PC #45 – You take your weather with you…

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…

Sunny days

30 thoughts on “PC #45 – You take your weather with you…

  1. Love that photo, Bill. Its weird the way we get so wrapped up in weather, isn’t it? I check it at least once a day even though its never whats going on outside. I don’t feel prepared otherwise. I heard once that even the best meteorologists are only right 50% of the time-which means that any one of us can be just as accurate by guessing. But I’m obsessed. I have an app that shows the weather up to 15 days ahead, from anywhere in the world. Ive programmed the list for every town I have a close friend in, or where I have been, or am.going. That’s three times more useless information than I need.And I check that site at least twice a day. And, as you say, Bill, what’s the point when I can’t control it, or change it? Its like worrying about the past. You can’t go back and change it, so you may as well get on with whatever comes next!

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    • Dear Sister –

      you’re absolutely right about that –

      It’s handy to know what’s going to happen to the weather sometimes. Should I wear a jacket? Is my brother in Brisbane sweltering at the moment?

      But for the Camino, I had no interest in weather forecasting. It’s not like I could go into my wardrobe and find my winter gear. Everything I had was in my backpack!

      And you’re so so right about the past. It’s only there to learn from.

      Jennifer has this belief that that past simply doesn’t exit.

      If the blog wants, I’ll get her to do a guest blog on it. She can explain her belief of that way better than me!

      Bill

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      • I hope you can convince her, Bill. That sounds really interesting, and I’m not sure I understand it at all. Time to expand my grey matter!

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  2. Bill, thankyou for yet another reflection that hits the spot! I am taking a rain jacket but I don’t plan on using it. I will wear only 3/4 pants but have both long and short sleeved tops. Also have a beanie and sun hat. It is not my intention to be focused on the weather. As you so rightly say, we can’t do anything about. I intend to just accept it and keep walking.
    My decision to walk late September – October was based on my own intuition and hope for cool mornings, sunny, crisp days and cool nights. I will soon find out.
    Blessings
    Anne

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    • Dear Anne –

      it’s always tricky trying to anticipate what the weather is going to do, before you leave home.

      Once you’re there, you’re stuck with what’s in your backpack. You can either dump stuff you don’t need, or post it back or on ahead.

      And of course you can buy things you might need too, if anything unforeseen comes along.

      As I said in the blog, I posted a lot of stuff on to Santiago, but then I had to get a lightweight jacket which I ended up using every day.

      I found that the cold wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I remember one time walking near Astorga, leaving early one morning and seeing one of those electronic temperature read-outs on the bottom of a Farmacia sign. It said 2C. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was chilly, but not that cold.

      We are amazingly resilient, aren’t we!

      And I think your anticipation of the good walking weather ahead for you is spot on – that’s what you’ll get!

      Bill

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  3. Bill we cannot change the weather but we can change our attitude to the weather! This was said to me by a wise Irish pilgrim who was walking his 7th Camino. That’s when I stopped looking at the weather forecasts on my iPad.
    I walked around about the same time as Steve, in my 40 days of walking I had about 7 or 8 days of sunshine from sunrise to sunset, a little tough going for a South African from Jozi, especially when I knew that back home the daily maximum temperature in the middle of winter was between 18 and 20 degrees.

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  4. I can’t believe how my fundamental way-of-life and travel to just let it happen as it happens and then work out what I can or need to do about that particular situation or day, has obviously saved me from years (cumulatively) of worry about stuff I can do absolutely nothing about. It’s not a life theory I’ve spent lots of time formulating, it just happens to be the way I function. And I find it astonishing that well educated, thoughtful, intelligent people like you Bill and Sister Clare, can waste so much – mental – time and effort on … the weather!!! You seriously need to wean yourselves off that obsession and just get on with it and I sincerely hope for you both that you can do so 🙂 It’s freeing not to worry about stuff that you have absolutely no influence over … try it!!

