Monday, 30 May 2016

It's a beautiful day ... (thanks Bono)

Touch me
Take me to that other place

I have finally made it to Santiago  - and yes I wept. 

(writing this backwards) ..

Arrival at the Praza do Obradoiro

Full of emotion, I am not sure what has driven that, whether it was a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that it has ended and I need to think about reality, seeing the joy of others as they arrived at the front of the cathedral.  Someone had shared to listen for the bagpipes, on the approach to the maybe this is what moved me.  I heard them playing as I was walking through the old town and new I was close.  As I approached it reminded me of a mix between Edinburgh and Petra in Jordan, walking towards the treasury through buildings like Edinburgh, I was touched by the amount of pilgrims, thanking each other, cuddling those they had not even met, taking photos, removing shoes and just pausing before they entered the tunnel to the Praza do Obradoiro.

The feeling was quite euphoric, on reflection, I have been on a calm high, (if there is such a thing) since last night.

I sat, I giggled, I cried, I saw new friends and strangers reactions, reactions as they entered, and was so happy for them, and so very moved by their expressions and what this has obviously meant to them.

I think, it will take a while for me to really understand what this moment meant.

The walk today

I started early, I wanted to walk alone, to spend time reflecting on my Camino so far, questioning I guess, maybe people have more expectations of what this would mean to me rather than what it has.  Has it meant anything? have I learnt anything? Did I need to? Did I want to?  I started off at 5.30 am, after only two hours sleep, after a long chat with a new friend, that also moved me, and made me think about a lot very differently.

So tired, after the lack of sleep, but actually start the day feeling wonderfully sated, from such a lovely night, and headed out ahead of the others.

I have an app that enables a random alarm .. and I woke to Beautiful Day (U2) .. I have never considered the lyrics so seriously before ...  they had such a wonderful meaning today, and I found myself reflecting on them all day.

This walk, felt the easiest of all the stages, even after the lack of sleep.  I stopped and washed with many pilgrims as tradition, in the river at Lavacolla, I felt very strange about this, and the chance to wash away everything wicked ;-) is that possible?

The walk from there felt hard … and I made my way to the ‘mount of joy’ (Monte del Gozo), 5km to go, where I took a break, and by coincidence.. as I took my shoes off, for a little rest, I could not believe I received texts at that precise moment from people I love, the phone call that followed for the next 2kms with folk who have the greatest bones, meant the world to me, as did a little sign, that reminded me of my new friend, and our marathon chat from the night before.

The night before

A wonderful night in a tiny hostel, with new friends, sharing memories and war stories, I seem to come out of it a lot better than most, 1 tiny blister probably my biggest concern, mind you my feet have been loved along the way.  Kurt and I plotted our Venice trip, only two nights, he has never been to Europe and Venice is on his bucket list, how could he not, and well who would not be happy to show someone new to Venice.

I wanted to walk today alone, to chat with many as I passed, but to also think about the last few days, hoping for an early night, and early start.  I had heard that Santiago is quite beautiful and so I want to spend as much time as possible there before Venice. Last night consisted of almost the same group from the night before, plus another couple from the States, we have passed each other many times over the last few days, but had never really spoken. I finished up chatting with others after mmm chorizo, bread, cheese, fish soup, fries, I seriously need vegetables and not just peppers.

After saying good night and good luck to others, I meet Jose, and we chat for hours ... generous, poetic, warm.. how do strangers enable thinking to be taken to another place?

It's a beautiful day ...

Buen Camino ..
Be brave, take risks, take a chance, trust, give yourself up
Charlotte – x

Sunday, 29 May 2016

This time tomorrow ... Santiago ... (someone should write a song about that)

after a moody and sooky la la day two days ago, I got a very simple, but much needed ... put things into perspective from a 'Pink Charlie', which made me pull up and see reality ...  so whilst my last couple of days have been emotional, they have also been  more rational ....  I am definitely becoming less up tight and more relaxed doing this ...and less selfish.

crossed through from Arzua to Rua, (melide prior), I am now addicted to boiled octopus, the veggies are still lacking, but at least I feel less carb bloated.  The stay last night, was in a little village hotel with 15 rooms, of the 15 rooms, new found friends were in 6, + cheery Kurt and I with a room each, (we are walking together on and off, but we are booked into the same accomodation now through to Santiago).

