I guess I can’t take my laptop with me..out it goes! If only it were that simple. My backpack weighs about 18.5 pounds and I would like to get it down to 16.

Today I added all the odds and sods that I have not as yet carried..and they sure added up.

I shouldn’t have weighed it before I went on my 25 km walk today..I think its mind over matter..but today for the very first time it felt very heavy to me. I need to find three or four pounds of excess cargo. I am thinking my rain pants can go, as I have a poncho that almost comes down to my ankles. I will carry a half litre of water and not a litre and that will save some weight. I have a First Aid kit that could likely treat every pilgrim that is walking in April..so I can get rid of some of those supplies. I really don’t feel that I have any surplus stuff, but I do need to pore it down.

And here I thought I was over the top. On a Forum I am following on the topic of weight of a backpack, one pilgrim made a five page list of everything they were taking..and weighed each item and had its weight on the list. Pen..2 grams..list..1 gram…Not only that , she cut all the tags off her clothing to save weight..and weighed the tags to see how much she had saved..again..this is true..I am not making this up! Wait until she reads about those rabid dogs…

I promised my faithful reader..I think there is at least one..I would let you know the final decision on the footwear and backpack. I am going with a Gregory 40 litre backpack, which I am very pleased with, and Solomon boots that are very comfortable. I am still trying to decide on $50 insoles I bought that I have another month or so on until I have to decide if I should keep them or not. I have been very pleased with my physical condition after all my walks. My feet feel fine, a bit sore, but that is to be expected. But no blisters that are a real common occurrence. However, I think I am walking too much and I am going to cut back and spend more time working up at Panorama Rec Centre on my leg strength.

Lastly, today I am trying to figure out how to add pictures to my posts. So, there should be three here, if there isn’t I still have some learnin’ to do!.

 

 

One More Sleep

One more sleep..who am I kidding, I doubt that there will be much sleeping. I have had fitful sleeps all week as I wake up with my pre Camino to do list running through my head. The final preparations.

But really, more than that, its the excitement and the anticipation. I am as nervous as can be. Like the feeling before you started in a new school, or were preparing for final exams. But my excitement is off the scale. I am beyond thrilled that I am almost out the door.

Mentally, physically and emotionally, I don’t think I could possibly be more prepared. If I don’t make it to Santiago it certainly won’t be for lack of preparation.IMG_7976

I didn’t gain those 20 pounds to be at the proper weight for my backpack, but I did pare it down as much as I could. If I had done this prior to being an old geezer, the backpack scenario would have been a piece of cake. But I think I have 5 pounds of prescription drugs, inhalers, allergy pills, sleeping pills, and medical supplies ! And another couple of pounds for reading glasses, sunglasses and distance glasses!

Next time I shave will be about June 5th or 6th. I expect my grandkids won’t recognize me when I return. Hey, I may not recognize me!

So, on Monday around noon in St Jean Pied de Port I will take the first step on the journey of my lifetime. Thank you all for your best wishes.

Hasta luego!

Chapter 1-Getting There

Reagan , with Harper in tow, picked me up and took me to the airport. Reagan had an assignment. I packed my trekking poles in my backpack, although officially I understand they are not allowed. But all the peregrinos I had spoken to said they never had any problem . Reagan had a heavy duty tube with him, and in the event they did not make it through screening, I was going to put them in the tube and check them, and hope they made it through 3 fights to Paris. Success..poles passed security and off we went.img_8699

I flew to Paris via Calgary and Chicago. My had luck with air travel continued. Our flight leaving Chicago was delayed over an hour due to computer issues. Then, they were unable to turn out the lights in our section of the plane so needless to say there was little if any sleep.

I took three trains from Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port. I had to wait in Paris 8 hours for the train’s scheduled departure. I just missed the initial train by 5 minutes due to the delayed take off. Thank you United!

The train station located at the airport is freezing and there are very few seats. The trains themselves were amazing.

The first two trains were about four hours travel in total. I overnighted in Bayonne and caught a train in the morning to St. Jean.

I should mention the day before leaving Victoria I caught a nasty cold , so the travel was loads of fun. I am still coughing and hacking, but it’s not going to affect my Camino!

The train ride from Bayonne to St.Jean was an hour and the scenery was so tranquil and beautiful. It followed the Ardor river and it was the perfect lead into St. Jean.  Ed’s note: it was interesting watching the lady beside me transfixed on her iPhone the entire trip. Didn’t look out the window once!

