Monday, July 23, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I arrived back home Sunday morning, 34 hours after leaving Madrid. I had good flights and caught up on some movies.
It was wonderful to be met by Cristina, Callum & Riley at the airport.
Got home, sort of unpacked then Corinne arrived. Went with the boys to a birthday party, but was near asleep on my feet. Crashed when I got back home. It is now Wednesday and I am still on a different time zone. Up and wide awake at 4:00am.
For those interested, the weight loss was 10kg. Walking 750kms in 35 days with a 12kg pack is a tough way to achieve it.
I have emailed photos to some of the fellow pilgrims I met along the way. I miss the routine of the wandering tribe, and the people, and find myself longing to be there again: the unknown day ahead with some destination kms away. This is to be expected I have read - the post Camino blues, in may ways, this is where the Camino starts.
Feet are well towards healed, and the left shin slowly recovers.
This little video somes up a lot of my feelings:

Some photos of the folk I shared journeys with:

Wolf, Roland, Ashley, Rolf, Martin, Steve, Maureen and Luiza. I taught Roland (German) how to say 'Fair suck of the sauce bottle'. Sounded really good with his accent, In return, I got 'Das is mi wurst' (my spelling).

Ruud from Holland

Ashley, Hyejeong and Steve

Jean-Pierre (from Germany)

Anna from Hungary

Anne-Marie from Austria with Steve and I

Uta and Simone (rear), Steve and I (front)

The drinking team, Ashley, Steve (UK), Miloc (Croatia), Jean-Luc (Canada) & James (US).


I stayed in Santiago until lunchtime Wednesday before flying to Madrid with Chris, staying at a nice hotel near the airport.

Thursday we took a train to Toledo, south of Madrid, for the day. It is a wonderfully historic and atmospheric feeling city. Saw the sites, and had a spin on a Segway (awesome).

Friday morning took the Metro to the Sofia museum in Madrid and saw El Guernica amongst other art (I visited this museum 13 years ago).

Friday afternoon to the airport, said farewell to Chris, and flew to frankfurt and homewards.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Day 35 Made it! Yee ha. Santiago de Compostela

Walked the last 4.5 kms this morning, and arrived shortly after 9.

I went to the Pilgrims Office, and got my Compostela.

Attended the Pilgrim Mass at mid-day, and heard in Spanish ¨ Roncesvalles Una Australiano¨. That was me guys. Looking back, it feels like that was not so hard was it. But I remember the first morning at Roncesvalles thinking what have I got myself into, and the the despair I felt at Ponferrada with tendonitis. Still have it, and blisters to match.

Did the pilgrim things of hand on the Mateo Column, hug the statue, and saw the relics.

It was great ringing home telling Cristina I am there.

In a rambling order:
I thank everyone for their support and comments along the way, that helped heaps.
Steve K, I hope the beer was good, it sure was here, thanks for the prodding.
To Vicki Mc, your help has been wonderful, you are a big part.
Jason, thanks mate.
Jennifer, that book started it.
Steve S, thanks for the wishes.
To the work folk who followed me, I thank you.
And Steve O´Shea for your company on this journey and catalysts for thought, thanks mate.
Those I have not mentioned I thank you.
And especially Mirabel, Carlos and the nameless Shoeman, you got your thoughts at Santiago.
To the boys, love you and see you soon. To Corinne, the nail is still there. To Brady, Roos V Carlton, you were lucky I was away, but I still think you owe me 20.
But most of all, to ´Tina, thanks for the support of my wild dreams, you are such a part of this. Have I told you, I have another idea... Love you heaps.

Now, I would like to just go home. Adios amigos. Dreams can come true.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Day 34 Arzue to Arca.. woops Monte do Gozo

Sunday night. Now just 4.5 kms from Santiago Cathedral at Monte do Gozo (Mount of Joy) a 500+ bed albergue. Made a wrong turn today, and overshot our destination, by 15kms. Well there was no point going backwards, so ended up doing 35kms.
Hot and tired, but tomorrow about 0900-1000 will close out the journey.
Will be mixed emotion.
El Peregrino

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Day 33 Melide to Arzua

Stayed last night at the alberque in Melide. A bit of a shocker. Short walk today to Arzua, and have gone for a hostal. Lovely, leisurely and short walk. Few more blisters and shin was a shocker last night, but not long now. A depressing and lifting thought.
Will catch up with a friend from home Monday night. Also looking forward to seeing all the wandering tribe as they arrive.. Hope to do Compostela formalities Monday, and mid-day Mass Tuesday. Off to Madrid Wednesday. My mate Steve will push on to Finistere. Jo, from the early days had an accident, and hurt herself, and is now with her sister in Germany. The tales people have/will have.
Around 40kms to go.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Day 32 Hospital de la Cruz to Melide I hope

Pushing along strongly, with more blisters . Weather very hot. Still expect to make Santiago Monday morning. Gorgeous countryside and views with morning mist. Great photos. Dinner last night, had a pie made with mussels.. not sure if it was 4-ply or a light truck tyre.
Feeling good.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Day 30 Samos to Sarria to TBA

