One, And All the Little Details To Go
That’s it, that’s me down to one week before my Camino trip!
Things are becoming “real” now in a way they haven’t before. I can finally see the weather forecast for my departure date, and thankfully it looks like I’ll have a decent window for my crossing over the the Pyrenees, assuming all routes are open by then.
There’s two ways to cross you see, the Valcarlos Route or “low route” and the Napoleon Route or “high route”. The latter is the most scenic way and usually opens up on April 1st, but the crazy weather this past week dumped knee-high snow on the trails forcing it shut for another week. Of course a few pilgrims decided they knew better than those who actually know, so 10 folks ended up having to be rescued off the mountain last week causing immense grief not only to themselves but to the teams that had to go and get them. Seriously?
In any case everything should hopefully (fingers/toes/paws crossed) be clear by the time I get on there, so with a bit of luck I’ll breeze over that high trail like a Danish mountain goat, and get some good views too?
I’ve also booked-up my first 4 days of overnights, including a rest day in Pamplona which I should (Camino Gods be willing) reach by the 21st. The bookings aren’t necessarily required, but given it’s Holy Week aaaand I’m walking in a Holy Year I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Oh, it’s all so real, so very real now….
In the meantime life is marching on. French Presidential elections are in process (and it’s a tense race), I’m knocking down to my last few gear decisions and I’m wondering what life will be like on the trail talking to someone other than myself. All that exciting stuff and more in this week’s blog ponderings.
The French Presidential Elections Are Now
France is on the verge of a presidential election that could change everything about the country for many years to come.
It’s a tighter race than anyone could ever have imagined, between a far-left candidate that has gained traction steadily (Mélenchon), a far-right candidate that was considered fringe just a few decades ago (Le Pen) and the incumbent who was oh-so-anticipated when he was voted in (Macron), but ultimately failed to deliver on many of his campaign promises and has lost the trust of many voters along the way.
It’s going to be a tense election and the first round of votes happens today.
Our Maire has already set-up the local voting booth with candidate posters across the way, so this morning all 60 or so eligible voters from our little commune can wander over and decide on which of the 12 candidates they support. If a single candidate gets more than 50% of the vote then the election is over, but if not the two candidates with the most votes (likely Le Pen and Macron in this case**) go through to a 2nd round of voting two weeks from now. In the history of the Republic voting has always gone 2 rounds.
For those not familiar with the French system, voting can often be quite different between round 1 and round 2. There’s a saying that people “vote with their hearts in the first round, but vote with their heads in the second”, thus allowing for both an emotional and an intellectual statement. It’s a romantic idea, but in truth most local French tell me they simply end up voting for whomever they think is the lesser of two evils in the 2nd round. In many ways, politics is the same everywhere….
The leading candidates are very different indeed, both on their views regarding France, the EU and abroad. And word has it that up to 1/3 of French may abstain, so with margins as tight as they are it’s hard to predict which way the remaining votes will fall.
It really will be close.
As is my usual approach on this blog I won’t comment on the individual politics of it all, but for those interested Le Monde does an incredible job covering policies, statistics, polls, live results and so much more. We’ll all be watching with avid interest.
**8PM 1st round UPDATE: Macron 28.1%, Le Pen 23.3%, Mélenchon 20.1%. Macron, Le Pen go to round 2.
I’ve Tested Everything (I Think)
Getting down to this last week I’ve decided on almost everything I’m going to bring with me on the Camino.
I’ve cut some stuff out of my 1st test-pack, decided to bring just one pair of pants (the one I’ll wear) instead of two, removed a layer and cut-back on my toiletries. I’ll probably re-pack and re-check everything at least another 15-20 times before I leave next week and then I’ll probably forget something, inevitably. Such is traveling life.
