Wrapping Up My Camino Research

Camino Books

My research on what to expect, what to bring, what time of year to go, how long I would need, and so much more for my upcoming Camino de Santiago adventure started almost a decade ago, in 2008. Yup, 2008. I came across a great article in some magazine that sparked the ‘follow the Way’ bug in me!

Within weeks I bought and poured through A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierley, the 2008 edition. My desire to clip a scallop shell to my pack and follow the yellow arrows of the Camino were never too far from the surface since. It’s now August 2017 and I am just 11 sleeps from departure.

In this last year I have done a lot of research to prepare for the journey. I thought I would share a bit about the non-fiction books I have read and the tips I derived from each for my Camino. Here goes:

Guidebook(s) to the Camino de Santiago, John Brierley 

As part of my research, I have read the 2017 version of the Guidebook for the Way of St. James (French Way) that I read back in 2008, the Portuguese Way (Camino Central), and the Muxia Circuit through Finisterre way – both the full Guidebooks and the shorter Map book versions. These books by Mr. Brierley are often referred to as the ‘bible of the Camino’ and for good reason. They have everything you need. Maps with breakdowns of the distance on different kinds of surfaces (woodland path vs forest roads), elevation gain, info about areas and places, where to stay and where to get your next cafe con leche. If you are going to walk the Camino and only had time to read one book, make it a Mr. Brierley guidebook!

TIP: I will be taking the Map versions of each of 3 of these Ways with me on the journey as we will be walking some or all of each. However … avert your eyes all book lovers this hurts my heart too … I have ripped out any page I don’t need to cut down on the size and weight of each book. Weight or lack thereof in your pack is critical for the Way.

I’m Off Then, Hape Kerkeling 

Here is where I admit I was seriously hoping to find a Bill Bryson book on the Camino. I have read every single one of his books and thought maybe there was a secret stash only those who have bought their flight to St. Jean Pied de Port where the St. James Way to Santiago starts know about. Nope. But a darn near close second was this book, It even had a recommendation from Mr. Hilarious Travel Exploits Bill Bryson himself. For good reason too – this book was an easy, entertaining and really enjoyable read.  Hape has a great way of explaining people and places with just enough detail to leave an impression and make you want to to head there to see it for yourself. On it!

TIP: Every chapter in this book finishes with an insight of the day. Most were really great reminders like drink more and some were quite profound. I have made a note in my journal to come up with an insight daily (and yes you will be subjected to each here on this blog). I want to see if mine too go from basic needs (drink more) to profound and insightful and often spiritual like Hape’s did by the time he reach Santiago.

The Way, My Way A Camino Memoir, Bill Bennett 

While this book was definitely about Bill’s Camino experience and included information on the route, walking, how his body held up (or didn’t);  it was also so much more. Bill really got into the story of other pilgrim’s. The getting to know them, learning why they were walking, and overall just making a real connection with other people’s and their story. He brought this all into his memoir. So it was really like reading the memoirs of many, not just Bill’s. The laughs throughout the book were icing on the cake.

TIP: Talk to people, engage and interact with other pilgrim’s. To some of you that may sound like a total no-brainer but for this introvert it is something I will have to really think about and force myself to do. I will though, commitment made (and now I want to build a fort in my room and hide lol).

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrm, Jane Christmas

Jane sets out on the Camino with a bunch of women she barely or does not know at all. After mentioning she is going to walk the Way to an acquaintance back home within chapters she is a Camino tour guide effectively to a bunch of other women. Of course you can guess that does not lend itself to a restful and spiritual Camino but rather a lonely, crazy making, frustrating one until Jane takes her Camino back.

TIP: Walk your Way, your way. I am heading to the Camino with my bestie Lana (and fellow blogger here on Running for the Gate) and we made a ‘pinky swear’ of sorts to make sure we do in fact walk the Way, our own way. We each have one “we are not walking today” card and neither of will walk that day AND we have unlimited with no judgement or shame “I am not walking today” where the other one can walk and we will meet up at our destination.

