My wife today reminded me about my anxiety over the weather.
I planned to walk the Camino in early April. But I’d been following the weather reports, and it was a shocker. Late late winter, snow and freezing temps, and the Route Napoleon was closed because of heavy snowfalls.
Not only that but a pilgrim had just died trying to get to Roncesvalles going the Route Napoleon. It took rescuers four days to find his body.
Several times each day, in the weeks leading up to my departure for France, I’d check the weather reports, and I’d go onto the forums that were monitoring the situation. It was bad. And it was freaking me out.
So I went out and I bought gaiters, at $85 a pair, and I bought a reflective safety vest too because it looked like I’d have to go the Valcarlos route, which meant walking on roads. And the forums were stating categorically that anyone who walked on the roads going via Valcarlos needed to wear a reflective safety vest, otherwise they’d get hit by a truck.
Closer to my departure, the bad weather wasn’t easing up. I was avidly following the day by day blog of a woman walking with her two young daughters. Each night I’d look at her pictures of snow, and mud, and rain.
I’m from Australia. We don’t do snow here. Or if we do, it’s for the wealthy and the indolent in some far flung ski fields.
I started to seriously consider bumping my trip back a month, to give the winter storms time to abate. I didn’t relish the prospect of tramping through snow. But my PGS told me to stick to my dates. It told me that it would be a mistake to change dates.
So I didn’t change my flights. I stuck to my dates, and I landed in Biarritz to coldish overcast skies, but no rain, and no snow.
The Pilgrim’s Office in St. Jean told me, when I went to pick up my passport, that the Route Napoleon was still closed, and would be for the foreseeable future. The next day I walked to Roncesvalles via the Valcarlos route.
I didn’t wear my vest, and I didn’t get hit by a truck.
That night, I left my vest in the albergue in Roncesvalles.
From then on, I had delightful weather. Truly delightful. Clear blue skies, cool refreshing breezes, absolutely perfect weather for walking. Yes I had a couple of rainy days. Particularly as I approached Galicia. But I counted eighteen straight days without any rain. Out of the 31 days, I had maybe three days of rain, and two of those days were just drizzle.
My mate Steve, who contributes to this blog, left a month later – coincidently around about the date I was considering, had I rebooked. He got horrible weather. Rain most days. And mud. If I’d changed my flights, I would have copped that bad weather.
As a filmmaker, weather is a crucial issue. If you’ve shot half a sequence in sunny weather, you need to shoot the rest of the sequence days or weeks later in the same kind of sunny weather, otherwise when you put the shots together in editing, it won’t look right. Cut from sunny sky to rainy sky to sunny sky again – you get the picture.
What I’ve learnt as filmmaker is not to worry about what I can’t control. I can’t control weather. So there’s no point worrying. All I can do is prepare. So in preparing for my Camino I loaded my backpack with thermals, with gaiters, with raingear, with reflective vests, and with warm gloves and a beanie. I HATE beanies.
Like I say, I left the vest at Roncesvalles. When I got to Pamplona, I posted off my thermals and my gaiters and beanie to my pre-booked hotel in Santiago. I didn’t need them, and I was convinced that I wouldn’t need them from Pamplona on – even up around O Cebreiro.
And I didn’t.
Each day while I walked, I refused to look at weather maps or listen to weather reports. Why worry about what you can’t control? I would make a final decision as to what I was going to wear each morning when I stepped outside the albergue. If it was raining, I’d put on my jacket. If it wasn’t, I’d leave it off. Simple.
My weather forecasting consisted of looking up into the sky to see if I could see stars. If i couldn’t, it meant there were clouds. Clouds didn’t necessarily mean rain. Clouds meant it would probably be warmer than if there were no clouds.
I put aside my fear of the weather. I did that in Australia, before I left. I trusted that I would walk in the sun. And I was determined not to walk the Camino in fear. As it turned out, I had the best weather…