Just about now, a year ago, my friend and traveling companion gave me a list of items that I needed to take with me on the Camino. The earlier list had included large items like the boots or the sleeping bag, items I had already secured, and some I had not like a warm coat, or a parka. The list contained other items as well. It was not a long list, but it included the obvious things like a watch, as well as items that I had no idea existed, such as mole skin. Because we were traveling in winter and we wanted to build up our immune system, she recommended we stock up on Emergen-C Immune Defense and Emergen-C Joint Health. During the walk, we alternated taking these powders with water or juice. I am convinced that they helped me stave off a cold or the flu, after all 1000 mg of Vitamin C daily provides a strong defense.
Among the items on the list and other items that I gathered to take with me were: a compass, a small flashlight, a wash cloth, mole skin, small packets of tissues, a small bar of soap, and a plastic spoon and knife. I began my scavenger hunt by looking for mole skin. I had no idea what I was looking for, but my friend said I could find it at WalMart or CVS or any pharmacy. And I did find it. At H.E.B., the chain grocery store near our home. I was ecstatic when I saw the yellow and red packets next to the numerous items designed to aid all kinds of foot ailments from corns to bunions. I read the instructions and I could easily see how it would be necessary to avoid blisters. So I bought 5 packets of mole skin which I packed in a neat little black sleeve that fit beautifully in my backpack. I also slowly began acquiring the various items.
The first weekend in December, I made a special trip to Austin to buy the backpack and my parka, the ski mask and a warm scarf. I tried on some coats, parkas, at the Austin REI, where I bought my backpack, I had tried on a few that felt good but the price was prohibitive; I was not ready to spend more than I had spent on the boots. So, we hit the outlet mall to check them out at the Eddie Bauer store at the outlet mall in San Marcos. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I imagined that I’d find a jacket or parka that was like the warm down filled parka I had bought a few years earlier at a Land’s End store at the airport in Minneapolis. But, I could not find anything that resembled it. In looking for a the right parka, I tried on a number of them. I finally chose a dark blue, longish one provided the most protection for it included a hood with a fake fur trim.
One item on the list though, eluded me. Because we would need to take off our boots when we arrived at the albergues, she had recommended that I buy slippers or shoes that I could wear both at the albergue and to take a stroll in whatever town we were at in the evening. I could never find the lightweight and comfortable slippers I imagined for the trip. Not until I was in Spain did I buy a pair of slippers.
Slowly, I was collecting what I would need for the walk. I began walking in the mornings wearing the backpack with as close to the weight that I would carry. I am sure my neighbors thought I was odd walking around wearing the backpack and hiking boots around our suburban neighborhood. My anticipation grew and I was now regularly dreaming that I was already walking the pilgrimage route.