Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Via Jacobi - Practice walk and Trust the signs

Today was a relatively easy day although it turns out I walked a little over 17 kms (without my backpack) in my practice walk out of Rorschach. I'm learning that route finding is "interesting" at times. The Way is shown using a symbol and is attached to everything imaginable I.e. fences, buildings, poles etc.

The trick is to stop and look carefully when you reach a fork in the road and...stop and backtrack to the last known spot when the Way disappears.

Tomorrow is a long first day...27 or 31 kms depending on which information I want to believe in so I will get an early's in the low 30's for sure here today.

Three more Canadian lapel pins given today...lady at bank who helped me with my first cash withdrawal, owner of an eatery where I had my Pida and the very helpful young lady at the Tourist bureau who has answered my many questions since my arrival. In all cases I get a smile and spread a little Canadian cheer.

Cash withdrawal 

Had a bit of a scare here...first bank only accepted their brand...had never seen the international banking symbol...I thought oh oh. Second bank the lady came with me to the ATM (must look helpless or hapless) and helped me with my card. All was good and she left...then I got a "Technical error" message and the card spit out. 

Now really! To all my work friends developing friendly error messages think of something a little nicer like "card not accepted...sorry you will have to sleep out and/or beg for food tonight". Second card glad for following the advice to have at least two cards!

Lise, Jeanne, Claire - I followed your advice and went to the supermarket late in the day...Yes 50% off!
My favourite meal to date...PIDA - 10 Swiss francs - a steal!
A little Swiss ingenuity! Trap door in the lawn - no problem
Trust the signs

Over the next 100 days or so there are two key signs that I am going to have to trust without question to get me there.

Camino symbol pointing the way
Water is good to drink - must stay hydrated!

Future pilgrims

I highly recommend the Herberge in Rorschach...great location on the lake...cost reasonable by Swiss standards (49 Swiss francs for an individual room including breakfast), great manager in Volkmar, very clean with great facilities. A few pictures shown below...of course I left my swim suit at home to save weight!

50 meter pool - sorry 1 cm short therefore cannot be used for competitions!

Water slide included

Finally a great way to end the day with a Skype date with my best friend!

I will likely be off the grid for a few days as I am going to Sleep in Straw farms. Tomorrow promises to be interesting...I am to phone from the local church in Schwellbrunn as the farm is 4 kms off the track and I am going to be picked up (email communication to date using Google Translate app). They don't speak English and I don't speak German. Do I hear Canadian pins to the rescue?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Via Jacobi - Witzweg hike and Canadian Lapel pins

First thing asked Volkmar (manager at Youth Hostel) whether he had a Pilgrim stamp for my Pilgrim Credential booklet issued by the Canadian Company of Pilgrim's. He did and I have my first of stamp! The idea is to collect these stamps as you make your way to Santiago de Compostela to demonstrate that you have completed the pilgrimage. Volkmar received a Canadian lapel pin...he seemed happy.

After that a typical day in Switzerland least by my limited experience! Early this morning boarded a little red mountain train (Dawn remember the Bois d'Amont Train) which took a number of us the mountain side to a village called Heiden.

Mountain train to Heiden
From there started an 8 km hike to Walzenhausen where a boat subsequently took me back to Rorschach. It's hard to properly describe the hike except to say that it was what you imagine a Switzerland high valley ramble to be. Swiss signage was at it's finest and the path wound it's way through back roads, dense forest and often right past someone's front door steps.

Quite often all that separated me from dangerous animals like sheep, goats and cows with bells on was the simplest of fences! I both prayed and hoped for the best as I edged past them! A few pictures of the hike...

A few of the dangerous animals
Typical Swiss signage (have to be careful!)
Unfortunately there were many signs such as the one with the cartoon character in it...all in German...couldn't read a single one. If only there was an Apple app which could allow you to take a picture and receive an immediate translation! Maybe this exists...let me know if it does!

