The Camino (part four)

I once walked about thirty-five miles in one day because I could not find any accommodation earlier in the afternoon as I had expected. Having walked all day I gazed down at a large monastery in the setting sun of an early evening only to discover on arrival that it was full. Despondency grew as I continued finding the same result further on and elsewhere. This day’s walk eventually ended at 10.30pm having begun at 6.30am.

The other important item when walking hundreds of miles is footwear. I wore heavy-duty sandals and found this the most practical and comfortable option but there were occasions when only boots were appropriate for the conditions so I carried a pair of these too. When relaxing after a walk flip-flops are probably the most convenient footwear item; they are light which helps when every ounce or kilogram is crucial for mobility. Weight matters.

For anyone who has not covered such distances on foot and with a rucksack on his back it would be difficult to imagine the trial and despair of those who take too much. The weight like the weather can become oppressive. I have ditched many items because the weight felt too heavy. Early on in my second Camino I left behind a book on cricket I had enjoyed reading and not yet finished because of the desire to walk without the burden of a heavy backpack.

Priorities change on the Camino; the scenery changes, the weather changes, people change but the need for water, decent footwear and little weight on one’s back are a constant feature for the happy pilgrim.

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I met few Englishmen or women on my first Camino walk but this might have something to do with the fact that I set out in the height of Summer. According to hearsay, (my own experience suggests this could be true) most English people tend to walk in May or September thus avoiding the fierce heat of a Spanish sun. I succumbed to heatstroke just the once and this was mainly due to it being hotter than usual and that I was not wearing a hat. The following day I rested in the shade unable to continue. I gradually recovered my strength by eating fresh bread and drinking milk and water. I did, however, meet some Englishmen in the height of summer but this revealed another story.


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