I s now mid-morning in Sarria. Nice meal with 2 Dutch ladies last night. Poor night in albergue at Samos, snoring you would not believe. Anyway, pushed on this morning in very thick fog to Sarria, and will punch on again towards Portomarin, probably make Ferrerios or maybe a bit more. ETA Santiago Monday Spanish time. This is a really tough week. Physically and emotionally very tired, I find that very surprising considering less than 115 kms to go.
I appreciate the comments, and encouragement, thanks folks.
May post later if internet is available.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Day 29 Fonfria to Samos

Have put in the hard yards in the last few days. Sunday, I WALKED from Ponferrada to Perenje (30kms). Monday, Perenje to Fonfria (over O´Cebreiro) (36kms), and today Fonfria to Samos (21kms). Shin is sore but manageable, some blisters and I have a loose nail on my 2nd toe (loose bigtime). About 135kms to go, and probably 6 days. Hope to arrive Santiago Monday my time.
Will add some details later, this is a shop internet, so must be brief.
Hope to get to Barbadelo tomorrow.
Fighting back...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Entry by proxy- an update

Having no internet available Ashley has asked me to update you all. After much soul searching, some panadol, anti-inflammatories tabs, ice packs to shin, a big long rest and many phone call to wife, he made his decision. Yesterday he got up and headed off on his own two legs and made it to his destination about half an hour later than the bus arrival time. Not bad for an old man (I didnt just write that, it was a gremlin). Ive just had a phone call from him and he has made it over O'Cebreiro, great beautiful views he tells me. Has made it down to Hopital and is walking towards Padomelo. Im not sure of his final destination for today but I am sure he will update us all if he get get on the internet. Thanking you all for your support. Can't wait till he get home. Cristina

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Day 26 Still at Ponferrada

Today is a tough day emotionally.
I have to spend at least a day to give my tendonitis a chance to get better.
It was really difficult hearing the rhythm of the day opening. The first rustles, the toilets flushing, the bags being packed, the doors banging as people get ready and head off for the day´s journey, as I sit there with an ice pack on the shin.
I have arranged to catch up with Steve probably at the top of O´Cebreiro on Monday night. I am probably going to bus 1 and half legs to the base of O´Cebreiro Sunday, and it feels a real sell out. Along the way people takes buses for various sections, often for ugly city entries or exits, and I have resisted, but now schedule and fitness require a compromise. It does not sit well, and requires common sense to overrule emotion, and analysis of what I am trying to achieve. This has been my biggest challenge.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Day 25 El Acebo to Ponferrada

Updated. A tough climb down the mountains. Glorious scenery on a cool but fine day. My shin gave me heaps of trouble, hence a short day today, and probably tomorrow. Will try to manage O´Cebreiro in the early part of day, hence the staggering of destinations. This is a very pretty town, and will check out the Knights Templar contribution this arvo.
The photo above is of the Iron Cross from yesterday, it is difficult for me to edit the entry, so the problem is yours the reader.
Postscript.: I will be in Ponferrada for 2 days. Went to the hospital today, and I have tendonitis. I suspect it was the descent from the mountains that really tipped it. I had been trying to manage it by stretches and shorter stages, With rest, ice & drugs this should clear. Not sure if I am going to bus a stage (grrr), to give myself some margin for a reoccurence. Not happy, especially given the next 2 stages are 30 kms with the 2nd up the mountain.

Day 24 Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo

Had an informal, international mass at the monastery in Rabanal. The monastery is half excavated internally, and was something very special. Exposed sarcofaghi dating back probably a thousand years, complete with bones.
A very cold, wet and windy day for the climb to the highest point on the Camino at the Cruz de Ferro. We were generally walking directly into the oncoming weather. Had a long stay at a small village on the way up waiting for the weather to clear. It did not. Pushed on to the Iron Cross, and left a small stone from Bird Island South Australia, in memory of K, B & D. Also left a small cockle shell with wishes for some other people special to me.
Not quite what I expected, but completed a major part of the journey for me.
Pushed on with weather clearing to El Acebo, having to stop there because my left shin is giving me a lot of grief.
Nice albergue, where the exit does not open until 0645. That stops the boofheads departing in the dark. Magic mountain views, and I have some great photos.
Had a lovely dinner with 2 German ladies. My comment that Germans did not have a sense humour went down a treat. Pea and Ham, followed by Grilled Lomo (Pork) and Fruit Salad, swilled down with Vino Tinto.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 23 Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

Stayed at a lovely municipal hostel last night. Room of 4, but 2 snorers. Shoes all fixed thanks to Angel number 3. Peregrino? No pay.
Went to part of a mass, they sure know how to do up the churches and cathedrals here.
A shorter walk today of about 20kms. Had slight shin splints yesterday, and a little today. Initially struck a little rain, but that cleared to a cool and breezy day as we approached the mountains. Now the real stuff starts. Cruz de Ferro tomorrow morning, which I really look forward to. I will leave a stone and a cockle shell, and many thoughts & wishes there tomorrow, after the climb to 1505m, and will probably make it a short day. Staying at an Albergue in Rabanal del Camino, a cute town tonight. The albergue is run by the British Confraternity of Saint James.
O´Cebreiro still looms in a few days, after another steep descent tomorrow .
A change of pilgrims has occured after Leon. This seemed to occur at Burgos and Logroño.
I love the encounters with pilgrims that we saw weeks ago. I saw the Spanish lady yesterday, who was sitting next to me on the Bus to Roncesvalles, so long ago.