Call of the Camino, Robert Muller 

This book is half Robert’s account of his pilgrimage and half explanation of the myths and legends along the Camino route all intermixed throughout. I really liked this format. I geeked out and made notes so I could tell Lana about legends as we walk through certain areas and churches. I love the Rooster in the church story!  I also found personal Robert’s experience honest, easy to read and I hope my experience is something like his is on the Way. I loved how he, like Bill Bennett, also included the stories and his connection with other Pilgrim’s.

TIP: Learn about where you are going. Know some of the history, myths and legends of where you will be visiting. I do this for every trip and it really brings me joy. I find recognizing something, even a story or history of a building, while abroad helps with the homesickness that even the most experience travelers deal with.

Beun Camino! Camino de Santiago: A Father-Daughter Journey (ebook)

I am racing to read this book before I depart on my own Camino next week. The book is written jointly by Natasha (daughter) and Peter (dad). Each chapter has “Peter” sections and “Natasha” sections about the same day or trail section and has a whole bunch of history and legend of the Way and St. James throughout. So far it is really great!

TIP: If you are going to share your Camino, do it with someone you love – someone who encourages you but doesn’t pressure you – someone who will approach the Way in a similar frame of mind – someone who will also give you the room to make your Way, your way. I am super lucky to have this in my Camino mate Lana but I could have also happily and ecstatically walked with my Dad too. Wow, that would have been amazing! (Dad, there are a bunch of other routes to Santiago. What you doing next year?)

The Way of the Stars, Robert C. Sibley 

Robert has walked the Way of St. James twice. Do not be surprised by that – from what I have read once the Camino is in your blood you cannot help but want to do it again! The first time Robert walked it was alone and this second time he set off with his young adult son. Robert gives the details of his first walk and provides insights on how he now sees the Camino a second time but with his son at his side (or ahead on the trail). An easy read with lots of good chuckles throughout.

TIP: Bring something you learned on the Camino, home with you. Robert spends quite a bit of his story talking about being unconnected from the urban life, really enjoying the break from a commute and daily work demands. I want to focus on how good it feels to just walk and bring that home with me. Like not getting so caught up in the house needing to be vacuumed that I don’t go for a hike. The lint on the carpet can wait but my peace of mind shouldn’t.

The Journey In Between, Keith Foskett (ebook)

I saved the best (aka my favourite) for last. This book is awesome. Keith Foskett is a thru hiker and an author – my own dream. His Camino story hit home for me as it is blatantly obvious he loves nature and loves putting one foot in front of the other. Me too! I love eating up space and time with my own two feet then looking back and thinking “I did that”. Keith’s story made me laugh out loud, cringe at the pain of his blisters, agree audibility with his insights, and chomp at the bit to start my own Camino.

TIP: Almost all not-so-great-events will make a good story next week or next year. Even situations and circumstances that in the moment feel awful may be the best story you ever told. When I walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales in 2008 with a 102 fever due to infected spider bites it was awful BUT it makes a great story when trading travel experiences with others!

Well that’s my book list … so far. I have no doubt I will be adding to this list when I get back. Reading for nostalgic instead of research purposes. Really, my ultimate dream would be to add my own book to this list. Can you imagine!

Brande 

PS 11 Sleeps!

Speak, Parle, Hablo, Falo!

Oh goodness me, who do I think I am and what language am I even trying to speak!

My efforts to be prepared for the upcoming Camino Adventure in French, Spain and Portugal continue – and the current prep is all around communication! Making sure what I need is understood. You know just simple things like “do you have beds available?” or”two beers please?” and “where is the bathroom?” or “have you ever seen such a blister?” and “do you have bed bugs?” Oh and learning some basic polite phrases like good morning, have a good day, please and thank you too.

My plan (in action and so far quite interesting) is to use the months of June, July and in August to learn to speak Portuguese, brush up on the Spanish I learned in University, and hopefully drum up memories of the French I learned in grade school.

I have my trusty Pimsleur playback devices rented from my local library for free (I heart libraries) in each of the three languages. My rule is I must be doing my language learning while driving to and from anywhere. No more fun podcasts, audio books or chatting with family. Languages, linguas, langues, idiomas! Only. If you see a blond in a Tuscon in Vancouver butchering French, Spanish or Portuguese as she drives – that is me! Give me a wave!