Houses on the route
Path through forest
Stairs through forest
Perfect Canada food guide lunch. Bread, Dairy (cheese), Fruit, Meat, Vegetables (tomato based sauce) and Cookie...missing food group is Chocolate
More pictures can be found by clicking on the link in the top right hand corner Camino Flickr Pictures and the Via Jacobi Walk album...note I was trigger happy today and post Camino will cull out pictures.

For the first time I also tracked my walk which turned out to be 10.4 kms instead of the intended 8 kms (due to a navigational error!) using my Bad Elf GPS device. Worked great! If you click on the top right hand corner on Camino Earth Actual Walk and go to the Witzweg hike you will be able to view this in Google Earth which gives a really good perspective on the walk (need to have downloaded Google Earth first). If you look closely at Wolfhalden you will see my boo boo.

Canadian Lapel Pins

The rest of my day was not as much fun...I was trying to find the Camino route out of Rorschach...spent about two hours (many additional kms) following some very hard to find markers. I had read that the route finding can be difficult in some's hoping Rorschach is an exception to easy!

As I was fumbling around an elderly lady stopped as she was cycling past and said something to me. At first I though she was asking me for directions duh!!! Finally she mentioned the Jakobsweg and I then knew she was trying to help me...she tried and then waved for me to follow her for a few 100 meters to where there was a Via Jacobi sign...without her help I could be in Russia by now or crying at the side of road.

I thanked her and gave her a Canadian lapel pin and she seemed happy as well! Tomorrow I will spend the better part of the day retracing steps (boring but necessary) until I am sure of how to get started properly...first day (after tomorrow) deserves a good start!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Via Jacobi - Safe and sound and Tilley pants

A long but very good day with no snags...I am now in Rorschach Switzerland where I will start walking Aug 1st. So I have a couple of days to unwind and do a few touristy things...very helpful lady at tourist info recommended a train trip (small Swiss train) to a village, then walk a ways and perhaps return by boat. I'm here...will try it.

As expected nothing is cheap here and everyone speaks German with a smattering of English...will be interesting for the first week or so.

Good deeds today - one for me and one received 

Noticed a gentlemen leaving a coffee shop in Montreal airport and leaving his wallet at the counter...ran after him (fastest 20 metres ever!) was he glad!

Arrived at 10:00 at my Youth Hostel...raining outside and very tired. I asked Volkmar (manager) if I could leave my bag for safekeeping and return at 4:30 when I could check in. He said sure and started to lock my bag in a room...then turned to me and asked if I would be willing to wait half an hour. Fifteen minutes later he told me my room (have luxury of a single room in Rorschach) was  ready. Kind gesture on his myself organized...dried out a bit and slept for a few hours. When I leave he is getting a Canadian lapel pin for sure!

Tilley pants

I invested in a pair of Tilley zip off pants (yeah Canada) for the walk...did you know:

 Zippers at the knees set off airport security check...necessitating two full body scans in a space type capsule in Winnipeg airport (the first one because I couldn't follow the pictures on how to raise my arms...sort of like the pictures on how to scan your credit card in a card reader).

Tilley pants have at last count 8 pockets...kid you not...2 regular front pockets with each of them having a secret pocket (one a Velcro, the other a zipper), 2 Velcro front pockets and 2 Velcro back pockets. If I find more I will let you know.

Electrical adapters

I have an incredible array of various electrical adapters with me...turns out I needed one more. The universal very expensive adaptor purchased at The place that will not be named (associated with automobile clubs) is too big for the Swiss electrical wall sockets. After visiting a few stores I found an additional I plug this one in, then the expensive Canadian one, then whatever device I want to charge. There is an extra step if I want to charge many devices as I also have an ultralight power bar (3 sockets and USB)...yeah I know it would be easier if I had left this all behind however it's part of the adventure.

A few pictures from today...there are more in the Via Jacobi folder accessed on right hand side under Camino Flickr pictures.

An ominous start to Rorschach lakefront walk

Standard Rorschach fire hydrant - curved

Rorschach lakefront walk

Downtown Rorschach

As I finish this...sitting at a table at the front desk...manager not there...I find myself as the unofficial greeter to new folks coming in. Three men biking, young woman walking around Lake Constance and a young couple. Difficult to do a good job with my limited German (read hand gestures)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

I'm off then

After 2+ years of's time to go. What lies ahead is 2,400 kms spanning 3 countries over a 100 days passing through 600 or so villages, towns and cities.