The picture shows the work of the incomparable Gaudi in Astorga in this case(refer Sagrada Familia in Barcelona for another example)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 22 Mazarife to Astorga

Had dinner last night at Cafe Rosy. We were the only diners. She was like a mother. Some really delicious soup, followed by a stew of beef and red sausage in chick peas, all washed down with vino tinto. Yum. If I ever return, this is one place to repeat.
Started reasonably late in the morning, with the first stint along asphalt roads. Had a snack and the obligatory Cafe con Leche at Villavante. Had lunch at Hospital del Orbigo, bacon, eggs and chips, now that filled a gap. It is a really gorgeous town with a humongously like pedestrian bridge. They were also setting up for a jousting tournament this weekend. If I had the time it would be awesome.
Pushed on into the hills and heavy ´scrub´, for Astorga, a wonderful solitary walk, and a chance to get back into the spritual rhythm. Came out overlooking San Justo and Astorga. Astorga is where the days´s walk finished. Covered about 30 kms. The mountains loom ahead, and my time on this magic journey shortens. The next 2 days climb to the Cruze de ferro, and then O´Cebreiro looms a couple of days later. May stagger the stages abit here to save the body. The boots are in for repair this arvo, and I pick them up at 1930. The stitching is giving out in places, and better to get them fixed before the mountains. First beer has been drunk and showered and life is good.
1 to beam up...out

Monday, May 28, 2007

Day 21 Leon to Mazarife

Headed out of Leon about 8. Had breakfast along the way and chose the road lest travelled at La Virgen del camino. A lovely quiet country walk to Mazarife stopping for lunch at Chozas. Billy Bragg and Big Daddy on the playlist today. One of those days when it is great to be alive. Cool, but sunny.
Must rush, this is a shared net connection, and the queue is ............
Tomorrow hopefully Astorga
El Peregrino

Day 20 Leon

Arrived early at Leon, to find my hotel missing. Apparently it is at a place called Avila severaol hundred kilometres away. Good plan Ash, keep up the good work.
Leon is quite a nice city after Burgos and Logroño. Nice hotel, weekly splurge, and dinner with some Americans last night.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Day 19 El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente

Stayed at a very comfortable albergue last night. Ponied up a few more Euro and got a twin room, and no snoring and could sprawl, and recharge the phone and mp3 player. A nice dinner last night at the Bar/restaurant next door. First a few bowls of garlic soup, floowed by garlic fried pork and fritas, and then flan, all lubricated by vino tinto. Company was Steve and a British couple from somewhere in Yorkshire. A good chuckle. I think the irony of my comment ¨Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore¨ may have been missed. A good nights sleep with weird dreams.
Kicked out of the albergue before 8:00, and walked 40metres. Then had breakfast.
Then punched on for 13 km to Religios (I guess this should be the highpoint of the religious experience). Next some kms to Mansilla de Las Mulas. Stopped at a bar for a Kas Limon, thrashed the toilet, then pushed on to Villarente. New albergue there is where we called stumps. A dude was driving along the trail giving out leaflets for the new albegue, so that is how we got here. Looks a good choice.
The walk itself today was good, starting out on the planes but transitioning into lightly rolling terrain. To the right the horizon has imposing mountains, and in front too. We are now roughly going North West, the most Southerly being just after Logroño. We passed some caves in the side of hills where hermits lived near Mansilla, and at Religios some houses built in the hillside, and solving heating problems one suspects.
Leon awaits tomorrow, and the Cruz de Ferro awaits about 5 days off ( this seems to beckon to me, and I suspect it to be the spiritual nexus for this journey, don't know why - pan to "Close Encounters and Devil's Mountain, and play that tune").
Completed about 25kms strongly today, so starting to work up again. Big Daddy and the Boss have had a workout for the last 2 days, pity about the accompaniment.
Keep those comments coming, I look forward to them.
To Jason, yes 'It's a lonely proposition when you realize, That there's less days in front of the horse, Than riding in the back of this cart' to quote Mellencamp a little out of context. Without family and loved ones, you could lose yourself on this trail, I have met a few that may have. But equally, for me the pull home is strong thankfully. Calling home daily, and a weekly call to the more extended family is a highlight. It is a mixed emotion. Good insight.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Day 18 Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero

I stayed at the municipal alberque last night. It is an old converted church. They have created a second floor within the church and that is the albegue, the lower floor is areception and theatre. Cold shower again, warmed up later I am told, but sure is a good way to save water. Started out looking like rain. It bucketed overnight. But no, has stayed fine for today´s walk. A little shorter today, as the next leg is 13km, if we pressed on. El Burgo Ranero is a nice little village, with a good internet setup...yes! Staying at a private albergue that has twin rooms, peace from snoring. A lazy afternoon to come, just need to wash and dry clothes. Drying clothes is a real problem, given the rain, and the high humidity. My pack was heavy today with wet socks, jocks and t-shirt. Boots may need repair in Leon, as stitching is failing in places, and the last thing I want is new boots. Tough walking early, but after the tyres warmed up I put in some good laptimes for a strong finish. Hope to extend the distances again soon. About a day behind my original schedule at the moment, but I have about 5-6 days slack, and I plan on using 2-3 of that.