When we arrived at St. Jean I knew the Pilgrim Office was only open about another 30 minutes before lunch. So, I had studied the route there and I was off. I needed to go to the office but I didn’t want to wait over the hour break. They shut the door about 5 minutes after my arrival. In fact after leaving I realized I left my Dad’s Tilley hat there, so I had to bang on the door or retrieve it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2-St.Jean Pied de Port to Orisson

So, at precisely 1248 pm, after purchasing a way cool Swiss Army Knife with the Camino shell on it, and a ham and cheese on a baguette, I was off on my Camino. I was really doing this, oh yes I was!

I walked down the cobblestone street and stopped at the church for a quick word to the Big Guy up there to be nice to me and the church also had  a water fountain to fill up my camel pack.

And I walked up…and up…and up…and up! Holy shit Lord, please …no more up. Sorry Ted you haven’t been a good boy…you must continue to walk up…and up..and up.

I can say with great certainty this climb was the toughest, most physically exhausting exercise I have done / had in over 40 years. Or perhaps my life.

To give you an idea, although it’s still hard to comprehend, I left St. Jean at 594 feet above sea level and climbed to 3614 feet over 13 kms.

Everything I read said to take it easy at the start. Well,  I guess that means taking a taxi to Orisson. In fact, many people start their Camino at the next major village, Roncevalles, because the walk up through the Pyrenees is just too demanding.

As well, there was no question that at the end of the day my back pack was to heavy. At the airport it weighed in at 20 pounds, but that did not include the 3 pounds of crap in my manly bag…reading glasses, sunglasses, pocket book, 2 pounds of cold medications…!

It took me about 2 and a half hours to get to Orisson, where you MUST book in advance. And it’s the only place to sleep before Roncevalles, which is another 12 kms.img_0021

I was physically spent when I arrived and treated myself to a nice cold beer. ( Pic coming…it appears I may not be able to post my pics still working on it ).

So, this was to be my first night in a hostel, there were 10 of us crammed into 5 bunk beds in a room no bigger than 12×20 feet. I arrived close to 330pm so lucky me got an upper bunk!

At this refuge, Refuge Orisson, dinner and breakfast is included. It was 40 Euros total. At dinner I sat with college besties, one from New Hampshire and one from Alabama, and oddly 3 people from Seattle. But in the 50 people in the dinner room, there were folks from Korea, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and other countries. There were two sisters from Victoria and someone from Kelowna.

After dinner back to the dorm, where its lights out at 10 ( pre set by timer ) but people were snoring by 9. I bought a pair of custom earplugs and they worked like a charm. I warned my 9 bunkmates that I would be coughing and hacking so I apologized in advance…like a good Canadian!

I indeed coughed and hacked til about midnight, by then was sitting straight up trickling bottled water down my throat. Not exactly a comfy sleep, but I felt less guilty .

But sleeping in a dorm that size. Oh my. There were four Koreans and they were doing the oddest things. Being the last to arrive they also had top bunks. At 4 am I swear I was dreaming of an ambulance coming to my house, but it was one of them walking around with his head lamp in red blinking mode.

At 5am the only lady in the group of four, and in the top bunk next to me, decides it’s time to put her make up up with her head lamp lighting up the room. Meanwhile the other two men were now gargling away in the bathroom.

Shoot me!

Around 6am when by now all four were packing with their headlamps on, one guy from New Zealand says ” why don’t you just turn on the lights I think we are all awake “! Which indeed I’m sure we were.

All in all though I was pleasantly surprised by the dorm experience but thank god for the earplugs.

 

 

Chapter 3-Orisson to Espinal

I had decided I would not have breakfast at 0700 when it was served, because I didn’t want to start the 2nd day of my Camino in a group of 50 people. I had a few energy bars with me so I decided I would eat one of them. So, I was off by about 710.

I wore my Fitbit  but realized it wipes the memory clean at midnight, and back home is 9 hours behind. So, alas I have to do some math to keep track of my footsteps, which I wanted to do really just for fun. I walked about 17,000 footsteps yesterday and 36,000 today. Today my plan was to walk to Espinal I calculated about 24 kms and it took me 6 hours.

I have to say my feet are fine, but my shoulders are hurting. I need to adjust some things in my backpack around perhaps. Or adjust by tossing stuff! Ya, I will toss all the stuff I have borrowed which is mostly from Reagan and Aimee I’m sure they won’t mind.

So, off I set…and go up..and up…and up…I should have paid more attention in geography class I really had no idea the Pyrenees were this high. After about an hour I put on layer number 4 and gloves and the Habs toque that Bryan gave me for my birthday. It was cold brrr.

For another point of reference today the climb went up to 4800 feet. Not quite the climb from yesterday but again I was very physically challenged.image

The route started to go down, and I thought yahoo finally…until my knees were saying something else which I can’t print !