Having run a few marathons I expect the adventure will be 80% mental, 20% physical with an additional 50% being luck. I have a lucky stone with me to help!

The route starting is Switzerland            
Hope to stay in touch on a regular basis



Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Haircut

Some of you may know me as a fairly conservative guy who doesn't change a lot. Well after 45 years or so of sporting the same haircut that changed today in my preparation for my Camino.

I needed to continue to keep the weight down and why take a chance on a weird haircut while in Europe. Who knows what I would look like then?

45 years or so of consistency

Much shorter

What I may look like post Camino               

Not all is lost however as all my shirts are still blue...can't change everything in one day!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Packing for the Camino

On what fun this is! How do I get from Rorschach to Finisterre walking 24 kilometres a day over a 100 days with everything I need in my backpack? Yikes!

Camino veterans, world travellers and anyone else with good ideas...your comments and suggestions for stuff that can be left behind or missing items (please no!) are welcome!

First it's clear carry the lowest weight possible. The rule of thumb seems to be about 10% of body weight or in my case about 9kgs. Seems to me 10kg is a nicer if I gained about 22 lbs. in this last week the formula works! Nah...probably not a good idea..Will try to keep my weight where it is and carry less.

Another key decision is whether to try and take my backpack as carryon luggage or not. After reading many comments on this I have very reluctantly concluded, due to size restrictions, that I must check my backpack in a box or canvass bag (for protection) and take my chances. All key documents, medicines, electronic equipment are going on the plane of course. 

Worst comes to worst I will go extremely light on my Camino i.e. no change in clothes should my bag go AWOL in transit!

Here's my way of trying to meet the magic 10%:

1) Research, research and more research - reading many packing lists from Camino veterans

2) Made the critical first choice on footwear and decided to go with a lightweight trail shoe from Patagonia which is a cross between a hiking boot and a running shoe. I will be covering a lot of varied terrain including long stretches of road walking so this seems like the way to go.

3) Cannibalize the various packing lists and coming up with a plan to ship two restocking boxes at key points in the journey. My Camino is 3 times the normal length...what are you thinking Guy? Thankfully two hostel owners have agreed to hold my stuff prior to my arrival...they will get a small box of Canadian maple cream cookies...a little treat for their help!

4) Buying ultralight quick drying (read very expensive) clothing, and other recommended stuff wherever possible i.e.:

 - world's best underwear direct from New Zealand - honest truth!  
 - world's best foot and anti chaffing cream from New Zealand (small country quality)
 - world's best socks (1,000 mile guarantee without blisters - sure!) from England
 - world's best hat and zip off pants with lifetime guarantee from Tilley in Canada)
 - top rated backpack, rain gear etc. etc. -$$$$$$$$

5) Weighing everything on a postal scale - never thought I would ever do something like this...feels silly but necessary! My normal approach is to simply stuff everything in a bag and go!

Now that I have the perfect packing list let's add up the numbers...hmm...let's try that again "ce n'est pas possible!!!" - 11.4 kgs!!!

Back to the list and hack and slash as I can. Net weight is 9.5 kgs which is a compromise between the 9 and 10kgs...I like that.

My packing list is shown below including my boxes for Le Puy en Velay and Saint Jean Pied de Port both in France. A few pictures...

All my stuff unpacked

Boxes destined for Le Puy en Velay, St. Jean Pied de Port

Packed and ready to go!     

