Another Night on the Camino

IMG_2284A kilometer, it turns out, is not a very good measure of a walk. It does not account for incline or decline, footing, stairs, wind, weather and unfortunately distance.

On the Camino, one of the first things that you realize is that all distances are “as the bird flies” and do not take into consideration how many bends there are in the path or even if the path bends back on itself.

The first time that it takes over an hour to walk less than a kilometer the uselessness of this measurement becomes apparent.

The truth about kilometers is second only in importance to having a place to sleep when you are finished for the day. In July, it turns out, this can be quite tricky. There are way more pilgrims than there are albergue beds.

This long winded explanation is really just my way of explaining why I have ended up without a ‘camma’ or bed in an albergue, not to be confused with a place to sleep, on a few nights already. Much to my dismay I ended up sleeping on a cement floored area designed for handball and futsal, considered the purest form of football, but I digress.

I slept with several men last night (and several women) in sleeping bags outside on a cement pad. Such is the Camino.

100 KM Loop

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino

Camino de Santiago

Meseta

http://www.wendypowell.ca

Sent from my iPhone

The Camino Walk

IMG_2313The Camino walk is characterized by a tightening of the legs and upper body in reaction to the pain generated from moving your legs and putting weight on your feet. This cramped gait is the way that you can identify someone in town that has been walking on the Camino.

Several towns have specialists that work for donations and spend several hours each evening treating the results of prolonged walking.

I am becoming somewhat of an expert on blister care myself. First, there are two types of feet. The ones that dry out from the heat which causes cracking and sores and irritated skin. I am from the other camp. My feet sweat so much I have trouble keeping my boots dry.

Dry feet should be covered in Vaseline. This is the opposite for sweaty feet which should be powdered and treated to dry socks at shockingly frequent intervals.

Once a blister has formed it should be drained. Yes, this does increase the chance for infection but until it is drained the pocket of liquid stuck under the skin will move around enlarging the size of the blister.

The draining can be accomplished with a syringe, a needle or a needle and thread. The thread is apparently left in place to allow the blister to keep draining.

Once drained, soaked with iodine and covered with an antibiotic cream on gauze it is then covered with a sticky bandage. This is supposed to allow the blisters to heal. I’ll let you know if that is true in a couple of days.

100 KM Loop

Meseta

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

Albergue? 

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

www.wendypowell.ca

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

IMG_2363A church bell is sounding off the time of day while a dog barks and a flurry of swallows chirp and dive in the plaza. Every small town has the same assortment of wild cats, often of a Siamese or calico descent. A rooster just crowed to remind me that this constant reminder of the rural nature of the towns is ever present. Most of the dogs move along free of a leash and often free of an owner.

The Camino takes travelers through town after town, open fields and cities. The towns are living evidence of how life was lived hundreds of years ago and the cities still reflect the architecture while adding modern touches. Often the view of a small town will bring a sense of relief that is quickly thwarted by the fact that they are usually an uphill climb away. The older cities are surrounded by walls that were used to protect the inhabitants. On the same note, they were placed up on a hill so that invaders could be seen coming from a distance. As you enter the Meseta this character slowly changes. The ground becomes flatter and the towns become more sprawling. The challenge of the steep climbs and fast descents gives way to the extreme heat. Temperatures in the 30s and 40sC make travel in the afternoon very difficult. One difficulty is replaced by another and on it goes…such is the Camino.

100 KM Loop

Meseta

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

www.wendypowell.ca

Meseta

IMG_2325Pilgrims are dropping like flies. The stretch of the Camino that precedes Leon is a long straight path that runs beside the highway. The heat, sun and monotonous flatness is seen by some as meditative.

The cold reality (or hot!) is that a couple of people have been hospitalized for heat stroke, many more have suffered headaches and illness and some have chosen public transport.

There is little to see on this piece of the Camino that can take several days to cross on foot. No one said that it would be easy.

100 KM Loop

Changing Landscapes of the Camino  

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

Happy My Birthday

Birthday GoogleIt’s apropos that my 200th blog on this site is being written on my birthday, my fifty-second birthday at that, which means that even if I live to be 100 I am officially over the hill. It should make the trip down a whole lot easier than climbing up here! It has been a year of changes and transitions for me. I published my second book, saw my website take off and I’m still teetering on the brink of being an empty nester and discovering free time and new interests. At least it is not boring.

Special thanks to Google for celebrating my birthday on their landing page today. I feel so special!!

The house will be full this weekend, as it should be. Life is a celebration. Happy my birthday!!

I’m Back

IMG_2278If you have ever used a hammer to open a walnut, you know how the force it takes to break through the hard shell sends the soft, edible bits flying in many directions. (This was originally posted October 2012.) Walking the Camino did this to me. I have spent the last several weeks collecting up the soft bits and trying to reassemble them into my life.

The routines, patterns and generally robotic aspects of my life were difficult to break through and recognize while I was still engaged in them. Fly across an ocean with only the essentials you need to survive and walk for weeks in a country that you are unfamiliar with, that speaks another language and it throws your routine into disarray.

This was necessary for me to see myself more clearly. It is so easy to go through the motions of life without ever actually questioning your participation. Focusing on the abstract, the distant and the trivial instead of paying attention to the most important thing which is the present — your actual life — is like a societal obsession.

