Saturday, 16 July 2022

Planning - Dangerous Animals - 59 Days to Go

Part 9 of the magnificent 10 part Planning series! Barring some event that warrants a special blog posting the final Planning blog - What’s in the Backpack” will likely be posted a couple of weeks before the adventure begins.

Going back to the first Planning post...if in reading any of these posts you have cracked a small smile, had a chuckle it has made this totally worthwhile. I spend way to much time dreaming up things that I think might be of some use and maybe even a little funny...my poor family knows this all too well...however it’s fun to spend time simply on trivial non essential stuff.  We all have way too many serious things to consider and take care of daily...a few silly moments are ok.

I received an interesting comment to my Weather Planning post from a very helpful and experienced pelegrina from New Zealand. Her family has been using  Packa as a backpacking rain option for years http://www.thepacka.command thought I would be interested. Suggestions such as these are always very welcome...quick review of website is promising…also will look at some YouTube videos. Would not be surprised to make the change!

Today’s blog posting is about Dangerous animals...anyone who has read previous blog posts knows this may well be my favourite topic. All blog incidents are true however I may at times have stretched the truth just a tiny little bit. πŸ˜‚.

I started thinking about Dangerous animals very early on my Camino Long Walk...the first blog posting below was from Day 2. Given it was my first posting it is also likely my favourite. I must have chortled to myself for a few hours while walking after the "dangerous cow incident” simply thinking about how I could describe what happened to me. Who knows what others thought when they saw me laughing...who cares?

Dangerous animal planning is of course difficult...one never knows what/when the encounters will  happen...just have to be vigilant and react accordingly. Trekking poles have been very useful especially with aggressive chickens (French chickens are way more aggressive than Spanish chickens - just ask my pilgrim friend Cyrille) and dogs. Basically just smack the two poles together a number of times and that usually has the desired effect.

In previous planning posts I have admitted to a couple of fears...respect for heights, thunderstorms...well ok also jumping out of a plane (who knows maybe someday πŸ€”) and flipping upside down while zip-lining (check - I have done this πŸ™‚). Now for the 3rd major fear...snakes...there are a few blog stories about snakes in the blog posts shown below.

Prior to these blog posts I am attaching an actual conversation thread which took place on the Camino Forum regarding the Camino Salvador (planned after the Camino Primitivo) just a few months ago. Excerpts from 3 main Camino Forum participants are... 

1) - Let’s call him - Pilgrim who likes to scare the πŸ’© out of everyone...not sure what his intentions are however his comments seemed focused on simply scaring pilgrims...which he did

2) Peregrina Super Star - Wonderful Forum member who has a wealth of experience and has walked many Camino paths...always willing to share information. On more than one occasion has reached out and answered my “X for Dummies” questions...much appreciated. Peregrina Super Star is in her 70s...walks regularly 30+ km days and has walked the Camino Salvador 3 times.

3) Let’s call him - Wanna Be Funny Pilgrim...your guess here is likely right 

Pilgrim who likes to scare the πŸ’© out of everyone

"Its the only route where I have seen snakes (close-up, on the path) - two different type, every time I've been on the San Salvador, so be careful when you tramp into the undergrowth to relieve yourself. Its the only route where I've seen evidence of wild boar on the path and their same-day activity. I've been told of the small wolf pack, diminished because the farmers shoot the Alpha males so that the pack won't thrive. I find the farmer's dogs very threatening - you must do your best not to react to them and ignore them, despite how close they may get. The farmers need their dogs viscous and threatening because of the wolves, I suppose, but they should teach them that pilgrims are not a threat to their sheep - even hungry pilgrims." 

Pelegrina Super Star

"I am sure there are snakes, but I have never seen one on three Salvador Caminos. You can be sure they are not hiding behind a rock waiting to slither out and scare you.  πŸπŸπŸ

Wanna Be Funny Pilgrim

"I am greatly relieved however now wondering about bears πŸ» polar & grizzly main concerns and geez tigers πŸ…well any kind is a problem. I am going to assume ok on both fronts πŸ˜‚

Pilgrim who likes to scare the πŸ’© out of everyone

"Hi there - well, my last experience was close-up, too close (2019)! My friend was walking in front of me and screamed as she had to leap over the snake that was sliding out of the undergrowth. It raised its head at me, just behind her. We stepped back and it slid back to where it came from. It was the venomous 'Adder' type. I've also crossed-paths with the black viper type - you don't want a bite from that one. Just be aware.

