LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY | PRACTICING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #3 PORRIDGE AND JÄGERMEISTER

When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, I immediately planned a “practice week”; a week in which I would not only walk several consecutive days but also practice with my gear. That week was last week. This is the third part of the blog post about my practice week; here you can read the first part and the second part.

It was like waking up from a nightmare and then realising it actually happened. Although, I must admit that, when opening my tent zippers the sight was pretty amazing. The grass was completely white frozen and the winter sun peeked through the trees. My body, however, did not feel as amazing as my surroundings looked and if I did not just have the night that I had, I would have ran to the heated toilet building (Yes. Throughout the night, I had the idea to sleep in this building. In hindsight, I probably should have.). I opened the door and saw Rennon packing his backpack with the energy of someone that fell asleep in a five-star hotel and woke up with a champagne breakfast. “Good morning!” “Morning.” I replied. Ok, I might have given him a bit of a death stare. “How was your night?” It took me a lot of courage admitting to the horror that was my night but deep inside I was aware that Rennon already knew my night was going to suck hard when he saw me sitting in the opening of my tent, boiling water in a pot without a lid.

“What’s for breakfast?” I answered with a question, as I was wondering whether I, as a rookie, might have brought the wrong breakfast despite my extensive research on nutrient-dense, dehydrated foods. “Porridge with dried fruits?” Pass. He asked to have breakfast together in a shelter on the terrain. By the time I gathered all my bits and pieces, he already ate his and was busy making some tea. As I ate my porridge, he gave me valuable advice on apps, gear and hiking in general and promised me to send his packing list. I thanked him for the advice and before he took of, I told him I would survive another night. He thought so too. An hour after Rennon left, I decided I would not.

learning it the hard way_900x600_3.png

I stood in the toilet building crying as I felt like I was giving up and because I could not feel my toes anymore. Then I realised that my dad and stepmother were staying in Otterlo, a village in the Veluwe where I had done one of my previous walks. I called dad, deconstructed my tent, moved all my crap into the toilet building and hysterically packed my bag. Once packed, I walked to the bus stop and travelled to Otterlo. A steaming hot shower, a couple of Jägermeister and a good night’s sleep got me all set for the days after.

In the days that followed, I did two walks with my backpack that weighed about 10 kilograms. The first was 16,2 km and took me about three hours, the second was 18,2 km and took me almost four hours to complete. During these walks, I did not only realise that I suck at taking breaks, I also discovered a whole new set of muscles in my feet and back. After doing some research about my sleeping bag, I found out that the comfort temperature for a female using this particular bag is 4°C, for a male it is -2°C. No wonder -5°C was a little too cold for me. Finding a sleeping bag suitable for a colder night is now on my to-do-list. I did however manage to sleep two more nights in my tent… this time it was above 0°C and I had an extra sleeping bag.

All in all, these couple of days were a valuable experience, just a little bit of a shame I had to learn it the hard way ; )

Love,

autograph_200x100-15

LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY | PRACTICING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #2 SHOWERS AND EMERGENCY BLANKETS

When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, I immediately planned a “practice week”; a week in which I would not only walk several consecutive days but also practice with my gear. That week was last week. This is the second part of the blog post about my practice week, read the first part here.

The sun had set. I had made myself some dinner that I partially had to slurp out of the holes of my foam pad, as I dropped it there in a hurry to shove it in my mouth (I was really hungry). It was time for a shower. At this stage, it was so cold that I figured a hot shower would be the only way to get myself warm before hopping into bed. Undressed and ready to face the water, I was stoked to see the timer on six minutes. Six whole minutes of showering! And then I turned it on. The water was a lukewarm. Just enough to make you think you are not showering with cold water, but miles away from an actual hot shower. Not a great start of the night. When walking back to my tent, my body remained cold and, in addition, my mood was crap.

14 original media IMG_2959.JPG

Installing myself in my sleeping bag, I suddenly notice a flashlight shining on my tent. After Rennon, I had only spotted two more guests entering the terrain and since they all camped a lot further from where my tent was, I freaked out a little. “Asleep yet?” It was Rennon. Sigh of relief. “Nah. Not yet. But I’m sort of in bed already.” “We are having a campfire, want to join?” “Nah. I want to get up early tomorrow and I’m pretty tired, so I’ll have an early night.” “Alright.” Truth was. I was so cold, I did not even want to go outside. The only thing I wanted was to get warm.

And I can tell you. I did not get warm. My feet were tucked into my backpack, my mat was folded so that my upper body was furthest from the ground and my water bottle was filled up with hot water to warm my feet. With every movement, I rearranged my sleeping bag and my liner, put my hat back on and wrapped my fleece around my head to seal the opening of my sleeping bag. Around 1 AM, in between tears, cursing and falling asleep for no longer then twenty minutes at the time, I remembered the existence of my emergency blanket. My mind screamed: this is the emergency! I took the neatly folded blanket out of the package and draped it over my sleeping bag. A couple of minutes later, it felt like heaven: I was getting warm again.