It is funny how you dont see people for days, and then everyone collides.  The six included JP, and Michael the annoying Australian.  A night of sharing tales and what it has meant to us all, and how we plan on spending the next couple of days.

The way is a funny thing, no-one judges, no-one cares how old you are, what you do, what you look like, what you where, everyone is a complete equal, you kind of give yourself up to just being there for others, it was funny when we got onto a conversation about what we were carrying in our packs, most people are actually now carrying more for others, than for themselves.  It is also funny how it now seems so normal to just take someones foot, rub someones leg, pop strangers blisters, peel someones socks off, as you see them sitting with shoes off, offering and accepting now has become a norm, like offering to take a photo, (although cheery Kurt told me lastnight unless I addressed my ... 'here comes mr hairy legs', foot and shin rubs would become a thing of the past).

We walked today with a lovely Hungarian guy, whose walking partner died earlier this week while asleep in an albergue, he decided to continue, very heart warming.  (the movie the way became very real). The 'heart' brave stories you find along the way are inspirational, like blind Jamie who we also met today, completely blind and reliant on other pilgrims to guide him to Santiago, so extraordinarily courageous, both physically but more from a trust of others perspective.

I have decided to head back to Sydney for a while, I don't think what I wanted to do back in Australia is done yet, sharing thoughts with others helps brings such clarity.

One of the things, I know I need to do better, which I realised early on, and am now committed to, is staying in better contact with those that are dear to me, those that really matter, and I have been slack, I have been reconnecting with a lot of folk, funnily enough a lot through sharing these updates and looking forward to catching up with some of you over the next fornight.

This time tomorrow Santiago ...  then Kurt and I have decided to do a couple of days in Venice, before he heads back to the States ...

24 hours to go ....  20km .... 8 hours walking ...

x - be kind

Thursday, 26 May 2016

In the words of Pete Murray - I've seen better days!

*FYI - Non Australians, Pete Murray is an Australia singer songwriter

First observation of the day ...  now we are out of Sarria, the amount of people walking has increased significantly, (especially folk from Australia and States), the first part I found mainly European. 

Well life is a rollercoaster and the Camino is certainly that, from my day on a high yesterday, I bottomed out today, big time.  I actually woke up cranky, and it just felt like it got worse, it pelted down all day, and the weather is freezing, my feet are soaked through, (it reminds me of the night Max took me on that overnight walk in the Blue Mountains) and despite me meeting cheery Kurt the yank over breakfast, and walking with him, I could not muster a giggle, I must have been absolutely shocking company, he was very sweet and and when we arrived here (tonights accomodation), he even said he was looking forward to seeing me later for a mutual foot rub and dinner (I have found this a common thing on 'the way'), and that he had not noticed my mood !*!&%  lies ...

18km Sarria to Portomarin, I should have enjoyed it more than I did, beautiful churches, bridges, architectue , cute villages, cheery and wonderfully warm Kurt, grade stated as 4, but felt so much easier, I would have said a 2 or a 3, but I didn't enjoy any of it. I guess it can't all be good.

As I write this I am trying to think of something that made me smile.  Kurt and I arrived in the Village of Portomarin (most accommodation is right on 'the way') and we get a bit lost looking for where we are staying (total coincidence we are in the same place), we stop in at a 'farmacia' and the girl serving says, 'it is far, maybe I can call you a taxi' ... how far? I ask, about 1km ... errrr that's okay .. reckon I got that covered ....

Foot soak and nap time, followed by a foot rub and dinner ... and a slap of myself.  I hope tomorrow is better, I am hurting again for the first time, in what feels like a long time.  25km tomorrow ... through to Palais de Rei.

this too shall pass ..

x- CBT

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Kool and the Gang say... celebrate good times, come on!

A funny 48 hours, I can't believe I reached Sarria a day early, with 224km down, and only 113km to go .. who would have thought eh!

Over the last two days I have walked O Cebreiro - Tricastela - Sarria, whilst I was only going to do 3 hours two days ago, I decided to push on so I could get a full 24 hour rest, before starting the last 100km.  Yesterdays walk was only 18km, which for me, should have been roughly 35k steps ... the 'fitbitch' tells me I completed 64k steps .. which goes to show how the terrain can really impact. Jumped online and booked an additional early night at the place, I am now at, arranged change in luggage destination. Having arrived at the only 4* accommodation for days ... (trust me, the thought of this has kept me going), it is also the only place enroute with a pool, and I have been having visions (maybe hallucinations) of me in that pool from 7am-7pm, the weather has been amazing, but my legs and feet have not seen sun for days, cool water and a dose of sun provided vitamin d, much needed.