June was designated Portuguese month and it is a doozy for me to pronounce this language. Portuguese in my mind is like trying to speak Spanish but with a saucy German accent. I have to keep saying “Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) in my head over and over in order to get the sound right when trying to speak Portuguese. Yes this is the only German I know and I am probably butchering it too. If I am insulting anyone here, there is no offense meant – so far this is just the only way I can get the R rolling and the SH sounds of Portuguese to work with these wee, little, skinny chicken lips I have. Portuguese is such a cool language but wow a different sound than I have ever had to make. Some of the words in Portuguese are so much cooler than their English counter part. Like Lisbon sounds cool in English sure but in Portuguese it is Lisboa (pronounced in my mind like leash-boa) and that is  so much cooler. Yes I picture a dog with wearing a leash and a feather boa everytime I say it.

July is my refresh on Spanish and French month. We are only in France for a few days on the trip so I will run through the Pimsleur playback just once (OK maybe twice). I am well versed in how to order chocolate croissants and wine in French from my last visit and that is the most important stuff covered. Ha! But for Spanish, we do have a couple weeks in Spain so I will need to take that refresh a little more seriously. Spanish is the language I have spent the most time studying and using abroad. The simple stuff has come back pretty quick in the past so hopefully I have that same luck.

August will take me back to Portuguese for a final refresh. During this month I will make a language cheat sheet for my traveler’s notebook journal. A little reference sheet for the trip that I can peek at when the words elude me. You know something that has the word for wine, cheese, bread, blister, shower, thank you, etc. in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The important stuff!

Carrying a translation dictionary for each language is just too much weight for the average size backpacks we will be lugging about. So when a language does fail me (as I am sure it will many a time), I am not afraid to resort to hand signals, speaking the English words slower and louder (seems to be a universal thing to do), and breaking into random interpretive dance.

Brande 

PS 49 sleeps to departure!

Training for the Camino Gets Real

How will I train for my Camino adventure? How will I make it so lifting these boots for kilometers a day is a total blister-muscle-pain-soreness-free pleasure?

Boots_May2017There are lots of forums, blogs, websites, books and more with tips and fully designed plans for training for the Camino de Santiago. They are all so helpful and really have helped me figure out how I am going to train for my Camino.

The Camino adventure Lana Rae and I will be doing this fall is a bit of a mash up from the usual point A (St. Jean Pied de Port) to point B (Santiago) Camino. Ours includes the Pyrenees mountain section and final 100+ km of the Camino Frances, the Camino Finisterre taking us out to the Spanish coast through some long woodland stretches, and then finally the Camino Portuguese – Fisherman Coastal section with lots of walking right on the beach. Yahoo!

So basically I need to train for all manner of terrain, with temps in the 25C+ range, a month of walking with most days around 25-30km, and about a total 600km. Accounting for any detours to off trail historic sites, and lets be honest probably a couple get lost and found again kilometers too.

Hmm well here is my plan:

  • hike often
  • aim for round 15-20km each time
  • get in as many days back to back as possible
  • throw in at least a half dozen 30km
  • always with with 25lb in my pack
  • wear the boots and gear I will be wearing on the actual trip
  • throw in some stair training
  • get some overall weight training in
  • increase the yoga focus to limber up these getting creaky joints

Plan established (check) and now in progress (check).

JinkerstonStairs_ChilliwackI have been doing most of my training to date in my own neighbourhood which is just amazing to be able to do. I am lucky to live at the top of a big hill with the great Burns Bog trail system close by.

But I do need to kick it up a notch. To officially start my training plan I did a  jaunt up and down one of my favourite hikes in Chilliwack – Mount Thom. I parked a couple of kilometers away so I could get in some extra hill time and the horrible, torturous and awesome for training Jinkerson Stairs (all 240 of them). Now that will get the glutes and hammies working!

MountThom_ChilliwackFrom there, with some serious Darth Vader breathing, it was up and up the Mount Thom trail. Its an easy trail really with no scrambling at all but the ascent is pretty quick in some sections. And there are some random up and down sections throughout so just when the legs get burning up, you get a down section and a whole different set up muscles burning, then back up again.