Again, thanks for the comments. I would reply individually to many, if I knew how.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day 17 Caldadill de Cueza to Sahagun

After a tough wet day yesterday, today was fine, clear skies early and a great walk.

Travelling mainly through trails between cereal fields. Body felt really strong today, strange given yesterday's efforts.

Saw this sign in the bar that we stopped for lunch at today. Over halfway now.

Staying at the municipal alberque here, which is a big upstairs hall attached to the old church. Had a cold shower, which have since warmed up. Trust me to be early. Had a rumour confirmed today. You will note the comment about the lightning struck tree, well today I met the Aussie lady who was metres from it when it happened. She got shaken up pretty well, now that is a surpise!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 16 Villacazar de Sirga to Caldadilla de la Cueza

Details to be updated . Slow net connection here.
A tiring, long and wet slog today. As Cristina said when I phoned home, look inward.
Had a great conversation over dinner last night, some of which I understood, with an old frenchman who had lived in Australia in the 60´s and the early 90´s.
We have been trying to end our day´s journey away from the major stopping points due to overcrowding. Rate of advance has been good, but today was just a grind in the rain. Senda, then asphalt then the old roman road, with lots of ankle workout. Tough stuff for the feet, especially sliding in the wet.
The hospitalero at the albergue here is great, taking people´s wet gear, boots, hiking poles and hats as they arrived. Just had a hot soup and a cerverza at the bar, where I am updating this blog. Quiet arvo coming up. I feel a siesta coming on.

Day 15 Boadilla to Villalcazar

A solid nights sleep followed by breakfast at the albergue. Coffee was hot...
Short walk into Fromista, then the Senda trail begins. Senda trails are man-made, plain and have double bollards every 50-100m, and travel parallel to the main road. Avoid where possible.
We did avoid after Poblacion de Campos, by taking the longer river route through Villovieco and on to the old church at Ermita Virgen del rio. There we shared lunch a little with some french folk. Came in the back way to Villalcalzar de Sirga (Villasirga). A tiring but scenic day, that started out wet and windy and ended warm and windy. Sore feet today, just generally tired.

Day 14 Hontanos to Boadilla

Early light rain, then cleared.
Had a nice walk in to Castroheriz by taking the alternate road to the highway. Had a great chat with Michelle and Mike from the US (daughter and father). Checked out the gothic ruins of the ancient convent at San Anton, where they used to cure St Anthony´s fire (look that one up you medicos), and have the symbol Tau. Shortly after saw the trunk of a tree blasted by lightning in the last day. Entered Castroheriz a long town, then crossed a bridge, under which the frogs where croaking like crazy, must be mating season. They were big guys too. Followed by a solid climb up on to the meseta. It felt really good, with a splendid view back over the town. Had a coffee at Ermita de San Nicholas, a basic albergue where the pilgrims feet are washed in the evening (but we was gone...). Crossed into the Province of Palencia y Tierra de Campos (Land of fields and they ain´t fibbin there). Ended the walk at Boadilla del Camino at an Albergue run by an artist. Nice place and good ambience.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Day 13 Hornillos to Hontanos

This may be be updated. Probably stopping here at Hontanos.
Started out about 7:00, up on to the meseta again. The sky was very overcast and misty. A surreal landscape. Gorgeous, but a little sticky. Turned off for a coffee at a Bohemian looking alberque at San Mol, 10 minutes later it bucketed rain, hail and lightning (see picture). Good timing. Waited that out, then just a muddy walk. I felt 6 feet tall, must have been all the mud stuck on the boots.

Later that day, yep good looking digs, the weather has fallen apart. A quiet Sunday (apart from the thunder) is the game plan. Plenty of soaked pilgrims coming through. The rain is not the issue, but lightning on the meseta, and mudddddd. Hopefully tomorrow is dryer. Trying to upload some pictures, but this is a slow connection, so I am compressing them a lot. Sorry. The picture of Bruce the Bear on my pack is for the boys.

Might try to get past Castrojeriz tomorrow.

Day 12 Burgos to Hornillos de Camino

Stayed at a fancy hotel last night. Meson de El Cid. Anothert hot bath yeah. Had a nice meal something like Fideguye or similar sounding, Started out very tired this morning with a late start. Forecast was for rain, but that did not happen until later evening. A somewhat tedious walk for the first 2 hours, mood driven a bit, but glad to escape Burgos. The bigger city really impacts after the peace of the Camino. Mood tranformed by the kindness of people. The young boy coming bowling around the corner on his bike, calling out ¨ hola, Buen Camino¨. The old lady giving us a dialog about the camino (wish I knew what she said..). The old man talking to us for about 5 minutes, wishing us Buen Camino. Then we hit the meseta which people were dreading. What glorious country side, open fields of grain, and space where ever you look. Childhood again. And the goosebumps started again. It was not cold, just really deep. A wonderful experience - an absolute highlight. And a welcome return to the spiritual experience.

Eventually entered a small medieval looking town, Hornillos de Camino. One alberque and one bar and a shop. A really old church. Spent some time there in contemplation. Alberque filled quickly, we were near last in.