In the space of about two hours, the weather changes from 27c down to about 17c, and the heavens open, (and not in .. I have seen the light kind of way).

Arrive at the hotel, to be told that yes they received the booking but they are over booked, and have no room for me tonight.  This appears to happen alot in these parts ... I had one american couple tell me last night, that three of the places they booked into over a year ago, are now restaurants and they had to find emergency albergues to spend the nights in.

Last minute albergues are a precious thing, people are fussy about who is spending time in their dorm, and it is first come first served basis. It is still relatively quiet on the camino at this time, so they were lucky, if it happened in August, I would not have liked their chances. From what I can tell, some people pretend to albergues, that they are more than one party, they secure a few beds and then spend a few hours 'recruiting like type 'normal' folk' to join them.  I get approached all the time, by people walking, trying to get me to join them in a group to spend the night in a dorm.  If only they knew, how bad a dorm mate I would be.

Anyhow, with no accommodation secured and no help from the receptionist, I jumped back online to see if I could find somewhere to stay (this hotel is not on the path of the way, otherwise a stop in at a bar | cafe and a quick chat with a fellow wanderer would have found me somewhere).

Finally found a place, booked and started the walk (now pulling about 25kg because I have my full bags), not what you want at this point.

Made it to my destination, oh my, it is an albergue, not near very much, which means I will be in a dorm with somewhere between 10 - 30 people. Now that's okay, but I need to alter my head....

and then out comes Marcela ...  'Hola, welcome, let my husband take your bag, you are in our other property, come to the car, I will drive you, it is in the historic part of town'. I want to weep.

She drives me to the property, and it is to die for, a little two storey house, that they have renovated by hand, in the middle of the main street of the old town, she calls it my home, and it fels like it is, click here to check out the cuteness... (little home - Sarria)

Marcela then drives me around town showing me things, taking me to the bank, showing me how to get the hotel tomorrow, then offering to pick me up and drive me to the hotel tomorrow & more importantly she shares her story. She shares so generously her background, and Antonios, how they met, what brought them to Sarria, why they now run a business on 'the way'.  I am so moved, by her genoristy of spirit, by her kindness and what she does for others, for nothing in return.  It is people like Marcela and Antonio that make 'the way', that are 'the way'.

I think, I am starting to get it ... maybe ...

Marcela picks me up in the morning, and takes me back to my 4* hotel, which has lost all the gloss it had in mind over the last few days, and I wish I could go back to my little home, and spend a few days with Marcela and Antonio, and the wonderful people I had dinner with last night, because of them.

I check in, the rain is still throwing down, and it is only 17c ...  I dont't even care about the pool ...  (which is lucky because they tell me it is closed), I just really feel like .... going for a walk.

Someone who I love very very much, texted me earlier and asked, 'has this changed how I think?', I don't think it has, but I think it has reaffirmed I need to do more with the good bits of me and we all can, and should, do more with the good bits, ohhh and be kind, and pass kindness on. It has also reaffirmed, who really matters.

113km and 5 days to go ...  my thinking may still change ...

Muchas lovas - CBT - xx

Monday, 23 May 2016

we just keep on, keeping on - gracias Curtis Mayfield - x

Hola amigos,

Planned rest day today, and I was only going to do 3 hours, JP the french walking machine joined me, and over lunch (despite my commitment to not fall to this), he convinced me to keep going as much as possible and take a day off at Sarria before the last 100km to the end. As an FYI, I committed to not falling into a trap of walking with folk I like, because you can potentially push yourself harder than your body should, and feel it later. 

So a nice (although fairly hilly stage) 6 hours, we ended up completing 18kms, through Villafranca del Bierzo and Vega de Valcarce, gorgeous little towns, driving past you would miss the most beautiful aspects of these places, wonderful cobblestones, cathedrals and such history in every place.

It makes me think back to when I first started exploring the UK, where every village and town had such a story to tell, and was proud to share it, where people are passionate about what their little place has meant and means.

It is also amazing now to see, the number of new pilgrims starting to join the route as we near the 100km final stage, people who want a couple of days adjusting to climate and doing a few slow walks in the lead up. It makes me chuckle and reminds me of times when you are in the UK, and the first to arrive in the Greek Islands, and then a week in you see the other first time British arriving, with gear designed to make them look good but not practical, or like when you go to Bail from Australia and again you can spot the first time to Bali Australia arrivals.

