Pack up your trouble… or not?

In the first World War a marching song from George Henry Powell became famous. “Pack up your trouble in your old kitbag, and smile, smile, smile…”

Well, maybe you needed a good rousing song to march of to the trenches at Ypres, and you definitely needed all the ammo and gear you could carry. Usually it was just a one way trip anyway for most…

These were some darker thoughts as I had a full kit hiking session in training for our upcoming Camino. There is a long uphill road out of our town, and I slogged it up with everything I plan to carry on the Camino. At the turning point at 5.5 km I stopped at the Wildevy Farmstall. They have a butchery there, and I asked them to weigh my backpack on their hanging scale. Including 1.5 l water in the hydration bag it came to 8.4 kg. Not bad! In 2011 I tried it with 14 kg, and that really got heavy after 25 km every day.

I remembered the one piece of wisdom of the Camino that I usually forget in real life. If you want to travel happy, travel light. I have the bad habit of overthinking everything, and buying extra stuff to cope with all possible eventualities.

But you can’t plan everything in life. And you don’t have to take every possible piece of equipment with on your journey.  And this is much more wisdom to live by than just planning to walk the Camino. It applies to everyday life.

Which brings me to my point: I tend to gather too much stuff along the journey of life. Not just things. Emotional baggage. Useless social media relationships.  One of the joys of walking is the time to reflect on my life.  Yesterday I decided my life needs some serious decluttering. It is time to get rid of things, and bad memories, and people wearing me down on my journey of life.

One of my first steps will be to use the unfriend and unfollow button on facebook mercilessly. I do not need all the drama of 1100 people every single day in my life.

I am also going to seriously unfollow some people on Twitter. I am sick and tired of South African racial politics and the endless blamegame.

Then I seriously need to start throwing old magazines away, and selling or donating some books.

So, troops of World War 1, I do not wish to pack my troubles in my old kit bag. I wish to unpack them, and throw them away, so that I am travelling light, with people adding joy and meaning to my life. Then I will smile, smile, smile some more…


The battle to get fit…

At the moment my wife and I are spending as much time as possible training for our Camino. I did reach a total of 106 km for February. I just don’t have time at the moment to do any more walking than that.

But we are experiencing some excellent times as a couple together, walking. This weekend we had a camp with our church in a beautiful South African bushveld setting.  On Saturday morning we did a 10.3 km hike on the very sandy road crossing the reserve. It was wonderful to see a lot of wildlife, and we specially enjoyed seeing the tracks of the dung beetles and huge shongololo’s (millipedes) as well as the tracks of some giraffes.

In this particular venue there are no Big 5 animals (lions, hippo, elephant, buffalo and rhino’s) so we were quite safe, but enjoyed nature at its best. I must confess that sandy paths really tires me a lot, I am not that hiking fit yet…


Keeping my feet firmly on the ground…

The single most important thing of planning a walking Camino would be the shoes/ boots you choose to wear.  I can imagine that a good bicycle/ horse/ donkey would be important if you should choose doing a riding Camino 🙂 .

Your feet are the vehicles getting you to Santiago. And when your shoes should fail, you can have a world of pain. There is a big debate between walking with boots or serious trail shoes. I choose boots because I need some ankle support, and don’t like to walk with wet feet in the rain. Others have excellent arguments why they prefer trail running shoes- and that is your choice, according to your own needs.

On my first Camino I did listen to the good advice on the Camino Forum. I did buy the best boots I could afford, which at that time in our town would be Wolverine Fortis.  This was by far the best boots I ever owned, with fantastic adjustable inner soles, feeling as if I am walking on a cloud…

But… I bought it exactly my foot size. Not a number bigger. And that caused some serious trouble. When descending the mountains, my toes kept bumping against the boot. In this process I developed a huge blister problem. There was at times 3 blisters on top of each other on some toes.  A size boot bigger would have prevented this, I think.


So: buy the best shoes/ boots you can afford. One size bigger than normal.

My Wolverines was excellent in the rain, keeping my feet dry. And they have given me very good service for more than 7 years thus far, walking around our town, or riding my motorbike.

For this year’s Portuguese Camino I chose lighter, larger, and still with some Waterproofing thrown in. I have bought me a pair of Hi-Tek Sierra Lites.  I think it is being phased out, I got it on a huge discount at our lovely Outthere24 shop in Nylstroom. They are much lighter than the leather boots, and have kept my feet dry during some rainy spells- we are seriously due for heavy rain in our drought stricken region at the moment.


I am busy walking them in, doing about 5-10 km per day at the moment.

As I am sitting here, I am feeling a new blister on my right foot’s little toe. It still happens… and some more advice from more experienced hikers would be appreciated! I think the next place I must seek solutions, would be in the socks I wear.

Some days I just went walking with my thin normal daily socks. That could be the problem. Maybe I should just use woolly hiking socks every single time.

The message today: Take care of your feet- they make or break a Camino for you!


The Camino calls… again…

Those who know it recognize it immediately.  A growing sense of unease with your life in general is growing inside you, reaching detonation point.  You scroll through the stack of bills, you plan your week and your month ahead, and something inside says: “Is this what life is all about?”

And then a dude called Erns Grundling starts a television series in South Africa, taking a film crew along from Leon to Santiago.  While watching this series, I can smell the air outside Leon. I can taste the dark red cherries in my mind. I can feel the blisters on my toes, and the easy chatting with fellow pilgrims in the albergue at night.

My first Camino was in 2011, just before my first child finished her school career. I knew then that I was getting older, and that huge changes was waiting on the horizon. I needed some time alone to think, and to just BE.  The first call of the Camino was heard, and answered.  The experience did me a lot of good.

I made a lot of mistakes during the first Camino.   I bought the best boots available, but one size too small. I suffered blisters the whole journey long because of it. I packed way too much stuff, and the heavy backpack reminded me every day that I need to travel a lot lighter through the journey of life.  I opted to carry my own load without any help, not sending my backpack by taxi.

The first Camino restored a sense of peace and quiet in my soul. It gave me time to adjust to a new phase of my life.

And now… all that peace and quiet has quietly disappeared again over the years. I fell back into the rat race, working and sleeping, paying bills, surviving…

But since I saw the first episode of the television series “Elders” (“Somewhere else” in Afrikaans, not wise old people… 🙂  )I heard the call again.

I am destined for more than to just breathe for 70-80 years.  I need the journey again, waking up each morning, just walking, breathing, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, feeling… just being for a while.

And this time I will not do it alone.

I have bought the flight tickets to Madrid. For me, and my wife…  we are going…


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The first time…