Camino Gear

Been going back and forth on how to describe my experience. On one hand, I thought about describing every area I walked through, with pictures and witty anecdotes from handwritten journal but then I remembered that I didn’t like to read those myself when planning for the walk since I wanted a truly organic experience without some other persons’ bias and stories in my head.

I decided I’d write it, at least to begin with, in a way I wish others would have written it. With plain facts about gear: what I brought and wish I hadn’t (and ended up sending off) and what I wish I had brought and hadn’t. 

If you read this in preparation for doing your own Camino and are wondering about anything I might have missed or are just curious about something else, don’t hesitate to comment and ask!

I started just before the main heat wave begun smack middle of summer (begun May 11 and completed June 22) and had heard the Pyrenees could be cold so brought my insulated Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket, North Face gloves and Thinsulate hat which I only wore once, climbing the Pyrenees with cold ass gusty winds and never wore any of those again for rest of trip. 

I brought 3 pairs Injinji toe socks (love, love, love Injinji!) which was a bit overkill. Sent one pair off, along with my Ursack bear bag (SO unnecessary, even if camping), compass, my extra bandanna and sun hat (even when sunny, my headband was sufficient and I hate hats so never wore it although I saw plenty of people wearing theirs). I’d also been hoping to cowboy camp along the way, which I didn’t do (the only times I saw chances to do it, rain was in the forecast so, for obvious reasons, decided against it) so sent my tent footprint – which I use under my sleeping pad – off as well.

I did NOT bring my tent for which I was happy about since I probably would’ve used it only once, if that. I was advised by some lovely ladies who’d done their pilgrimage before me so thought I should note that.

I did bring:

1 Nike Dri-Fit pants (best pants ever!)

1 Columbia sport tights (for when I do laundry or when I feel like switching things up)

1 tank top

1 shirt for laundry time

2 pairs of Ex Officio undies which are much much better than regular cotton underwear.

1 pair of Bedrock Sandals for when my foot would swell and would be too painful to walk in my trail runners. Also great for the showers and walking around town. Lightweight and stylish.

1 pair of Brooks Cascadias trail runners (my walking/hiking shoe of choice since it usually accommodates my foot swelling).

1 Buff and another UV headband (didn’t need two in the end since only wore one entire time)

2 pairs of Injinji socks (I switch socks on super hot days to prevent blisters)

1 small Therm a Rest Zlite sleeping pad (not many people need a pad but I elevate my feet every 8km or so and use it constantly)

1 Sleeping Bag (10 degree Zpacks bag so super lightweight)

1 lightweight camping pillow (Sea to Summit Aeros) which honestly probably wasn’t necessary but my neck hated the pillows offered in albergues so I’m glad I brought mine.

1 super lightweight (Deuce of Spades brand) trowel which I didn’t use once but felt good to have, should I have an uncontrollable urge to poop somewhere outdoors.

1 bandanna dangling from pack for pee reasons (or as some lady and on the PCT 2 years ago called it: “vajanky”: like “vagina” and “hanky” Lol).

My trusty Black Diamond trekking poles (brought 2 extra tips for which I was grateful for since I ended up needing them both)

My Osprey Ariel 65L (total overkill on the size by the way but I love my pack too much to trade her for a smaller one I have. I probably could have made a 38L fit).

Osprey pack rain cover

Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket

Electronics: 1 Anker 20,000mAh external battery along with converter and charger for phone and battery. Side note: The 20,00mAh was probably too much. A 10,000mAh would’ve been sufficient. If you’re like me and absolutely have to have phone battery life, it’s worth its weight. Some albergues have very very few outlets to charge on and having an external battery makes life so much easier in the long run in those instances.

I also brought my tele, wide and fisheye lens from Moment for my phone (see my Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/skahlua912 . DEFINITELY worth their weight, in my opinion).

Medical supplies: bottle of ibuprofen, sewing needle and thread (for both blisters and any clothes or gear that might need a stitch), antiseptic towelettes, bandaids and Compheed anti blister pads and some moleskin). Also Electro Mix electrolytes (swear by them…. better than Nuun and other more expensive electrolytes, for me personally anyway). 

Hygienic supplies: to go travel sized toothbrush and paste, Sea to Summit multipurpose soap used as shampoo, body wash AND laundry detergent, rosemary and lavender tonic for cramping, relaxation when able to take baths and to repel bed bugs, coconut oil for hair, face and body lotion, contact lens shit and comb.