I am by no means an experienced walker, but it is funny what you learn to keep and ditch, and how after almost 200km you become the expert to those just starting out, and how they seek you out, it is also amazing how with only the basic of spanish when I started, I have now become quite the translator, especially for friends across the pond.

Tomorrow will be about 13 hours, as I walk through both lazy and tough terrain, towns of O Cebreiro and Triacastela.

Then 24 hours of rest, before I start the last 100km, from Sarria on the 25th ....

Can't believe I have covered almost 200km ....

anything is possible ... be your absolute possible..

Buen Camino, Buen Camino

CBT - x

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Hola .. Bonjour .. Salve ... Yassou

Almost half the way through ...  I can't believe it .. 

After the crazy moutain walk, I woke in leg pain. I have learnt you have to push through it. I had also forgotten to stretch out before and after, bad move, stopping makes it worse.

Put off, the rest day ... and did 5 hours today, walking with JP from Paris, who I met at breakfast, where I found myself translating what he wanted, to our Colombian waiter (who speaks spanish but with completely different inflections ... that JP did not understand).

I also can't believe how much my previous travel has helped this experience, especially the 8 weeks spent years ago in Colombia, which made me a great friend of our waiter, and the amount of time I have previously spent in Spain, South America and France.

His English is far better than my French, and he speaks 4 languages, which gave me a great chance to practice. 

Funny day as we both kept introducing eachother to people we bumped into, that we had previously met on this walk, I was actually slightly embarrased when we came across Aussie Michael, who seems to think that all Australian men, are the most alluring in the world, and that every women should be throwing themselves at them.

JP made this section, far easier than planned, as we spent time practising language, singing (amazing how songs can teach language, why did I not learn more about that in TEFL)?

God bless his cotton socks, he also spent over an hour changing my insoles and rubbing my hips and shins.

As he walks faster than me, I either have to dump him as a walking partner, or he has to slow down.

taking a day off tomorrow ..

CBT - x

Saturday, 21 May 2016

It's a new dawn, it's a new day ... and I'm feeling good ... (thanks Nina)

I am now in Ponferrada, over 103km in ... and I'm feeling good ..

As per previous post I had decided the day before to stop walking early, and break till 1pm the next day, feeling like everything was getting the better of me and that my body needed a rest. After a really great afternoon and evening, catching up with fellow walkers sharing stories, having a soak and an early night, I was glad when I woke at 6am that I had agreed (with myself) that I was taking the morning off, as I lay on my back, I spent an hour breathing deeply and concentrating on every bit of me that felt sore, tiny blister sole right foot just under toes, shins, left calf, right ankle. As I started to focus on these, I started to think, that the pain was far less than it had been the previous few days. For the next hour, I had many conversations with myself, one part of me was saying 'of course it is hard, get out of bed and push through it', the other part of me saying 'well done have a little break'.  I got up at 8am and hobbled down to breakfast, where a few other pilgrims, were also saying they were going to take a rest day.  I headed back to my room for a long shower, and thoughts of another nap, planning to get up at midday.

Then something happened, and I decided I had to get myself together, and just go walk.

I did not get to the pharmacy the day before, so decided to head in before I took off, for gel insoles (my adidas trainers need reinforcement) and blister pack. The wonderful Pharamcist Catalina, patiently checked what I needed, and then what felt very gentle and asked at a deeper level, asked how was my Camino. I started to well up, and tried to explain my feelings over the last few days. She could not have been more kind, motivational, inspiring, she shared her own Camino journey (Sarria to Santiago), and shared what she had seen other pilgrims experience in her role. It was everything I had experienced and more, and validated that what I held felt (despite me feeling like a big sooky la la) was actually quite normal. 

She said the first 3 days are actually the hardest, especially if you have travelled a long distance, because you need to get used to climate, change of hours, body adjusting to flight, 9 hours of exercise a day and all of this is compounded by no previous exercise.  She shared the puffiness comes from the greater intake of fluids, but despite the exercise, the body is not sweating yet, as it is adjusting, this is just one of the thing that impacts, it means your feet can become two sizes bigger, your body breaks out because fluids are not escaping, feet tend to go first, then knees and shins, then hips (I am in reverse), she said if my hips went first, this would have been really painful, and was surprised I walked through it, and had done the kms I had.  If you put your hands on my hips, you can feel the heat generating from them.  She is my Camino angel and made me feel normal and proud, off I stepped, with a spring in my step.

