Shopping for the Camino

Hello! In my first post, I mentioned that in just under two months I will be going to Spain to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela from Saint Jean Pied de Port. In fact, as I leave England on 9th April, my departure is just over a month away!

Saint Jean is on the border between France and Spain so I’ll be walking the Camino Francés – the French Path. By-the-bye, the Confraternity of St. James reports (here) there are more than a hundred routes to Santiago de Compostela! Many routes to God. That seems fitting.

Between now and 9th April, I will try and keep you up-to-date with my preparations. This, I hope, will encourage me to prepare as I am very good at leaving everything to the last minute and hardly preparing at all.

In that spirit, what have I done so far?

Well, a few weeks ago I got my passport renewed for another ten years. I wouldn’t have bothered doing this as my now old one doesn’t expire until September this year; however, the possibility of Britain leaving the EU under a ‘no deal’ scenario has led the Government to issue advice saying that if your passport expires less than six months from when you travel, get it renewed. We obviously hope that the politicians will be able to get a deal sorted out but there’s no point leaving this to chance.

Just before my new passport arrived, I booked my flight to Biarritz. Of course, I shouldn’t have done so before it arrived but I was impatient!

So far, I have booked one hotel; actually, a pilgrim hostel (albergue) in Roncesvalles, Spain. This will be my first stop on 11th April after I have crossed the Pyrenees.

I wouldn’t have done this but when I attended the Confraternity of St. James’ Pilgrim Day a few weeks ago, it was suggested that booking it would be a good idea due to limited bed numbers there. I suspect that in April I will be fine but I would not want to spend six hours crossing the Pyrenees only to find no beds available.

From this time onwards, I hope only to prebook one more hotel – the first that I will stay in at Saint Jean on 9th April. After that, I aim to turn up at each albergue and see what’s available.

This morning, I visited the Apple store in Regent’s Street to buy a portable battery for my iPhone. Some people say you shouldn’t take a mobile phone with you which I can understand but at present I have no desire and feel no need to disconnect from the world that much. As my phone battery has a tendency sometimes to decrease at an alarming rate the portable battery should allay any fears I have of it happening right in the moment when I need it – really need it – though, of course, I hope that never happens.

Did you notice I just called my mobile phone ‘her’? I wonder if that is accurate.

After leaving the Apple store, I went to Cotswold Outdoors in Piccadilly. There, I bought the bulk of all that I will be taking with me to France and Spain:

  • Backpack
  • Earplugs
  • Fleece
  • Headlight
  • Headphones
  • Medical bag
  • Mini towel
  • Neck bag
  • Portable charger
  • Raincoat
  • Shirt x3
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Toiletries bag
  • Trousers x1
  • Underwear x2
  • Walking Boots

There are still a few things that I need to buy:

  • Adaptor
  • Socks x3
  • Thermal underwear x1
  • Toiletries
  • Trousers x2
  • Underwear x1
  • Walking sticks

And then I will be good to go!

As this is the first time I have gone on a journey where specialist equipment is required, I have had to buy everything that I need for it. As a result, I spent about £800 today. I would have spent about £1,000 if I had not been given a discount for being a member of the Confraternity of St. James. The good news is that, unless I get lost on the Pyrenees and stay to haunt it, the clothes that I bought will serve me for many years to come. That’s good because I already know where my next pilgrimage will be – to Rome.

Looking through the list, you might be wondering why I need to buy things like shirts, socks, underwear, etc; don’t I own these already? Of course, I do, but they are made of material like cotton that is not good for long walks when you get very sweaty, etc. The clothes that I bought today are synthetic and made with trekking in mind.

I have read that it is very easy to buy things that you don’t need. Looking at the list of things I bought today and what I still need to buy, I am very pleased with myself for sticking to essentials. Although… will I need a headlamp, really? Headphones…? I will make a final decision on what to take with me on 11th April when, at daybreak, I set off from the albergue with, I hope, all that I need and not one thing more!

Gosh, what a long post. Well, I shall bring it to a close here. Tomorrow, I will write a blog post on the two fears that I have about the Camino. See you then!