More Camino moments & memories.

Back in the (new ‘normal’) swing of things!

Hi everyone,

Long time no blog! It has now been just over a month since I’ve returned to South Africa and I’ve found it quite a big adjustment after 40 days out of the country and the amazing, life-changing experience of the Camino. I am adding some more Camino photographs for you to enjoy and will add others in a seperate post with specific focus on our time in Madrid and Fisterre. I have posted quite a lot of photos (149!) on my Facebook page as well and you’re welcome to view the photos there: Enjoy!

I’ve just received a wonderful newsy email from my one Camino amigo, Sybil, and she shared about the challenges she’s experienced coming back after the walk, but also the wonderful memories of the time we had there. We were really fortunate to walk the route and have the time and finances to create that space for ourselves to simply enjoy and celebrate life in absolute simplicity as we were able to do in Spain. Just thinking about it takes me back to those few weeks of life-changing and in fact life-saving tranquility and space. I will share some more of our experiences with you in blog posts to come.

Thank you for keeping in touch and I look forward to your comments and feedback!
Best wishes & Buen Camino,

Final days in Madrid

Hallo everyone,

I´ve not posted for a while and thought I must quickly find an internet cafe to send an update on the goings on with the SA pilgrims. We arrived in Madrid early on Sunday morning by overnight Alsa bus and were fortunate enough to find an agent at the main station who could help us with accommodation booking in the city. We got two double rooms at about 22 Euro each per night in the Sol district right in the centre of Madrid – perfect location and value for money. Marieke spent another day in Fisterra and only came through on Monday via day bus from Santiago and she is now also staying in the same hotel. Leonie has gone off to Toledo and Segovia (outside the city) with the fast train early this morning and we will see her again tomorrow morning before we get mobilised to get to the airport for flying back home.

I must say it is VERY, VERY HOT in Madrid!!!!! According to the local reports we´ve been having 38 degrees as maximum day temperatures but I think it must be 40 at times. It is incredibly hot in the afternoons and early evenings and most of our sightseeing we try to do in the mornings and later in the evening. We did so many sights already since Sunday and Calvin and I even went out to a tango salon on Sunday night which was very nice. We plan to go out for tango again tonight.

We are enjoying this vibrant, busy and fascinating city – its origins going back to 711 A.D! We visited the Prado art gallery, the botanical gardens, the massive gardens with the Crystal Palaccio and the Velasquez Palaccio, also the Templo de Debod, various plazas across the city, took the historic and modern route open-top bus tours and did lots of touristy things along the way. This of course includes drinking sangria, a couple of strawberry mojitos, lots of vino blanco (!!), eating tapas and generally just chilling with the locals in their many sidewalk cafes. We even happened to be in the city on the same day as the annual Gay Pride parade (part of the ófficial´ start of the Madrid summer festivities as it is also now the Spanish summer school holidays). We were hoping to see crowds of people in fabulously festive costumes, but somehow we missed being in that particular area of the city at the right time and just saw a few people later in the evening that must have been part of the parade. Marieke, Sybil and Leonie also went to see a Carmen opera inspired flamenco show last night and they enjoyed it a lot.

It is now so hot outside that the only thing to do is to return to the hotel and find a spot under a fan to try and cool down before we go out again later. Just literally too hot to walk in the direct sun or even sit outside in the shade. I see on CNN that Cape Town has a maximum of 14 degrees today, so I know that a major shock is waiting for us on out return to SA on Friday. Sybil will split up from us tomorrow as she is taking the bus to Bilbao in the North of Spain and then doing her own thing for the next few days ending in Barcelona where she will be joined by her son for a few weeks´travel from the 4th of July. Unfortunately the rest of us must get back to SA and a completely different reality than what we were used to in the past month and a half. We´ve probably not really processed everything that´s happened and all the experiences we´ve had, but that will have to happen somewhere along the way or before Monday! I am not getting back to work immediately as I have 5 days of classes at the Cornerstone campus next week and will only get back to work officially next weekend.

I´ve had an awesome time in Spain and great experiences with lots of memories of places and people – it was well worth saving the money for this trip and getting the leave time together to break away for my Caminio adventure. See you all back in SA!