I covered 29kms, through mountains, the worst terrain yet, and most remote I have been (pics below) given I planned for only 9kms, and given the terrain, what should have taken about 8 hours, took me 15 hours, but I am feeling elated. I had my little wifivox and supercharger, which meant I spent the non pilgrim catchup walk times being able to listen to music, which massively helped with the mental. I also found myself still thinking about a lot, but also having a sing along, and as a result almost skipped along (bit weird, for those passing me, probably more than me, when pilgrims approach from behind I no idea they are there, because I am belting out musical and disney show tunes).

The bulk of my walk today was shared with Otto from Finland, Maria and Gabriel from Argentina, and Michael from Australia (who we ditched). Besides Michael, the camaraderie that can happen in such a short period cannot be underestimated.

I know most would think this is ridiculous really, it has only been 4 days and 100km ...

Otto the power walker from Finland turns 70 next month, I would have put him at 55.  His wife cannot walk due to knee surgeries, so he travels alone, he passed me with a Buen Camino, and then ultimately stopped me, because he could not tell where my accent was from. We spent the next couple of hours sharing countries we have worked, visited and lived in, before Otto ploughed ahead.

Myself, Maria and Gabriel, struggled on this leg of the walk, and spent many hours, taking time out, overtaking eacother, building eachother up, sharing poles, water, swapping shoes, airing socks, and having a sing a long, despite walking with her partner, there are just some things that others get and understand more.

211kms to go .... (I don't know yet, if the camaraderie is because of this camino, or if what any long walk could bring, where there are quite a few people enroute, I assume the latter).

Thursday, 19 May 2016

This girl is on fire - literally !

Alicia Keys once sang ....

She's living in a world, and it's on fire
Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away
Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she's burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she's not backing down
This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire

I am literally on fire, yesterday my hips were searing, and after a night soaking and rubbing deep heat into my hips and balm into my feet, and a long soak in a bath full of salt water, I felt slightly better.

Stopped walking today after 4 hours, today it is my shins, that are burning, and I have become all puffy, (my fellow pilgrims tell me that this happens to quite a few people, as a result of your body adjusting to the amount of exercise and water being consumed not previously used to) this apparantley will change over the next few days as ones body gets used to the changes.

Came back to the hotel I stayed at lastnight, as it is in a village with a pharmacy, and supermarket and I needed to buy some extra sunscreen, blister packs, pain killers, headed out for a pilgrim lunch and bumped into Helen, she has ditched the bike as the terrain is too hilly and rocky to get over, and is going to do the next two stages on foot, she has also come back to this village as her bum is too sore and blistered and she also needs medical supplies. We had lunch with two guys from the UK, who told us this is their third Camino, and we were all sharing our stories, I shared that I had a few wobbles and tears yesterday, one over an orange, one of the guys shared that 6 days ago at the halfway point as he crossed the Meseta, he woke up and could not face it, and broke down over breakfast, he did not know why, but he had to arrange transport to take him to Leon, where he spent two days in bed crying and then as part of what happened they both decided to change, for no reason they know of, their Camino route.

We also spent a good hour discussing how the Spanish are so slim given their diet, and how despite us walking many many kms .. the Spanish carb loaded diet would surely pack it on ...  one of the guys shared he has added 7 kilos despite being on the Camino and covering over 500k.  Paella, pasta, soups full of potatoes and fish, everything fried, bread rolls, cheese, chorizo ...  if you think the Camino is about yummy food and weight loss ..  think again .. move your holiday to Greece.

As the bulk of my luggage has now been forwarded to next destination, I will spend the rest of the night, washing out my clothes to wear tomorrow, soaking my legs and cuddling my feet.

Today, maybe because of the physical, (where the pain was so bad I stopped and sat to pee and give my feet a rest, and found I could not stand from a squat position, without actually lifting my legs with my arms), and the short duration, the mental was easier.

My thoughts today ended up being about how lucky and free I am, and how lucky in life I have been.  I currently have no debts, no bills, no house, no house keys, no children, no accountabilities, no partner (woops, to close maybe, #sorry) and even no official address.

What I do have, despite some ups and downs is, friends, family & total freedom which leaves just one decision really ...  what next?