It has taken me weeks to get back to that familiar feeling of being in my own life and even though I have acquired that now, I must admit that my connection to this life is tenuous and unstructured. I’m back, but I am fundamentally different. No, that’s not true. I’m more myself. I have reclaimed the lost bits and I am willing to take them with me wherever I go.

Gone are the routines like coffee, shower, breakfast and work. Well, the coffee stayed of course… But every aspect of my life has been taken out, brushed off and examined. Parts of my who I am that I have not experienced for a while like my love of solitude, romance and politics are being welcomed back into my everyday existance.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t had anything coherent to say. Like wading through thick mud that is hindering your movement and blocking your view, I’ve tried to carry on as I was before my trip and I’ve found it exhausting and unfamiliar.

I have realized that the price of being safe, conservative and following the rules are too high for me. This is a one time opportunity, this life, and I’m going to experience all that I can and engage in my life today, not some time in the future, not when I get a chance, not when I retire or win the lottery — now.  Wish me luck.

www.wendypowell.ca

Meseta

IMG_2325Pilgrims are dropping like flies. The stretch of the Camino that precedes Leon is a long straight path that runs beside the highway. The heat, sun and monotonous flatness is seen by some as meditative.

The cold reality (or hot!) is that a couple of people have been hospitalized for heat stroke, many more have suffered headaches and illness and some have chosen public transport.

There is little to see on this piece of the Camino that can take several days to cross on foot. No one said that it would be easy.

100 KM Loop

Changing Landscapes of the Camino  

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

IMG_2363A church bell is sounding off the time of day while a dog barks and a flurry of swallows chirp and dive in the plaza. Every small town has the same assortment of wild cats, often of a Siamese or calico descent. A rooster just crowed to remind me that this constant reminder of the rural nature of the towns is ever present. Most of the dogs move along free of a leash and often free of an owner.

The Camino takes travelers through town after town, open fields and cities. The towns are living evidence of how life was lived hundreds of years ago and the cities still reflect the architecture while adding modern touches. Often the view of a small town will bring a sense of relief that is quickly thwarted by the fact that they are usually an uphill climb away. The older cities are surrounded by walls that were used to protect the inhabitants. On the same note, they were placed up on a hill so that invaders could be seen coming from a distance. As you enter the Meseta this character slowly changes. The ground becomes flatter and the towns become more sprawling. The challenge of the steep climbs and fast descents gives way to the extreme heat. Temperatures in the 30s and 40sC make travel in the afternoon very difficult. One difficulty is replaced by another and on it goes…such is the Camino.

100 KM Loop

Meseta

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

www.wendypowell.ca

Albergue?

IMG_2307He opened the main doors to show me where the beds were in this particular albergue. The large open space had once been a garage, perhaps for farm equipment, and still sported two rectangular doors that could be rolled up and out of the way to let trucks in or out. Now, it was a huge open space with painted floors, multiple bunk beds, some plastic chairs and a couple of tables. The albergues are as different as they could possibly be. Last night I stayed in an ancient home that had been built originally from rocks and cement and had been located beside a natural spring. There was no electricity and dinner was eaten by candlelight and the remains of the twilight before the sun set. In a broad way the albergues can be divided into three categories: municipal, private and religious. The religious ones are often found in ancient structures and might be run by nuns with strict curfew times and times before which you are not allowed to leave in the morning. Most of the municipal ones are large, newer and have extra amenities like individual outlets to charge your personal phones and cameras. The private ones are as individual as the people that run the places, varying from private museum-like spaces to elaborately decorated artsy places. It is always a gamble. The descriptions in the guidebooks do not account for these types of qualities and focus on quantifiable things like the number of beds, availability of services and classification i.e. private. So, tonight will be spent in a large garage with the possibility of forty other pilgrims all sharing the space. I hope that there are not many that snore…

100 KM Loop

 

Meseta

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

The Camino Walk

IMG_2269The Camino walk is characterized by a tightening of the legs and upper body in reaction to the pain generated from moving your legs and putting weight on your feet. This cramped gait is the way that you can identify someone in town that has been walking on the Camino.

Several towns have specialists that work for donations and spend several hours each evening treating the results of prolonged walking.

I am becoming somewhat of an expert on blister care myself. First, there are two types of feet. The ones that dry out from the heat which causes cracking and sores and irritated skin. I am from the other camp. My feet sweat so much I have trouble keeping my boots dry.

Dry feet should be covered in Vaseline. This is the opposite for sweaty feet which should be powdered and treated to dry socks at shockingly frequent intervals.

Once a blister has formed it should be drained. Yes, this does increase the chance for infection but until it is drained the pocket of liquid stuck under the skin will move around enlarging the size of the blister.

The draining can be accomplished with a syringe, a needle or a needle and thread. The thread is apparently left in place to allow the blister to keep draining.

Once drained, soaked with iodine and covered with an antibiotic cream on gauze it is then covered with a sticky bandage. This is supposed to allow the blisters to heal. I’ll let you know if that is true in a couple of days.

100 KM loop

Meseta

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

Albergue? 

Another Night on the Camino

Magic on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

www.wendypowell.ca