    As for Jennifer’s notion that the past doesn’t exist, that’s very interesting and I too would love to hear her views on it … so please push her!!

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    • Hey Britta –

      You might have misunderstood my post –

      What I said was that I DIDN’T worry about the weather.

      I checked the forecasts before I left, because that determined what gear I would take – but my point is that I didn’t change my plans because I was concerned about the weather.

      Bill

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    • You’ll be happy to know I have deleted my obsessive weather app and replaced it with one that reads current temperature only. I need that in the winter to know when the pipes are going to freeze,so I can intervene with my home made insulation sleeve. The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it was, and I know I haven’t always been that way. I was happy in Africa,without street signs or a census-so its time for a mental clear out of irrelevant information!

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  5. Sorry, Bill, I guess I did take too much note of your description of checking the weather prior to going and how that influenced your thoughts around your preparation for your walk. My apologies 🙂 Incidentally, watched a program tonight on SBS about a guy walking along the Dorset (UK) coast … amazing scenery and almost Aussie-looking beaches and incredibly green – very impressive!! No impressive cathedral at the end, but some very cute looking pubs along the way!! I might not obsess about the weather, but could end up with too many choices of places to walk around the globe. Scottish Highlands, Hadrian’s Walk, Roman Track on the Danish west coast anyone??

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    • Britta,

      It’s great that you seem to have developed a way of looking at the world that takes that kind of pressure off you – whether it be the weather, or other things that are out of your control.

      I must take a huge amount of stress off you!

      I’ll have to check out that SBS show. I know some pilgrims were talking about the Coast to Coast walk in the UK, which must be beautiful.

      What makes the Camino special though is that it is a pilgrimage, and it seems to have a particular magic about it…

      By the way, I have now started the revisions on my book. I looked at the first four chapters and thought they were dreadful. Truly horrible. So I’ve cut them. Lost nearly 6,000 words in one edit. Now I get into the story much faster, without all the unnecessary blah blah blah that I felt was absolutely necessary when I started writing the book.

      With writing, you always need to know your ending before you know where to begin.

      Bill

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      • FYI, Bill, you can apparently get info re last night’s program on http://www.channel4.com and as for the Coast to Coast, it apparently has many wonderful parts to it, but can be quite hard in parts, as there’s not a lot of choice of where to stay, so some days you just HAVE to walk the distance to get a bed at the end of the day. And of course, you’re so right about other walks not having the added pilgrimage magic to them, but sometimes I guess you might have to be pragmatic and choose to just get a week’s walk in somewhere / anywhere than not at all, with taking in the cost of getting to Spain!!

        So dropping a few thousand words, is that a hardship? Does it hurt to give up on so much that you’ve worked hard to get down? or does speeding up the pace of the story make up for that loss? Know absolutely nothing about writing, so just hearing about the process if fascinating 🙂

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        • Hi Britta

          thanks for the link! I’ll check it out.

          Yes, the walk sounds amazing, and you’re right, sometimes it’s just not possible to get to Spain (particularly if you live in Australia!)

          It doesn’t bother me at all when I make big cuts. I don’t think about the week or so of writing that it took originally – all that’s important is telling the story cleanly, and engaging the reader from the get-go.

          I found my “voice” further into the book, and so I now have to go back and not only cut, but totally re-write with that voice consistent throughout the work.

          I had to write as I did – I had to find the story and find that voice. And then having established those things, I go back and rewrite. It’s the same with a film – after the shoot you go into editing and you spend about 6 weeks doing your first cut, and it’s only then can you see what you have, what you’re dealing with.

          I love this process of editing in writing – and I love post production in a movie too. It’s where you really find the story you’re trying to tell.