Camino tips
  • Remember Spain sleeps alot, especially in northern towns and villages, where most places are only open from about 10am - 2pm and then again from about 6pm - 10pm, so you need to plan your day around this, walking early to beat the afternoon sun is great, but it means you land in towns when nothing is open, so you can't get a meal etc  plan to nap when Spain does
  • Despite being a main tourist route, most folk in these parts do not speak any english, so learn more than the basics (funny how easily my basic spanish has come back, even funnier is how I seem to think I am somewhere else and randomly also start speaking in French and Greek)
  • For me it is about the 10km mark before I actually get into a walking groove that feels okay, this is also the point where I want to quit, and have to yell at myself to push on, (this seems quite common amongst pilgrims at the 5km and 10km point).
  • Take a notepad and pen, use your pictionary skills and be prepared to draw, funny how all languages come together with the use of a picture (watch out all, I am honing my skills to perfection)
all my love
CBT - x

* this little post has been possible because of the amazing product, service & team @

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

In the words of Shakira - 'you know my hips don't lie'

Firstly, dear family, (Wendy) boo, surprise, I am not dead!

‘they say’, that everyone’s Camino is an entirely unique experience, and as a result you can read as much as possible, but nothing can really prepare you for how you will think and feel until you do it.  Words so true. 

When I was chatting to the guys as I was buying some of my gear, they gave me a couple of pieces of great advice (they are both hikers and long distance walkers).  1 if you keep overanalysing and researching you will talk yourself out of it, just do it.  When I asked what shoes? they both said the ones that feel most comfortable, you know your body better than anyone.  (I bought the lightest, comfiest, waterproof, hiking boots I tried on, also highly recommended online).

I am now three days in (the technical bits will be below), and it has been quite different to what I thought.  Despite being the un fittest person in the Southern Hemisphere, I knew I would find the mental side more challenging than the physical, and that in the main has been the case, at the end of day three however, the physical has started to take a toll.  With the worst being a searing pain through my hips and my feet feeling like they are very bruised.  I have 0 blisters, (the most common ailment), but I put this down to my amazing merino and angora socks (two liners and full pair), and the fact that I change my shoes or cuddle my feet, the second, I feel a hot spot.  I have actually not worn those fancy hiking boots recommended by everyone online, and am now swapping between using my old Adidas light weight trainers, + some sexy must have walking sandals worn with my wonderful socks.

My walk has started out at stages grade 4 & 5, (grade info below) probably not the wisest decision, (that happens with a lack of research) but it is remarkable how quickly cardio fitness increases from a place of 0.
Everyone keeps telling me, I am nuts, including all the cyclists on the route, who seem to be surprised at the kms I have committed to walk per day.  I thought cycling would be harder (especially given the hills), the cyclists genuinely seem to respect the walkers and think walking is worse.

I am finding that the stretches I find the hardest are actually the physically less demanding, the long flat, through the countryside with no villages towns or pilgrims in sight.  I struggle with these because it is when you are completely alone with thoughts, and you can’t see an end point in the distance, I find I am not thinking about anything deep, I am just thinking, when will this bloody path end, although there was a wobble today, that is no doubt a sign of things to come.
The easiest I find, are the ones that most others complain about, the really crazy terrain, climbing up big rocky slopes, or the sprawling industrial estates, which everyone finds ugly, but I find a kind of beauty by looking at what is stored and the businesses and coming up with ideas in my mind about how I could use the products to create some kind of sculpture that would represent the business and promote the town I am in, and which city or town across the world

I seem to also take longer to walk than anyone, and take more steps, this may be because I really meander, I take a million photos, walk backwards and forwards, looking at a lone poppy, rocks placed for others, I spend ages in villages looking at the architecture of the homes, the plaza, going into supermarkets to see how products change from town to town, looking at the graffiti, a plant I have never seen, messages written by pilgrims, crazily placed solar panels, spending time in the main squares to see what is important to that town.

It is currently a fairly quiet time on the Camino, so you can spend hours, without seeing or speaking to anyone, most of the day is spent alone, other than this quite common exchange, as you pass, or are passed by another pilgrim. 
  • Party 1- Hola
  • Party 2 - Hola Buen Camin
  • Party 1 - Gracias Buen Camino
  • Party 2 - Gracios
  • Party 1 - Adios
  • Party 2 – Adios
I have even found that most people travelling as couples, or in parties, actually walk alone, or walk without speaking and only see each other for meals or in evenings.

