Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Yes, you thought this blog had gone permanently into abeyance! No fear – I’m back…. but only for a brief reprisal (yes, yes I know Isaid that last time) but you can blame Neil a friend in Sydney. I saw him recently and he asked how the last year since the walk has been, and said that he was sure he wasn’t the only one who would be interested. So if you’re not….stop reading now! But before you do – I just want to wish you a merry Christmas and a wonderful, safe and fabulous 2015!
So what did I say about the expected changes from the walk..?
As it was in January, at times life can still feel a little like a runaway train (for example, work, travel, and kitchen renovations in the month leading up to Christmas…yes self inflicted craziness I know now! ;-)) So yes sometimes things are still the same, but more and more different – I do definitely know that I am the one who is allowing this to happen and when it gets too much I am also the one who can stop it. Something that I realised I have actually put into action this year for next year – to step down a bit and focus on quality not quantity. Work will always be there; but friends, loved ones and opportunities to explore the richness of life may not; so I am slowly changing.
I had the opportunity presented to me this year, through a relationship, to really learn to walk the talk of valuing myself – a hard and at times painful, lesson and one that is still being learnt, but is much more embedded than it was even this time last year, let alone 18 months ago.
The commitment to really be true to myself and being me, so that I attract more of my style of people, who make me happy, calm, content, and energised, has at times been sorely tested this year, but I am pleased to say that I have come through it and feel that I am improved as a result… 🙂
I no longer blithely do what I believe is the ‘right thing’ to do … and now choose what I do much more conciously – I have found I think that this might make me an easier person to be around becuase what you see is truly what you get and if you don’t like it, that’s fine too. I’m OK with that. (well OK ….most of the time…I’m still human! 😉 ) Travel is still a part of my life and I now believe it always will be – work now seems to be taking me on interesting adventures internationally which is stimulating, flattering and exciting all rolled in together. I’ve realised that this diverse life I have is what makes me me in this part of my life…and gives me the zest I enjoy for life; its not worth fighting it and trying to have the life of a picket fence……not yet anyway!
Finally in talking about being worried about losing friends made on the Camino, I am thrilled that I’m not only still in contact with John and Raquel, but saw both of them in October and November, when I was in Toronto and Port Douglas respectively. We all said that the 10 -12 months that had passed seemed nothing at all. Thanks to FaceBook, Whatsap and Viber I’m also still in contact regularly with another 6 friends made along the way, and also still remember very fondly many others that while contact may have lapsed the fun and cherished moments have not. Almost every day there is a memory or thought of an interaction I had with someone somewhere along the path that pops into my head…. thoughts and memories that will always be with me and make me who I am now – the people who put them there will never leave me. On that note, Sheila a very good walking friend of mine has ended this year with the suggestion that we should walk the camino through Italy…..2016 here I come!! 😉
That being said, the lesson I didn’t really talk about was that of being kinder to myself, and this one was also re-presented to me, when I found this year I had to have a hip operation to tidy up wear and tear on one of my hips. Not necessarily as a result of the walk but that probably didn’t help! While I still push my body I am slowing coming to the point of acceptance that for it to keep serving me, I will have to love and cherish it more…..a work in progress!
So who knows what 2015 will bring … I have learnt it is rarely what we expect and only sometimes what we think we hope for. I am enjoying the continuing unfolding of my camino journey because it really does continue.
Wishing you all a very merry festive season, and a safe, happy, satisfying and joyful 2015 in what ever it holds for you.