All in all though I am relatively pleased with the first two days. The dorm tonight is much bigger and very comfy. Time to use that Rx for the muscles have a beer some dinner and another early night’s sleep.

Editor’s Note: So, when you go to bed at 9pm and wake up at 4am you are ready to go. Problem is it’s dark and spooky out and I’m not that brave yet…and may never be. I have thought about the blog though, and will try to be consistent on a daily basis to add total distance travelled , footsteps and the weather. If I can up load pictures, I’d like to add pics of the terrain for the day to give you a sense of the ups and downs.

At dinner last night chatting with a couple from New Zealand and a fellow from England ( who by the way was gone when I woke up at 3 am…he’s not a scaredy cat ) they informed me that I took the ” steep route ” down into Roncevalles. Oh really!

Those that know me know I can get befuddled with directions, so I won’t tell you about my misadventure through a farmer’s field yesterday. Didn’t lose time but um….I don’t think it was quite the way St. James planned it out. I did have my trekking no poles to fend off the cattle.

Today, I am headed to Zabaldica and a hostel in an old monastery. Just the place for a good Catholic boy to sleep!

 

 

Chapter 4-Espinal to Uterga

Days travelled-2

kms covered -52.5

Footsteps-127,237

Weather- Day 1 cloudy and cool , Day 2 sunny and cool

Espinal to Zabaldika

I stayed at a hostel in Espinal called Hotel Haizea. The dorm had 12 beds and is relatively new. The room was spacious, plus they had a huge separate sitting area. It was only half full so that was pretty nice after the previous squished dorm in Orisson. I shared the laundry with two other people so that was nice. The hostel was 12 euros. Dinner was 10.5 euros and was spaghetti, a chicken leg, red wine, and an ice cream bar. And of course a baguette or two. I sat with a couple from New Zealand that were also at Orisson the night before, and a fellow from England. His plans were to blitz what he could of the Camino in 28 days. In fact, when I woke up at 4 am he was gone!

Awake at 4am but too chicken to walk in the dark, I dragged all my stuff out of the dorm, like a good courteous Canadian ( without putting a flashing red strobe light on my head ) and got my bag all packed and ready to go.

I set off at 0625 it was still very much dusk…can it be dusk early in the morning..probably not ..but it was darkish.

I walked for 7.5 hours this day. My plan was to stop at the first village for a coffee and breakfast. Good luck. The first three villages were all still sleeping.

It was very very cool , I started out with four layers and kept them on all day. Including my “tuque” ( thank you Mark for the proper spelling) . No toke…that was you and John …remember. I was the suck. One time you dumped butterscotch pudding over my head because I didn’t give you a fair portion. I digress!

I was worried about being shoulder to shoulder on my Camino with other pilgrims. This day I’d say I saw 20 at most. For the first 4 hours I saw no one. Just horses. Lots of horses. I talked to them. They didn’t understand me.

I passed through spectacular hills and valleys…still lots of climbing. I cursed God…he should have made the earth dead flat. Halfway through the day for the very first time I put in my earbuds and listened to music. Now the reader might find this odd, but with the music on, I did much , much more reflecting and thinking about so many things. I think that’s because I am a mini juke box, and I relate my whole life to music. Just ask my buddy Steve. When girls I fell in love with at 16 didn’t love me back, I’d put on Gerry and the Pacemakers or the Righteous Brothers, have a few beers and karate chop the ironing board. This is a true story. I remember walking home in the winter in Montreal from a dance  singing to It’s A Long Way Home by the Staccatos. I danced with Patti Barry , who became my first serious girlfriend. At first she thought I was the janitor’s son..just hanging out.

I digress…the Camino does this to you.

Early in the afternoon I stopped and ate some salami I bought the night before. That was my breakfast and lunch. But protein…Reagan would be happy. Until this time on my journey I still had had no cafe con leche.

About 1 pm, I realized the weight of my backpack was seriously killing me. It was close to 26 pounds. My daughter Taylor tells me my granddaughter Mya weighs 23 pounds. So I was carrying Mya and 3 pounds of dirty diapers. Good Lord, no wonder I was so tired. And my shoulders were killing me. Thank god it wasn’t my granddaughter Harper who my amazing daughter -in -law Aimee tells me is 32 pounds. Harper wouldn’t have made it to Orisson.

I decided then tomorrow morning was the big backpack purge before I set off.

Tonight I was staying at an old church now a refuge run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Lodging, which included dinner and breakfast was by donation. The hook was at 1830 there was an orientation in the church, and after dinner at 2030 a blessing in the church.