I think its a bit unusual for me to see snakes every time I'm on the San Salvador, but I don't usually have people with me so I'm quiet, and pay attention to the paths as I have walking difficulties. I've also seen a Megarian banded centipede. They have a nasty sting but its not so bad as a snake, so I'm told. They are beautiful but aggressive and will attack if threatened. I saw this on the descent into Ponferrada on the FrancΓ©s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scolopendra_cingulata They are 'normally' found a lot further south. But I've seen mostly impressive and beautiful, non-venomous creatures too. Enjoy your Camino.”

Wanna Be Funny Pilgrim

"Well I am super happy to know that so far no King Cobra snake has been seen…if that shows up in the discussion I am throwing in the towel! 

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to walk Kumano Kodo in Japan…5 days…amazing walk…got my Dual Pilgrim certificate! But…in researching the Kumano Kodo the issue of snakes would pop up. I seriously considered not walking however thankfully I did…never saw one.

Plan to walk the Salvador in the first week Oct 2022…maybe it will be cold…a little snow? That would slow down the snakes…coming from Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ snow and cold are ok!

Now for that snake venom antidote to add to my packing list…wonder where you get that? πŸ˜‚

There were no more thread items on snakes after Wanna Be Funny Pilgrims last comment. πŸ‘Œ

Here is my solution for the Camino Salvador...”Cyrille tu es jeune alors a tout temps tu marcheras devant moi et si il y a un serpent...crie Guy sauve toi!”...”Cyrille you are young so you should always walk ahead of me and if you see a snake...yell Guy save yourself!!”

Here are some blog postings of previous featuring Dangerous Animal from various Camino walks.

Cows


Via Jacobi (August 2, 2013) - Day 2 Schwellbrunn to Watwill


Sooner or later I was worried this would happen...face to face with a Swiss cow with no fence between us. Well it happened on one of the off the beaten path trails...the cow (see facsimile below) was essentially blocking the trail...and not moving.

Disclaimer - not cow in story…it was much bigger!


The mind does funny things in times of severe stress...mine went into option mode...I could think of five options.

Option 1 - try to sneak under the cow
Option 2 - attach my 2 trekking poles and pole vault over the cow

Neither seemed like a good option...pilgrim dies when squished by cow or pilgrim seen riding a cow in pain after failed attempt to pole vault it.

Option 3 - try to shoo it away...however after all my limited communication attempts with people what were my chances with a cow...limited

Option 4 - go behind the cow
Option 5 - go ahead of the cow

Option 4 was possible however was worried it could "backfire" on me if the timing was off so to speak.

I went with Option 5 keeping my eyes locked on the cow ( it had no horns and it's ears were swishing) and all went well until...the cow starting following me. This lasted only a few minutes however I was already wondering how I would explain this at the B&B.

Via Jacobi (August 11, 2013), Day 11 Thun to Riggisberg


Then it happened with the trail taking an almost ridiculous uphill shortcut through a cow pasture...see cow had horns picture!

Cow has horns - no protective fence!


Now here I am maybe 10 feet away with a RED backpack with only walking poles...how I am supposed to be a matador? I just thought if it's my time then that's fate...quickly moved on and all was good.

Via Podiensis (October 15, 2013) - Day 37 Nasbinals to Saint Come d'Olt


During this descent I suddenly found myself in a small herd of Aubrac cows with horns and no protective fence! I gingerly sidestepped a few of them, within a meter or so, and made my way to a gate where I lifted the latch.

Bad move as a small electric current went through me...electrical fence! I backtracked 10 metres or so and found where I missed the trail...and there was a giant cow. There was no way around it and vice versa so a Mexican cow standoff started. The cow put his head down and made a snorting noise...so I climbed over the stone fence into a pasture...

Fence at right 


...and promptly fell into mud or so I think it was mud...will need a good shower tonight! I then moved to the side of the cow and it moved forward...PHEW... I was on my way!


Via Gebennensis (October 5, 2013) - Day 28 Chavanay to Bourg Argental


As far as 
dangerous animals are concerned there was a scare…


Ok there is a fence between us - just pretend there isn’t one!


Camino Portuguese (March 16, 2018) - New Day 4 Barcelos to Balugaes


I walked right by this dangerous animal…no big deal!