With everything that seemed to go right in the beginning, this highlight also did not last very long. Between the sleeping bag and the emergency blanket formed a layer of condense which dampened my sleeping bag and, in turn, made me even colder. Attempts to unfold my stiff body to dry the top of the sleeping bag with my (now completely frozen) towel were merely symbolical, as I already knew that the feeling of being cold would not stop – wet sleeping bag or not.

Throughout the night the temperature dropped to -5. It was the longest night of my life.

Final part will be published on Sunday!

Love,

autograph_200x100-15

LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY: PRACTISING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #1 TOO COLD FOR TOUCHSCREENS

When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, I immediately planned a “practice week”; a week in which I would not only walk several consecutive days but also practice with my gear. That week was last week. Because the Netherlands can become quite cold in winter, there are only a handful of nature reserves in which you can camp throughout the year or where, as it is stated on the website of the organisation maintaining these reserves, you can “stay with the ranger”. I chose to go to Borger, a tiny village in one of the Northern provinces.

I ran through my packing list one last time to confirm every item was in my bag. It was. And boy, was that bag heavy. Somewhere halfway I met up with Mum for a little coffee and cake celebration, as it was my birthday a few days before and I love celebrating things. Her words that it was not possible to prepare for everything resonated with me once I sat in the train to Assen. Once in Assen, I had to take two busses to arrive at a bus stop after which it took me another 45 minutes walking to reach the campsite. Side note: it was cold. And with cold, I mean just above 0 degrees cold.

I had a look around the campsite. Apart from one other tent there was no one on the terrain. I ignored my feelings of dislike and walked towards the information column. According to the email I received when making the reservation, it was here that I had to check-in. Great… a touchscreen computer. The screen was cold, my fingers too. After fifteen minutes of pressing the same damn button, I finally received a label that I had to fix to my tent as proof of my reservation. On the label it said I had camping spot number 9, which happened to be all the way on the other side of the terrain. I walked towards it with the front part of my feet already frozen.

learning it the hard way_900x600.JPG

Proudly seated in the entrance of my tent – that I had pitched relatively quick seen the ice-cold state my hands were in at that time – I was boiling some water to make myself a nice cup of tea, when I saw someone walking towards me. Soon I figured it was a man and by his posture and tread I had decided he was the ranger. He kneeled down in front of me: “So, are you not going to be cold tonight?” “I’ll experience that tonight. In case it will be cold, I have got many layers to put on.” I told him I was practising for the Camino de Santiago. “Alright. You have a Therm-A-Rest pad, those last for about 10 to 12 years.” I nodded. I knew that, I had done my research. “My name is Rennon.” “Hi, I am Querien.” We shook hands. “You might want to consider a lid for your pot, so you don’t have to fight the wind. Here, this is what I’m sleeping in.” He showed me a picture on his phone  of bivy sack and a tarp. I told Rennon it looked impressive, which it did, although I was not really sure whether I would exchange my tent to sleep in that situation. “I saw some good trees over there. I am going to set up my tarp. Good luck!”

He took off, leaving me behind with a strange feeling that something was about to happen and I was not prepared to face it. Definitely not the ranger, I thought, and had a sip from the tea of which the water had taken way too long to come to a boil.

Curious? This blog post will be continued next week! See you then : )

Love,

q-200x100-15

TURNING SHIT INTO GLITTER: WALKING THE CAMINO ON A TINY BUDGET

My worst nightmare came true. Nah, joke. That probably would be something different. However, it definitely felt like my entire endeavour was off the table, when my housing corporation informed me that subletting my house wasn’t allowed according to my contract. With one simple email they flushed one third of my budget down the drain.

Fantastic.

After the initial drama phase, in which I sat on the couch in disbelief surrounded by chocolate, I reviewed the situation and decided it was not all that bad. “It’s all part of the journey Q, it’s all part of the journey. You can still go! Just do the Camino on a budget!”

So… Walking the Camino on a budget will mean two things:

  1. During my camino I will have to keep to a tight budget.
  2. I will have to find inexpensive alternatives for the gear that I had chosen in the first place without compromising too much on quality and comfort. (Just so we are clear: I will not in a million years part with my boots.)

If I may say so myself, I am pretty good in budgeting, yet, I must admit that for a long distance hike budgeting is not easy. Flowing forth from the unexpected nature of this activity, you simply cannot keep account with every possible situation you will end up in. Therefore, you will have to make sure you allow for enough financial space to roam in.