Had a great meal at the bar for dinner, with Yoke from Holland, and Anna -Maria from Berlin ( but she is Spanish). As per usual, the discussion was why. They have both completed the journey several times.
Crashed about 9ish, to be kept awake by someone snoring about a metere away, and someone making mad rushes for the toilet during the night. I had a better night than them I suspect.

Cheers for now, hasta luega

Friday, May 18, 2007

Day 11 A noisy night. San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

A rough night. Lots of noise from door banging and snoring.
A whole lot of us blew out of there before 0530. Then spent 10 minutes trying to read signs in the dark. Found the trail and cracked on. Had breakfast at Ages, then again later at Atapuerca. And yes, I do think the weight is dropping. Ataapuerca I gather, is a sight of great prehistoric archeological interest. Then a long climb up into the clouds. A really deep experience as the mist closed in around. I really like the climbs, they are getting much easier, but coming down is hard on the knees. As we started coming down in to Burgos, the mist lifted as we entered an ugly industrial area, then the long hard slog on Bitumen roads and streets in to Burgos proper. Lost the trail and had to get directions for the last hour from locals, to steer us to Burgos cathedral It is huge and very imposing, but hidden from the side of the town we entered. Many, if not nearly all, caught taxis in through Burgos, but not the intrepid Los Peregrinos. Got to the square of the Cathedral, and drank beer for an hour, after running in to the mob. Did I tell I turned 50 today? Now got a hotel for tonight close to town, so have some looking around time, and tomorrow go for an albergue on the way out. The Meseta looms, and many are going to bus, but I am hoping to walk it. My body is feeling much better, feet are good, shoulder behaving for the most, and knee with care is OK. I have a card reader for my digital camera, and hope to upload some snaps in the future. This PC does not have USB accessible, and won´t read CD´s. Keep following the journey, I love the comments.

Day 10 Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

Had a wonderful dinner in one of the new Alberques in Belorado, that I am staying at.
Good company, a French older couple and their friend, a French-Canadian couple doing drama at Uni, an Aussie accompanying a French lady, Steve and myself. The lady running the alberque cooked the dinner, a form of chicken soup, then a spicy fried Pork and salad and sweets. Really good. Spent some time drinking and chatting in the town square, I can definitely cope with that.
Fairly early start, walk out of town just on day break then a lovely walk, at times spoilt by road passages. Arrived at Villafranca Montes de Oca, and had a tough little climb after. A Spanish local, who I would guess was 80, accompanied us for the most part up, to a natural spring so he could get water. Yes, he got hot too. It was really a gorgeous climb, ending up with a terrific panaoramic view across to 2000m mountains in the distance. The terrain then flattened, to a long (about 12km) walk through forest to the destination of San Juan de Ortega. At first a thoroughly depressing place. A church, rough alberque and bar is about all. Did I say we raced a big group in? Competitive fools! Checked out the church, and wondered what was being glorified, put me in the dumps. Anyway from a tired and down mood, it all turned around. Listened to my mp3 player in the sun for a few hours, went to the 1930 Pilgrims Mass, and then the Priest invited everyone in to a long room with tresteles, where he proceeded to serve piping hot soup (contents unkown). A real spirit lifter.
Had a great dinner at the bar with Steve and a German girl, Megan.
Crashed early before sunset.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 9 Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

Worried a lot last night about my knee. Gave it the Voltaren treatment, and long johns to keep it warm. A cool day with threatening rain, but none eventuated. Knee behaved well without its support, shoulder said hi again a few times. Country side is changing and becoming more dry with shallow rolling hills. I love the pace of life here, except when trying to get a Cafe con Leche for the first morning stop. Had a nice chat with a Brazilian lady this morning, especially about the Coelho link. The walk was relatively easy, some up-down but Belorado took its time to appear. Quite a few Albergues here, dodged the most popular and found a nice newly opened one just off the main plaza. This is a lovely town and very friendly. Used a real washing machine for a change, had a great long hot shower. Had a shave and feel human again. I must have looked a sight today with a bright red Portugal sleeveless shirt (bought in Logroño so I can miss a days washing), with a bright blue Kangaroos FC jacket. At least the blue knee supoorts were missing.
Posted twice today, as the net was kaputski at the Monastery yesterday.
Have I told you about the fun trying to navigate a PC with Spanish menus, using commands from memory. Less than 550km to Santiago according to a sign in the square, which must mean I have covered a couple of hundred. Amazing.