In my last blog, I said it was my last – however! So many people have asked how I have found coming back to ‘reality’ and asking me to do one last blog about how the experience has ‘changed me’. Well, I hope that I don’t disappoint anyone, but it was no ‘road to Damascus’ – to quote one wonderful friend – that is, there has been no great change, or reversal of my ideas or beliefs, about religion, myself or others. Rather it was an exercise in identifying the focus that I want to place on different elements of my life, and the value I place on myself. As much as it was a really wonderful two months away, by the time I had spent a week in Santiago and Madrid, I was also looking forward to coming home, though not as much as I thought I would be – butI put that down to contemplating a long haul flight with a bad cold! (Yes the body gave in once I arrived in Santiago! 😉 ) However, on arriving in Melbourne I remember being driven across the Bolte bridge and looking out across Melbourne and for the first time ever, being both physically and mentally flat about being back here. OK some of you might roll your eyes and say that’s a normal reaction to arriving in Melbourne – but for me it’s not – I love Melbourne and I have always enjoyed living here. The ‘flatness’ (emotionally not physically) I think was a reaction to the reality of it all; the impending lack of change, the loss of new friends and the possibility of others; the predictability of life – the very same thing that also makes so many of us feel safe and secure! That was an interesting realisation for me – that as much as my work travel wears me down at times – I need it to feed a part of my soul. I kept low for the first few days, just feeling like I need to find my balance again – aside from dealing with cold and jet lag. But it was so heartwarming when I did let people know I was home, how I was so embraced with warmth and welcoming friendship. I actually came home a few days earlier than originally planned as I realised that I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to draw breathe before being flung back into the regular work cycle of trips to Sydney, meetings/teleconferences etc. And yes after four days at home that’s exactly what happened and continued for the next six weeks – reality had returned with a major THUD!! During this time, while I was aware of feeling a little stressed about it, I was also aware of being still a little separate – some small part of me has stayed with the Camino – realising that all this stuff, while important, is only one part of my life and not necessarily the most important part in terms of what makes me me, and keeps me going. Life out there, will also all keep going without me – as proven by me being away for two months and nothing had changed! (well OK maybe that’s because I just crammed the work in before I left and after I got back, but you get my drift!) However that being said, for six weeks – which went by in a blur – yet again my life, I thought, was back to where I feel like I’m sometimes grasping for space to breath and take stock. Originally I had thought that a conference I had committed to in the USA at the beginning of January was just another thing that I should have really said no to, but as it turns out, it was that which gave me the opportunity to stop briefly, take a breath and reflect on really how was I ‘doing’ on coming home. The verdict? Despite what I thought….pretty well in fact. Yes life still is a bit of a run away train. But now I know that I am the one who has stepped down from the drivers seat; that I’m the one who has – probably because it seemed like I was on a pretty good tack and I could just let things run – allowed things to come to a point where at times I’m hanging by my fingernails from the caboose being flung out as we round a corner. It gave me the opportunity to have a long ********est conversation with myself that, in fact, I need to claw (if necessary) my way back to the driver’s seat and take back control and responsibility for the ‘busy-ness’ of my life. The time out in Aspen confirmed that I need to act on saying ‘no’ more often; do what really makes me happy and suits me, not just fit in with other people because it is the right thing to do (well OK mostly 😉 ); and that by really being true to myself and being me, I attract more of my style of people, who make me happy, calm, content, and energised. I’ve realised that in the past I have often done what I think is the ‘right thing’ to do … not that its totally the wrong thing for me, but because of our social norms, I really don’t interrogate it for <i>how</i> right it is for me. I’ve not been living my life as consciously as I want to, to allow myself to be the best I can be. Yes that is going to take time and constant attention – old habits are very hard to break; and saying ‘no’ feels very selfish much of the time. However my time on the Camino has helped me realise that it is time to really focus on myself and by doing that I will ultimately have more to give others. I am looking forward to living my life more vividly and with more conscious purpose in every thing I do. And I am so very pleased to have this blog to remind me of the commitment I have made myself, as I will no doubt falter, as we all do when learning new skills!! 😉 And in perfect timing, John, who was one of the core group of us who walked together in the last few weeks and days, has put together his clips and photos, along with music to develop this lovely short (8 minute) film of our adventure – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! http://vimeo.com/84562274 Thank you again for sharing this journey with me and for the support you might have provided in my fundraising (which still continues up to the official Weekend Walk to Cure Cancer on the 1st and 2nd of March where I will finish my walk with the final 60km) – it has been such a positive experience on so many fronts – thank you! Cheers, Kate PS! If you haven’t and you’d still like to donate….go to: http://ml14.endcancer.org.au/site/TR?pg =pfind&fr_id=1090 Thanks! 🙂
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
