Sunday, March 20, 2016

Preparing for our Camino

Formally known as the Camino de Santiago or Way of St James, it is usually referred to as the Camino. My obsession dates back many years to my first glimpse of it when a Facebook friend made the pilgrimage as part of a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Then I proceeded to watch the Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez indie film "The Way" a couple hundred times and that's all she wrote. The Camino is what actually brought our family to Spain. If I hadn't heard about it and dreamed about it for so long, Spain would not have been on my radar at all. I started training for this cross country hike for years and the original plan was that José, Kara, and I would walk it in August of 2015 to celebrate their 40th birthday.

Instead of doing that, I moved the whole family to Spain in September 2015 and the Camino got put on hold as we figured out the logistics of doing it while the girls and I were in school full time and well, the girls. When I received my second semester classes, I realized that I would have six weeks off between classes and it coincided with Mom and Justin's visit to Spain. My mom is a hiker. Like one of those crazy hikers who disappear up into the mountains for a few weeks and you don't know if she's alive, lying at the bottom of a ravine with a broken leg, or anything. She wasn't my worry, well just a little but Kara and I bought a travel insurance policy so if she breaks a hip on the Camino, we've got her bills covered. We got travel insurance for Justin too, just in case he gets a little crazy out there and does who knows what. I probably shouldn't have said that. If karma or fate has any sense of humor, I hope that they aren't going to take that as a challenge.

Since we have the kids in tow and limited time, we decided to do the final 110km into Santiago de Compostela starting in Sarria, Lugo. That will qualify everyone to receive the Compostela certificate at the end of the journey. Providing that everyone is still in good health and good spirits, we are going to continue on and walk all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in Finisterre and maybe up to Muxia. We won't know for sure until we reach Santiago. Tomorrow begins our journey as we take a bus from Salamanca to Zamora and then board a train to Sarria where we will rest up and start out bright and early Tuesday morning.

The general rule of thumb for long distance hikes is that you shouldn't carry more than 10% of your body weight. We will be sleeping in albergues (pilgrim hostels) every night and eating in bars and restaurants. The weather will be fairly chilly in the mornings and rain is forecasted for half the journey so our packing list is varied. In order to not carry multiples, Mom and I are going to share the same pair of shower shoes, Erika, Justin, and Mia are going to use the same pair of Crocs for the shower, my family will use the same tube of toothpaste, and I'm carrying Jose's Kindle HD loaded with movies to occupy the kids at night before they pass out in exhaustion. Everyone has their own cell phone and charger to take pictures with during the day and hopefully write a short blog note in the evenings.

I weigh 176.4 lbs so my pack is over weight at 21.6 lbs...
I am currently sitting on the couch and debating the last minute things that I want to throw in my backpack. This is a once in a lifetime experience for all 6 of us to be doing this and I'm thinking that I want to bring my DVD camcorder. I haven't weighed my pack with the Kindle, journal, pencils, and camcorder yet but I already had a couple pounds of wiggle room this morning when I laid everything out. [Update: with the camcorder and charger and stuff, I'm over the target weight by 4 pounds. I think I'm going to go for it though. Maybe I'll burn more calories in the bargain!]

Jose weighs 181 lbs so his pack is right on target at 18 lbs
José dislocated his shoulder when we were living in Mexico in 2014 so he has developed some arthritis in that shoulder now. Even though he is super strong and completely capable, I am worried about how the weight of the pack is going to affect that shoulder. He is bringing along his protein powder and bars, vitamins, glucosamine/chondroitin tablets, acid reflux tablets, allergy eye drops, and the like. The good thing is that his load will only get lighter as he goes along and uses up his supplies.
Erika weighs 83.2 lbs so her pack is slightly over weight for her
Mom is actually carrying Erika's Crocs and her rain jacket to help lighten Erika's load and to fill up Mom's pack as it doesn't have a frame so it doesn't hold the rain cover on very well due to lack of shape. Erika has carried a heavier pack on her John Muir trail journey but she wasn't covering the same kind of distance that we are hoping for. The first few days will let us know what kind of adjustments we need to make in her pack.

Mia weighs 86.4 lbs so her pack is right on target
Mia is carrying almost all of her load with the exception of her eczema medicine, washcloth and towel (which I don't have anyway so we're going to share), and comb. I'd say she is doing pretty good considering that she is the youngest one in our group! I'm not sure how long she is actually going to use the trekking pole but they collapse down pretty well so I can strap it onto my pack if it becomes useless for her. I have never used any kind of staff or pole and we don't have any strenuous downhill sections so I think it would be more of a hindrance than a help.

Justin weighs 48 lbs so his pack is almost 15% of his body weight
My dear Justin who weighs almost nothing at 9 years old. Once he puts on one outfit, he is really carrying very little in his pack and that already puts him way over the 10% target. Mom brought his Keens to wear for the hike and it turns out that they are not big enough for him so she had to buy him a pair of women's tennis shoes at the local sports store because they don't carry good quality children's shoes. Mom has moved most of his stuff over to her pack.

Mom weighs 119 lbs so her pack is way too heavy for her weight but she's stubborn
What can I say? She is just far too stubborn and insists on carrying far more than she should. Some of her load comes from the stuff that Justin isn't able to carry for himself. Mom was planning on carrying a lot more food than this but we've managed to talk her out of that slowly. There are going to be plenty of stores, bars, and cafes to eat, drink, and replenish our supplies. I think our longest stretch between pueblos is like 8km/5mi. At least her load will lighten too each day as she eats her food supplies. She is wearing a long hiking skirt with many pockets that she could be hiding a lot more food but she claims to be innocent. I told her to carry a copy of their passports in her wallet and leave the real ones at home. It would be a nightmare to replace Justin's with Kara on a different planet.

So that's it...the kids are tucked into bed, the backpacks are neatly lined up in the living room, the leftover apple crisp is sitting on the counter ready to be heated up for breakfast, and the adventure begins in less than 12 hours, eeks!
Location: Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain

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