Best wishes,

Finally in Fisterra

Hola all,

Just a quick post to say that we made it – all 5 of us and got to Santiago at about 10.30am yesterday. We managed to get to our alberge and leave our bags there and still be in time for mass in the cathedral at 12h00. We were all a bit disappointed with the cathedral as there are literally bus loads full of tour groups going through as well as the pilgrims and general visitors and it is a frenzy of photo taking and hugging of the statue of St James, etc. etc. We were warned that the experience can be disappointing, but it was still something to deal with as we arrived and tried to get to grips with the fact that we were actually finished with our 32 day walk. We´re definitely happy and relieved that we all made it in one piece and we can now relax for the extra few days´sightseeing.

We left Santiago by bus this morning at 10am and arrived in Fisterra at 1pm (or Finnesterre – not sure why different names) and we were treated to the most spectacular coastal scenery in perfect, sunny weather conditions. The ocean is beautiful and the little villages along the coast are stunning. We went into the water and it feels like the Strand in summer time – not cold at all! I was expecting Camp´s Bay water temperature. May even take a swim tomorrow. We have most of tomorrow still to spend here and we will take the overnight bus to Madrid (all except Marieke who will stay on here longer).

Calvin and Leonie just popped out to buy us some wine and nibbles for tonight´s dinner and we will enjoy that at sundown time at the lighthouse of Fisterra (the place where the pilgrims do the burning of their clothes). Not sure if we´ll do that tonight or each on his own tomorrow. It is about a 3km walk there from the alberge, so maybe tonight will be the bonfire time! It is also a time for us to gather our thoughts after the Camino and to spend some time in peace and quiet before going on to the busyness of Madrid and of course home on the 30th.

It has so far been an amazing experience and we are just very grateful for having had the time, finances and health to do this incredible trip and share memorable experiences. Enjoy the photos I posted – it saves me lots of blog posts! 🙂


A picture paints a thousand words…

Some more Camino photos to enjoy!

How to confuse a Pilgrim!

Hola everyone,

The answer to this blog post title question is very simple: change a village´s name (or add a new name to existing village) and tell all the locals to call it by its new name and disregard direction to old village name related questions by pilgrims!!! Instant confusion. We had a classic example of this today. For some reason we raced through today´s distance again by completing it (sort of) by 11am. We left as usual by 6am and as the terrain was lovely even woodland footpaths we covered the distance fairly quickly with only two brief coffee stops. I decided to change my socks at one stage while the others walked on and at the next town they stopped for coffee while I pushed on ahead through the last 4km on my own. This however resulted in us finding very interesting routes to our current location in Arca do Pino, better known by the locals as Pedrouzo. Fortunately I asked one of the locals along they way about Arca and she indicated to me that I am only 1km away. However, when I got to the town I thought would be Arca do Pino, I only saw signs to Pedrouzo. So I happily continued on across a main road into the forrest path again, following the Camino signs. About a km on this path I realised that something is amiss and turned back to check out the town only to find out that Pedrouzo was in fact Arca do Pino and there along the main road in all its (still closed up) glory was our alberge pre-booked the night before. I was happy to arrive at about 11am, but to my horror saw my Camino-amigos take the wrong turn half a km down the road, taking the same path back into the woods, and I had no way of letting them know about this as my phone time was up. Cost me finding a shop to quickly recharge and call them to advise of the village name confusion.

In the meantime Calvin who took the bus from Ribadiso to Arca (due to problem with his foot) was unceremoniously dropped somewhere outside Arca as the busdriver had shouted out Pedrouzo as the destination and not Arca when travelling through the town for the scheduled stop. So Calvin happily continued along until the busdriver realised he had a passenger still on his bus who was due to get off in Arca!! So he promptly stopped right there (we later find out – about 5km outside of town) leaving Calvin with his own backpack as well as Marieke´s next to the road. He had NO idea where he was or how far from what! Unfortunately neither did I. I got a sms to advise that I must find a taxi and come collect him from his mystery location along some road to somewhere. How do I explain that to a taxi driver only able to speak in Spanish!!!???? Anyhow, to make a very strange and long story short, we eventually managed to highjack a taxi in true SA style and got the bewildered female driver to take us out of Bedrouza / Arca do Pino to some unknown location in the directino of Santiago to find our lost amigo. How it all worked out I still don´t know, but I can say that it took me one serveza, one vino blanco and a tostada to settle the nerves.