Camino Frances (May 16, 2014) - Day 84 Melide to Pedrouzo


An interesting twist today was meeting a herd of cows coming down the path towards the many pilgrims. These were huge cows...likely in the 50,000 to 100,000 kilos each range. A lady with a big stick was leading them saying in Spanish what I expect was "Don't worry they won't hurt you" as all the pilgrims squished to the side of the road! Yeah sure...I saw some of the cows actually fighting each other!

Unfortunately no pictures...just a frightful memory! 

Dogs

Via Gebennensis (September 27, 2013) - Day 20 Beaumont to Frangy


Dangerous animals...all quiet until I passed through La Motte! Then at least half a dozen loose barking dogs...one of them very large who really did not pay much attention to me. 

One of them was barking outside some of type of workplace area...a guy in his overalls came out shouting "maudit chien!"...you can translate on your own and yelling things at the owners of the dog. Basically out of a cartoon setting...He likely does this many times each day! The funniest part was when he saw me passing he told me to "whack the dog in the head with my walking poles". Linda I did not do that.

Back to the dangerous animals...one dog was particularly aggressive and charged a few times...was ready with my pole...

Poor little guy had three legs…but aggressive!


Camino Portuguese (March 14, 2018) - New Day 2 Vilar do Pinheira to Sao Miguel de Arcos

It seems like every home has a fierce dog behind a supposed fence who takes great delight in surprising pilgrims with crazy barking at the exact instant a poor pilgrim is passing by! Twice today we had dogs run out of their yards...this is where the walking poles come in handy as they (so far) back off reasonably quickly! 

One funny instance today... there was a really nice display of Camino spirit at a house with oranges set out for pilgrims. No sooner had we approached the oranges 3 dogs came charging out

Note Dog behind fence somehow he/she became 3 dogs!

Other

Via Jacobi (August 5, 2013) - Day 5 Alphal to Brunnen


Black Panther incident

Almost forgot to mention that on the way up to the Haggenegg pass I saw either a black house cat on the trail ahead of me or a small black panther. I was really sweating a storm at the time so it's difficult to say for sure.

My gut was telling me Black Panther (may be the first one ever seen in Switzerland). Very shortly thereafter my proof appeared...

Black Panther - how terrifying that?


I am not sure what to do about this now...will sleep on it tonight. I suspect if I tell someone they will likely say some common animal did this...then my story would be wrecked!


Via Jacobi (August 7, 2013) - Day 7 Stans to Flueli-Ranft


Llama Incident

Seems like I have had a few of these...today was simply following a sign and saw these in the distance.

Llamas, Alpacas???


I don't know what they were however thought you must be kidding if I am going to weave between these. I even panicked and went back 100 meters to make sure! Finally I simply went forward as there was no way I was going backwards to Rorschach...turns out they were tied to trees...man am I lucky!

Via Jacobi (August 9, 2013) - Day 9 Brienzwiler to Interlaken


Slugs Incidents

Yes they are back and today a little disgusting perhaps - Dangerous Animal

         
I see these slugs frequently on the trail and have always taken my chances and just side stepped them. They appear to be very slow moving however that may be a clever ruse on the part of this species to catch me at some point...i.e. they may be sending telepathic messages to their brethren later on the trail and then wham...it get's me. I am going to be extra vigilant.

Camino Frances (April 21, 2014) - Day 59 Saint-Jean-Pied-de Port to Roncesvalles


A chilling moment on the way up!!!


Yes my friends who have followed this blog through Switzerland, France and now Spain these dangerous animals are back. While this photo was not taken today...I was in shock when this guy reappeared...they are back and following me. As I write this I am having difficulty dealing with the imminent danger I am in!


Via Podiensis (October 31, 2013) - Day 53 Manciet to Aire-Sur-l’Adour


Rats Incident

Just before 4:00 I saw what at first thought were 4 beaver pups with a mother beaver cross the trail just ahead of me...talk about dangerous animals! Cyrille later told me that they were large rats! Come to think of I am not sure why I though they were beaver (homesick maybe?) as they had skinny tails and were in a cornfield!!!

Roosters & Chickens

Via Gebennensis (October 5, 2013) - Day 28 Chavanay to Bourg Argental


As far as 
dangerous animals are concerned this was scary...

No fence - this rooster was a few feet away!


