Preparing for the Camino de Santiago, pt. 2

 

CAmino-me with backpackFinally, after two years of anticipation, I’m in the final hours of preparation for my pilgrim walk on the Camino de Santiago. I’m finding this process of preparation quite different from other long trips in three ways.

First, the gear is different. On other trips, I have certain travel clothes and equipment. I only have to worry that my luggage is compact and not so heavy that I can’t manage to walk up a flight (or several) of stairs.

Generally, the less I pack the more mobile I am, so I usually travel with a daypack and a sturdy mid-size roller bag. This gives me fair mobility with a little room to spare.

Not this trip. Everything I need for 10-plus weeks of mostly walking is on my back, including food and water for the day. Footwear matters. Raingear matters. Weight matters most of all. I’m trying to keep my packweight down to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). I think I’m close, but I still may have to jettison some stuff.

Most of the gear, including three plastic bags of 1. personal care stuff, 2. first aid and 3. miscellaneous, such as clothespins, chargers, pins. The fanny pack isn't going.

Most of the gear, including three plastic bags of 1. personal care stuff, 2. first aid and 3. miscellaneous, such as clothespins, chargers, pins. The fanny pack isn’t going. The colorful pack of Minnie and Mickey are wet wipes.

My usual travel clothes. All lightweight and quick-dry. I am taking a super comfy skirt (far right) that I may even be able to walk in.

My usual travel clothes. All lightweight and quick-dry. I’m also taking a super comfy skirt (far right) that I may even be able to walk in.

I hear it does get cold in spring on the camino. The black fleece is a no-brainer, but the windbreaker is somewhat heavy, and I'm still thinking about it.

I hear it gets cold in spring on the camino. The black fleece is a no-brainer, but the windbreaker is somewhat heavy, and I’m still thinking about it.

Second, the physical preparation is different. On other trips, I could just pack up and leave, expecting to acclimate to walking/climbing/altitude on the road. Most of us can manage a nice stroll in a new city right off the plane.

For the camino, I have to make 14 miles (23 km) the day I walk out the door of the cathedral in Seville. I’ve been working out for months with that in mind—mostly with weights and a mat in my little cabin. (This is where I plug my favorite workout program. Fitnessblender.com is a website with hundreds of free, no-nonsense workout videos for all levels and body parts. They’re done by a husband-and-wife team who are passionate and knowledgeable about fitness.)

Lately, I’ve been trying to clock actual foot-miles with my loaded pack. The weather hasn’t been cooperative nor has my knee, which for the first time ever has decided to act up. So my top day was a measly 7.5 miles (12 km).

Snow-walking. If you look closely, you can see the coyote tracks beside mine.

Snow-walking. If you look closely, you can see the coyote tracks beside mine.

Third, the spiritual preparation. This has taken on greater urgency as the trip approaches, what with Lent upon us, the political maelstrom, plus several intentions that I want to bring to Santiago, and also to Fatima, a famous Catholic shrine in Portugal that I’ll also visit. Somehow, this carrying of intentions is beginning to feel like a sacred honor, not to over-dramatize.

Over the centuries that pilgrims have walked this route, it has accrued symbols and rituals. Pilgrims carry scallop shells. There are pilgrim blessings and masses. Even special pilgrim meals (cheap and hearty). I hope to see the swinging of the Botafumeiro, the biggest censor in the world, at a pilgrim mass at the cathedral in Santiago.

The botafumeiro has been used at the pilgrim masses since the 12th century. It's silver plated bronze and weighs 115 pounds (53 kg). It takes 8 men to swing it.

The botafumeiro has been used at the pilgrim masses since the 12th century. It’s silver plated bronze and weighs 115 pounds (53 kg). It takes 8 men to swing it.

The whole notion of pilgrimage feels meaningful: the walking every day toward a holy place. The discomfort and uncertainty. The challenge to accept what the journey brings. The testing, physically and spiritually. The admonition to trust that “the Camino provides.”

I’m not sure how this will all play out, but I’m eager to begin, and I’ll try to be an attentive student.

So, tomorrow I leave my house. Tuesday, I arrive in Spain. I’ll be a tourist for a few days in Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada before traveling to Seville where I get my first cello (stamp) in my credencial, and I will become a peregrino on March 30.

That's it. Minus the fanny pack

That’s it. Minus the fanny pack

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9 Responses to Preparing for the Camino de Santiago, pt. 2

  1. Cheryl Blodgett 25 March, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    What fun I had reading of your detailed preparations, and how moved I was to read of your spiritual preparations. Your beautiful Spirit glows through. We will be following you on our new Atlas, and I will listen for the botafumeiro and make wishes for your journey, on my birthday.

  2. Barbara Weibel 9 March, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

    Kate – do you know that there are companies who will transport your pack every day, leave it at the inn you plan to stay at that night, leaving you to only have to carry your day pack. Wishing you a wonderful experience. I know it will be, especially if you approach it without any expectations. I’ll be with you in my heart.

  3. Julie DeVoe 9 March, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    Following along in my heart. Much love and grace to you.

  4. Joánne Kuszaj 9 March, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    Kate, will remember you in thoughts and prayer. I have a few friends who have made the journey/pilgrimage and all have had such meaningful experiences. I look forward to reading your blog.

    Joánne

    • Kate Convissor 9 March, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

      Humble thanks, Joanne. I really appreciate it.

      It’s so hard to foresee what the experience will be like. I look forward to getting beyond the first few days of painful walking to a point where I can effortlessly do the miles.

      Beyond that…no clue.

  5. Hoz 8 March, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

    You are already enroute, so my advice is probably moot. The absolute best knee brace I have found is called the Cho-Pat. It has helped me get up mountains, and even the Pyramid of the Sun last month.

    Expect to jettison some as you go. Look at an item and ask if you want it or need it. Wants go.

    All the best Kate.

    • Kate Convissor 8 March, 2017 at 11:17 pm #

      Oh, crap! My skirt has to go???

      I’ll be stateside for a few days, and I may look up that brace. If you made it up the Pyramid of the Sun, that’s some kind of brace. I could probably run to Santiago. Thanks for the tip.

      Thanks Hoz.

      • Art Kelly 9 March, 2017 at 6:54 am #

        Hi Kate;

        All the best. I’ll be looking forward to your blog entries and photos. Walking 14 miles every day, regardless of the weather would be a challenge for anyone. You are an inspiration. We will be praying that all goes well and you stay healthy.

        Art

        • Kate Convissor 9 March, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

          Thank you, Art. I’ll keep you and Mary in my prayers as well–bringing your intention to the holy places I pass through.

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