Meal times are when people connect and come together, for me (staying in places with private rooms), this means at breakfast where a standard breakfast means we chat and share dry bread, cheese, chorizo, oranges and coffee.  For lunch this means a stop at any bar = café | restaurant where for about 9 euro, you chat over a 3 course pilgrim meal, that is usually a fish soup or pasta dish, followed by chicken with potatoes, finished with either fruit, custard or ice cream and includes as much wine or water as you like.  Dinners, if you are staying in an albergue, are very communal.  If you are travelling like me as a non albergue solo, you wander into the nearest village and join a table at a restaurant with anyone, pilgrims are obvious, if you want time to yourself, just sit alone.

I have met some lovely people, Alejandro and Sofia, Fernandos, Helen from Australia, Marg from Canada, Abe and Greet, and a weirdo who latched onto me for about 6km (I think from Germany), he said he was Dutch but given I spent a lot of time there with Juan … me thinks no … all he kept saying was ‘Kaput Obama’ …  and then ‘1 bunk’ … (kaput in german means broken, maybe he was actually trying to tell me something quite deep).

I have shed three sets of tears ….  no doubt there will be more to come … odd tears … and perhaps the start of my emotional journey.

1 – my mind started to wander back to when I lived in the UK for the first time, when I bought my place in Sth Ken.  I started to think about the renovations I did, and how I still wished I had that place, then I started thinking about my dear friend (xx), who I first lived with in the UK when I decided to stay, we lived in Sth Ken, and she could not afford to do renovations, she shared so many plans with me, we looked at so many designs, designed so much together, she had to give up that place that she loved, and so did I, for mine in Sth Ken, but my tears were for her, we have not spoken for ages.

2 – then I started to think about the fact, that I not spoken to (xx) for ages, and this led me to think about all the people that I have been shitty at staying in contact with, those I turn away and what a shitty friend I can be, despite how wonderful friends have been to me, the more the gap, the guiltier I have become, there are no excuses, maybe my camino ‘why’, is about reconnecting. 

3 –  finally, my third set of tears.  I was bloody exhausted, my hips were killing me, the tag on my top was rubbing and I could not find my nail scissors to cut it off, I was out of water and every time I tried to peel my orange and move my arm, the tag would rub, the orange was not happening #weep.

How so very silly …  it was also at this point, that I thought of Liz, Marco and Maximillien, who do the Marathon des Sables, thank god a year off for all, from this death race.  I know I have an addictive personality, and started to think about my Camino, moving to greater, I actually started to picture us running this together … it’s okay.. I slapped myself out of that …
The technical

The stats - 3 days in, averaging 47k steps per day (according to the ‘fitbitch’), 24 kilometres a day, blisters 0.  2 x Grade 4 stages, 1 x Grade 5.  11.5 hours sleep in 3 days.

A lesson in Grades:

1 = for everyone, 1-2 hours, short works no slopes terrain in good condition
2 = with a little training, 3-4 hours, small slopes and dirt roads
3 = people accustomed to hikes, 4-6 hours, moderate slopes, dirt roads and sometimes rocky
4 = people in very good shape, less than 6 hours, big slopes and narrow roads difficult
5 = very experienced hikers, mountain routes, big slopes, difficult paths over rocks, use of hands needed


·         1 x 3 star (single bed, own bathroom, super clean, no air con)
·         1 x 2 star (single bed, own bathroom, no air con, bites x 4)
·         1 x 4 star (should be rated 5, all the goodies plus amazing hydro spa)

Camino tips & very helpful folk:

·         Merino or Angora socks – get 5 pairs and spend as much as you can on them
·         Merino undies – buy 5 pairs true stories
·         Bladder rehydration pack 2 or 3L – better than bottles
·         Schedule rest days post the big walks
·         Hiking boots not needed on the 360km and below walks
· – (for 6e portable wifi delivered to your door, unlimited)
· (the best advice for hiking)

Day 1 - I thought ... this easier than I expected ...
Day 2 - I thought ... this could be harder than I thought
Day 3 - I thought ... yep, mental stuff harder

CBT - x

Monday, 16 May 2016

it's been a long day (without you my friends)

it's been a long day ... more detailed update to follow tomorrow ... lots of texts and emails about what I am carrying ... so little summary here ...

