ants in my pants
“There are only three things you need to know when on the Camino, where you are, where you are going and where to get breakfast” Will
It was 08.24 on Wednesday 9th April 2013, and my tummy was tingling with excitement. My backpack was resting on the wall of the Arles Amphitheatre. If I looked to the west, I had 1,500 km to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. If I looked to the east, I had about 1,000 km to Rome. This ancient pilgrim path is one of the few where you can head in either direction to each of the two traditional pilgrimage cities.
I was heading to Spain.
I marched away from the ruins, crossed the bridge and turned north. Route finding was going to be a doddle. On my left, the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, which is basically fields, and on my right, the canal du Petit-Rhônealong for 22 km to Saint Gilles.
The only English guidebook I could find, making it the best in the world, was from the Confraternity of St. James. It said, “this route is one of the least popular, be prepared for solitary hiking”. It was wrong, ten minutes later I passed a dog walker. “Bonjour” (I am multilangual). Nope, it was right, he was the last person I met that day.
Fields to the left of me, canal to my right, stuck in the middle with me, and a few things were becoming clear.
I had badly miscalculated how fit I was. I have been walking and mountain climbing all my life, really tough stuff … but … I had forgotten that these derring-do exploits were about a decade out of date (two more like). I was woefully unfit, criminally overweight, and my body was offering quite specific negative feedback.
I think this is a condition which afflicts more men than women. Somehow, in our heads, we freeze-frame our “best years” and blank everything from then till now. That’s why you see silly old gits trying to flirt with the checkout girl. It’s sad, and they should grow up. Well I was doing the hiking equivalent, and it was slow, painful, and I should have done something, anything to get into shape and lose 10 kilos before I started.
I found a tree with a nice view of the canal. Backpack off, hang up sweaty shirt, boots n socks off, out comes the bread, cheese and an apple. It was like the film, gone in 60 seconds. Close eyes and … Zzzzz. Woke up with the irritating feeling of ants in my pants. There were ants in my pants but I didn’t move because a 1m snake was slithering past my extended foot. The moment it was a safe distance away, I shot up and did a little jiggly dance while pulling my shorts and pants down and brushing my nether region. Who said men can’t multitask?
My best guidebook in the world said turn right over the old abandoned railway bridge and then left down the other side of the canal. I did as instructed.
An hour later I hobbled wearily into Saint Gilles. I need to trade my body in for a new one.