Day 8 Azofra to Santa Domingo de la Calzada

After yesterday´s long walk today was much shorter. The promised rain did not come and so travel was cool and dry. Spent the the morning reminiscing, was wonderful. The feet continue to heal well, but my right knee spent the later part of this day´s journey saying hi. Also the left shoulder lets me know it is around. The upper body gets a good workout from using the trekking poles. Most use them, both for speed, strength, but also balnce when it gets slippery. My poles lost their compasses on the first day, and broke the strap on one yesterday or the day before. New shoe-laces today as well. But that is all minor.
Stayed at the Albegue run by the Nun´s in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Abadia Cistercinse, last night. Very basic, but a brilliant ambience. It is geeting to be quite a competition for places in the Albergues. Rythm of the day is basically up at about 6am, pack and leave 6:30-7:00, have a break and coffee if possible about 9, break and food at 1030, ring home, push on to destination about 1200-1300 or on a long day until 1500 or more. Find a bed, showere (oh yeah, a simple pleasure), do washing (a blokes washing ...) hang it out, explore village, reconoitering for dinner. Knap for a while or drink some Vino Tinto or Cerverza, dinner, prepare clothes and kit for next day, then crash.
Had a long chat with a french-canadian trio, over a home brew dinner of el pan y salami, and chocloate and croissant. Ran into Rivan and Cecilia from Scotland again last night (last saw them in the pub at Larrosaña on day 2). Had a couple of beers with them. Being nurses they had some knee advice, of which they thought the knee support might be causing trouble.
Keep the comments coming, I find much comfort reading them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Day 7 Logroño to Najera NO, make that Azofra

Hola mi amigos.
Long day´s walk today. Left Logoño at 0600, after a change of hotel room due to a leak. Day off yesterday was really good for the system, and I saw most of the Spanish GP.
Aimed to get to Najera today (about 29kms), but found it fairly busy when got there. So had a pig out on Watermelon and Pear and pushed on a further 6 kms to Azofra in light rain, working on the theory that most would not. Still busy here but got in the overflow Albergue OK.
Looks like rain tomorrow and Wednesday then fining up. Being a cool day today, we covered the distances quickly and blisters are recovering really well. Feeling much stronger.
Terrain today was quite varied, wheat and barley mixed with vines, and at places looked like a moonscape, or even a bit like the Planet of the Apes??. Later, small hills with dense stands of trees on top. Tomorow might only do 14 kms to Santo Domingo, or maybe a little past depending on weather.
Short post today due to line up for the net. Cheers to all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Day 6 Logrono and a slack day.

Buenos tardes mi amigos.
A deliberate light day today. 1 1/2 hour walk from Viana to Logroño. (Pronounced Logronyo).
A university city of about 130,000. A gorgeous Sunday morning was had in the plaza. Quiet cafe con leche y uno boccadillo. Sharing a hotel with Steve. Splitting tacks for the afternoon, and I hope to watch GP.
Had a snack at a lovely roadside house this morning. A coffee and snack for a donation. Coffee is the morning fuel. Lovely lady, very friendly. What a life.
Treated my feet again and I am feeling much stronger. Right on schedule at the moment.
Thanks for all the comments it is much appreciated this end. Sorry no spiritual encounters to report today. I think the bigger cities tune you out of that mode.
Hotel: great to have a hot bath, and a decent towel afterwards. The simple things mean a lot. The Albergue last night at Viana was good, and in a wonderful location with an outdoor garden balcony overlooking the plains (but I see more hills in the distance). Coping pretty well with the climbing, but coming down the hills, pains the knees. Stop whinging Ashley, you wimp.
This is truly a splendid journey, and I realise my good fortune.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Day 5 Viana
Did the section from Los Arcos today to Viana, a little lighter on the body, 20 something km´s. Will have a short walk to Logrono tomorrow (4km). Feet are much better today, no extra blisters, and the draining and antiseptic yesterday helped heaps. I felt phony catching a taxi into Los Arcos, but in hindsight, was the smart move, as I would have had difficulty getting help today or tomorrow. Infection is the big worry. I did the same drain, and inject Betadine to the blisters several times this morning. Seems to work, with regular breaks OK. Legs and knees are feeling stronger.
Had a shower, shave and called home and it feels good. A quiet arvo coming up.
Today travelled through very beautiful and undulating farmland.
Staying in the Albergu at Viana, in bunks 3 high. I have a bottom bunk, so that is OK.
Unable to upload pictures at this time, even the normal computer stuff is difficult, as all the menus are in Spanish.
Cheers, and I hear the Roos won again (thanks Dave).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Day 4 Los Arcos A day of ups and downs.

Had a very challenging and revealing day. Left Puerta La Reina about 0630, feeling really strong. Could see mountains and big rocky outcrops on the horizon, by days end we passed those. Hit a big hill first up, and it knocked the wind out my sails. Had something of a panic moment, out of nowhere. Got past that and covered ground big time, although the surface was very uneven. Made Estella just about 1230, and had a knap under the trees near the river for an hour. Went past the Albergue and said seeya to Jo. She is now flying solo. Steve and I pushed on for Villamayor de Monjardin. Caught up again with Bob who accompanied on this leg another 8km. I had something of an encounter with a departed soul along the way, whilst thinking of him. Vey strange experience. Got to Villamayor and found both Alberques near choccas. Ended up taking a taxi to Los Arcos, as my feet were in big trouble, and weekend looming, means no help. Found Angel number 2, Carlos. Feet tended, medical supplies obtained. Went to the 8 o´clock Pilgrim´s mass. Had dinner and a bottle of Vino Tinto with Steve. Will be on the road tomorrow. Feeling positive, and recognize today I over did it. Cheers all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 3 Puenta La Reina (bridge of the queen)