MountThomView_ChilliwackI also like this trail for the nice number of folks on the trail. Not too many and not too few. Just enough so there are other food options for the bears and cougars. I prefer to not be the only main course for the wild beasties.

The view from the top is icing on the cake – you can see out over all of the amazing farms that Chilliwack boasts and the mountain range start out in the distance. So great!

A favourite, close-ish to home hike for sure.

FitBitMap_MntThomMay2017FitBitStats_MntThomMay2017Now I just need to get these ‘baseline / first training session’ stats kicked up a notch. Posting my first session FitBit stats here and I will toss up my last training stats doing this same hike before I go as my goal to see these improve.

Wow nothing like making myself publicly accountable!

 

There is truly so much pleasure in the training – I love hiking and most especially love just being out in nature listening to the birds or my podcasts and just doing a lot of thinking. I cant wait to experience the same joy of walking but in France, Spain and Portugal.. and I will have my bestie to chat with each step too. Hello!

1 month and 27 days to departure – and now I have a solid training plan and a end goal. That just makes this adventure quite real. Eeeeek so excited.

Brande

 

 

 

Dear Sir Osprey

Dear Sir Osprey (my backpack),

Well my little buddy, my trusted friend and most loyal travel companion … it is time for our travels around this vast world to part I think. With a sad, but working on accepting it heart it is time for your retirement. You will have a trusted place on the shelf next to all the very travel books that once you carried around this wide world for me on our adventures. And oh the adventures we have had together!

West Highland Way

West Highland Way, Scotland

Remember the West Highland Way, Scotland? Our first long distance hike (154km). I bought you for that  adventure 10 years ago from the Robinson’s Outdoor Store in Victoria. I loved you the from the second we took our first step on the path! This is the hike that set the bar for all others. We walked from the lowlands to the highlands, playing the Run Rig music collections on repeat, and feeling amazed at how lucky we were every day. We closed this trip in my favourite town in this world Fort William, Scotland at the Grog and Gruel with a pint of Tennents Lager toasting my 30th birthday and the start of 5+ more months of travel still in front of us!

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Wales

Oh but do you remember the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on the coast of Wales? Wow that was a doozy. 16 days walking 299kms. Sadly 14 of those days you were wrapped tight in your waterproof cover as we were pelted with sideways, upwards, downwards and misty rain. Like the rain scenes from Forrest Gump really! Not to mention the poor tears you had to witness as the path was often on the very edge of the coastal cliffs and well beyond my comfort zone. I will never forget that gust of wind that took my right off my feet and I was sure we were plunging to our death – but you had me! I landed on my back like a sad little turtle flipped upside down on my shell with my legs dangling, tears streaming and all of our fresh blackberries in your outside pocket crushed. You still have that blackberry stain!

Hadrian's Wall Path

Hadrian’s Wall Path, England

Our next adventure was the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England and it was no less exciting at 135km of adventure. You hung on tight as we  very, narrowly outran that crazy bull on day 3 –  catapulting ourselves over Hadrian’s Wall itself (thank goodness it is now so robbed of stone over the years that it was only 7 feet not 16 feet tall). We landed right in a thistle patch as the bull struck the wall behind us. Thanks to you my back was the only spot not covered in thistle burrs that led to prickly hives for days. A great compliment to my 102 fever we were fighting from all the spider bites I had when we walked through that nest and they all snuggled under and you next to me and starting their afternoon snack on me!

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Did you love the day we got back to Scotland as much as I did? Our trip to the Isle of Sky where we hiked basically through the equivalent of pea soup all day for days – we were soggy and virtually blind from the fog. Yeesh I almost walked right into a sheep up on the ridge. Probably saved me from walking off the cliff edge really now that I think about it – wee cutesy and heroic lamb he was.

Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way, Scotland

Oh yes and of course one of my favourite memories with my sister Shar – the 127km Great Glen Way also in Scotland. You experienced everything from walking to boating on that trip. Again never a complaint. How great you did your job and how easy it was to carry you about. Even on all the days I was sick as a dog from drinking from an unwashed water bladder pack (I brought the wrong one), you felt like comfort and home on my back. Many a time on our breaks during the day you became my trusted pillow while I tried to cat nap away the headache, dizziness and nausea. Oh what a story – all part of the adventure!

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Perhaps your biggest adventures was Mount Kilimanjaro! Wow. Up and over the tallest free standing mountain in the world. We love Africa – the only place where you can you get a sunburn while walking along a glacier while people chant and encourage – it was just amazing. Sorry that other guy had to carry you for a while at the Summit there. My much regretted and unexpected case of the ole pulmonary edema wreaked havoc on me. Trust me though, your hike with the guide was much better than it would have been on my back that day. Alas though we made it and loved it and once again our long standing friendship was solidified in another country and another adventure.

Salt Spring Island, Canada at the top of Erskine Mountain (fairy door trail)

Salt Spring Island, Canada

Now we can’t of course discount the many, many adventures we had here in our own backyard of Canada. You have been with me to all kinds of places on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, North Shore, Whistler, Squamish, Fraser Valley, Alberta, Okanagan, and more, and more. Too many too remember individually but collectively a wonderful memoir of you!

I can’t imagine having reached for any other than you Sir Osprey to get me where I needed to go. However, all great things (even backpacks) must one day come to an end and Sir you have put your time in. From the battle scars and stains all over you, to the ripped out non-existent inside pocket, to the old- school canvas hip straps you are ready for a glorious retirement! May your days forward be relaxing and reminiscent, because you dear friend can now sit back and enjoy the easy life.

A quote from Henry Miller comes to mind when I think of our travels together …

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” This is so true and I have you to thank for helping me see things in new ways. With just my own two feet, a full heart of love from back home, and anything I could ever need in your 35litres – I had the confidence and the hefty sense of adventure to see new things in new ways and in so many amazing places.

Thank you Sir, thank you.

Brande

PS. I hope the next generation of Brande’s Backpacks tackles my Camino adventure as well as you did all yours! I will be sure to leave you and he alone for a few days so you can provide him with a comprehensive briefing on how to best support this gong-show adventurer!

For the Love of Feet

Well doesn’t that title just entice you to read this blog post!

OK if you are eating, drinking, sipping, nibbling, snacking, whatever – STOP.

This is a pretty graphic blog post about the sad, short life of a toenail on Kilimanjaro and my concern for my feet considering the pain and punishment they have caused me in the past. You have been warned …. and warned again … this post is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach, or for the love of feet! BUT if you have ever hiked this blog post will totally make sense to you, sadly.

I have had some awesome experiences walking lengthy distances. It would seem that’s what I like to do – walk a lot. I have had the pleasure of the West Highland Way in Scotland 154km, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales 299km, Hadrian’s Wall Path in England 135km and Great Glen Way 127km in Scotland to name a few of my most awesome adventures on my own two feet. And there are a b-zillion more walks that my soul and feet are just itching to complete – oh so many! Don’t get me started!

West Highland Way, Scotland

My first long distance walk in 2008 (Scotland, West Highland Way) that got me addicted to the seeing the world on my feet!

Its OK, honest, you don’t have to understand me. This walking thing is a illness. Sometimes referred to as a hill walker, walker, hiker, trekker, strange, crazy, rambler, munro bagger, weird, wanderer,  walkabout-er, pilgrimage-r, nuts, traipser, perambulator, peregrinari, etc.  To name a few of the loving names we walkers identify with and/or have been called across the globe.

Depending on who you ask, my love of walking is either just so super cool (thank you to my friend Jane, you are the best fan ever) or is just down right crazy (thank you to my husband Lance who loves me dearly but finds this love of walking thing rather odd).

However, as much as I love getting about on my feet I am one of those very “lucky” people who gets a blister from thinking about shoes – seriously. A shoe can be so comfortable for me for weeks or years and then one day KABLAMO there is a hot spot and a lovely blister to make my world painful and me grumpy for a week.  I get blisters in flip flops and have even gotten a hot spot from slippers. For real. What the heck?