Everything I’m bringing is non-cotton from underwear to outerwear, to ensure it washes and dries quickly, while my socks and T-shirts are merino wool for their wicking and anti-stink properties. The latter I’ve actually tested quite thoroughly now and I must say I am impressed. I don’t know how those Merino sheep do it, but all pong is well-muted, even after days of hiking and that really is a mini-miracle. We can thank our neighborly ancestors, the Moors in Spain for these wonderful creatures.
Now I’m down to the little stuff.
Things like what kind of soap/shampoo to bring (I’m testing a shampoo bar which looks promising), how many stuff sacks to put everything into (not too many, not too few), and what kind of after-hiking shoes to bring. I’m torn between cheap flip-flops (light and useful for showers, but totally flimsy) and my trusty Keen sandals (heavier, but sturdier/comfier and a solid back-up for hiking in case main shoes fail) and I simply can’t decide quite yet. I may take a drive down to Decathlon this week to see if they have an inexpensive in-between option, maybe a sandal but just not quite as heavy/hefty as my Keens?
I Found One More Piece Of Cool Gear
Oh, I did find one more piece of really nifty gear too.
When it comes to drinking (water, not wine that is) I’m a wanna-be camel. I seem to have near-zero thirst drive, assume my body is fine and only tend to realize I’m dehydrated when my legs start trembling and I’m hit with a roaring headache like a baseball bat to the head. For this reason carrying a hydration pack with a drinking hose that dangles on my shoulder is essential, as my drinking mind essentially works like that of a fish:
Walking along, lone warning synapse fires futilely “Nina it’s hot, you really should be doing something about that”. BLIP. No response.
Eye suddenly notices bright blue tube on shoulder strap, logic gears crank slowly
“Whoah, what’s that? Oh right, a drinking hose. Let’s drink then”
Ten minutes later. Sweating buckets, mind has been erased back to jellyfish level. BLIP.
Eye catches glimpse of thingie on shoulder
“Hey, ho? Oh right, a drinking hose. I guess I’ll drink”
Literally, this is how I manage not to die on the trail.
For years I’ve just been a basic Camelbak gal which works fine, but is always bothersome to fill up when you have a full pack. So, I was ecstatic to find the Source Hydration System #affiliatelink that allows you to re-fill without having to open up and wrestle the bladder in/out of your backpack.
The key is a small invention, an attachment that you can use with either a water bottle or a hose, basically the backpack equivalent of the Water Thief #affiliatelink (which was so useful back in our RV days), and holy-mackerel it actually works.
I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now and am soooo happy I made the shift. Not only does it allow me to fill-up effortlessly without having to open my pack, but it actually allows me to carry less water (= less weight) as I’m able to fill-up more often along the way.
Odds are good now that I might actually survive this pilgrimage 🙂
A Fine Day
It’s a fine day today, one of those crystal clear days where the Pyrenees shimmer in white under the cool sun.
Yesterday I went for a training hike in “full gear” conscious of the fact that this might be one of the last few hikes I do on my own before I join the other pilgrims on the Camino. I’ve been solo-hiking for over a month now, rarely meeting a soul. There’s a few dogs that I pet and talk to like old friends, a toothless old lady that shuffles outside her house and gums several paragraphs of stuff I can’t make out at all (I simply listen intently, smile and wish her a good day), a few neighbors who eye me suspiciously and a few others who curiously inquire what I’m up to.
But most of the time I’m alone.
I listen to the wind and the birds, contemplate the trees, and watch shapes of clouds roll over the hills and leave their mark on the ground like a moving shadow-show. I talk to myself….A LOT….and probably look very much like a crazy old woman. Sometimes I lose myself in a daydream or a story that takes over my thoughts and to places far beyond the realm of here. At times like that you could easily walk right past me and I’d never even notice you at all. Zombie mode…
Soon all that will change.
It’ll probably feel weird at first to see other people on the trail, and to talk to someone other than myself, but I think that’s also going to be one of the best parts of it all. Just like any travel, the journey is a wonderful undertaking, but the sweet stuff in the middle is the people you meet along the way.
You, me, the Camino. In a week I’ll see you all there.