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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

El Boracho and the Mexican

Spain Day 3 . Puente de la Reina - Villamajor de Montjardin

km- 32

Left as the sun rose over the old stone ´queens bridge´. Soon got hot though and by 10am was stood by a fountain in a small village called Lorca with my arms up to the elbows in chilled spring water and my face under the tap....only got a few strange looks but i think on the whole this is acceptable ´pilgrim´ (peregrino) behavior.Stocked up on picnic items which generally involves baguette of bread, some style of cheese or ham or cheese with ham or just cheese and went in search of the perfect picnic spot. This came in the shape of the fuente del vino which is , believe it or not, a fountain where red wine flows from the tap on the left and water from the tap on the right. The tap on the right looked fairly unused. This wine has been supplied free from the attached bodega for many years to fortify the weary peregrino. Of course these days with the advent of takeaway plastic bottles the generosity can get a bit abused. But it is a foolhardy peregrino who throws away his water to exchange for wine on this hot and dusty road. Indeed there were plenty such types about. I decided to have my picnic here and enjoy the comings and goings and drinkings. After awhile a couple of Spanish guys arrived, the hairy one i couldn´t understand and his very hospitable friend. They had a drink and a chat then continued on. However 5 minutes later they returned and decided this was as good a place as any to hang out for a while in the shade. Soon some more spanish guys arrived whom they may or may not have known but in any case they all decided to phone home and get wives and family to log onto the internet webcam that was just above us. Something of a wine fiesta followed, all of which was captured live by families across Spain and the jovial spanish guy decided he was going to ditch his pals and continue on with me. I, however decided to hit the Camino again before the chance of getting to the next village was completely lost forever in a Rioja haze. One last hill through the vineyards and i came upon the church in the small village of Montjardin. This was a very welcoming place run by donations and a couple of wacky sisters, with a circle of matresses on a raised plinth and washing lines hung between the church belltower and the nave. Later the spanish guy arrived accompanying an also slightly drunk guy from mexico, sadly they continued on as they were a little too raucous for the sisters to cope with but they have since become fondly known to me as ´√Čl Boracho and the Mexican´ and will always bring a smile to my day. The night was spent with a light hearted young guy from Austria and Veronica, from Poland with her parents who spoke no Spanish or English but were lovely to converse with in improvised sign language. One of the sisters gave us all a blessing in the church where i completely fluffed the Lords Prayer when she put me on the spot - i haven´t said it since school! Still, it could have been worse, at first she wanted me to recite it in Spanish! We spent the evening chatting in various languages and sharing food and polish tea by candlelight......very authentic pilgrim stuff indeed.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Stroopenwafel stop

Day2 Spain Arre - Puente La Reina 32km

Had long lie in and slow leisurely breakfast and restful getting together of kit in the garden, by the time i finally left it was almost 8.30!!!!! Lovely morning walking through cool deserted streets into and through the historic centre of Pamplona without any stampeding bulls to dodge, turns out this only happens once a year.
Picked up a couple of loaves at the Panaderia and tied them to my backpack, then got my credencial stamp at the university by reaching up to hand it to a man leaning out of a window who disapeared for a few minutes then dropped it back down to me, this is how it is done. Discovered ´stroopenwafel´ , something i never would have anticipated happening today, at a rest stop set up by a dutch couple in a van at the top of a hill, their drinks and snacks were plentiful for a small donation. Big hill today called Alto del Perdon at the top of which is a windswept looking sculpture of pilgrims on the camino. Fortunately the sun was shining and this was not harsh windswept spot for today at least so i plonked myself down under a giant wind turbine and had my lunch loaves. Very steep going on way down this afternoon and the thermometer was pushing 30......it was not supposed to be this hot!! Passed a japanese woman who was slightly jogging to keep up with her headstrong daughter who marched on ahead. I thought it was going to be a little harsh on the mother to get all the way to santiago in this manner but the daughter was also carrying a full size 780page Spanish guidebook and i had to admire her for that...it´s got to be well over a kilo!
The alburgue this evening was in a lovely peaceful spot above the bridge at Puente La Reina....had i known it would be 500 metres up a steep hill at the end of the day and none of those metres were on the official camino i might have slept on the bridge.....but the strength in their power showers rendered them forgiven for the location.

