Well, it was inevitable. I took a break today. I had another crappy night’s sleep. And decided, after being awakened with stomach pains and all-over body aches that I would cancel my taxi (back to Portomarin where I ended my walk yesterday) and use this day instead to rest. That I would create my own “descanso” on the road, because I think I need to. The prediction of more rain and wind with the addition of dropping temperatures (currently it’s 36F/2c) were clear signs that I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared for that. My clothes are built for mild cold. Not freezing. And, unfortunately, so is my disposition. And so, the refrain of so many from the Camino Facebook groups wins out: “Listen to your gut,” “Go at your own pace,” “This is your camino.”
Instead, I used most of the day to ponder some of the nonsense that’s been floating through my head out there on the road.
Like, for example, the minimalist way in which I am moving along the Camino and the complete absurdity at having packed things like make-up and hair clips. Really? I read in a guide book (written by a man) to leave your make-up at home. “It’ll only weigh you down,” he wrote. Ridiculous, I thought. Who’s this guy to tell me to leave my make-up at home? Well, clearly he is a man who knew what he was talking about. Make-up is completely useless here. At least in winter. Unless you don’t mind your runny nose mixing with your foundation.
And while I totally could have used that heating pad I wanted to bring when I stayed in the casa rural two nights ago, it now makes perfect sense that it was best left behind.
But here’s something I never thought I could live without: salón grade shampoo and conditioner. I thought I packed two little travel size bottles—me sticking them into the bag without “me” knowing. But I didn’t (I guess the more practical “me” won out) And so, it’s hardcore motel shampoo ( minus conditioner), which means all-day bed head.
I’m rationing tampons, pads, toothpaste, deodorant and tissues. They have to last me until Sunday. As well as one small bar of French milled olive oil soap, my only luxury. Perfume soaps are a no go in my world. I also only have three outfits that grade based on weather. Thin hiking wear and thicker, warmer stuff. But only one fleece sweater that I’m already kinda sick of wearing. And only three pairs of hiking socks, which surprisingly come off at the end of the day smelling as clean and fragrant as roses. Not sure how that’s possible (wicking?) And so, shocking as it may sound to those who know what a clean freak I am, I am wearing them two and three days without washing them, because, well, because I have no access to a washer.
As for the few things I did bring, I question why I even bothered. Q-tips? A pocket mirror? A Swiss Army knife? Oh, naive girl.
This lack of stuff doesn’t exactly make me feel proud or spiritual. Living on a prayer isn’t adding to my experience. If anything, it’s detracting from it and making me a bit grumpy. And yet, here’s the thing. When you’re out walking all day in miserable weather you crave only the bare minimum: shelter, warmth, food and sleep. That part, that lack of desire for more things, is quite pleasing to me. But once I’ve had a good meal, a hot shower and a good night’s sleep, I do start to long for things like mascara and a curling iron.
What has been a little rough is losing my morning coffee + writing ritual. Normally, I wake up, have my coffee and write and then eventually have breakfast. Now, I have to wake up, shower, change into my hiking clothes for the day, then, by 8:30, I have to leave my big back, freshly re-packed, at the reception desk so it can be transported to the next accommodation. Only then can i relax a bit, and have coffee. But not in my room. Only in the dining hall. And writing with pen and paper at a cafeteria in Spain just makes me look like an insane person, so I sip my coffee, scarf down my croissant, and scroll through emails on my phone instead. If I have time back in the room before leaving, I will write.
A friend of mine from my home town who now lives in Galicia, and who’s done the Camino twice, left the comfort of her home to come visit me in Palas de Rei. We had lunch at a little pulpería—one of only a small handful open—where she actually stayed one year on the Camino (it’s attached to a pension). She was shocked at how drab and empty everything was. In season this place is apparently packed, as well as all the other places around it, none of which were open. The dark cold day only added to the desolation of a town which is probably quite lovely in summer. Luckily I don’t know any better. I’m able to move about the Spanish countryside in appreciation of what is versus longing for what I would like it to be. And yet, I can’t help but wonder what a little sunlight would do to perk up the scenery.
Anyway, it was lovely hanging out with another Jersey girl all the way out here. I really needed the connection. And she even brought me hair conditioner!
My last word of advice: if you are planning an off-season winter Camino, remove yourself completely from those with stories of in-season camino experiences. The expectation of sunny photo ops, pilgrims socializing on packed terraces and the quaint and much needed rest-stops are unicorns for us winter walkers. They rarely, if ever exist. But that is not to say your experience will be without beauty or magic. I can’t help but feel that I am learning to make peace with a new climate. It’s challenging. But not without great reward.