So, 1,120km, some blisters, shin splints, many laughs, some querying of my sanity and lots of wonderful memories and new friends later, I have arrived in Santiago! I must admit that I look at the map and see the distance I have traversed on foot – almost the equivalent of the entire width of Spain – and I still find it hard to believe that I have done it. We just don’t conceive of covering such distances in such a slow and fundamental manner anymore and yet once it was the only choice for many – if they were crazy enough to do it at all!! However, let me digress to give you a brief (and so impossibly inadequate) review of the last week of my walk. I last left you shortly after O’Ceibeiro, which just yesterday we believe enjoyed up to 20cm of snow! That was 155km and a further five days walking ago. That night I made it down to Triacastela totally some 31km that day – basically as the Albergue at the planned 22km point was too dubious to contemplate (no buddies for ‘Billy’ if you please!) and the only other option was too expensive for the lack of dinner, breakfast, or heat on offer for the price given that I was within an hour and a quarter walk of comparatively many options in Triacastela. One friend told me that upon entering Galicia I would now enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire walk. I must admit it has been absolutely delightful, enhanced by unexpectedly generally sunny weather the whole way (Galicia is renowned for its rain and miserable weather). It has been akin to suddenly finding oneself walking in parts of England, Wales or even the southern highlands of New South Wales. Rolling green hills, and deciduous oaks, chestnuts intermingled increasingly as we came toward Santiago with a variety of eucalyptus (that have been previously imported for plantation forestry and pulp milling). The buildings are generally much better cared for and while there is still the new right alongside the old (the bridges into Portomarin provide a classic example of this!) it felt as if there is less of the complete abandonment of property to the forces of nature – however it is still most definitely there compared to how we treat buildings and property in Australia: quite interesting and something Ive not the opportunity/ability to talk with a local about. The other memory I will take away from this part of the walk is the enduring presence and smell of cow **** (sorry!) and silage!! Some days it has been difficult to get it out of your nose and one figures that for the locals it is a good thing that we can all learn to accommodate noises, sights and smells in our daily lives that can’t be changed regardless of how unpleasant they are; perhaps to our detriment at times when thought of in a broader global context?! By this stage in my walk there was a core groups of about 20 who have been more or less moving at the same pace, meeting up in Albergues or the town bar of an evening (or every other one); news of people, bed bugs, good and bad Albergues and hotels/pensions being passed back and forth by email/viber/whatsAp. The camaraderie of this was delightfully underlined when John, Raquel and I (who have more or less walked together for the last three weeks) were meandering along the path to spy Carlos and Petra (Spanish Carlos walked his bike since shortly after Leon in order to stay with his love (yet unrequited) the gorgeous Hungarian Petra) lolling in the sun on blissfully green dry grass just over the stone fence. ‘Hola’s!’ were exchanged and they immediately invited us to join them, at which point John flippantly said ‘only if you have wine’ which of course any well prepared Spaniard does!! We were immediately clambering over stone walls and emptying packs of hoarded nuts, crackers, cheese chocolate etc to add to the repast. We were very temporarily halted in our enthusiasm when the issue of drinking vessels was raised, however this was very quickly and innovatively addressed through a variety of water bottles, empty yoghurt cartons (adding a delightful strawberry nose to the wine as noted by John!) canister caps and even a shell – the symbol of a pilgrim and also a handy drinking vessel as it turns out – albeit minimal! A further few pilgrims were enticed to join us before the wine and snacks were exhausted and the clouds rolling across the sun dropped the temperature to the point where we were forced to rejoin the path. Not only will that be an enduring memory of this last week but it was also a significant moment for all of us remembering to stop and enjoy our days rather than focus on the destination. Consequently it seemed to be instituted thereafter for the rest of our trip. So yes we ambled and stopped, extra coffees, liqueur de herbacias, and vino tinto’s assisted in taking a step back and enjoying the moments in between the departures and arrivals. On a more practical note, this last week also spoilt us with some lovely modern Albergues though did also introduce us on one night to a whole new interpretation of ‘central heating’ (ie one small heater in the centre of a 25 bed room!) Albergues are the ‘hotels’ for pilgrims which range in their facilities anywhere from some 35 beds crammed into a very small renovated church with minimal areas for ablutions or socialising and where one provides their own sleeping bags and hopes not to find any of ‘Billy’s’ friends for 5€’; to ones that only opened two months ago and in addition to group rooms of 6 for 10€, also offer twin rooms with ensuites, towels and sheets for 20€. Needless to say the search was always on for the latter!!! In this last week our search for our yellow arrows that have so reassuringly guided us all for the last four or more weeks in Spain, became ever more poignant as we became aware that after arriving in Santiago we would no longer have them to guide us in our daily lives. But to progress; on Wednesday the 20th we gathered for the final 20km into Santiago – to say there was a variety of emotions amongst us is probably an understatement and consequently we tended to string out a little. Though five of us (John, Raquel, myself, Florian and Hans) formed the vanguard and stopped two kms from the old town centre at a lovely grassy slope overlooking the southern areas of Santiago to indulge in a late lunch of red wine, cheese and ham bocodillo’s, and tortilla; at least this time we had also managed to procure paper cups, so we looked a tad more respectable! After suitable toasts to the journey undertaken and about to be completed (and after being overtaken by the rearguard), we headed on for the final assault, to the Cathedral in Santiago. There is no way to describe the feeling of finishing such a journey -if even only for the fact that it is different for everyone. Needless to say, it was a mixture of many feelings. Once we had stood in front of the main entrance to the cathedral, entered through the Pilgrims northern door, toured the cathedral and traditionally exited through the southern door and headed directly to the Pilgrims office to receive our Compostella’s, I realised that aside from with your help raising over $9000 for cancer research – I have now also been officially cleansed of all my sins?! Yes I know – I still don’t know how to think about that either but it is an interesting concept! The detail of the rest of the evening does not need to be gone into but needless to say, it was suitably celebrated! 