Heaps of websites about the Camino offer information about the costs that are involved. The Dutch Sint Jacob Society has an extremely handy tool to calculate your expenses when journeying from the Netherlands to Santiago de Compostela… and thus, I just realised, not so handy for everyone ; ) Nonetheless, from what I have read, you can make the Camino as expensive or as low-cost as you want. Tent, albergue, hotel, supermarket or restaurant? The food and accommodation choices will be the main factors that determine the overall costs of your pilgrimage.

I have decided to pack a tent and camp as much as possible. The first month will be a challenge since not all campsites are open yet, so for this month I will have to factor in extra money for accommodation. Furthermore, there might be nights that I want to treat myself with a hostel room just get myself sorted at times. Foodwise I will bring my own stove, which means coffee (no. 1 priority), breakfast and dinner are mostly covered. Likewise, I plan to pack my own lunches. Naturally, once in a while I would like to eat out and enjoy the local cuisine, after all, eating is a dear hobby of mine.  Other things that cost money are laundry, small repairs, maps and who knows what else. Let’s make a calculation:

daily expenses

According to the majority of websites, a Camino on a restricted budget will cost €20-€30 a day on average. Keeping all the above considerations in mind, I have budgeted €30 per day (of course, hoping to be spending less!). With the current route and estimated kilometres I will be walking daily, walking from Amsterdam to Santiago will cost me around €3780 in total.

emergencies 

As we all know, unexpected things may happen. To be prepared for the actualisation of some of the what ifs, I have budgeted €250.

gear

Gear can be expensive, very expensive. Although I already have purchased certain essentials in the past – think sleeping bag, backpack and a stove – I will need certain things to make my trip easier, like a tent, a rain jacket and a hydro pack. The above described shitty setback, has diminished my initially budgeted €1500 budget for gear to €1000. Purchasing all the things I need and staying within this budget will become the challenge of the upcoming months.

ticket back home

Once in Santiago, you will have to go home. Even though I do not want to think about that yet, I estimated to spend €150 for a ticket back to Amsterdam.

grand total

So yeah, the grand total of my Camino de Santiago, if calculated correctly, will come to €5180. My expenses that will be made at home made while gone are excluded, think the rent of my studio, phone bill, health and travel insurance. While I still have quite a bit of saving to do, I am confident I will eventually get there.

In an attempt to turn this shit into glitter, I have thus decided to do my Camino on a tiny budget. Even with little money, I will be walking. Guess it will turn this journey even more into a priceless adventure.

Love,

q-200x100-15

LA CREDENCIAL DEL PEREGRINO OR THE PILGRIM’S PASSPORT: WHY DO YOU NEED IT AND WHERE CAN YOU GET ONE?

One of the first things I read about when researching the Camino de Santiago is La Crendencial del Peregrino or the Pilgrim’s Passport. Although strictly speaking not part of your wearable gear, you will definitely need (and want) one of these in your backpack when walking the Way. But why do you need one of these in the first place and where can you get one? I’ll be telling you all about today : )

why do you need a Credencial del Peregrino?

The Credencial is the camino memento – a memory of your journey materialised as a cardboard passport filled with all sort of stamps. Local churches, refugios and albergues, which pilgrims find on their way to Santiago, provide these stamps. Your stamped Credencial eventually serves as a record of where you have been, which is important at the end of your pilgrimage; only those who have walked 100 kilometres and performed the pilgrimage with a religious or spiritual intention are able to receive a Compostela. The Compostela is a certificate stating you have completed the pilgrimage. An alternative certificate is available for those that have completed the Way with other motivations.

Perhaps, more importantly, the Credendial does not only function as “proof” of your journey; it also identifies you as a pilgrim on their way to Santiago. When showing this identification to someone, it asks the reader to lend support and aid if necessary. In this way, it provides the bearer with some form of protection. That could mean, for example, a cheap or free overnight stay in one of the albergues.

where can you get a Credencial del Peregrino? 

The Credencial is not hard to find, you can obtain one at your national St. James Society. Believe it or not, but your country probably has one! Usually the Credencial does not cost a great deal, think a couple of euros. Is yours full and haven’t you reached Santiago yet? No worries, you can purchase one on the road as well.

I received my Credencial after joining the Dutch St. Jacob society, which is called Het Nederlands Genootschap van Sint Jacob. I became a member to support all the work they perform and information they provide to help pilgrims on their journey. Receiving the Credencial was something special. As my name was written on it, it felt rather official… all of a sudden the idea of going on a pilgrimage became a reality!

Therefore, even if you are not interested in acquiring a certificate on completing your Camino, you might want to bring a Credencial to collect some beautiful stamps and capture the memory of your Camino journey.

Love,

q-200x100-15