Final (?) Camino Packing List

Box for Le Puy en Velay
    * Silic 15 cream 75 g x 2
    * Set of rubber feet for trekking poles 
    * Canadian pilgrim credential
    * 2013 Miam Miam Dodo guide
    * Permethrin bed bug spray (initial spraying good for 6 weeks or so)
    * Dental floss x 2
    * Sunscreen Neutrogena 55 SPF 88 ml x 2
    * Canadian small plastic lapel pins
    * Ligett's soap bar
    * Band aid blister cushion
    * Goob tubes 2oz x 2 with CampSuds
    * Toothpaste - 22 ml
    * Maple Leaf Cookies - gift for safekeeping box

Box for St. Jean Pied de Port
    * Silic 15 cream 75 g x 2
    * Set of rubber feet for trekking poles
    * Credential del Peregrine
    * 2013 A village to village guide to hiking the Camino to Finisterre 
    *  Dental floss x 2   
    * Sunscreen Neutrogena 55 SPF 88 ml x 2
    * Canadian small plastic lapel pins
    *  Ligett's soap bar
    *  Bandaid blister cushion
    * Toothpaste - 22 ml
    * Toothbrush
    * Goob tubes 2oz x 2 with CampSuds
    * Gloves
    * Light weight long underwear - REI
    * Mountain HardWear Toque
    * Maple Leaf Cookies - gift for safekeeping box

Backpack Pac king List - Grand Total without Medication - 9,495 grams

Major equipment - 1,776 grams
   * Backpack -Osprey Kestrel 48 litres - 1,580 grams
   * Black Diamond collapsible trekking poles - no weight included as not in pack
   * Water bladder 3 litre - 196 grams

Sleeping equipment - 913 grams
   * Ultralight dry sack - 10 litres (Outdoor Research) - 44 grams
   * Mountain Hardware thermic micro sleeping bag  - 723 grams
   * Silk sleeping sack - 146 grams (can you believe it purple why not blue !!!)

Clothing in backpack - 1,668 grams
    * Double dry bag - 10 litres  - 101 grams
    * Silk weight underwear Earth Sea Sky - 2 pairs -145 grams
    * Long sleeve micro fibre shirt -Asics - 201 grams
    * Patagonia shorts - 243 grams
    * Adidas lightweight sandals - 295 grams
    * Socks - 1000 mile fusion x 1 - 120 grams
    * Socks - Icebreaker Merino wool short socks x 2 - 56 grams
    * Tilley short sleeve shirt - 210 grams
    * Lightweight Fleece - 297 grams

Clothing on plane - no weight counted
   * Tilley long pants zip off 
   * Socks - Icebreaker Merino wool short socks 
   * Patagonia walking shoes
   * Tilley short sleeve shirt
   * Silk weight underwear Earth Sea Sky    
   * Tilley hat
   * Belt

Rain wear  - 659 grams 
   * Gore tex ultra light Arc'Teryx jacket - 404 grams
   * Gore tex ultra light Arc'Teryx rain pants - 255 grams
Other  - 921 grams
   * Ultralight dry sack - 5 litres (Outdoor Research) - 39 grams
   * Light day pack - 261 grams
   * Canadian Company of Pilgrims badge - on backpack
   * Camino de Santiago forum badge - on backpack
   * Spare shoe laces x 2 - 35 grams
   * Ear plugs in small case - 16 grams
   * Canadian luggage tag for backpack - 32 grams
   * Spare glasses and case - 92 grams
   * Sunglass fit overs - 27 grams
   * Head lamp - 91 grams
   * Quick dry towel - 62 grams 
   * Small foot rub ball - 62 grams
   * Set of rubber feet for trekking poles - 22 grams
   * Pen - 7 grams
   * Small paper notebook - 47 grams
   * Camino shell (on backpack) - 48 grams
   * Carabiners small x 3 - 21 grams
   * Knife, fork, spoon set - 43 grams
   * Gear Tie - reusable 12 inch x 2 - 11 grams
   * Gear Tie - reusable 6 inch x 2 - 5 grams
   * Small Gimli lucky stone - no weight to leave at designed pilgrim traditional place
   * Small lock with key

