I’m not the only one who over packed for the Camino; most of the others are also Americans who, determined to resolve every possible problem on their own, schlepped a lot of stuff. One older fellow I walked with for a few kilometers confessed to pitching three guidebooks and a bag of food into the forest as he traversed the Pyrenees. Another gentleman was carrying the Lonely Planet´s Guide to Spain, a hefty tome better left behind, plus tons of other things. It´s as if he had packed for an expedition to Antarctica.
So far, I’ve ditched a small bottle of face cream, giving it to the South African woman I admired who had only brought sunscreen; it turned out she missed her moisturizer. I left behind a set of hand warmers which I had tossed into my pack at the last minute. I tore out the introduction to my guidebook, information I no longer need (the pages were perforated for this purpose). Two mornings ago, waking up with a severe case of shin splints, which slowed me to a hobble the rest of the day, I discarded my coil heater and travel mug. At home, I drink at least four cups of tea daily and I couldn’t imagine starting each morning and ending each evening on this journey without it. Perhaps my tea habit was a bit of a security blanket, that I reach for the hot beverage to console myself. On this trip, my tea set weighed several ounces too many. If I need consolation, I will have to find other ways to do it.
Last night, lying in bed after a very short day of walking, I pondered what else was weighing me down. Being a curious glutton, I am drawn to sample local foods, especially cheese. In the shops I visited, it was sold prepackaged, in about 1/2 pound chunks. While delicious, it is too much to carry on a daily basis. Ditto for sardines: I bought a can in France (in sunflower oil), unsure whether I´d be getting enough protein, and added another (spicy tomato sauce) in Spain. It turns out that the restaurants here offering the ¨Pilgrim Menu”, a discounted meal for walkers, usually have fish on the menu. By this morning, I ate the heavier of the two sardine cans and finished my Basque cheese.
I was told by many that you don’t have to carry much water on the Camino, that one can refill at fountains along the way. Sometimes they are in close proximity, but two days ago I walked for many kilometers without seeing drinkable water. In the Rockies, I usually start hiking with 3 liters of water, which weighs nearly 7 pounds. That is far too much to carry here, yet I still feared running low, so I started my Camino with 2 liters, or 4.4 pounds.
The Pilgrims of old, starting with the earliest wanderer, Abram, trusted that they would find food and water along the way. They did not load up on gourmet cheese and fancy sardines. They did not have a plastic bladder with a tube through which to suck agua. As I´ve learned, there is food along the Camino. Even small villages and most of the refugios I´m staying in have vending machines, in case one´s blood sugar runs low. Last night I bought gazpacho in a cardboard carton from a machine; it was tastier than many I’ve had. Today, I lightened my load by filling my water pouch with just a liter, and carried a small bottle in my hand. This morning, at a cheese shop in Pamplona, I asked them to cut me a small piece. At the post office, I mailed some of my warmest clothing ahead to Santiago (the official end of Camino), shedding a few more ounces.
Slowly, I am shedding the pounds.