If you went on a pilgrimage to Santiago, you probably experienced and dealt with some of the aspects of isolation before. So today’s post will focus on how you can use your Camino skills in these strange times of self-isolation.
Pilgrimages don’t have to last for weeks or months in order to have a great impact. A single day experience can be of great significance too! This certainly was the case with my one day pilgrimage on the Münchner Jakobsweg.
Distance: 22.2 km
Moving time: 4:21:58
Day two (here you can read about day one). This second day I took a bus to Park De Hoge Veluwe, a national park in the East of the Netherlands with an extensive network of walking and cycling routes that take you through some amazing Dutch nature. At first, this second day of my hiking venture seemed to go into a similar direction as the day one. The weather was crap, I started hiking in the wrong direction and there were moments I really doubted my ability to walk another kilometre let alone two. Lacking the pack made things a little lighter, however, I was so keen to finish twenty kilometres and experience how my body felt afterwards that it turned out to be pretty hard albeit the absence of the pack.
The night before I roamed the Internet for blister solutions, yet the supermarket did not sell the blister equipment that I wanted so I bought the extremely expensive blister bandages and pre-bandage my feet. In the first five kilometres, new hot spots appeared and I was forced to take my shoes off and put some extra bandages on. It did not matter, I was too late and I have felt them, every step of the way.
The shitty part was not the pain; it was walking in the sand. After being on the track for a while, the forest led to a path heading into a dune-like landscape with sand. Heaps of sand. Surrounded by mist, I did not solely feel how I alone I was at that particular moment, I also came to understand that I hate walking in loose sand. Every step you take, you seem to go backwards instead of forward! My mind was immediately flirting with the idea to change the route I had initially chosen. Boiling with frustration, since I was trying to walk as fast as possible but did not reach the speed I wanted to, I looked back and saw how far I had come. I took a deep breath and continued walking – hell no I was going to walk all the way back through that loose sand!
Apart from my aversion to sand, another remarkable thing occurred this day that had not come to my attention during yesterday’s ten-kilometre walk: an endless appetite. Not only did I eat a fair amount of food for breakfast and during the walk, when I came home I devoured anything edible that I could find and even after a massive dinner, I still felt like I had not eating enough.
Soon I comprehended that my body was asking for food, because I had burned abnormal amounts of calories during this four-hour walk. This realisation instantly prompted so many questions: How much food would I have to bring? Would I be this hungry every day? How was I able to bring enough food to still this endless appetite but not carry endless amounts of weight?”
A little while later, after finishing an entire bag of slightly salty and sweet popcorn, I concluded I was too tired to think of this issue and that this was yet another thing I would add on my what-to-figure-out-before-I-go-list.
Distance: 10.0 km
Moving time: 1:57:07
Since I promised to keep you updated on my training progress, I thought today would be a good day to tell you about my first hiking attempt. In case you are wondering, I followed the advice given in the previous post and took a backpack with me. Although I am not sure how heavy it was exactly, it contained enough shit for me to think it was at least 7 or 8 kilograms. Five minutes after I left, I already figured out how heavy that actually was when you have to carry it on your back.
I embarked on a little trip to the Veluwe, an area in the Netherlands known for its beautiful forest and diverse landscapes. The windows of the train allowed me to witness the city buildings and suburbs being replaced by the meadows and, after a while, the forest. I took a bus to the centre of Hoenderloo (from which I would walk to Beekbergen) got out and stood at the side of the road for a few seconds soaking up the quiet so characteristic for villages, before I took off. The hike I set out to do was one I had found on the Internet, yet I decided to walk it in the opposite direction. Thinking I was perfectly prepared by saving the website on my phone, I quickly discovered that it was near to impossible to navigate on the map provided due to the fact that the website did not resize on my phone screen.
The first hundred meters I walked were into the wrong direction. Then, when I had finally found my way, it started raining…
I made it though: ten whole kilometres with a backpack (*cheering*). A couple of happenings and reflections resonated with me after I arrived at my destination, a little hotel where I booked the tiniest room. Here are some of my observations after my first practice hike:
there will not only be sunshine and you will have bad days too
On sunny days you might think: “This is a great day to go for a hike!” However, when it is raining like there is no tomorrow, you probably feel a little less enthusiastic about getting out there. Now here is the thing, when you are hiking a long distance and you have limited time, you don’t really have a choice, you just have to accept the weather conditions. Whilst contemplating on the weather I realised that not only the weather has bad days, I have them too. So when I am in a shitty mood and the weather is shit, it will be a tough day.
pee when you can and take an FUD
I had the feeling I had to pee… the entire walk! From the moment I got out of the bus and tightened the hip strap of my backpack, I had to go to the toilet. So advice to myself for the next time: pee when you can and take an FUD. (An FUD is short for Female Urinating Device. They sell them in all sorts, materials and sizes. We’ll talk more about this topic in another blog post.)
you might want to consider trekking poles
One part of my hike I was taken into a very dense part of the forest. The path was swirling and the vegetation prevented me from seeing what was coming up. It was quiet and, I have to admit, it was a little scary. First thing that popped into my mind was, “Why don’t you grab a stick? With a stick you would be able to defend yourself!” Sounds silly right? Subsequently, I thought of the usage of trekking poles when hiking (a topic intensively discussed on an array of hiking forums), as well as there possible other usages. Found this, made my day.
I will have to think about what I am wearing
I do not mean this in an aesthetic way, but in a practical manner. Any pro would have been able to tell me this, but experiencing it yourself is always a good thing. Your body temperature changes all the time and you will have to be prepared for that. I clearly wasn’t and it got me all hot-flushed and angry at stages. Better read up on that and inform you guys in an upcoming post.
you can fall
I will now tell you about the moment I fell. The autumn leaves were covering the tree roots; I tripped and fell on the ground. Hands first, knees in the mud. Whilst in this slightly strange position my brain made the situation all the more awkward by allowing the expectation that someone was going to pick me up, resulting in me feeling even weirder. So I got up, looked around (reflex) and continued like a boss. This – let’s be honest – minor event did make me realise that I have to be a little more careful and that, perhaps, some basic first-aid knowledge might come in handy.
love you blisters
That basic first-aid knowledge I was talking about also applies here. What do you do when you feel a blister coming up? How do you take care of it? The skin on my foot is gone, what now? Figuring this out will be pretty essential, as treating blisters will most likely become a daily duty on your hike.
you will doubt yourself
During this first attempt my minds was chattering away: Perhaps this is just a silly idea? Do you think you will be physically ready in four months? Are you sure you want to do this? I think those thoughts will not go away. Doubt will always linger in the corner of your brain ready to bother you at the wrong moment. Just accept it is there, have a conversation with it or grab one of those trekking poles to fight it when it starts nagging you.
date your backpack
I usually do not befriend inanimate objects but I feel it will be wise to become more acquainted with my backpack. It was like we were two people on a serious date who in the past had shared a drunken moment together on a party; the start was somewhat stiff, but we got to know each other pretty well and it was actually fun. Note to self: Date your backpack more often.
I am nackered. Tomorrow I will head out again without backpack (sorry man) since the sole purpose of tomorrow is experiencing what it is like to walk 20 km in one go. Hopefully, I will be able to maintain my sanity, love the shit out of my blisters and remain standing at all times.