Crossing Over

Day1 Spain...Roncesvalles to Arre de Trinidad 40km

So, after such exertions yesterday climbing the Pyrenees and all, word on the camino was to take it easy today and not overdo things so early on. This i translated into thinking a 40km day was quite a reasonable undertaking. Still no monks when the lights went on at 6......kindly they had them on a dimmer switch system so you had about 10minutes before the full 150watt solar blast hit you.Even being the last to leave at 7.30am it was still dark and i was not so enthralled with this keeness to leave while the stars were still out. Apart from anything else it was nigh on impossible to find the bloody way and semi asleep pilgrims were walking round in circles in all directions. Saw small french lady, Francoise, this morning in a small town called Burguete. Given my random sightings of her in places she should not be i was beginning to think she kept hopping on the bus, which of course is highly frowned upon in pilgrim circles. Pushing on i passed two german girls who were making about 4 miles a day with plentiful ice cream stops, they were very sweet but i doubted i would see them again. Arriving in Arre, a few miles from Pamplona i was welcomed into another monastery building with chapel inside and beds upstairs. Brother Jacob signed me in, stamped my credencial and showed me around with unfaltering enthusiasm for pilgrims and the camino. I was so pleased to have gone the distance today as this was such a gem of a place to spend the night. Drank tea endlessly for the remainder of the day.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

BreakyourBack Mountain

Day 3 France
SJPP to Roncesvalles.....AKA The Big One

kilometrage : 27.4 stan balls : big 0, sorry stan, nothing in these hills but sheeps to chase.

Ok, todays the day. On Camino de Santiago proper i have to get over these Pyrenees hills things. The climb of 4000feet uphill looks quite severe on the makeshift map i picked up in SJPP, i´ve never seen a 85degree incline or 9 in 10 hill or 88% gradient on any map.....surely this is a printing error, it just cannot be this steep. To add to the trepidation it is dark, wet, foggy and cold this morning but feeling in fine fettle (as they say) i schlep off.......right after my 2euro pilgrim breakfast!! Turns out the map was erring on the slightly melodramatic side and it really was not that steep at all or then again it is impossible to tell when you can only see 20metres ahead. The way was very clear and well marked though and i worried not about my lack of navigation equipment. i.e. a decent map. I could only imagine how incredibly breathtaking the views from here must be, i literally could only imagine, as i said the ´vis´was down to 25metres or so. My fears of losing my way in this weather were unfounded and i was glad i chose the ´high pass´route despite the lack of available scenery. The advice had been that in very bad weather or in bad weather not to take this route but march along the main road thru the valley with the hertz car rental crowd. I suspected it could not be really classed as ´very bad weather´ as there was no snow or biting winds but it may have fallen under ´bad weather´. The only other life around aside from 2 irish ladies on a weeks walking holiday consisted mostly of cow bell clad sheep and a couple of horses which i thought looked rather cold. One very strange creature did run past which i believe was a dog but it seemed pretty inbred as it had a pigs snout for a nose.....didn´t try to bite me though so i´m not one to judge.

At the top of the pass a very hardy man was living in a van for 3 months in order to dispense hot tea to weary walkers. What a welcome sight - he shone through the mists like an angel of refuge and i enjoyed a few wonderful minutes sheltering with him under his tarpaulin and sipping hot fragrant tea until it really started to throw it down and the pigdog came back so the magic was broken.

I arrived in Roncesvalles quite early, basically down to the fact i had no desire at any point to stop walking and do anything else since it was so wet, i even skipped lunch so my squashed and wet demi baguette and emergency kit kat will do nicely for a delicious supper before i bed down in the monastery refugio with a bunch of smelly boots and snoring pilgrims. Disappointed i haven´t seen any suitably robed monks yet, though they hold a mass at 8pm so might get into their work uniform for that i guess.

