THE CAMINO - Injuries, Clothing and Backback

INJURIES

In the end I averaged over 30 kilometers a day, but I don’t really recommend setting out at such a pace, especially because the time you are most likely to get an injury is at the beginning. So take it easy at first (especially if you are starting your first day from St Jean Pied de Port in France as I did, and walking over the Pyrenees the first day) until you find your own rhythm and pace of walking.

I also noticed that those who considered themselves the most fit (that would be me) were often the ones who got the injuries (that would also be me). Perhaps because we didn’t take as much care or we weren’t as cautious as those who considered themselves unfit. If you do get an injury there are always doctors, chemists (drug stores) and hospitals along the way, although you will have to get yourself to one (see my story).

If you feel the heat of a blister STOP WALKING IMMEDIATELY and use Compede, which which is like a second skin and much better than band aids. Compee can be found in any chemist and is sold everywhere along the route. But buy some and carry it with you before you start. Better to be prepared.

I had a small medical kit (see my list) that I kept in a small plastic box in a compartment on the outside of my backpack. That way I could access it without having to unpack the whole backpack.

CLOTHING

See my list below. I had one pair of shorts I walked in and one pair of long pants that I wore on the plane and sometimes at night if it was cold, or my shorts were drying on the line. I never walked in long pants. A lot of people had those long pants that zip off into shorts. I had a pair of leggings to sleep in, which theoretically I could also have walked in if my shorts didn’t dry. However, just after Pamplona I lost the leggings  (I had lost my sunglasses, water bottle and one sock on the second day). Without the leggings I slept in knickers and a T-shirt. My walking shorts would be on the ground beside my bed and when I woke up in the dark of the morning so I could easily slip them on. In the end, though, I didn’t care that I was standing around in my knickers. In fact, it didn’t take long before I stopped worrying about anything much at all (except my feet and my blister). That was one of the beauties of the Camino for me: the way a lot of things fell away. However, by the time I finished the Camino I knew that if I ever saw another overweight middle-aged man walking around in his underpants I would scream. They probably thought the same about me!

The most important thing is your shoes. Please pay out the money for a good pair and have them fitted. Your shoes, and whether or not you get a blister, will make the difference between walking in joy, or walking in pain. GET GOOD SHOES even if you have to go without eating for a week to buy a good pair (although I would not recommend that).

Also take a really good pair of sandals. Your feet will need a rest and fresh air every day. So buy a good pair of Birkenstock type sandals. When you are walking through reasonable flat fields or along a road etc. you might like to take your boots off and give your feet a rest. At the end of the day you will also need to take you boots off. Some people (I noticed Europeans were more inclined toward this) would wear their sandals with socks if it was cold but no self respecting Aussie would be caught dead with sox and sandals. I’m sorry, but there is only so much self-respect I will offer up to the Camino.

With regard changes in temperature, I took clothes that I could layer. Layered up if it got cold, or peeled off if it was hot. See my list below for clothes suggestions.

BACKPACK

If you can afford a new, lightweight backpack fitted for your body shape and size that would be great. I used a good backpack, but not an exceptional one. I am told it makes a difference.

Remember whatever you take you have to carry so try to make your backpack as light as possible. I was so careful packing that the day before I left I weighed my backpack and was thrilled to discover it was only 7.5 kilo – so thrilled that I threw in a few more items in only to find when I got to the airport that my backpack weighed 11 kilo. So that was what I walked most of the time with, but I do not recommend anyone, especially a woman, to carry a pack that size. It was difficult at first, but in the end you will not notice the weight of your pack. Eventually, near the end of the Camino, I was just throwing things away. It is surprising how little you really need. You also, sort of, become ‘acclimatized’ to the weight of your backpack and it can feel quite strange if you walk without it.

I met my partner in Venice after the Camino and when we met he went to pick up my backpack to carry to the hotel, but I wouldn’t let him. It was my backpack and I was used to feeling its weight on my back. It had, for a short time, become part of me.

If worst comes to worst I believe there are companies that will transport your backpack from  refugio to refugio, but that is not really the purist’s Camino. The choice is yours.

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