Don’t believe me; allow me to dazzle you with some graphic foot-of-pain pics … final warning, stop eating!

heat rash and blisters

Heat rash and a horrible blister during the Great Glen Way, Scotland with my sister Shar.

I will spare you any additional pictures – too gross right!

Regardless of how unpleasant these look, I will not let this foot stuff taint or ruin my trek up Mount Kilimanjaro!!

As you may have guessed, I have taken my training for Kilimanjaro a bit seriously – hiking twice a week, running 5 mornings a week, core and lower body work outs, trying on every article of clothing I will be wearing on that mountain, etc.  Oh and yes this includes putting on every layer I will wear on summit night including head lamp and walking around the house, up and down the stairs, etc. to make sure I can move and am in a happy, sweaty, warm place for the slog.

I am, in fact, so dedicated to my training that I am already losing a pre-climb toenail  … providing great experience on just how absolutely NOT fabulous it feels to stomp downhill with your fleshy toe hitting the front of your boot. Queue the “learn how to tie your boots for downhill climbs” on Pinterest and YouTube commercial here … If this is me not even on the mountain, what will the mountain do to me!

Big toenail going

Toenail soon to be MIA thanks to all this pre-Kilimanjaro training.

I am not alone – I read somewhere that the average number of toenails lost on Mount Kilimanjaro is 4. Yes you read that right! This is some crazy stuff. When I googled Kilimanjaro and Toenail to dazzle you with some more quirky stats, I got 43,000 search results. That tells you something. Google knows!

Please cheer for me in what seems to be a crazy game of toe vs nail vs boot vs mountain game! Current score is Team Brande 9 vs. Team Toenail 1 … score to be updated post Kilimanjaro!

Brande

PS 13 sleeps to go, we are in the home stretch now!

Step by Step Training – Literally

Brande's Keens/Socks

Happy, dirty boots and socks post Grind!

There are many different schools of thought about training for Mount Kilimanjaro.

Some say you should build up the core and legs, hike a lot of stairs and steep hills, and learn how to drink a lot of water. Some say there is no use in training when the middle aged and out of shape have a great success rate of getting to the summit. I say lets go for more training than less, it is good for the body anyway and hope for the best out of this body when it comes down to step by step up the mountain.

So here is what I loosely consider my training regime:

  • jog 3 mornings a week
  • stair / hill walk 3 times a week
  • long hike weekly
  • hard or crazy work out hike weekly
  • play some of my usual sports
  • eat way more veggies than usual, losing a few pounds is always a nice treat
  • work on core, legs and all around harden up the muscle-y bits

For this weeks hard or crazy work out hike I tackled the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver.

PLEASE NOTE to some this is not hard or crazy, they do it near daily and can get up the mountain side in under an hour or less and enjoy themselves … I am not that person, sadly but also proudly lol. For me the slog up the 2,830 stairs is grinding (pun intended) but the reward amazing.

So up I went this morning – I started at 8:00am and finished at 10:40am, took lots of 20-30 second breaks on the way up (yes, these were usually to let someone pass my turtle self) and generally enjoyed my pace and my time. I didn’t love the fog that socked me in at 1/2 way up or the rain that soaked my from about the same point – but I live on the lush, green coast of Canada what do you expect.  I started my Keen Targhee boot training this morning to get them warmed up for Kilimanjaro and they were awesome! I also had my day pack stuffed with 25lbs which I swore at a few times on the way up 🙂

I enjoyed me a lovely yummy extra hot latte at the top – did a little reading for school while sipping away. Usually I would enjoy the amazing view but that fog I mentioned prevented seeing more than 10ft.

If interested in more Grouse Grind details: https://www.grousemountain.com/grousegrind (you may secretly hate the path and everyone on the way up, but wow you feel like a rock star when you get there)

76 sleeps till we leave for Kili!

(PS one of the things hikers on Kili hear over and over from their guides is Pole, Pole. This is Swahili for Slowly, Slowly so you don’t burn yourself out and get more time to acclimatize as your climb. Perhaps my turtle self was made for Pole, Pole! Yah!) 

Brande