Friday, 17 September 2010

SJPP

day something or other...day 2 in france

So, the hills are starting to get bigger now as i get to the foothills of the Pyrenees, around each new corner i am greeted by a mixture of 'wow' along with slightly ominous foreboding of what lay ahead. These mountains are all well and good whilst skirting around them but soon, very soon, i am going to have to go over !!! Reached St Jean Pied de Port, (SJPP) such a gorgeous little place and it is a good thing i cannot carry another gram as this gorgeous little place is filled with gorgeous little shops brimming with gorgeous little things to buy and i fear a shopping frenzy might have otherwise occurred. I have now seen clues of other pilgrim types around......the squeak of new walking boots coming around a corner and shiny fresh 'jack wolfskin' cargo trousers abound here in SJPP. This influx of ´pilgrims´ however has given rise to the ´menu peligrin´ , a special 3 course bargain evening chow down for pilgrims only, just show your blistered feet as proof and out comes all the flan you can eat.happy days..

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bonjour

La France

I decided that what was going to happen on this venture was that my body was going to completely break down and fall apart and then decide 'Ok then, this is what we are doing' and put itself back together to emerge stronger and fitter on the other side.....well, the first part was true.

To be fair after a day and a half rest i feel almost back to normal and everything that stung and blistered and scratched and fell off is beginning to heal up nicely. I am not naive enough to believe that it won't happen again yet, but it will be a joy to walk on happy healthy feet again for as long as it lasts.

As my feet hit France it was a glorious day and just a little on the hot side for anything much more strenuous than sitting in a park, on the beach or in a cafe. But walk i must and following the (long) length of a very pretty small river i, along with the river, meandered south and upwards towards Saint Jean Pied de Port.This was fantastic countryside. My dodgy grasp of french is getting me by, the locals being exceptionally patient and helpful and generally 'unfrench' by stereotype. Just one more day before the Pyrenees!!!

Light at the End of the first tunnel

Looe to Plymouth

mileage : 16 grammage : -22 (more maps gone) balls4stan : 0 sore bits : bloody feet (not quite literally)

A clear sky and sunshine streaming through my breakfast window spelt a hot sweaty day on the path. My landlady this morning was considerably chipper and quite sober which was a nice surprise as i had quite suspected her to be nowhere to be found this morning so her alert presence meant that i would both be getting breakfast and not having to climb out of a window to get out of the building, a very welcome start. After a quick compeed stop at Boots i was climbing out of Looe and back onto the coastal path. Having told my brain that today was a steady 16 miles and therefore an easy breeze into Plymouth this information was of course relayed to my body which then did not take too kindly to the constant up and down vigours of the coast path. If a challenge was set to create a route that could continously climb from sea level to the highest point in the vicinity and then straight back down again whilst also making sure you walked three sides of a square to get from any one place to another then the coast path had it down. But, of course, it is a beautiful walk and the scenery just stunning. My weary legs perked up considerably when the first glimpses of Plymouth came into view and as this leg of my foot journey came to an end as i passed through Mount Edgecombe Park and hopped onto the Cremyl ferry i still couldn`t quite believe i had walked the length of Cornwall. As i had looked back at the furthest speck of headland in the distance, which may or may not have been lizard point it seemed impossible to have walked so far. My feet on the other hand found it quite easy to believe.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

the Matt Damon strut

Day 4 St Austell to Looe (East looe, West looe then back again)

mileage : 20 ish grammage : - 65 (discarded maps and eaten banana chips) stan the dog balls : 1 sore bits : still the heel!!

I noticed today my strange walking gait. I seem to start the day in a manner not unlike Kevin Spacey at the end of the film Usual Suspects where he walks out dragging his leg then moving into a limping mode before walking normally to jump in a car. For me the transgression from dragging my blistered foot not being able to put my heel down to walking in a similar fashion to a normal human being takes a bit longer...roughly about an hour and there is no car to hop into at the end. Later in the day i seem to adopt more of a Matt Damon style of walking, a slightly hunched stacatto strut....looks odd but makes for good progress. A day of ups and downs, my second water crossing at Fowey and pretty little settlements nestled between steep hills and inlets. Fowey and Polperro and , it would transpire, Looe all very busy with september tourists. Tonight i had no bed arranged and as i walked into Looe i began to ring the numbers on the numerous B&B boards swinging along the roadside. No room at the Inn it would seem.....or if there was room it was of course a double with a hefty single supplement. Beginning to think i might be trying out my sleeping bag in the bus shelter or taking up the kind offer of a holidaymaker to bed down in their caravan awning i saw one last place that was flying the Vacancies part of their Vacancies/No vacancies sign. With no phone number and about 450 steps to climb up to the place i nearly opted for the caravan awning but instead went for it and a slighty drunken landlady possibly running a house of dubious repute did offer me a cut price room with breakfast included for no more than the price of a fish and chip supper for two and if you slammed the bedroom door really hard the broken lock did finally close.