the bulk of my luggage is being transported between accommodation, thanks to the wonderful team @ which means I only have to carry a day pack ..

todays included .. (advised the basics)

First aid kit (someone really needs to review what goes into these things) | 2 x blister packs |energy bars x 4 | 3 litres of water | extra meds kit (kidney, ventolin, neuros, panadol, antihistamine, imodium, hydrocortisone cream) | sunscreen |foldable raincoat & poncho |walking poles |sweater |scissors |she pee |flip flops |headlamp| spare breathable undies | phones x 2 (needed for camera battery life) | NGS porta charger (needed for battery life) |wifivox portable wifi |merino socks x 2 | lip balm x 2  | passport  | purse (credit cards, license, change) | camino needs ( maps, hotel vouchers, espana to english guide) | wet wipes | all-purpose chamois towel | note pad | pen

= 20L pack incl 3L water hydration bladder = carrying 11 kilos

going to have to dump some stuff ... 

xx - exhausted - CBT

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Planes, trains and automobiles

Hola Amigos greetings from Spain,
Given the whirlwind of the last few days mainly due to my poor admin, I am actually quite surprised I have finally made it to Oviedo.

The last 4 days have included an unexpected extra night in Melbourne with a brand new yet very connected friend, an overnight in Singapore followed by a late night of dinner and cocktails and straight on a plane to Barcelona.

Barcelona, arrived at 8am and we dropped our luggage at the hotel and then spent the day wandering Barcelona, I just love this city, the architecture old blended with new, full of art, colour and earthiness. A city who knows who it is, you can see and feel the pride, a great example is the number of flags that hang from balconies.  Back to the hotel where we discovered, I had actually taken us to the wrong hotel, so after heading to the right one, we also discovered that I had also booked us in for the night before, and as we had not arrived, the hotel decided to use the little private laundry in our apartment to wash towels?? Huh ?? and so we are now in our apartment with the laundry lady changing cycles on the machine?  Tapas and Sangria and a noisy night in the pool, saw us actually fined .. Huh?? We checked out …  not my finest booking …

Jump forward …  where we discover that I have screwed up dates again, as I thought I could wedge in F1 before heading off on the walk, not possible, my friend and I have now agreed to part ways, in more than one sense of the word.  He is now heading to F1, and I will make my way to Oviedo, over breakfast & giggles we realise that I have booked my internal flight on the wrong day (well as you know, I am not the best at detail), after a scan of every possible flight option, Barcelona to Oviedo, Barcelona to Leon drive to Oviedo, Barcelona to Madrid and then connecting, Girona to Oviedo etc .. we accept there is no flights that day that will get me to where I need to be.

Plan B ...  train, we head to the station, surely not that many folk travel by train, there are 4 trains that day, all FULL.   Grrrr … lucky all buses depart from the station, so we try the coach option …  1 coach … leaving in 4 minutes … we can’t find the departure area in time …

Plan C ... drive ... hire a car ... not a great option as the drive is nearly 9 hours ... we try every car hire place at the station, thrifty, enterprise, sixt, avis, budget, gold, hertz (we ignore europcar as the queue is huge), there are 0 cars for hire without reservation in Barcelona, (due to F1 and a long weekend).  Head to europcar, queue 1 hour … they have a car ... yahoo! Booked …

Oh my …. a mini … and lots I had forgotten about driving in mainland Europe ... 99% of cars are manual (mmmmm that last happened about 15 years ago) … left hand drive ... opposite side of road … overtake on the left, slow on the right, roundabouts switch completely … no GPS (was in Spanish, I don’t understand it enough) my roaming is not working so can’t google maps … everything that comes naturally is challenged, I have change of gear (they now have 7, was only 4 back in my manual day), but with gear stick now on right hand, clutch on the far left … ahhhhh

Max refuses to take the wheel, cheers MM, (I guess, he has never driven in mainland Europe and never driven a manual, growing up in London, cars not needed) we jump in the car so I can drop Max off at pre lap warm up breakfast before I head off …  disasters everywhere …  wrong way down a three lane freeway, wrong way around a 4 lane roundabout, bunny hops driving the wrong way down Pau Claris …

Farewell to Max who is one in a million, and I start the drive to Oviedo …. which gives me 9 hours to drive across Spain, see the countryside and to really think about the ‘why’ I am doing this …

Why am I bloody doing this?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Hola Twitterlike ...

48 hours to go ... and will be finally off, on that long walk ...