Hi all yee merry readers. I have enjoyed the comments.
Had a night with vivid dreams ( the first since being here), the magic begins. Arrived Puenta La Reina at about 1330 after leaving Cizur Menor at just after 0700. The sun caem up as we ascended Alto de Perdon . From the top of that (a massive climb) an absolutely gorgeous panoramic vista. Got some photos in front of the silhouetted pilgrims. Lots of phots but unable to upload yet. All the hilltops have wind generators. Looking East, in the blueness of the haze, you can see the hills leading to the Pyrenees, and we came from there. Looking west a valley then more hills but we thread between most. Weird shit meter has hit fullscale a few times, this place is has magic.
The buildings are so old, the history so rich, and we keep bumping in to other pilgrims we have seen previous along the way. It is a fraternity of like minded people.
Had breakfast about Muruzabal, and a Boccadillo Tortilla Patata again, sorry to be boring but it tastes allright. The guide books do not describe the micro climbs and falls (and they ain´t micro to me), but cope one does. It amazing what can be climbed and the distance that can be covered in a day. One horizon to the next.
Had part of my pack transported forward today, so the load was lighter, and my legs and feet thank me. Have just done the 3rd download of useless stuff from the pack. Weight must be carried, and if you don´t use it, then don´t carry it.
Got lost coming out of Puenta La Reina and had to back track, grrrr. Some turf we shall get three looks at. Probably splitting tracks with my travelling companions shortly. Steve and I travel faster than Jo. We will probably advance further tomorrow than she will. Then Steve will have a rest day soon. I might have a rest day in Burgos next week, feet willing. They have been wonderful to walk with, no-one offended if you race off for some solo time.
The Albergue here is great, clean open and friendly. When we arrived the first thing the hospitalero did was sit us down and serve up some chilled water. These are the simple pleasures. Cold water, a refreshing shower, phone call home and chill out.
Enough raving from the Peregrino today.
Hasta luego y Ultreia
The horizon calls.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Day 2 Cizur Menor

Arrived Cizur Menor (sp?) this afternoon. Shorter walk than yesterday, around 21kms, and easier terrain. Passed through Pamplona, and sent another package (and kg´s :heavy sandals, dictionary, radio, thongs) to Santiago de Compostela by post (Correos). Bought new lighweight sandals, like Crocs. Morning started with a gorgeous walk for an hour along the river. Absolutely awesome. Then a bit of hill climbing. Breakfast at a wonderful little town. Boccadillo Tortilla Patata with Cafe con Leche and a Coke Light (Diet Coke). Stopped in Pamplona for some foot repairs. More later on that..
Weather has been brilliant, fresh in the morning and warm and clear in the afternoon.
Got to Cizur Menor about 2:30.
Met my first Angel. The hospìtalero, Maribell (sp. again), tended my blisters and bandaged my feet. She does this for many. Tomorrow she is getting some of our gear transported to Puerta De Reina. Todays travel was with Jo, and Steve from Reading in the UK. Had dinner with them and an Aussie from Naracoorte, Tony. Commonality of motive is good.
Missing everyone, but it is obvious how lucky I am to have the support to do this life journey. Thanks and love to you Cristina.
Spirits still high, but the body is mighty sore.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Day 1

Arrived Roncesvalles last night at 1900hrs. Showered. Pilgrim mass at 2000hrs, then a fine communal meal with other peregrinos after. Boy was I tired. This is an emotional roller coaster. Today much improved. I travelled with a Tasmanian lady, Jo, who is travelling solo also. We covered 27.7km to Larrasoana today. On time and schedule. Pretty tired though. The pack needs some adjustment. But tomorrow is a shorter day to Cizur Menor, I hope., 21km.
Buenos Tardes all, adios.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dos dias a ir.

The time of leaving approaches. More loose ends tied up, but when will it stop. Pack must be kept light. Double checked all the debit cards will work, and have some cash Euros as standby.

Wednesday, a family blessing from Father Pat before my journey. Quite a moving moment. Thankyou.

Thursday, in pouring rain Callum and I visited the Anstey Hill Silver mine from the top, and took the Torture Hill path back to the car. We both got a big kick out of it.

Thursday night, farewell drinks with my old basketball buddies. Thanks fellas.

Mum is coming down to the city to see me off. Tomorrow night, will be a family farewell dinner at my favourite Pizza place.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

5 Days to go...

Went for a light walk up Anstey Hill with Riley this afternoon. We had a wonderful little chat, and he is going to miss his dad. We went to the old Silver Mine.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

1 Week to go.

Only a week now until I leave. It has been pouring rain so no training. Still that gives time to chase up odds and sods that don't really need chasing. I picked up the tickets on Tuesday, and last day at work was Friday, for a couple of months.

A couple of links to Google Earth routes: This one is not geographically spot on, but has lots of history and information, just click on the flags. This one is more accurate but with little dialogue.
Plenty of well-wishers which has been great. Thanks to Greg for the loan of his GPS, still not sure if I am taking it...

