Usually, the rain has the decency to wait until I have been on the road a few minutes before starting the daily downpour but today it begins before I wake up.
Trudging through the mud, I wonder for a few moments if my legs are getting stronger because the load on my pack seems normal and my strides are more certain. But the wind starts blowing against me and I begin the daily struggle to make progress on the muddy track.
The Camino never goes around a mountain it can go over. Up and down, sliding down rocky hills, always wet. Repeat, repeat.
Then, up ahead, I see a young man on the side of the road sitting on a rock. As I get closer, I see he is wrapping thin athletic tape around his hiking pole.
Are you OK? Do you need something?
Usually the answer is that there is no problem, someone is just adjusting their poncho or tying their shoelaces.
This time, the young man looks at me and says yes, he is having a problem. His hiking pole has stopped telescoping and he can’t use it anymore.
Since you, dear reader, have probably never used a hiking pole, let me give you a short course on the virtues of hiking poles.
They saved my Camino more times than I can count in the first week alone. In Germany, you see them used mainly by old people, striding confidently along in a public park. Or on a public trail. occasionally on the sidewalk. But the important phrase here is, “old people.”
Therefore, most young people tend to shy away from these simple sticks (or high-speed high-tech sticks).
They soon learn that not using hiking poles can be a big mistake.
Maximilian, a strapping young man ready to enter the Academy, found out that using poles would reduce the intense pain in his knees caused by going down the endless and slippery paths on the Camino. He was lucky – his knees were recovering because he bought poles shortly after feeling the never-ending ache in his knees.
Now, one of his poles had died on him, too early, and he was trying desperately to give it some new life until he could replace it in the next town.
In the last minute preparation for my Camino, DH had wrapped a length of duct tape around a golf pencil and we had added it to my pack. Now, like my Voltaren, it would be called to serve.
Using my most used accessory, the little baby fingernail scissors, we carefully wrap and cut a length of duct tape which repairs his hiking pole.
He calls me his Camino Angel.
Thank you, DH.