😉 Dealing with a cold that had been doing the rounds and slammed me the day after our arrival, seeing the magnificent city of Santiago, and saying some very poignant goodbyes have occupied the last few days, delaying this post. In some cases goodbyes have not been appropriate but rather just ‘until we meet again’. Crazy or not, the significant benefit of this walk has been that of the sheer time involved and the way it forces us to slow down and really look and consider the things around us and how we feel. This is something that it so very evident when you have already had the benefit of being on the road several weeks and you meet those who are just starting out. While we are all so different, the mirrors such interactions of
fer are difficult to avoid; how ‘busy’ and ‘focused’ we are on the activity and the ‘end game’, that often we drive ourselves and bodies into the ground without having even noticed some of the beauty and wonder in the small things around us. I am so very grateful to two friends who so strongly encouraged me to take the full two months to undertake this; the benefits of being able to really slow down and ‘exhale’ are too numerous to detail. The challenges to take all the memories and learnings of this trip home with me and keep working on them are numerous. However the primary one many of us have identified is that ongoing work on the relationship with ourselves is one that we often neglect but is fundamental to everything else we do. On top of that the key messages I am taking with me from the last 9 weeks are; “piano, piano” which was said so often to me as I pounded the paths in France and I found whispering to myself as I was passed by eager new pilgrims in Spain. It is a reminder to me to slow down, tread gently and take the time to breathe and see what’s going on around me. The second one is “respond, don’t react” – it’s actually one that is helped significantly by undertaking the first lesson!! So often along the way we would subconsciously judge people only to find they were quite different or had excellent reasons for their behaviour when we were later forced to get to know them due to the close quarters of Albergues or walking paths! To think before we react so that we can respond objectively is a huge gift not only to those around us but also ourselves. Ultimately, the biggest thing is to live every day, not just survive it (and in the process enjoy walking on the ‘grassy bits’ of life!) Lastly, thank you to Jill and all of who over the last few months have supported the other key objective if this ‘pilgrimage’ which was to raise money for cancer research. With your help we have raised $9,640 – almost the $10,000 I had thought to be ambitious! (Just goes to prove another thing I’ve learnt on this journey – you can pretty much always achieve 30% more than you ever think is possible!) So thank you, and if you haven’t donated and would like to kick us over the 10k mark, go to http://www.endcancer.org.au; select ‘Melbourne’; ‘Donate’; and then enter my name under ‘Find participant’. Thanks again for all your support. So in all, as I make my way to Madrid and then home to Australia, I just hope you have gained as much enjoyment from my blogs as I have had in attempting to share the experiences of this once in a lifetime opportunity, with you. Till the next one…… 😉 Hasta luega! Post script that is written by William Ward and offered by John Brierley in his guide to the Camino, as a way of thinking about what the journey entails, feels appropriate to leave you with it, as risks however large or small might be considered in this light: To laugh is to risk appearing a fool To weep is to risk being called sentimental To reach out to another is to risk involvement To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss To love is to risk not being loved in return To live is to risk dying To try is to risk failure But risks must be taken Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or really live Chained by their servitude they are slaves who have forefeighted all freedom. Only a person who risks is truly free
Didn’t get into my donation website yesterday but now I have and I have to share with you that together we have raised an amazing $9,040 !!!! Thank you most recently to John, Jenelle, Sue, Denise and Jo – you’re support is just wonderful thank you Www.endcancer.org.au
Pedrafita do Cebreiro, Spain
Since my last detailed post I have crossed two mountain ranges – at 1505 (the highest of the trip) and 1330 metres (the other high point being passing over the Pyrenees at 1450m on day 17 or day 2 out of St John Pied De Port). I have been sooooo lucky that on all three occasions I have had lovely clear if not stunning weather. Perhaps the most memorable of these three some of you may have already seen on Facebook, was on the 11th of November coming over the Irago pass (1550m) which also had the point of Cruz de Ferro. Thus is a cross around which people have left stones in the memory of loved ones. This mound is now significant to say the least! As it turned out, we managed to arrive at Cruz de Ferro at 11am on the 11th just in time for a minute of silence for Remembrance Day. As at the time I was walking with another Aussie and a Canadian we couldn’t have planned it better if we had tried. So yes, there is now another stone on the pile at Cruz de Ferro that I carried with me from my starting point at Moissac in France (890km earlier), and left for all those that I am walking for and those who have been and are so special to me. We have left the plains and obviously have been enjoying much more varied country and lots of mountains – my calves are reinforcing this despite almost a 1000km under foot!! At many points there has been the opportunity to take a variation from the route which is more scenic and with only one exception I have always taken these so far, and have thoroughly enjoyed the benefit of doing so even if it has meant a few more kms and hills. Yesterday was a classic example from Cacobelo to Ruitlan; the road way would have been about 25km whilst I ended up doing about 32 over the mountains – but oh so worth it to be walking amongst vineyards, forests of chestnut trees, and ridge tops in the sun rather than in the valley below the cloud. The downside is that it is at times less well marked so I ended up doing a few variations of my own.. What is it they say about the road less travelled?! Anyway I am just finishing up a bocodillo con jamon y queso con un vino tinto (a ham and cheese sandwich with a glass of wine) before heading back out into the cold. It is currently 12C at 12.45 and true to predictions as soon as I crossed into Galicia, the weather changed and the cloud rolled in. However now fortified it is time for me to step back into the path for another 12 or so kms today. Hasta luega, Kate
Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain
It is interesting to contemplate all that I want to distill and ensure I take home with me from the last two months as I enter my last week of walking. There are so many little things that I have observed in myself and others that I have had the rare opportunity to toss around and either take on board or gently set aside as not quite right or relevant to me (anymore). These range from the very practical things of being able to observe how my body operates when walking and how the slightest change in stance, foot placement, or head incline can change my attitude, stress on my body, air movement around me or the weight I feel I am bearing. To the bigger issues that I have wanted to observe iand contemplate for myself about how I interact with people, and where and how I get my sense of self and peace from. And then of course there is the big question of how I internalise these thoughts and feelings when I return to the hustle and bustle of home! Many of us at this point (200km from Santiago) are thinking about the end that is looming, but all for different reasons, invariably. Some are looking forward to the celebration of not having to walk again the next day; some can’t face the thought of not walking so are changing plans to accommodate a continuation to Finnestre! While others are already mourning the loss of new friends and walking companions. Me? I’m definitely not planning to walk to Finnestre – but I may catch the bus to check out what the end of the world looked like to people for all those centuries. I know that while I will miss the camaraderie of the Albergues, I will never again take for granted clean sheets, personal space, a queen size bed and the privacy of an ensuite bathroom!! I will miss not only the changing scenery but the wonderful conversations I am having and have shared with many along the way – it has been a true privilege to have had so much shared with me. Perhaps, the thing I am looking forward to the most in Santiago is meeting up with those a few days ahead or behind me now (Jen from Mt Buller among them :)) and sharing stories of both our experiences in the last weeks/months and expectations of what happens next. They say The Way changes you – I don’t know if that is true – perhaps only those of you who know me well will be able to judge that – but it is definitely an experience that provides one with the opportunity to open many new doors and windows for new views on life and also to reflect in many mirrors! 😉 Hasta luega! Kate
I know it is only a few days since I blogged (with my ´billy the bedbug´experience as it has been dubbed by some fellow travellers – who are all now, by the way, also avid mattress and pillow inspectors at ALL establishments regardless of appearances! And yes Satty, while we all need company…..some I can do without!! ,-) ) but I just couldn´t resist the opportunity to type one at a full computer with a ´proper´key board – that being said, please don´t crucify me for typos – we´re working with a kind of art here OK? ,-) (and yes it is also typing between the odd scratch still at the back of my neck 😦 )
So the last five days coming in here have been, what some term, the most boring of the whole Camino – loooong straight-ish stretches of road (16 – 18 km) and fairly flat country side once we got past the mesetas from my last blog (I think?) People´s comments reminded of those I heard about the recurrent corn fields in France – that people found them interminable. However, I must admit that I have found this time very much like a walking meditation about myself, my reactions to others, and how I am going at responding rather than reacting to people – the eternal challenge. I´d never realised how automatically I categorise or pidgeon hole people – however so subtely – most probably to increase my comfort; however so often I can be wrong or off the mark in such a way as to miss the opportunity to discover a wonderfully funny or caring person. Which of course reminds me of the lesson I heard repeatedly throughout my walk in France…¨piano, piano¨…in other words,´¨ slow down, go softly¨¨ . I think this is must be my new mantra in life, not only with myself but with other people!!
So yes the walking of the last section has been very meditative but also very challenging physically in the last few days both from the perspective of rain (fortunately only really a half day, with it ceasing in Sahagun) and strong winds – the first day being between 25 and 50 kts and the second being pretty constantly 30kts + – and almost always being ALL headwind given that I am walking west – the direction from which the weather comes. My brother suggests it would be good for kitesurfing, but alas there is no great body of water to be seen – thanks for the suggestion though Gavan! Two of the last few days of walking into Leon have been on and off the remains of the roman road built by Augustus and trodden by his men…I can only say thank heavens for modern shoes!! I now understand why they only made about 5 miles a day…their feet would have given out walking on those roads in leather sandels or shoes!! However I also found walking on those roads a bit of a similie for life…we spend our time avoiding the stony bits, looking desperately for the soft grassy or easier bits, and then when we have them, instead of living in the moment to enjoy them, we end up busily looking ahead worrying about the next stony bit…I will now always try to focus on enjoying the ´grassy bits´of life!