Other useful info
Long-term weather predictions along the way:

Daily forecasts:

All the stages and albergues one by one (Todas las etapas y albergues uno a uno)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

2 Weeks out...

Only 2 weeks to go. Training has been increased a bit. Anstey Hill has seen a fair bit of me, including the many Kangaroos there. Done several multiple climbs in the single walks. I worry about the climbing on the trail, but more about the descents, that hurts the knees! Last week, 2 Anstey Hill trips, and a walk to and from Golden Grove to get a lift to work. Switched to wearing inner socks, and blisters are much less of a problem. Shin splints a bit on Friday, which is a worry. I am maybe getting to used to Trekking poles, and on Friday was without them.
I have setup up a google map of the journey, .
Received the international SIM cards for my mobile, and pickup tickets on Tuesday. It is all feeling imminent, as those around me can probably attest. Finished the Spanish course, but will need to take a dictionary.
I got a bit of a reality check in the last fortnight, a pilgrim setting out from St Jean Pied du Port for Roncesvalles, passed away from Hypothermia 2 miles from Roncesvalles, which is my starting point. He was an experienced walker but got caught out by the weather.
I have collected my stone from Bird Island (my childhood home), to leave at Cruz de Ferro, along with thoughts and memories of K, B & D.
I have a few strategies in mind if the body cannot cope with the continuing 20-25 kms per day, involving bussing forward to one of the major cities along the way and walking from there (ie. Logrono, Burgos or Leon or at worse case Sarria). To qualify for the Compostela, one must walk at least the last 100 km's, that is not my aim, but always a possibility.
I worry heaps how the boys (and mum) are going to cope with dad gone, and can see what our chaps going to the middle east have to deal with. A guilt trip for me, as this is voluntary (I think).
I am having trouble paring down all the stuff I am taking, and coping with the range of conditions possible. I have to carry it all.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


How does one prepare for a 35 dayish walking journey across 750km in a foreign land?
A list might include logistics, physical & cultural.
Logistics: How to get there, what to take (and what to leave), communication.
The Airline tickets are booked to Madrid, then Pamplona. In Pamplona, I need to post travel clothes and stuff to Santiago. Everything I don't wish to carry. Then take an evening bus to Roncesvalles. Some where along the way, I need to get a Credencial to allow me to stay in the albegues or refugios, the pilgrim hostels. I have no bookings at the other end, who knows when I will get there, my best guess is about 35 days later. I have a friend meeting me in Santiago if all goes to plan. Supposedly pilgrims get a half cost plane ticket back to Madrid? Failing that, then it will be the train. See some sights, then back to Australia. Wisdom has it that the pack should weigh less than 10kg or 10% of body weight (must try to put on some weight :<) ). Mobile phone number is to be arranged, possibly a pre-paid spanish card, but I am aiming to try to get net access to keep this blog updated. Still some clothing to be sorted out, but at least the boots are worn in. Physical: Been pretty slack with the training. My longest walk in preparation has been about 12.5km. I will need to do about twice that each day. Training walks have included, Kadina to Wallaroo several times, Banksia Park to Campbelltown a few times, numerous local walks, and more recently several hikes up and down Anstey's Hill with a full pack. I am finding trekking poles a great asset climbing the hill. Anstey Hill - This might also work,+SA,+Australia&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&z=15&ll=-34.830837,138.734922&spn=0.021594,0.048494&iwloc=addr Google Earth gives heights as a function of cursor position, but I have not worked out how to link to it yet.

Cultural: Plenty of guides to the Camino, the problem is choosing just one to take (it is all weight!). My daughter and I have been doing a WEA Spanish for Fun and Travel course. It has been fun. When it comes to Spanish, I hope they speak good English, por favor y gracious.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Why am I setting out on this strange journey?
It is a long story, with a detour ...
Many years ago, in my 20's, I read a book by James A. Michener, 'The Drifters'. In it was described, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It became an ambition of mine, to run with the Bulls when I turned 50. I knew it was a seemingly pointless act, but something about the irrational, senseless act was attractive, especially to a logically driven engineer.
Fast forward to a new century, I am divorced, re-married, and the father of 8 year old twins. It is not reasonable to risk life and limb for an irrational goal with young children, so scratch that ambition.
The detour, well my wife was born in Portugal, and comes from a family called Coelho (Rabbit). Browsing in a bookstore, I came across a Brazilian author called Coelho, Paulo Coelho (see . On a whim, I bought one of his books. 'The Alchemist' if I recall correctly, and from there a succession of his books. They are mystic/spirtual books with a message, and a good read. One of these books, I read 3-4 years ago, is called 'The Pilgrimage', and describes his journey along an ancient Pilgrim's trail in the North of Spain to Santiago. This started an interest in the Pilgrim's Trail known as the 'Camino de Santiago de Compostela'.
It is trail across Spain ending in Santiago de Compostela, and there are many variants, the most popular being the Camino Frances, originating in the Pyrenees. It has been a Pilgrim destination for over 1100 years, and some guides say it goes back to pagan times when the trail ended in Finisterre (literally end of the earth). Santiago is spanish for Saint James, and this is where the remains of Saints James (the Greater) are reputed to be buried. Compstela means 'Field of Stars'. For the connection see Though in general it is described as the 'Way of St James'.
That covers the what more than why. The why is probably a combination of physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual factors, but over ridden by a strange drive or a calling to to do it. The last I do not understand, but it is as if it is destiny. Strange reasons to set out on 750km walk from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela., but folklore has it to open your self to the signs and go where it may lead, and I have felt that. I might expand on that sometime ...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Test post

Testing before the big walk.