Wish I’d brought and ended up buying:

My anti-diarrhea pills/activated charcoal

Smaller, lightweight backpack to use while in towns

Poncho 

More of my favorite protein bars (I could only find muesli or granola bars at the stores in Spain)

Ultimately though, the Camino has services for sending your backpack on to next albergue you plan on staying at so you can bring as much as you want if you’d rather have a more luxurious experience. Or, opposite of that,  if you’d rather have a more minimalistic journey, you could go without more than 1/2 of what I brought and still be fine.

The Camino has stores, albergues, cafes and water stops along with towns throughout the day. Not one day will there be nothing. I prepared a bit more for the backcountry which the Camino is most definitely NOT! Lol

Will write more later about the beautiful people I met along the way and epiphanies I had along the way.

Here are some pics:
The last day, when you first get a peak of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral πŸ‘‡πŸ»
The first day, when carrying a bunch of unnecessary stuff and pack is heavy πŸ‘‡πŸ»
My sweaty selfie πŸ‘‡πŸ»
Blister resolution πŸ˜³πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Blogging the Camino

I’ve found it to be quite a chore to go back and rehash emotions, thoughts and events each day on the Camino so I’ve been keeping a written journal and have decided to write more on here once actually done.

I’m more than halfway now and should be finishing within 2 weeks. Having gotten sick for almost a week and conking out the last couple of days have set me back but I’m in no real hurry.

I have so many things to say and look forward to updating the blog once done with more specifics and tips, etc.

Rest assured, you will get some exciting posts later! 
Xoxo,

Saina 

Estella, Spain

I woke up around 3-4am choking. Apparently I’d barfed in my sleep and because I sleep on my back, it started going down the wrong chute. At first, I panicked thinking “this is how I fuckin’ die?!? Choking on my own vomit in a random hotel in Spain?!? How lame!” And then I remembered I’d wanted to die the other day and could just let myself asphyxiate but decided that’s not how I wanted to go and I still need to finish this pilgrimage and see my family in Finland. This entire mental dialogue happened in the space of a second or so and I quickly coughed the acidic barf out and went back to sleep. Fun stuff.

Stuck here for another day. I woke up at 6am to gauge if I could walk and I still could hardly bring myself up to go to the bathroom so decided staying another day. Hopped in the shower and a HUGE thick glob of dark green/yellow snot the size of my hand came out of my nose which actually helped me breathe a lot better. I’d never ever seen that in my life. It was like the size of a clementine. No exaggeration.😳

Finally caught the pharmacy while it was open (they keep weird hours here in this town. They’re like open for 2 hours at random times, once early AM and then late afternoon). Got flu stuff, echinacea, diarrhea pills (yay!) and extra blister stuff just in case. I feel like I’m oversharing some bodily functions here but it’s my blog. If I can’t keep it disgustingly honest here, where can I?

Feeling a lot more positive today. I rarely get sick so this is a bummer but I’m sure it’ll take longer to heal if I’m mentally in a negative space.

Need to download for the previous days which were actually quite pleasant. Will post some of the pics here and put a bit of commentary next to them when able. I will then expound on all that later when more mentally aware (head is pounding at the moment). This is just 2 days of shittiness. The other days were fantastic so really don’t want my blog to represent the sucky part too much. Mentally, I really want to keep walking but my health needs to come first. But I’m not done here. Not by a long shot. I know I can do this. That’s not a question in my mind at all. Sometimes you just need a mental perspective shift.

The people are wonderful that I meet. Just the other day, when I was crying,  sopping wet and freezing from the rain and waiting for the albergue to open, some Italians walked past and offered to sit with me until I was ok which was so nice and made me cry even harder (whenever someone is nice to me when I’m upset, it just makes me cry. I’m more comfortable with people being harsh or ignoring me when upset, as bad as that sounds).

I separated from my walking buddy in Pamplona. Just needed to feel the feelings I was having and I couldn’t do that with someone else around, no matter how lovely. Miss her tons but we agreed it’s best for both of us.