I arrived in Mansilla with the thought that if the Albergue was a bit rough that there were several hostals or hotels as alternatives. Alas that was not the case – the end of the ´season´is definitely the end of October and many have packed up after a long busy summer and are on holidays themselves! So no other options were available and to the Albergue I went, despite misgivings from initial inspections (fairly old and rather tatty), however I´d run into a young Isralie girl who said it was clean and OK, so big deep breath and headed on in to set myself up. True to her word, despite appearances it was clean and a full bed and pillow inspection revealed nothing to be worried about. As various others who I have been travelling with off and on turned up, the feeling changed to being that of sharing an old but comfortable house; and the hospitalier could not have been nicer and more accomodating if he had tried despite not being able to speak a word of english. Really – more than one can or should expect for five euros a night!! We selected one of the two places in town offering the standard Peregrino menu for 9.50 euros which consists of three courses with wine, water and bread – going to miss that sort of value back in Melbourne, even if they are becoming a bit monotonous!! The next morning broke foggy and damp, but it was only 19km to Leon so after a breakfast of juice coffee and pain au chocolat (hey – I restrained myself on the churros and hot chocolate for breakfast….nearly went there but the sugar overload at that time of the morning I think would have stopped me in my tracks!) Most of the way into Leon from Mansilla was more or less along beside the main road, but I had a fellow Aussie, Racquel, for company so the mundane scenery and km´s passed without issue. The night before Racquel, Eva (a German lady who´s been on the road for 60 odd days) myself and a Canadian, John, decided that if it was good enough for those in the movie of ´The Way, then the Parador, 5 star hotel was good enough for us at this point in the journey – especially at $125.00 per night including breakfast!!!´(Though I´m still wondering how I´m going to cope with an Albergue tomorrow night…yin and yang of life Kate… yin and yang!) However John, being a bit of a movie making buff insisted that we walk there together so that we could get a shot of us contemplating going in and another of agreeing to do it, as they did in the movie….not sure what he´s going to do with it, but he assures us he will send it through for approval?!
On arrival, my room, albiet only twin beds (no canopy bed for that rate!!) was lovely and huge with a balcony overlooking the parterre gardens and river through the poplar trees. Needless to say once I got in there, it needed a shoe horn to get me out! A long luxurous bath, and extended siesta later.. I met up with a fellow traveller to celebrate their halfway mark before heading back up into town to meet up with some others who had been kind enough to loan me anti itch cream – just didn´t think of that one did I?! More pre dinner drinks later, waiting for the mandatory dinner minimum start time of 8pm – more usually 8.30, we had caught up and found a delightful and non perigrino´ place that did the most fablous dinner of (for me) stuffed leeks, roasted half chicken and a lemon cheese (type of?) cake with water, wine and bread for only 13 euros – seriously??! One does sometimes wonder why they haven´t worked out the source of this country´s economic problems – though I did hear today that sardine fishermen are lucky to make 500 euros a month!? We have such a good and soft life in Australia….
Today entailed a wonderfully luxuriuos start (as will tomorrow) with breakfast being available until 11 – I managed to knock that off by 10.30 (oh the choices!!) Then I found a great place that had some cheap winter tops (wearing the same top every night for the last four weeks has become a little tedious..) did some quick shopping at the supermarket for ´trail snacks´and then dropped them back to the room before heading out on the tourist trail.
