Panty liners in one’s boots – really?

My pilgrim passport
My pilgrim passport

Yes. Panty liners in walking boots – just one of the tricks of the trade learned by reading a pilgrimage forum (in this case caminodesantiago.me). There is some debate as to whether the adhesive side should stick down onto the inside of the sole, or be uppermost, and adhere to one’s sock. The aim is to prevent sweaty feet, and thus lessen the chance of chafing and blisters. I have yet to try it, but I think I would favour sticky side down, with the absorbent part in contact with the foot.

All that to say that preparations are continuing. As I write, 39 days till I leave home.

The ZPack Arc Haul
The ZPack Arc Haul (click on any image to enlarge)

The great news is that my super-light bespoke rucksack has arrived from ZPacks in the USA. It left Florida on 19 February, arrived in UK Customs on the 22nd, and stayed…and stayed…and stayed, causing impotent frustration and fruitless telephone calls and emails. It was finally delivered, duty duly paid, on 18 March. Its weight is supposedly 680g, but it scarcely causes my luggage scales to move. Plenty of space, with a roll-down top, good size mesh pockets, and holders for trekking poles – but so light compared to the usual fabric backpacks (my first one weighed 2400g).

Early in March I went to the annual meeting of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome. Julia Peters, who walked the entire Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome last year, taking exactly 79 days to honour Archbishop Sigeric’s journey, spoke on “The best laid plans” – how any undertaking of this nature will meet hitches, reverses, problems. She was full of helpful information, and last year I was gripped by her extremely detailed blog “Kent on the Via Francigena”. At the meeting I met a pilgrim from Alaska, Connie, who was setting off to Canterbury that very day to walk south through the chill of March.

I love the warmth and camaraderie among the community of pilgrims. In the Via Francigena Facebook group those who have gone before pass on their knowledge to those in the planning stage. Arrangements are made to meet. Friendships yet to be are conceived. I already know of a fellow walker – from Connecticut – setting off on the same day as I shall.

Space for the stamps
Space for the stamps

At the AGM I picked up my pilgrim passport, the credential, which will be my passport to pilgrim accommodation, and eventually – if I make it to Rome – my “Testimonium”, the pilgrim’s certificate. It must be stamped every day with (in French) un tampon and in Italian un timbro as proof of non-cheating. These stamps can be obtained in churches, town halls, hostels, or even hotels, bars or shops.

And so the days count down. I have booked my ferry crossing, and the first three nights’ accommodation. To do more would perhaps be living too far into the future. Sufficient unto the day…and the current anxiety is an unstable and painful knee: the difficulty of staying upright in the recent extremes of liquid mud in the fields and on footpaths caused a stretch of a ligament torn back in 2007.

The wonderful Scarpa boots are, however, well worn in. Now to decide whether to stick panty liners in them!