With a month and a half to go before departure to Spain and el Camino de Santiago, it’s time to prepare. Fortunately I’ve done enough traveling to a variety of places that I already have a selection of gear to choose from. I don’t think I’ll be needing that snorkeling mask or flippers…but that broad-brimmed hat, Thorlos, and Merrell hiking shoes…that’s a good start for hitting a 500-mile long trail. And thank goodness I’ve already got the shoes. Poor Xina has been trying out shoe after shoe before finding the right ones that survive her test hikes…or rather, I should say that allow her feet to survive the test hikes. My Merrell’s have been to Iceland – tromping across ancient lava flows and cobblestone streets; to Zanzibar – trekking through spice markets and not-ancient-enough slave markets; and numerous places in between. Not to mention all those countless airports we’ve been through together. They’re worn-in and will serve me well on the Camino.
But I definitely needed a better backpack, so off to REI I went. They have an excellent selection and employees trained to fit you with the right one. I’d recommend the guy to you, but it was his last day on the job – he’s moving home to Argentina to take care of his mom. So now I’m equipped with an Osprey Cirrus, small enough for my frame that will also accommodate what I’ll need. (It’s recommended to not pack more than 10% of your body weight for such a long-distance hike, but fortunately along the “French Way” [the most well-known route] there are plenty of albergues [hostels] where pilgrims can sleep and eat, so we won’t need to plan for a full backpacking expedition.) I still have a number of items to pick up, but I have time and…best of all…REI member annual dividends will be coming in March, so I can apply those funds toward the rest of my purchases. Timing is everything.
Another future peregrina (female pilgrim) was also being outfitted with her backpack at the same time, but she will be starting her hike a week later than us back at St Jean Pied de Port, the traditional start of the Camino, whereas we’re starting at Roncesvalles, so it’s doubtful that we’ll run into her. But maybe. One never knows. There will be other people. That’s part of the Camino’s appeal. You can be alone when you want (or need) to be, and with others when you desire companionship. Friendships are made – sometimes fleeting, sometimes lasting. In that way it will be much like my other travels. I look forward to the faces, the smiles, the stories, and the motivations…for every pilgrim’s reasons are different and unique.