Camino Portuguese (March 6, 2018) - Day 3 Vila Franca de Xira to Azambuja


At some point I turned a corner and there were some very dangerous chickens and a rooster within a few FEET. I was so scared that I froze with my trekking poles at the ready...no picture available as it was raining however the two pictures shown are close to what I saw!





Snakes

Via Jacobi (August 9, 2013) - Day 9, Brienzwiler to Interlaken


Less than ten minutes after this incident I came across two families where the kids were jumping up and down screaming and one of the mother's was using a stick to push something. I was sure it was the brown animal above however as I passed by it was a very small snake...it was a snaky colour however it could have been an immature black mamba (very dangerous).

Via Podiensis (October 23, 2013) - Day 45, Cahors to Lascabanes

The major scare, sorry I did not get a picture, was a small snake on the trail. After all the talk of poisonous vipers I don't know what it was...however I'm sure I came very close to dying. Georges has been talking for days about vipers (dangerous and small) and larger snakes (not dangerous) that he came across in this trail section last year. 

Camino Frances (May 11, 2014) - Day 79 Cacabelos to La Portela de Valcarce


Now I have tried to hold off long enough...yes a terrifying dangerous animal event happened today

Pequeno Dangeroso Deadliano Vipero


I survived but it was very very close...however I made it through alive!

Friday, 15 July 2022

Planning - Weather Rain/Snow/Hail/Heat - 60 Days to Go


Planning for weather events is…a little tough to do 😳. Most days are glorious especially as I have walked primarily in the spring and fall (favourite season). However its always those outlier days that require the planning, equipment and maintenance of as positive a mind set as possible…admittedly I have on occasion failed 😞 in the latter!


Without question the highest risk weather related event is heat. I started my Camino long walk on August 1st (only time walked in summer) in Switzerland in the midst of a heat wave. That combined with other issues mentioned in a previous blog made for a tough start…as the first day turned out be be 35 km in 30+C heat.

I did my very best to hydrate over the first couple of weeks by drinking water at every opportunity and ended up becoming a big fan of Aquarius drinks.



I also remember on a few occasions buying Classic Coke…something I never do at home…needed the sugar as I was walking on empty.

Rain is the most common weather issue…thunderstorms are the real threat here and yes I have been caught more than a few times. I am not the bravest soul in the world with regards to thunderstorms…so I quickly find the best cover available and wait it out.

Rain protection is probably one of the most debated topics on the Camino Forum! So many opinions…so many options…however the long and the short of it is…if you walk long enough you will get soaked one day and most/if not all your rain ☔️ defences will have failed 😞.

This is not being pessimistic…it simply will happen and you either accept it and dry out later or grumble 😠…I have done both! I generally enjoy walking in the rain however the cold hard driving wind whipped rain 🌧 leads to the grumbling.

Rain ponchos vs Goretex rain jacket and pants

I started off in 2013 with an Altus rain poncho shown below. Seemed like the perfect solution and many swear by the Altus however I found it extremely hot πŸ₯΅…feels like it's raining inside the poncho when sweating and try putting this on when it’s windy...comedic relief...sort of like trying to fly a kite πŸͺ 



I then moved on to Goretex rain jacket/pants and backpack rain cover. Sure a number of steps however in heavy rain you suit up once and away you walk. 

The jacket and pants also double up as extra layers in windy cool weather or walking in town in the evening. This way I maintain my snazzy looking self…Tilley hat included…as opposed to walking around in my Altus poncho. Have to keep looking good and maintain my carefully developed style sense and panache. πŸ˜‚.

Goretex or Non Goretex shoes 

Again the subject of many debates…I have tried both and honestly in steady/heavy rain walking through puddles Goretex shoes will not keep you dry. In hot weather Goretex shoes make your feet hot even if they are designed to breathe so…non Goretex for me.

I also believe that most serious backpackers…with much more experience than me choose non Goretex.

Other rain protection

Backpack contents should be placed where possible in some kind of protective bag…I have one meant for canoeing where I keep next day clothes.

It’s also a very good idea to place all backpack contents in a large plastic bag (garbage bag will do) within the backpack.

Finally for whatever electronic devices, passport and other valuables you should invest in some kind of weatherproof pouch…sure iPhone 13 is water resistant to X feet for Y minutes. Well some rain days will be Y+++ minutes.