The key things to see in Leon it seems are the San Marcos Hostel (ie the Parador and adjoining museum) and the Cathedral. The first because for 900 years it has had various uses ranging from a monestry for 700 years and then a hospital, prison, stables, concentration camp (during Franco´s years) and then finally being handed back to the State and turned into a museum and, as all Paradors are, a state owned five star hotel. Thank heavens for sanity finally prevailing is all I can say, but reading some of its history, makes me wonder just how soundly I will sleep tonight?! The Cathedral in the centre of the old town is really quite an amazing architectual feat and I was really pleased that I got the audio tour to really understand its history. It took 50 years to build which for a Gothic cathedral was very fast (others did tak
e up to 200 years to complete) this was made rather astounding by the fact that it was built between 1250 and 1300 when Leon had a population of only 5000 people!!?! Even today it is supposedly (according to John Brierly, author of my Camino de Santigo guide book and one of two ´bibles´I am using) a town of only 170,000 but the busy-ness of it makes it seem more like one of 1.5 million by Australian standards – even despite the apparent economic woes it seems. The cathedral is intersting for those who are intrigued by architectual styles, in its blending of both gothic on top of romanesque with a bit of Isabella…ah I´ve lost the word… but fancy´ suffices! ´The contrast is quite stark at times. These changes of styles and additions of wings etc did challenge the whole structure at one time, when it had to be completely shored up and rennovated as it was so out of balance, that combined with the weight of the arches etc, meant that it was collapsing on itself. The feature that it is best known for is the amount of light allowed in through the plethora of brilliant stained glass (as against alabaster stone used in slightly older churches such as the one in Santo Domingo) lead windows – and I was lucky enough to have a lovely sunny day to see the effect very well.
So my afternoon ended with a meander through the streets of the old town, a glass of vino with some queso pinchos (cheese and bread snacks) and then back for a siesta to my gorgeous room. It shall be enjoyed tomorrow to the full until check out just before midday when I will then head on to the next stop – Villar de Mazariffe – day one of the remaining expected 13 days on the road. These remaining days should average 24kms per day, though some will invariably be longer and shorter due to accomodation options. My left leg is giving me no trouble at all now thankfully (god bless those wonderful algipatches!), so let´s just hope the shin splint issues doesn´t swap sides, as apparently happens to many. I´m looking forward to enjoying the coming mountains of Galecia (fingers crossed for little of its notorious wet weather!) and I am hoping to enjoy it with only one other rest day between here and Santiago de Compostela. Let´s see how I go!
ALSO, since my last blog, I must thank Gavan, Thomas and Lianos for their donations…their efforts have taken the fundraising total to date to $8,570!!!! It seems the target of $10,000 may not be so unrealistic after all – thank you everyone for your support. You know that thinking of you all has definitely had a role to play in getting my head down and plodding on into that headwind on those stony roads!!! If you want to check out the site, its http://www.endcancer.org.au and select ´Melbourne´, if you want to donate, just enter my name under ´find participant´.
Thanks again and now off to find a suitable local for dinner!
Terradillos de Templarios, Spain
Ok – so this was my humility lesson. I was sitting at breakfast this morning and noticed that I had a bite on my thumb and then realised I was scratching the back of my neck….?
My breakfast companions casually suggested bed bugs – now that seriously kills an appetite! Needless to say I promptly removed upstairs to do a thorough inspection. Yep you guessed a little ‘sucker’ was lolling replete with my blood on the pillow!!?!
OMG!!!! Bed bugs???! The curse of the Camino! Me?? No!! Never! I’m too clean??! (She desperately thinks while madly scratching!) But seriously while I was fortunate enough it seems to have made an acquaintance with only one multi footed friend, the reputation of these suckers stops you in your tracks! The challenge of making friends with these guys is that they just don’t know when the relationship is over. They require either extensive fumigation or alternatively (as I did) take everything you own and wash it in very hot water and dry it in a hot dryer. I did this and combined it with an extensive scrub of myself in a very hot shower. Normally they throw you out of the Albergues by 8am, and despite the lady if the house insisting that I MUST have brought extra guests who stayed for free, she allowed her housemaid to do my washing and for me to completely clean myself and my pack contents without any suggestion that I should hurry.
So the lesson is…we are all subject to the most basic things in life and you know what just ‘get over it and get in with it’! 😉 (Of course she says that now!!)
So did the day get better?? Not really – it was one of THE testing days of the Camino. 26.7km driving rain until 2pm along with wind if between 25 and 40kts (x 1.5 ish to equate to kph) – best part of the day? The rain stopped at 2pm – worst part? The wind got stronger and it was coming from the west – the exact direction we were heading 😦 However that being said we have ended up in a lovely little Casa Rural where the owner and get her husband are a delightful couple – the husband being both a great cook and a bit of a comedian – the perfect combination for the ending of the day we had had 🙂
But you know what? At the end of every ****** there is a rainbow…..
