Monthly Archives: June 2011

Stuff Is Weight

Stuff is weight.

There’s a philosophy of life around that statement, one that I probably think about subscribing to, and one that I have often offered my amateur opinions on from time to time.

At the moment, however, I mean it in the most literal way.

Stuff is weight.

When we first left for Europe in April, I had the following in my bag:

  • 2 polo shirts
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 pullover
  • 1 heavy rain jacket
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair light weight hiking pants
  • 1 pair hiking pants/shorts combo
  • 5 pairs long wool socks
  • 1 pair short wool socks
  • 4 pairs underwear
  • swim trunks
  • wool skull cap
  • rain/sun hat
  • 2 bandanas
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 1 pair hiking shoes

It’s almost laughable really. Depending on how you count, almost 30 items to cover 4 major parts of the body. Head, upper, lower, and feet. And we haven’t started talking about the toiletries, miscellaneous random bits, water, and food.

Right before we left, it was all necessary. Even though we had removed everything but the essentials, and even after hearing “no matter what you pack, you’ll only need half“, we thought we had been able to detach ourselves enough from our stuff to pack smart.

Seriously, we had just finished downsizing a household into a little over 9 or 10 Rubbermaid tubs, of course we knew how to cut out the unnecessary.

Fast forward a month to Tewkesbury, England as we relive the process. Prepared to ditch some of our all of a sudden unnecessary stuff on our wonderful friends to take home, we find ourselves doing the same dance.

“I’ll definitely start using this.” “We might need this after we’re done with the walk.”

Etc, etc.

We did good though. I sent back the heavy rain jacket (replaced by a new lighter weight wind/rain breaker), a polo shirt, a t-shirt, the long sleeve shirt, and the skull cap. Only the necessities were to remain.

Oh, necessities and jeans.

About our weakness for jeans. We knew they would be tossed sooner or later, definitely before the Camino, but we still insisted on wearing them while we had them. This lasted a handful of days after Tewkesbury. Once we had to walk around in the heat of Montpellier, any emotional attachment disappeared. When we left for Agde, the jeans stayed behind.

Which brings us to now. 3 days and 40 miles into the Camino de Santiago, each step with the full weight of our stuff on our backs. The definition of necessity has started to really show itself under pressure. I returned from the Correos a few hours ago, having hopefully filled out the correct paperwork in order for 3.43kg of our stuff to make its way back home.

What won’t I be missing? A pullover, the heavy hiking shorts/pants, another t-shirt, a pair of underwear, and the short wool socks.

Why won’t I be missing it?

Stuff is weight.

Zubiri

The only problem with a beautiful and modern looking albergue with a 20 foot ceiling and large expansive rooms housed in a building that is a thousand years old is the temperature control.

The wind howled around through much of the night, and even the body heat of those inside did nothing to raise the room temperature above 55 or 60.

This would be fine had we been prepared for the cold. While Michelle was smart and got a silk sleeping sack before we left, I still hadn’t picked up a sheet or anything similar for nights like these. The status quo for an albergue is a bed and a pillow, nothing else. As Michelle shivered through the night in the lightest possible sheet layer one could have, I slept in my clothes, waking up every couple hours to remark to myself how much nicer a comforter would be.

It should be noted that I’m not complaining. It was still a wonderful place to sleep and I awoke well rested and surprisingly ready to face what today had in store for us.

From France To Spain To Roncesvalles

The altitude heading out of St Jean Pied de Port is right around 170m.

Six or seven hours and 20km later, as you cross Col de Lepoeder at 1450m, you may find yourself wondering if it is possible to climb that long or if you have started hallucinating somewhere on the route.

It was at this point, after pausing for a minute inside a quiet storm shelter near the top of the pass, that we realized how cold and windy it had become. While we were still managing with our light wind breakers, the air around us seemed frigid and loud. A perfect time to start heading down towards Roncesvalles.

Of course, one should remember that what comes up must also come down. And so it was, as the trail turned almost laughable at times, sending our spent legs and backs down 500m over the next 5k.

What seemed like a never-ending climb now turned into a never-ending descent.

Muscles, required to work in new ways, had been doing the same thing for so long that they became angry. Toes started yelling, knees starting pinging. Ankles and calves worked in unison to try and bring the machines to a halt.

It was a blast.

9 hours and 24.8km later, after a day that provided ridiculously beautiful scenery throughout, from a sun sparked start to a cold howling finish, we found ourselves in Roncesvalles, Spain.

The emotion is hard to describe, especially when you are aware that exhaustion is half of it. But here we were. Our packs could be dropped for the night, our shoes could be taken off, and we could do something else other than walk for at least the next 13 hours.

So that’s what we did. For €10 we got a place to drop our stuff, take the best shower ever, relax, stretch, relax, stretch, and sleep.