Now with all this weather prep and potential for a few tough days why walk? Again these days are outlier days which in no way outweigh the fun and delight of simply being outdoors, moving and exploring! Even with the very best of things there are occasional downsides😊.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos completed by a well known pilgrim/walker Efren Gonzalez who uses drones to capture some incredible footage. Unfortunately no short video available for Camino Primitivo. I only include them here in case someone is interested.

Camino Primitivo (Long video 48 minutes)


Camino Salvador (Short video 3.5 minutes)


Camino Salvador (Long video 36 minutes)


A few stories from my blog and past weather related experiences while walking Camino paths…these were some of the more interesting 🀨 and challenging days!

Via Podiensis (November 4, 2013) - Day 57 Navarrenx to Urhad Mixe


Only one way to describe today...absolutely BRUTAL walking...30 kms in 7.5 hours of which 5+ hours were in rain. A good portion of the day was spent in a hard driving rain...the type where you feel like every part of you is going to...and eventually does get wet.

The camera was put away early and then placed in the pocket of my weatherproof GORETEX jacket. Yeah sure! At the time of this writing the camera is not working as the pockets of my coat were PUDDLES...not impressed and a hard lesson to learn. So far I have confirmed that the photo card is still OK...plugged in phone battery and we will see if camera still works.

Via Podiensis (October 12, 2013) - Day 34 Saugues to Les Faux


Today it started snowing softly and then as the day progressed, especially in open areas, it started falling quite heavily at times. With the wind blowing in my face it felt like being back home in winter thankfully with mild temperatures hovering around zero. Honestly at times the visibility wasn't great and I had to be careful with route signage.

Because the temperature wasn't that cold I was never too concerned however gloves and layers were really required... being Canadian also helped. A few pictures from the day:






Pelerin Tracking

Sometime before La Clauze I came across pelerin tracks in the snow

Pelerin Tracks in the Snow

Camino Finisterre (May 20, 2014) - Day 87 Negreira to Olveiroa


Not much to be said today...absolutely soaked as we walked 34 kms over 6.5 hours. The day was split into sections...the first 3 hours it rained/poured continuously...the next 3 hours it rained lightly on and off with the sun making a brief appearance...the final 30 minutes it just poured!

Everything we own is wet...trying out best to dry out at the Casa Loncho in Olveiroa...last night booked a room for the three of us for 20 Euros each. At this point this was a golden decision!

Camino Portuguese (March 4, 2018) - Day 1 Lisbon to Parque de Naçáes

Well it rained...it poured...we are soaked but it was great to walk again following the yellow arrows! Map my Walk app measured 14.3 kms from our hotel in Lisbon.

Here is a selfie taken mid walk

Essential key rain defences worked...passport...euros..iPhone. All other defences failed miserably starting with my world's best Arteryx rain jacket...I had puddles in my pocket...no I did not forget to zip the pocket!

The bottom of my backpack was super wet...rain cover could not handle the heavy downpours. My pants were drenched (on the plus side they dry quickly) as I forgot to wear my rain pants...yes I simply forgot...not kidding! It happens to the best of us!

Lisbon is very hilly and streets and sidewalks are often cobblestones especially in the Alfama district. This is a rough combination when walking in the rain as everything is slippery...we were careful and all was good.

Camino Portuguese (March 5, 2018) - Day 2 Parque de Naçáes to Vila Franca de Xira

Brutal! Today was my 90th day of walking Camino trails and I will remember it fondly!

Let me see...36.2 kms (was supposed to be 32 kms) over 7.5 hours with 5 hours of rain! There was a stretch of maybe 45 minutes where the rain was freezing, heavy and whipped by a wicked wind. It got so bad that I was worried that my prized Tilley hat held by two straps would fly away and it had to be hidden under a hood. Imagine that I would no longer look sharp!

Oh and did I mention the mud (see picture) walking through massive puddles and getting many booters. I felt like I was skating on mud and came very close to a number of pratfalls. The scenery oscillated between industrial wasteland and a few nice stretches along the water.


Camino Portuguese (March 6, 2018_ - Day 3 Vila Franca de Xira to Azambuja

Water, water, water...it's absolutely everywhere in fields, streams, running down roads, roads turned into mud but mostly on my head, soaking my shirt, in my pants and turning my shoes into waterskiing shoes.


I have noticed a dark cloud that is always just above my head...time for that cloud to disappear! Rain tomorrow and after that no rain...I hope!

Today it rained...sometimes in buckets...other times a light drizzle...some stretches of no rain!

Next blog posting Dangerous Animals.