Tried to upload a ton of pics but the wifi sucks at this fancy pants hotel which is frustrating but will just do a separate post when able. The support I’ve received from people on last post was so heartwarming and really, really helped. Thank you!! 
Some road walking (not my favorite but it was still sort of pretty) πŸ‘‡πŸ»


This town is super old and this is the view from the rabies bridge (pic of bridge below this one). It used to be said that if you cross it 3 times with animal, they’d be cured of (or never get) rabies. The lepers would also be housed right nearby. Like holy shit, history man! πŸ‘‡πŸ»πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Rabies bridge πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Daily Baguette Service in this town! πŸ˜„πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Horsies!!!!! πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ‘‡πŸ»



I absolutely loved this day, when a lot of it was in the forests with birds chirping. Absolutely my favorite πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Again, have SO many more pictures but unable to download. Been sleeping most of today and can feel my body healing itself so am very happy about that.

Adios for now! ❀️

3 days on Camino

I am resisting the urge to stomp on ahead and disciplining myself to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. 

My right foot tends to scream at me after a few miles so, in order to do any sort of semblance of mileage, I sent pack ahead of me the last 2 days. The first day of like 10km just straight up hill, made both feet super mad at me and I intend on finishing this. I’m learning quickly that long distance hiking (PCT, AT, etc) are much more about getting to the destination within a certain time frame. I have the luxury to not do that here and everyone I’ve bonded with are also the kind who just want to enjoy this and not make it a race. 

Since I didn’t have much time to prep for this walk/hike/pilgrimage, I’m kind of doing it now so taking it maybe too easy the first week and then plan on pushing myself after building up some strength.

The first day, I came across a lady who was hiking solo and we talked about if we were doing all 25km to next city or staying at the albergue (hostel) in the Pyrenees that usually books up ahead of time. I told her I had just called and got a reservation and gave her my phone to call. Long story short, we started talking and I just fell in love with her. I call her my Camino mama. She is empathetic, hilarious and has a fuckin killer Kiwi accent. We’ve hiked last 3 days together and I haven’t laughed so much in a long time back to back. 

I haven’t slept all that well in the albergues since have had some night terror type nightmares and tons of snoring people (I started recording it. New album coming out is “Snoring Symphonies” πŸ˜‚). 

Having to figure out logistics of where to sleep every night since outside camping is basically prohibited (extremely restricted) makes me quite anxious. I enjoyed the PCT more in the sense that I could night hike if I wanted to and know I could just pull over anywhere and camp.

But learning as I go. The people are terrific and I feel like that bonding and sense of community I wanted on the PCT that I didn’t truly feel, I am getting here. This is more of a spiritual journey as opposed to an endurance feat (not digging on long distance thru hikers. They’re incredible) and it’s what I needed.

Found myself crying walking amongst beautiful trees. Come to find out, some witches were burned there. There is history soaked into every single step of this journey and the beautiful views, sheep, cows and horses roaming free just add to the whole experience.

I have so many other thoughts – from what I wish I hadn’t packed to people I’ve met – that I want to talk about but too tired. Only got 2 hours of sleep last night. 

But here are some pics:

Old monastery that’s turned into an albergue. Stayed there for the night (pics of the beds is somewhere in this batch).πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Drinking coffee out of a bowl at the albergue. Lol. Apparently that’s a thing? πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Dinner at albergue Orisson in the Pyrenees. We all had to stand up and say our name and where we were from. Everyone clapped for each other and it was actually really a bonding moment. Loved it! πŸ‘‡πŸ»


Coming into town at night. So many pilgrims descended upon St Jean Pied de Port.πŸ‘‡πŸ»

Paris

Just got here. Headed out first thing soon enough (my aunt keeps telling me to stop spreading my real time whereabouts so this is me trying to be cryptic so that all my many stalkers won’t be able to find me 😜. She has a point though – better safe than sorry and it’s nice to know someone cares). 

Booked my first alburgue since I’ll arrive later in the day to St Jean Pied de Port and it’d be too late to start the trek (since I want to see where I’m going and pick up my Pilgrim passport).

I have realized – and this dawned on me before but was affirmed by some quiet time with uncle and his family today – that I need to slow down. I can’t handle mellow time around people, even family, AT ALL. It makes me super uncomfortable and I feel the need to keep moving (mentally and/or physically) no matter what. I think this is a direct result of my unusual upbringing where I was basically left homeless after being discarded and having to be on survival mode and high alert constantly. 