Now three amigos are sleeping (Leonie, Sybil and Marieke) and Calvin is sitting outside somewhere undecided what he should do. He can´t sit and read as he falls asleep while reading and he can´t go to sleep because then he claims he will not be able to sleep tonight. ??!! Strange. I am not going to help him with that challenge. Not part of my pilgrim responsibilities. I seem to have become the general online communication person for the group and so I am doing by duties by posting a blog so that all you nice folk out in SA (and wherever) can know more or less what we´re up to. And it is a lot quicker for as I´m of course not a one-finger-typer. 🙂

Tomorrow we finally reach Santiago (after a 20km walk) and we will aim to get there by about 11am so that we can still register at the pilgrim office, get our credentials and then get into the cathedral in time for the pilgrim mass at noon. We will stay over in Santiago tomorrow night, explore the city a bit and then go on by bus to Finnesterre the next day. Of course, as per pilgrim tradition, we will be selecting something ´symbolic´to burn in Finnesterre and we´ve brought enough lighters and matches to burn several pairs of pilgrim boots, sandals and walking outfits if need be! An ex-pilgrim (name will not be mentioned!) told me that they reached Finnesterre only to discover they do not have something to burn their clothing items with!! 🙂 SO – we made sure that we had that one covered! Burning of items will happen. I´ve decided that my one T-shirt will have to go. It is an old one though. NO WAY am I burning by nice First Accent walking shirt or my Cape Storm walking shorts!

So I now have to decide if it is worth climbing up to the top bunk for a snooze as I don´t have enough light to read there or stay down here in the lounge watching Spanish TV with one eye and read with the other eye, hoping that missing out on the afternoon snooze will help me sleep better tonight. MAJOR decisions to make on a daily basis.

From Arca do Pino (or whatever!) it is farewell and we will see you or speak again online after our successful completion of this 32 day adventure!
Best wishes,

Slowly shutting down

Hola all,

We find ourselves in Ribadiso de Baixo today after another 26km walk. Day started out well with all evidence of a great, sunny day ahead. However, mist came in and for most of the day we were walking in mist or cloudy weather. It was a good day´s walk although we may have started too fast again. You´d think we would have learnt by now! However, the reinforcements (names will not be mentioned for fear of repercussion post-Camino!) are still presenting daily with fresh legs and lots of energy and therefore the pace is faster than the pace we found ourselves (individually) getting used to after weeks on the road. I may have to make some slowing down adjustments for the next two days if I want to reach Santiago in one piece (and in peace)!

I also find that with the end almost literally in sight (just over 40km / two days´walk away) I´ve somehow changed gears and am in a kind of a slow-motion shut down mode. It is really quite strange – feeling that all the weeks of walking is almost finished and we´re now very close to reaching our final destination. You find yourself thinking about the last day and arriving in Santiago and how you think you would feel after all the weeks´walking. Also thinking about all the pelegrinos we´ve met along the way, those we left behind and those who passed us and went on ahead. Again – parallel drawn to life. We hope to see many of our pilgrim friends in Santiago or Finnesterre.

We just had a serveza and light snack to see us through to dinner and three of our party of 5 have already gone to bed. I´m typing away on one of the two open internet points (amazing – the Dutch one-finger-typer lady is not here!) and Calvin is watching TV in the lounge, trying hard to fake understanding the Spanish! Calvin and Leonie are also still trying to order menu items in English and they´ve not accepted that the Spanish ´vacant stare´means you should seriously familiarise yourself with some basic menu item words and not try to re-phrase questions in English!!! However slow you try to explain your order there is a distinct possibility that it will still not be understood and it will only cause unnecessary aggrivation. When in Rome…

We can actually already confidently order a pelegrino meal, beer, wine, coffee, etc in Spanish and read a menu in such a way that what is ordered closely resembles what you thought you were ordering! 🙂 Only a few cryptic clues, hand signals or ordering-by-pointing-to-photo-on-menu are necessary for the whole experience to be relatively painless and fairly effective and by doing so you of course prevent the ´vacant stare´. We are in fact now apparently in an area well-known for its ´pulpo´ / octopus and this may be one of our main course options this evening. As I´m unfortunately an unadventurous and more cautious eater, I may just go for the pollo again!

