Saturday, August 25, 2012

Boot Resolution

The biggest anxiety in the pre-pilgrimage planning is consistently getting the boots right.  Can I get boots to go the distance (~8,000 miles/13,000 kms)?  I've got a plan...

Last winter's boots - Scarpa SL M3 - held up fairly well for their 3,000 miles/4,600 kms of rocky mountains and sandy deserts.  The two weak points are somewhat resolvable.  Firstly, the lack of cushion in the insole made for overly tender feet.  While my feet generally always recovered by morning, by the end of the daily marathons, they ached pathetically.  To resolve this, I conferred with the ever-helpful guys at The Custom Foot on South Broadway in Englewood, Colorado and got semi-custom fitted Sidas insoles designed actually for running but meeting my needs for repeated impact cushioning and arch support.  The difference was noticeable immediately.  I have great confidence that my feet will be happier.  I hope they'll last as long as the boots.

The second weakness of the Scarpa boots last pilgrimage was that the heels wore more than the rest of the boots.  I had anticipated this and carried new Vibram heels with me, supplied by the old world cobbler at Phelps Shoe Repair, to replace the worn heels when necessary.  Necessity reared its head somewhere in the Egyptian Sahara, but no where could I find someone with the skills and machinery required to do the job either in Egypt or in Israel.  With new heels, I'm sure I could get at least another 1,000 miles out of the boots.

Two right feet: 3,000 miles (top), new (bottom)
Now, with the brand new Scarpas, old Mr. Phelps devised the solution of nailing crescent-shaped heel extenders onto the striking point of the boots and sent me off with an extra set, nails and all, with which I can make my own repair along the trail with a small tube of contact cement.  I'll still carry the extra set of heels I took for the long walk last winter, though I have comparable hope of finding a so-skilled cobbler in Central America as I did in Egypt.  Can I get 8,000 miles out of these soles? I inquired of the cobbler.  Sure, why not? he resounded studying the old boots.  I feel obligated to the challenge of finding out if they'll really be able to go the distance.  Keep the heels maintained and the leather conditioned...

Part of my standard kit has always been Teva sandals that I've used as shower shoes, eveningwear, and house slippers in addition to water shoes when fording streams and rivers.  They dry quickly, soothe my aching feet after the long booted day's walk and allow me to more comfortably totter around villages or monasteries in the occasional hours between the walk and sleep.

My recent experience on the pilgrimage to Chimayo has introduced Abeo hiking sandals into my modis operandi.  They held up remarkably well during the break-in period and the 350-mile/550-km mountainous and desert-ous walk.  Their featherlight weight, openness and coolness made the miles a pleasure to walk.  The mid soles compressed a bit for the wear and the lugged tread of the outer sole wore completely down, but The Walking Company, who owns the proprietary brand, replaced them for me gratis and they'll serve as my second shoes for the big walk serving the same function as the Teva's have, but with greater form-fittedness and arch support.  They may better serve me as the primary walking shoes through the jungles of Central America than the heavy leather boots...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Plans Coming Together

I'm caught in a realm of absurd contradiction: I'm so busy planning the pilgrimage to South and Central America  that I hardly have time to write about it.  Further into the absurdity, I'm so motivated to begin the pilgrimage (ticket in hand; weather window about to open), I hardly have time to capture all that was accomplished on the last.   The pilgrimage to Chimayo successfully forged the Camino del Norte a Chimayo.  Read about it here.  It's our hope that the camino to Chimayo will be used by many pilgrims and that the pilgrimage by the Our Lady of Guadalupe parish will become an annual event.  Time will tell.  More on the other website; book to follow shortly.

I've been studying the history, geography, and UNESCO world heritage sites for months now.  I have tickets in hand to leave on September 11th to head to Buenos Aires over Miami to begin the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe.  I walked there already from the north and now I'll walk from the south.  There's no singular route connecting the starting and ending points, but the whole region is steeped in a myriad of cultures linked by the legacy of the Spaniards over the last five centuries.

I intend to exit Buenos Aires in the direction of the famous shrine of Our Lady of Lujan then westward to Mendoza (800 wineries), over the Andes to Santiago, Chile, to the coast at Valparaiso, then ever northward to Peru, driest desert on the planet - Anacama - to be somehow crossed.  Of course, the Nasca Lines, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu are cultural must-sees, but the intervening villages are hugely interesting to me.  After Lima, I'll continue to Quito, Ecuador, and to Colombia.  Tackling the Darian Gap should be a fun diversion, and then strolls through the history and geography of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatamala before entering Mexico and enjoying the climb to the Basilica.  Except for Mexico, all of these countries will be new entries in my passport.

Maybe 12,000 to 15,000 kilometers  in total; maybe 8 to 10 months... the constraints are not too numerous.  A few vaccinations, the standard 3-month visa limitations.  No ongoing wars; pretty standard travel warnings; this should be stress-free travel compared to last winter's pilgrimage.

It's interesting that in Spanish, pilgrim is also used as a verb - peregrinar.  I'm happy that I'll be 'pilgriming' again soon.  Once I do, I'll update weekly-ish as I'm able.  I hope you'll enjoy tales of the extended winter walk this year.