To be fair, being in survival mode was useful for decades (the high alert and activity) as it kept me from being in too much mental pain and kept me distracted while also not allowing me to be on the streets as a bum. But I’ve realized that it no longer serves a purpose and I am spiritually exhausted and depleted of any energy. 
So my first lesson from this trip- and I haven’t actually even stepped foot on the Camino yet – is to start being mindful and slowing the fuck down.

Holy shit, this trip is going to be life changing if I can learn just how to do that alone. 

2 Days left until Camino trip!

I don’t have anything packed, think I have some sort of an infection since it feels like I’m fighting off sickness,  I’m exhausted and supposed to see people before I go, buy some last minute shit and still weigh gear and tweak it out.

Looks like I’m going to bring only one additional (lightweight) outfit for my trip which means for France, Finland and Corfu, I’m going to be in only 1 of 2 outfits which is different than the PCT since, there, id just be in the backcountry so couldn’t give two shits how stinky or stylish I was. Hahahaha

To be honest, I’ve been super depressed especially since a friend recently committed suicide and just one bad thing after another seems to just happen since to compound the tragic news. I don’t even really want to go but I know doing the Camino will be good for my soul. At this moment though, I doubt it’ll hit me until I’m taking my first couple of steps on the Camino or get my pilgrim passport. 

A little worried that this disassociated feeling will stay with me abroad and that I won’t feel the magic that will undoubtedly be all around me. If I don’t get any healing from this trip, I’m truly scared that my depression will get the better of me and that I’ll give up trying to live in this crazy world. Because if shocking your mind awake with new beautiful landscapes and meeting new people doesn’t do it, what will?

But one day at a time. Today, doctor and REI last minute shopping and starting of packing.

I was told that bringing a tent on the Camino is not necessary… and I do enjoy cowboy camping so thinking of leaving my tent. Can anyone vouch for this? It’s only slightly over 1 lb so still debating whether to bring it or not…

Camino de Santiago 2017!!!

It’s happening.

It’s finally fuckin’ happening. I can’t wrap my head around it. But flights are booked. I’m set to leave May 9th to Paris from LA. Then September 15th, I’ll fly from Helsinki, Finland back to LA.

I will see my uncle (who I haven’t seen in FOREVER) and his beautiful family in Paris and then take the train to St. Jean Pied de Port via Bayonne to start the walk.

I’M SO EXCITED!

Other than booking the flights, I have done nearly zero prep. I refuse to read people’s blogs and personal books about it. I want my experience to be untainted by others’ experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great they document it and share their knowledge but I’m an empath so any negativity or zealous excitement about any of it Β kind of starts the setting of expectations for the trip, for myself and my goals based on the data I receive from others. Soooooo, in a nutshell, I’m only going to read some best-selling pilgrim books with trail data/maps and the hostel situation and that’s about it. For me, it’s about trying to have as much of an organic experience as possible.

I also need to start doing some Spanish classes or Rosetta Stone it up. Don’t get me wrong, I live in LA so familiar with basic Spanish but that’s very little and I wouldn’t dare try to speak it so want to get on that.

I have a friend – who I met on the train after hiking at Grand Canyon and roadtripping last year – Β who may meet up to do the last 100km (minimum requirement for the Compostela certificate). That’ll be a trip if we meet up. I love Β just meeting people while travelling that you just click with and then end up having adventures together later in random places. I’ll just need to figure out my mileage and when I’ll be where (roughly) to make that work.

After that, it’s wandering around Europe and somehow making my way up to Finland to see the rest of the family there and reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in about 5 years, since I lived there for a bit.

Here’s the wikipedia with the history ofΒ Santiago de Compostela which is where I’ll end up unless I plan on going a bit further. My itinerary, other than the walk, is pretty much up in the air – the way I like it. I can’t plan things too much since life has a tendency to take those plans and shit on them.

Some people complain about this walk… that it’s not like any of the Triple Crown trails (Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail). To them, I say: Duh! It’s not. It’s completely different. You can’t compare them side by side fairly. For me, it’s a spiritual walk… I don’t really know what it is that I want out of it but, at the same time, I don’t want anything out of it – if that makes sense… I don’t have expectations but also expect to be changed somehow.

Hopefully my foot doesn’t fail me like it did on the PCT. Fingers and toesies crossed.