Friday 14 June 2019

Food for the Chartres Pilgrimage

It's a funny thing about hiking over 20 miles a day: you don't much feel like eating while you're doing it. However, eat you must, even if only on breaks, because without food, you can't go on.

Before I left for France, I consulted the internet for hiking advice. Given my weight, the probable weight of my day knapsack, the milage and the speed, I calculated that I needed to eat about 5.5 lbs of food between Saturday morning and Monday night. I briefly factored in the traditional first day apple and the possibility of soup and rolls, but I knew from three years ago that if the food tables were far from the Foreigners' campground, I wasn't going to get food from them.

The most important element of my diet to be considered was caffeine. Happily, I came upon this recipe for "The Barista" bars, which a review said didn't exactly work, so I added 2 Tablespoons of almond butter. Half a cup would have been even better. I also substituted instant coffee for coarse ground coffee, and that worked well. Each bar had about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

I also made "The Elvis" because on the Chartres Pilgrimage, breakfast has to have the least amount of fuss. When you are scrambling to get up, dress, roll up your sleeping bag and matt, pack and get on the road when your  chapter is ordered back onto it, you need something you can shove in your pocket. Every morning I had 2 Barista bars and 2 Elvis bars. The nice bit of the dry Barista bars was the chocolate chips (so-called: I chopped up some dark chocolate) and the treat of the stodgy Elvis bars was the bits of crispy bacon.

I had a bag of peanuts and dried fruit, too, but I soon tired of them, so I didn't miss them on Sunday or Monday. (In future, three separate bags of salted mixed nuts would be better, hold the shredded coconut.)

Lunch breaks involved a little pots of tuna which I emptied on sheets of nori  (the daily vegetable) on top of two small soft tortillas. On Monday the tuna turned out to be "teriyaki salmon," and it was the best ever. I followed  this fish course with kabanosy, thin dry Polish sausage, and small easy-to-peel oranges. I washed it all down with 2 teaspoons of "Bioglam Superfoods Superberries Nourishing Superfoods Power Blend" mixed with 300 mL of water in my steel cup.

During late afternoon break, I ate another Barista bar, for the caffeine, and drank more Superberries because it really was energising.

Dinner was more kabanosy and another orange, and on Saturday a cup of yellow lentil soup because I passed the food table while looking for the Foreigners' baggage truck. On Sunday night I also scarfed another Elvis bar, exulting in the bacon bits.

My Chapter captain gave me some miniature Snicker bars on Sunday, but I discovered that they made me feel very slightly ill. Sugar in the forms of fruit and bread served me better. Meanwhile, I didn't eat the dark chocolate I brought along. Snacking while hiking just wasn't much fun, and I was just too tired to bother eating more than I absolutely thought I had to at night. The one time I enjoyed eating was at lunchtime, which was just as well.

Naturally the crucial nourishment of the Chartres Pilgrimage is water, but  I learned that I should just keep my water bottle topped up and carry not excess water, i.e. the litre bottles volunteers handed out every five miles or so. I am surprised now to see that those containers of liquid led weigh only a kilogram, i.e. 2.2 lbs. Still, when you are walking 70 miles (I really don't believe the reports saying it was 62 or whatever), every ounce matters.

Nourishment for the feet, mind you, could be a whole other post. In short, you need strapping tape and scissors, medicated blister pads, and possibly band-aids. Compeed plasters are expensive, but I used all five in the little pack. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are also helpful, only I didn't use mine because of muscle soreness but because of headaches. Possibly I didn't drink enough water, but for sure the noise of happy French youth singing "Elle Descend de la Montagne" (apparently a French version of "She'll be coming around the mountain") at the top of their lungs had something to do with it.

Incidentally, inwardly massacring various pilgrims around you becomes a strong temptation, especially if they are shouting through a megaphone loud enough for two other chapters to hear, so it is a good thing there are dozens and dozens of priests around, all eager to hear your confession before you get to the Cathedral.

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