          Bill

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    • You can’t rationally ignore the weather when preparing for the trip, and my advice (unsolicited of course) is to have a general knowledge of what it might be and pack accordingly. I would highlight what I saw time and again that the weather can change with a moments notice. Believe me, that is the truth. Having said that, once on the Camino it really does not matter what it is as you are going to walk in it, but it is nice to have the proper things. I can assure you I did not have the proper things for snow and freezing temperatures. Steve

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      • Steve,

        No one could have predicted the weather you and Jill had!

        Snow mid and late May?

        I know it happens, but it would have been crazy for you guys to have left home kitted out with snow gear! It was completely unexpected.

        But then again, that’s the thing with the Camino – the unexpected happens time and time again.

        Bill

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        • No, no way to prepare for that weather or to anticipate it. But, in my experience, God, the Universe, and the Camino assist those more who use common sense and not just blind faith. I hope this does not step on any toes. Steve

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          • As one very famous cricketing commentator said dryly here last summer-

            “The only problem with common sense is that it’s not that common.”

            The commentator, if anyone’s interested, was the venerable Richie Benaud.

            Bill

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          • Theres nothing sacreligious or insulting about common sense-actually I suspect God would approve if we used it more often.So my toes are fine. Ugly and broken, but fine.

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  6. Bill, Of course you did not worry about the weather. It was always sunny. Had it snowed on your first night out and rained for the next 10 or so days, you might have been more interested. 🙂 But, you are absolutely right in that you can’t change it and on the Camino you can’t sit around until it improves. We would have been sitting around the first couple of weeks and sporadic days after that. So, whether you check it or not, up in the morning and off on the walk, hoping you have the right gear handy. The only time the weather impacted our planned walk was the morning it was snowing and freezing, and after about 15 kilometers or so, we were so cold and wet that we decided we did not have to maintain our planned destination. Everything on us was wet. In all of our planning we did not plan for snow or freezing. Steve

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    • Nope, wouldn’t have made any difference.

      I started my Camino with the words GRATITUDE and ACCEPTANCE branded into my psyche.

      That’s what I wanted to practice on my walk.

      Gratitude for being able to do the walk, acceptance of whatever came my way. Including weather.

      These are not traits I had necessarily exhibited throughout my life prior to the walk – in fact, I was one of the most ungrateful SOBs you’d ever be likely to meet, and I always accepted nothing on face value. Nothing.

      But I was determined to change all that on my Camino.

      And by and large, I think I did.

      Bill

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        • And you and Jill did – which was fantastic – even though I’m sure there were days when you just wanted to sleep in and spend the day around a warm fire!

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          • No, that thought never crossed our minds. We knew we would be walking each day. We just never knew if we would be wet or dry, though we began to assume we would be wet, and cold. For me, I like knowing what the weather is projected to be, but that does not mean that I alter my plans based on it when out on the Camino. There we were committed to go, rain or shine, or even, brrr, snow. Steve

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  7. Here at home I rarely check the weather. It is what it is. In Summer it’s hot, humid with a good chance of thunder storms or rain showers everyday. Our summers last from May (or sometimes April) through late September or early October.
    When traveling I do look at the general forecast and average temps so that I can take appropriate clothing. One doesn’t go to Ireland without some rain gear or to Utah in the summer without a sun hat and sunscreen, for example. However, unless the the area is expecting a major snow storm or hurricane I wouldn’t change my plans.

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  8. Sounds like your attitude to the weather was like our local U.K. forcasts. I am convinced that they look out of the Met Office window at 8.00 a.m. when they arrive for work and update the previous evenings “forecast” by what they see!! i can do that – and also take notice of what the birds and animals are doing.They are more sensitive to change than us humans.
    So pleased that things came right for you. In 2010 my wife and I gave up on wading through the mud on the Camino Primitivo in the mountains and went back to the coast. Walking some of the Camino del Norte was bliss in warm sunshine.

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    • Hi Tio,

      There’s no doubt the weather can really impact on your mood, and the experience.

      It was a great idea for you to shift your Camino to sunnier climes – good thinking!

      Bill

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