Changes and challenges for my September Camino

This year I have thought about making some changes to my kit and Camino habits. It just occurred to me that I am so close to the ultimate kit and way of doing it – for me, I hasten to add – that I have perhaps forgotten or neglected to try out different things. Things that could potentially improve my comfort or experience without risking too much. It is my zen holiday, after all.

Some of the changes I have proposed to myself are:

  1. Walking with poles – Pacerpoles. Heather at Pacerpole has very kindly let me have a pair of carbon Pacerpoles to try out and I am very grateful. I have sometimes had problems with my knee and hip, and last time I walked down to Acebo I twisted my ankle – it’s time to try the four-legged approach and see if my speed, stamina, posture and breathing will indeed improve. If so, I might even go for the Pradela/Donkey Killer route out of Villafranca …
  2. Walking in a skirt, with running tights under to avoid chafing. Chafing can be incredibly painful and slow to heal no matter where you get it, some carry backpacks that rub, some get bad friction blisters on the heel. The thought of walking in a skirt appeals to me, and though I did try to go down the Macabi route it just wasn’t me in the end. Instead I have chosen a shorter, stretchier, prettier and more practical Discovery skirt which seems great so far. It has hidden pockets, good fit and is fast drying, so I am hoping that will work well. The other change of clothes is a merino dress which I can walk, sleep or go out in and quickly pull on after the shower.
  3. Sleep in albergues only. Don’t let the fear of bed races or lure of an en suite bathroom with unlimited hot water tempt me into spending lots of money on accommodation, but rather leave my money with the albergues, especially the donativos, which need it the most.
  4. Choose the top bunk. Though the bottom one is undoubtably easier to get into, it is also restrictive for my height, while I can sit up straight in the top one, and I am tall enough that I usually get up there easily enough. Also you normally get more choice in top ones – and I suppose a lot of people will be pleased that there are bottom bunks available!
  5. Do my laundry in my drybag ‘washing machine’ instead of standing in line waiting for cold water sink space or paying for a laundry service.
  6. Taking a different poncho (gasp!) with large open sleeves instead of elasticated ones, and no zip at the front! The sleeves still cover my arms all the way to the wrists but has better airflow. It also has less room for the pack, but now that I am using my little Tempest 30 it works well. The reason for the switch is that my lightweight Altus poncho in a S/M size comes just above my knee and the other is longer – and possibly less clammy, time will tell.
  7. Walk every step from Sarria to get my Compostela in someone else’s name, known as Vicarie Pro. I suspect quite a few pilgrims will have Denise Thiem’s name added to their Compostelas this year, and since I will be walking exactly the stretch she now never will, it is an obvious gesture to make. Instead I shall be tying a black ribbon on my pack and walk in the name of a friend as planned.
  8. Choose the menú del día instead of the pilgrim menu. I know now how to navigate the pilgrim menu: get the salad or the soup for starters (not the paella, that’s just yellow rice, and the pasta is not italian, to put it that way), the chicken or fish for main (or anything served with vegetables), and fruit or yoghurt for dessert, and you will have some nutrition as well as bulk. But I have never really had the menú del día, simply because it is served for lunch, normally between one and three. I am not usually finished walking yet then, and eating a huge meal makes it harder to get going again. So I might have to start sooner, walk faster or even slow down and have a long and leisurely lunch like the Spanish do! Or if the menú del día is still available in the evening, as it sometimes is, I can still enjoy the company of other pilgrims and just eat a different and usually better quality meal.

Of course the Camino has a way of changing your plans for you and I fully expect that to happen. Still, making a few changes and trying out a few things is never a bad idea. Oh, and I intend to eat a lot more manchego cheese and drink a few glasses of albarinho when I get to Galicia – I can’t see that plan being thwarted!

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