At this point I need to say that my old parish priest Father Jack passed away shortly before I left, and I went to a service in his memory. It was moving, but I realized I miss church. I was never and will never be a regular attendee, but when I go I enjoy it. I get into my own space and reflect. I don’t like the coffee fellowship or the turning around and shaking hands..in fact I hate it. So, that’s just before I left.

So here I am in a 13th century church. It was beyond spectacular. I haven’t done much of Europe at all so perhaps it was quite normal, but I thought it was amazing. We were allowed to climb into the bell tower and ring the bell. Walking up those stone steps, round and round like a lighthouse up and up. How amazing.image

Only 5 of the 12 beds were occupied….two Koreans ( not the red flashing light ones) one fellow from Mexico and one American.

Dinner, blessing..in bed by 9 and fast asleep. The ” custom made ” earplugs I bought have been amazing and I am SO FAR enjoying the hostel experience.

In the morning was the backpack purge. I had to jettison some weight. Reagan, thanks for lending me the rain jacket. Gone. Aimee, thanks for the Spanish phrase book and camel pack. Gone. Converter that didn’t work..also from Aimee..gone. Hey, now I did get rid of some of my stuff. A bicycling vest. My Grisham novel, my brand new gators never used ( sorry Reagan and Aimee), hand sanitizer, sunscreen , safety pins. And my iPhone 4s that really let me down. The plan was to take pics with it, they would go to the cloud , and then I’d post them with my blog . Nope. Bye bye phone.

Now, what about this little monkey , which one reader suggested I dump even before I left. Well, it’s not a monkey  it’s a gorilla . And it has a name. It’s MG. And MG has a story to tell, and MG is not going anywhere.

What about these four condoms? Hmmmmm. It was a lot easier deciding about the iPhone 4s! Some friends, both male and female, suggested…no …URGED me to bring these along . Ok. So I brought four. I can get lucky once every 200 kms. In reality , after walking for 7 plus hours the last thing you are going to do is show someone what an amazing lover you are. And in added reality, sleeping in a dorm, it’s not going to happen. But how could I ditch these in a place run by the Sisters of Sacred Heart, in the bin that says ” take what you need, leave what you don’t “.

Or how could I put them in the garbage here!

The condoms made the cut. And I expect they will travel the entire Camino with me and I will have a water balloon fight in the square in Santiago.

Zabaldika to Urtega

Good and faithful reader, I will try to make this summary shorter. Emphasis on try.

I set off late at 0820 thanks to the backpack purge. I had to find a store in Pamplona to buy a converter and a knee brace. What I haven’t yet disclosed is that on day 2 my left knee going downhill hurt like shit. I had a hockey injury two years ago, after making a highlight reel save and getting piled on in the crease. It ended my season but by the time the MRI was scheduled it was feeling much better. Alas, I didn’t get to test it this year as I had double hernia surgery in November and had to take the year off from hockey.

So, going downhill my left knee is really hurting. I am sort of walking downhill like…is is Festus or Chester on Gunsmoke?

I found an amazing department store for both. The young thirty something lady showing me the brace showed me how the put it on. I feigned ignorance and she had to do it for me. Apologies to the Canadian Company of Pilgrims as their crest is emblazoned on my fleece. I will apologize to them again because shortly after, leaving Pamplona with my new knee, I’m walking through a park singing and whistling to 5 Days in May and Look through Any Window. Look at me walk with my new knee. This was going to be a good day.

A few kms later as I grab my salami from my backpack I’m walking along grooving to There’s a Moon Out Tonight and I Need You Now. These Canadians…odd people. But I am on top of the world. I’m walking the Camino and I have a new knee.

The scenery today is spectacular. Fields and fields of golden Canola I think and some spectacular trails. I also enjoyed walking through Pamplona. Some people say just take a taxi through town. No way. It was quite fun.img_0091

I’m glad I have my Fitbit because when I’m working up a hill and hit 145 bpm I stop and rest. And it’s fun to count the footsteps.

About 3 pm my left calf was hurting. And I thought great…just great…I have fastened the brace too tight, I have cut off circulation. I will get to Urtega and have to be heli transported back to Pamplona for amputation below the knee. I will have to finish the Camino on one leg.

I stop and loosen the brace and all is good.

I arrive in Urtega find my “cama” have a shower and try to pretend I know what I’m doing outside washing some clothes. I have two beers. Life is good. Tomorrow is another day.

Dear Reader: I still cannot upload pictures. I think it’s the Internet connection. If you want to Friend me on Facebook please do. I am posting them there. You can feel free to unfriendly me after my journey.