An amazing thing happened today (just remembering now). We had a coffee stop along they way in another small village with name still a mystery and the ´servicio´/ public toilet facilities actually had a BATH inside!!! I´ve nearly forgotten how it looks like! That is one thing I really miss – being able to bath – and it will be the first thing I do when back home. I will also use conditioner which at this stage is a luxury item (like Leonie´s hairdryer and Badedas) and I will also run out to Spar to buy a wholegrain bread or seedloaf as the Spanish people only seems to live on hardcrusted white bread (which they make their bocadillas with). It will also be nice to use perfume again. I think I´m beginning to miss home comforts more now because we´re nearing the end.

This is also a time to be particularly careful to make sure that no new injuries occur. It is important now to stay focussed. I actually think the day´s walk becomes more difficult as we come closer to Santiago as we want to relax, but can´t do so yet. Not that we´ve not been relaxing and relaxed for weeks now, but I refer to the walking effort in particular! Interesting the games your mind plays with you along the way. We are close and must hang in there now.

As per the daily routine, all that is left to do now is a mid-afternoon nap, some book reading and going out for dinner tonight. Washing has been done already and must just be taken down later. Still overcast at the moment so I hope our clothes will dry. There are only so many items of clothing you can hang up on the outside of your bag!

From Ribadiso and a lazy siesta time it is over & out for now!

Almost there!

Howzit all!

Just felt like greeting in a typical South African way as ´hola´ is becoming over-used. Since my previous blog reinforcements have arrived in the form of Leonie and Calvin and they are getting into the Spanish swing of things on the Camino. I can report that both have expressed their amazement at what we´ve actually accomplished – walking along all the way from the South of France to almost on the West coast of Spain under some challenging conditions at times. I think we´ve become used to the daily routine and challenges, but for them it is still a new experience and adjustment. We´re happy to have them with us on the last few days. Calvin´s had some trouble with his one foot, but Leonie is walking fine at this stage. She has finally admitted this evening that she is a bit stiff after our walk of 26km today! I want to say ´Goed so!´, but I won´t. 🙂

Leonie has true Survivor style brought some ´luxury items´ and to my shock it has included a hair dryer (I kid you not!), Badedas for showering and some perfume. I was flabbergasted!!!! For a pelegrino who considers and reconsiders every single item in the backpack according to weight impact it is totally unthinkable to be carrying a hairdryer. There are times that we don´t even buy soap, but rather wash with shampoo to keep weight down. Eish – I will somehow have to work through the shame and embarrassment she´s brought onto the family!! On Calvin´s side we´re still trying to figure out why his bag is so heavy. Some info has come to light and it relates to dancing shoes (for Tango in Madrid) and also Game and packs of raisons. Aai, these South Africans!

We just had a meal and I´m grabbing the opportunity to get onto the internet as most of the afternoon a Dutch lady was occuping the internet point and of course as per Murphy´s law she was one of those dreaded óne finger typers´! Nothing worse. I was waiting and waiting and reading my book, but later it was time for dinner so I just gave up. Can you believe, the young Spanish waiter has just advised that the internet will shut down in about 5 minutes, although I have 6 left on the clock. Must go quickly now – happy that I´m not a one-finger-typer.

Today was misty and cool all along the route, but we had a good walking day. Calvin brought my MP4 along and I could have some music on my ears for the last section of road – I think I walked the fastest I´ve done so far on the Camino and loved having a great mix of Lady Antebellum, Anna Davel and even Gaither vocal band to walk to. Was great!! One can only cope with your own thoughts (or no thoughts) for so long!

Tomorrow is another 26km and then the last two days just over 20km and into Santiago on 23rd of June. Finally – reaching our destination!

The waiter is looking at me with a frown, I have to close. We´re doing well (oh, and Marieke also walking again) and enjoying the daily routine.

Have a great evening all! Must go sit in the sun now with my book!

Some more photos (note – unedited). Enjoy!