Preparations for our Camino 2017 became serious, when we gave each other Osprey Atmos 50L backpacks for Christmas 2016. Our new packs are slightly larger than our old ones, but about the same weight. We got the larger sizes to allow for extra room for packing and easier retrieving and repacking its contents… an issue we struggled with on our first Camino.
In January we bought new Lowa boots (Jim) and Keen “fishing” sandals (Linda) to replace identical footware that were badly worn from nearly 1000 miles of walking over the past 4 years. We continue to break them in and are now walking at least 2 miles every day until leaving for the Camino.
Taking care of our feet is paramount to avoiding typical issues from walking 5-10 miles daily for 60+ consecutive days. Building on our experiences with socks & blister prevention/maintenance on our Camino of 2012-2015, we have confirmed and in some cases upgraded socks, foot lubrication and moisturing product as well as bandage material.
We each inventoried everything in our packs upon arriving in Santiago in 2015. This list became our start point for backpack contents for 2017. After minor deletions and additions, we’ve packed our backpacks and taken a few walks of 2-6 miles. Both packs are quite easy to manage and are just slightly over the recommended 10% of body weight at 18lbs and 22 lbs, respectively. Hydration pack water will add an additional 2-4 lbs of weight as we begin walking each day.
Even though we purchased a set of poles to share on our first Camino, we assumed they would be inconvenient to carry and not worth the effort to use. As we ascended the Pyrennees in late July 2012, the poles didn’t seem to help much on the steep climbs. But the 8 mile descent into Roncesvalles began to take a toll on our knees and we quickly discovered how to use a single pole to cushion the impact of the steep downhill walk. It rained that day and the single pole also aided our balance and footing. We decided that if one pole could make that much difference, on subsequent walks we would both carry a set of poles to use.
In 2014 we began our Camino in Pamplona each with a set of poles. They were adjustable and made of fiberglass and were bought on sale at Costco. While Linda initially used her poles mainly for balance on uneven terrain, Jim used his not only for balance but soon discovered on especially long walks, fatigue on knees and feet were reduced when using the poles for support. He also noticed that when the pole length was adjusted to cause his arms to form a 90 degree angle as poles made contact with the ground, his walking posture improved, noticeably reducing stress on the lower back.
(Our experiences have been confirmed by several published studies revealing that poles can reduce the compression stress on knees by 5-25% with the greatest impact being for downhill walking.)
After walking about 170 miles, one of Jim’s poles broke. The adjusting mechanism failed and would no longer hold the pole at a given length. Without both poles, the stress of walking 8-12 miles a day was dramatically increased. We kept a lookout for a place to buy a replacement pole and finally found a small store in Castrojeriz. The owner happened to have one set of poles which Jim quickly bought for 39€.
That afternoon, Jim got familiar with the new poles and found them to be superior to the old ones. First, the shafts were stronger but not significantly heavier (alumnium vs fiberglass) and the length adjustment was a better design and faster and easier to change while walking.
The next morning as we continued our walk, with a big smile, Jim began using his new poles and continued using them for the remaing 110 miles in 2014, the final 210 miles in 2015. They show little if any signs of wear and the adjusting mechanism is like new. The poles are Altus brand, but not available for purchase in the US, including the internet. Similar poles are available in the US at a cost of more the $100! We plan to buy a set of these poles for Linda at a store that carries Altus brand in Pamplona on our way to Saint-Jean-Pied de Port, France (SJPDP).
Our original plan for getting to Spain was to take Uber to the Greenville airport (GSP) and fly Greenville> Philadelphia(PHL)> Madrid(MAD), leaving our car at home to avoid long term parking fees (~$500 for 82 days).
Two weeks prior to departure, the baggage handlers, cleaners and customer service agents at PHL called for a strike against American Airlines. At the last minute, the strike was suspended as negotiations resumed.
Uncertainty in our logistics for the beginning of our trip is not a good thing. Most of Europe takes the month of August as a holiday. Thus, Europeans walking the Camino Frances on vacation must start their walk in late July or early August as the normal time to complete the 500 mile pilgrimage is 30-33 days. This creates a surge of pilgrims, overwhelming the limited accommodations for sleeping along the Camino.
Our plan to deal with this potential problem is to find and reserve hotel rooms and purchase tickets for our train and bus trip to SJPDP, as well as reserving rooms for the first 6 days of our walk. We completed this several weeks ago.
Consequently, any delays in our flight or baggage arriving in Madrid on schedule, will have disastrous repercussions on the beginning of our Camino.
So, we took immediate evasive action by calling American and changing our flight to originate in Charlotte(CLT) and to fly direct to Madrid… at an additional cost of $375 in re-ticketing fees. Also, to avoid airport long term parking fees, we will drive to Jim’s daughter’s home in Clover, SC, who has graciously agreed to give us a ride to CLT some 30 miles away and store our car in her driveway until we return in October.