Medical supplies - 613 grams
   * Mesh bag - 61 grams
   * Dental Floss - 16 grams
   * Toothpaste - 22ml - 38 grams
   * Toothbrush, plastic case - 53 grams
   * Band Aid blister cushion x 2 packs of 8, other Bandaids - 33 grams
   * Silic 15 cream (footcare, anti chaffing) 75 g x 2 - 161 grams
   * Sunscreen Neutrogena 55 SPF 88 ml x 1 - 108 grams
   * Polysporin 15 g - 18 grams
   * Iodine tincture 25 ml - 32 grams
   * Elastic tensor bandage - 25 grams
   * Waterproof adhesive tape- 32 grams
   * Needle in first aid paper - 5 grams
   * Moleskin (2 small sheets) - 6 grams
   * After Bite itch eraser - 20 grams
   * Alcohol tampons - 5 grams 

Medication and prescriptions - 200 grams

Quick fix - 200 grams
   * Safety pins - 1 gram
   * Eyeglass repair kit - 8 grams
   * Fingernail clippers - 19 grams
   * Toenail clippers - 35 grams
   * Small fold up scissors - 27 grams  
   * Norwex eye cloth - 8 grams
   * Kleenex - 3 small packs - 23 grams
   * Swiss Army Knife - 79 grams

Washing - 270 grams
   * Eagle Creek waterproof bag - 40 grams
   * Goob tubes 2oz x 2 with CampSuds - 104 grams
   * JR Liggetts soap x 2, soap holder - 126 grams

Electronics - 1,595 grams
    * Eagle Creek waterproof bag - 56 grams
    * Bad Elf Pro,adaptor and user guide - 131 grams
    * JT telephone, adaptor, User guide and User manual - 177 grams
    * Grounded Europe Adapter plug - 42 grams 
    * Apple mini adaptor - 41 grams
    * Apple Mini iPad with Otter box - 630 grams
    * Ear buds and case - 51 grams
    * Camera Canon Powershot, case, charger, SD card reader - 306 grams
    * Travel power bar 3 outlets - 161 grams

 Important papers - 680 grams
    * Innate document pouch - 43 grams
    * Via Gebennensis yellow guide book - 90 grams
    * Via Gebennensis Topo FF Randonnee guide book - 174 grams
    * Via Jacobi Rossolis guide book - 244 grams
    * Canadian Company of Pilgrims credential x 2   - 96 grams
    * Passport laminated copies - 8 grams
    * Air Canada flight information copy
    * Copy front and back do debit and credit cards
    * Telestial phone card with information
    * Accommodation (laminated) - booked and top 3 in Spain -25 grams

Money belt - no weight counted 
    * Start up Swiss Francs
    * Start up Euros
    * Two debit cards (in case one get's eaten up by machine)
    * Credit card
    * Passport

Did not make the cut and banished to the sidelines - Total 1,850 grams
    * REI long pants lightweight zip off pants - 408 grams
    * T shirts Under Armour micro fibre x 1 - 144 grams
    * Insult a Day daughter Claire's Xmas gift - 108 grams(will enter on iPad notes)
    * Canadian small plastic lapel pins - 313 grams (Note this may return)
    * Clothes line - 37 grams     
    * Travel pillow inflatable - 67 grams  
    * Small clip on night lite for backpack - 17 grams   
    * Sunscreen Neutrogena 55 SPF 88 ml x 1 - 108 grams   
    * Toilet paper roll in ziplock - 211 grams     
    * Voltaren emulgen ache reliever- 57 grams    
    * Goob tubes 2oz x 1 with CampSuds - 1 04 grams
    * JR Liggetts soap x 1 - 90 grams    
    * Socks - 1000 mile fusion x 1  - 120grams   
    * Dental Floss x 1 - 16 grams   
    * Small flashlight - 50 grams

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Camino Videos

It's difficult to get an appreciation for what this walk will be however a number of previous people have made some excellent videos of their journey.

I have set up links to two of my favourites on Vimeo in the top right hand corner under Videos on the St James Way.  The St. James Way will be the second last leg of my walk. The short video is just over 2 minutes long while the long video is clocks in at 47 minutes. Have a look if interested.

I also highly recommend watching a recent movie on the Way of St. James called The Way starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. It's a funny, moving story with great scenery.

One week left prior to retirement and three weeks prior to leaving for the walk...time is flying by so quickly! Next blog entry...the dreaded and feared Packing List.