I had a minor equipment malfunction. As I was walking, I noticed the pin in my watch-strap had nearly fallen out. It must be due to the jarring of the walking pole at every pace (even though it has a shock absorber!). I pushed the pin back in. However, a couple of days later, it again came perilously close to falling out (my major fear is that it might happen again at a time when I didn’t notice and I would lose my watch!!). I pushed it in again and took it to a watch shop. Initially, the technician could see no problem, but I used gestures to show that the pin wasn’t secure. He put his monocle in, took the watch inside, did something, came back, and assured me the watch-strap was now “seguro” (“secure”). A few days later, my watch fell off while I was sitting in the bus!
Maybe someone is trying to teach the pilgrim not to be preoccupied with time, time of day, time elapsed? Rather, follow the rhythm of the day, sunrise, noon, siesta, sunset. Whatever, my wrist watch is now a pocket watch!!!
The walking poles are great. As explained before, for normal walking, placing the pole at the same distance as a regular pace, they provide balance, rhythm and support. For steep inclines, one either shortens the poles or shortens the grip, places the pole beside the foot, and they provide extra lift, extra power for the climb. For steep declines, one can lengthen the poles and place them forward of the regular pace, and they provide greater security and balance to prevent falls.
The backpack is good too, but heavy!!! The waistband is tightened as hard as possible around the hip bone, so all the weight is carried directly through the pelvis to the legs. Unlike the daypacks that most students use to carry their books, the shoulder straps of a backpack don’t carry any weight at all. They are there simply to hold the pack in position, so that it is balanced, secure. And it leaves a space between the pack and the back, for ventilation, which helps on the hot days. It really is a clever design.
But it is heavy!! Last night I went through all the contents rigorously. I considered all the items I had not used since starting this journey twelve days ago. I considered items that I can duplicate e.g. sleep in boxers and t-shirt of the next day, so no need for extra sleepwear, which I set aside.
I now have two walking sets (boxers, long sleeve T-shirt, trousers, inner and outer socks). Because socks are so important, and can take time to dry, I have an extra set of both inner and outer socks. But I accidentally packed an extra set over and above the extra set of inner and outer socks. I don’t need four sets of socks. One set is set aside.
Boots, of course, I wear for walking. And I carry a pair of sandals (for possible river crossings, if needed, and) for the evening, to give my feet a chance to breathe.
I thought I had an extra pair of boxers, but if I did, I no longer have them!?! They might be still drying in a window somewhere back along the way, or being used as a duster. I would have kept the extra, but the decision was taken out of my hands.
I had two long-sleeved shirts for walking, but found that the T is sufficient. However, it is good to have another shirt for evening wear, but I don’t need two shirts for the evenings. One has been set aside.
I had a T-shirt for an extra shirt and for sleepwear. But I can sleep in the walking T, and don’t wear short sleeves anyway as my arms will get sunburned in the hot sun. So the T-shirt has been set aside.
My soap bag had two combs and a hair brush. A small comb will suffice, so the large comb and hairbrush have been set aside. I was almost going to set aside the soap bag too, but since the weight loss was minimal, and the principle of organisation/compartmentalisation, having all my personal hygiene items in one place is convenient, I relented.
I had a padlock for the backpack, but it couldn’t provide total security, there is always some access, so that too has been set aside.
I had picked up an extra re-charge cable that doesn’t fit my newer i-pad or i-phone. That has been set aside.
I had some rosary beads. They have been set aside. I confess, Catholic guilt did kick in, but I worked out that I can’t use them during the day, my hands are on the walking poles. If I need to pray the rosary at other times, God gave me ten fingers! So, reluctantly, the Rosary was set aside.
I had some official business cards. They have been set aside. If anyone needs my contact details, I can give them verbally, or e-mail them if they provide an address.
I had a small waterproof “map pack” that I wore around my neck for the guide book. It also carries my camino credencial. Sometimes on booking accommodation, I have been asked to provide my passport, which meant opening my backpack, digging out the clothes, extracting the passport, then re-packing. So it became obvious that I needed my passport to be more accessible. However, squeezing more and more into the small map pack just made it harder to get things in and out easily. I had a larger map pack (that I bought the day I left Adelaide – thanks, Joe, for the shopping expedition) that I kept in my backpack for other documents. I consolidated my guide books and passport (and watch) into the larger waterproof “map pack”. So the small map pack and my passport pouch are now set aside.
Incidentally, the map pack is great. It mightn’t be a good look, but at this stage, this pilgrim isn’t into looks! My guide book goes in upside down. I just have to flip it up, and the text is in front of me right way up to read. Flip the map pack around, and I have the map in front of me. So it is really practical.
Some other very minor items – three handkerchiefs reduced to two …..
I did keep wet weather gear, as it is almost certain there will be rain at some stage.
I did keep gloves and beanie for cold mornings, though I haven’t seen any yet (other than in Romania!), but the current hot weather could change and I would need the extra warmth.
Similarly, I have kept my fleecy jacket, which I have sometimes worn in the evening, to prevent chill, and as above, the current hot weather may change and I will need the extra warmth.
There is sleeping blanket and towel.
The single heaviest item is probably the i-Pad [Memo for future: i-Pad Mini!!], along with adaptors and cables for re-charging i-Pad, i-Phone, keyboard, camera battery – but it is great to have all this IT equipment to be in touch with family and friends as go along this path.
Gathering what I had set aside, the T-shirt, shirt and socks amounted to some weight. Many of the other items were quite negligible, but cumulatively every gram adds up. However, I was surprised to find that the total weight of all the items set aside amounted to one kilo less to carry!!!! Yippppeeeeee!!
I have arranged for these redundant items to be sent to my friend in Barcelona to be held along with my other luggage.
My load tomorrow will be one kilo lighter!!
Even so, it is still a weighty pack. I haven’t weighed it exactly, but I guess I have been carrying around twelve kilos. Water is extra, two litres is two kilos. So you can appreciate that any reduction, and one as much as one kilo, is a very significant saving!!!!!
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF ALL
But I must say that the one item of equipment that I have that surprises me the most is myself. I have never had prowess in sport. I have never been inclined to physical activity. I would rather drive than walk. For years I have struggled with weight issues. I have experienced the discomfort of trying to fit into cramped aeroplane seats and other seats. I have experienced the difficulty of trying to find clothes that fit. I have had concerns about the health consequences. For the last twelve years I have been studying and driving a desk. I did try to so some preparatory training for the camino last year, largely undone with Christmas indulgence and further indulgence in Pakistan.
Yet despite all of the above, here I am, on the cusp of sixty years of age, in a last ditch attempt at fitness for whatever years remain, on a 1,177 kilometre walk from Granada to Santiago!!!!!!!!
Thirteen days after starting, admittedly with some mechanical assistance, I have completed 215 kms and now have less than a thousand to go.
So far my feet are fine. I have had no blisters. I have had no major knee or leg or back or shoulder pain. The walking equipment is doing its job. Yes, there are the occasional aches and pains. Yes, it is hard work. Yes, it is a hard walk. But so far, everything is going OK. May it continue so through to the end.