Carrión de los Condes, Spain
Hi All, So I have been thinking today – I’m due for another blog but I’m feeling a bit ‘blank’ at the moment so I’m not sure you’re going to get much from me tonight! Plus yet again it is on iPhone do apologies in advance for the typos! However! I last blogged from a gorgeous little town – Santo Domingo – a week ago where I have subsequently discovered (via an email which somehow tracked the posting of the photo on my blog) that the gorgeous 14thC house that I had my eye on was €290,000 but it was described as ‘rustic and benefiting from renovation’?! ! One can only imagine? Anyway! (No Im not buying a house in Santo Domingo! 😉 ) since then, while my leg has continued to give me grief it had lessened – perhaps as a result if discovering voltarin patches (do we have these in Australia damn %^*#€%!! brilliant things!!!!!) the weather, all bar one day, has generally been very kind, with only one in the last seven (which I am finding is the average) requiring me to pull out my gorgeous new $17.00 poncho (very sexy blue plastic by the way) This not only keeps me dry but also my entire pack – loooove it!!! 🙂 🙂 The scenerey has, on the whole – with the exception of the section between Belorado and Ages -been open and rolling hills of wheat/oats/barley or sunflowers with the occasional sheep flock. Though of course realising that we are currently between crops so all is brown or shades of grey through brown to orange soil. However, just in the last few days we are starting to see the first flushes of gorgeous green winter wheat (I suspect?) over the hills – and no they are no longer small paddocks, but full blown Australian size ones, where you can’t see the boundaries at times for looking! Some corn crops or still hanging on for what we hope is a late harvest, though as we have seen elsewhere, unfortunately some grapes, for what ever reason it has been decided that harvesting the crops is not worthwhile. So generally wide open areas has been the go. However as I mentioned before, there were lovely treed hills (though I swear they became mountains at points!) between Belorado and Ages full of birch, holm oak and pine – they made the rain more than bearable and provided wonderful relief to the approx 30kt winds across the plains that we had had to endure of the morning! That was what preceded our day into Burgos where, I’ll admit it, I caught a bus for the last 10kms, to transit through the industrial outskirts. That is, 10kms of walking through the most mundane parts of Western Sydney or Northern Melbourne…… Ok ok Hang draw and quarter me for it (preferable to some of the early pilgrims died if let me assure you!!!) But given that introduction and therefore the expectation that Burgos was going to be an ugly an unpleasant city – the centre of it was anything but!! The cathedral for which it is really well known looked like some sort of iced wedding cake from the outside and on closer inspection both inside and out – was full of depictions of people, animals and scenery on all the cornices and top points (there is a technical name but I’ve lost it! – corbels?) The city itself is situated on a river and generally just has the most lovely atmosphere with lots of bars, restaurants and tapas places to indulge an investigation of all things Castillan – and at between €1-2 per glass of wine and €.80-1.50 per pinchos or tapas item it’s pretty hard to resist – yes my idea of losing weight on this Camino have been bid adieu!! Speaking of languages; now I am into Spain proper, my Spanish classes have put me in good sted and I have even been both congratulated for my Spanish and berated for my claim of speaking no or little Spanish by the locals. I’ve also been quite chuffed that on a few occasions I have found myself interpreting for others – an exceptionally new experience for me!! However, the downside is that the language part of my brain had just become a bit scrambled – and now at times I find it hard to find basic English words, and at times things come out with a bit of French or German thrown in to fill the gaps! All a bit confusing really! It makes me so appreciate and further admire friends like Sheila who can accommodate 6 or 7 languages if not completely, almost, fluently – How the??! What I do know is that I am so far from anything vaguely fluent it is laughable, and that further Spanish lessons are mandatory!! The last two days we have been walking along beside irrigation canals and at times it has almost been quite reminiscent of France – helped by meeting up again with the French guy Laurence and his donkey. The walking is very easy at the moment with the last six kms this afternoon coming in here being knocked off in just on a hour – very good time considering the head wind. Tomorrow we have the longest straight stretch at 17.6kms of straight road, no villages, no towns, no coffee…… 😦 but a great opportunity to listen to the birds in the fields -yes they even sing while appearing to be poking around in the turned earth – ones thoughts;iPod and the occasional fellow walker. There is so much to share with you but also so much that, out of context, well just seems….odd I think, and beyond description… One for the record books though.. I walked into a non descript church this afternoon – more out of obligation than anything given my resilient aversion to the institution of religion, and found the most serene church I have possibly encountered. I can’t tell you what made it that way… Perhaps the same elements that makes a glade of trees, a crop field, mountain scene or ocean beach, almost ‘religious’ at times – this place had ‘it’ too – and I stopped and was grateful for not only its existence, but that I had the time both physically and mentally to acknowledge it – for that I am grateful to the Camino. I am also grateful to, and always carry with me in every step and in every happy, joyful and challenging moment of this journey, all the people who have donated to the cause – http://ml14.endcancer.org.au/site/TR?pg =pfind&fr_id=1090&s_mobileswitc h=ful If you haven’t donated yet, and would like to, I would strongly encourage you – we are shooting for a target of $10,000 and are almost there at $8,170 given the support of so many of you – thank you both for those donations and to some others of you perhaps, in advance! 😉