I had some chips and a kindly loaned from the fish shop mug of tea down by the water as the fairy lights of Looe illuminated the darkening river and thought 'life is good'

Megavissey 4 : St Austell 7

Day 3 Truro/Devoran - St Austell

mileage: 22 grammage : +52 (new socks) balls for stan the dog : 0 - sorry stan, i did find a big blue football is that's any use to you. sore bits : left heel, right hip.

Found new socks this morning on the fringes of Truro, '1000 mile socks, guaranteed no blisters'...hmmmmm, a pretty tall claim i'm thinking. First water crossing today, the scenery had totally changed again, from the windswept heather moorland of lands end to the high ground and rolling hills of day 2 to some very green and lush tree covered landscapes and misty mossy glens much reminiscent of scotland. At Malpas i was informed a kind man would row me across the river for a meagre fare and if he wasn't there i should ring the bell so he would hear me from his quiet fishing spot on the other side and promptly row over a pick me up...this was very close to the truth and although the gentleman in question had upgraded to a small outboard on his small rowing boat this was still possibly the smallest passenger ferry in the world, at a push he could have probably only really managed 3 passengers and even less if they had luggage. Still he happily took me over the river for indeed a meagre fare and warned me i had a big hill to climb as i waved him off from the mossy river bank. It was a big hill with slightly less than wizkid sheeps occupying it. In their efforts to get out of my way sheep from a good distance away would actually run closer to me since it was apparent to them and them alone that they must all run in the same direction regardless of whether in fact that brought them closer to potential danger or not, It was ludicrous, they were behaving like sheep but i guess that was in their nature, being sheep an' all!
During the afternoon i became increasing despondent by the fact that despite walking in the direction of St austell for continuing minutes and hours it never actually got any closer. I passed a sign proclaiming Megavissey to be 4 miles away and St Austell 7 miles, yet despite walking on for easily 2 miles the next sign read the same, then after more long minutes and at least yet another mile the next sign still read the same.....i think i swore at it. Was i walking in circles? constantly on a perpendicular? or in some weird cornish bermuda triangle.
Incredibly stayed dry again all day....i have been blessed....despite heavy grey skies all day and monstrous black clouds building all around me as i approached St Austell in the late afternoon not a drop fell.....at least not where i was walking!

Chimneys and Chilli

Day 2 Cambourne - Truro/Devoran

mileage : a cool 15. grammage : -22 (discarded maps) stan the dog balls : 1
sorest bits : heel and toe heel and toe

Glorious glorious day. Set out in fine spirits and still able to walk when i got up this morning which was quite a bonus. Despite the monstrously large blisters enveloping my feet for now they were dry and the sun was once again shining as i bid my host and his wonderful dogs goodbye. Quickly gained some high ground at Carn Brea where an impressive stone monument stands and affords views of the entire width of Cornwall, i could see the sea on both sides (just abouts) Picked up the 'great flat lode' trail through rolling countryside of old mine buildings and chimneys which i could happily have followed the whole way to Spain, so well maintained it was. Later picked up another part of the same trail following the Truro river on down to Devoran. Devoran was such a beautiful place by the water and i was starting to get an idea of how lovely cornwall is. My second hosts Naomi and Mark also went above and beyond to look after me and i enjoyed a wonderful evening with more soaking in the bath, fantastic chilli, great conversation and yet more wine and cheese......how i wish every night could be like the last 2 and every walking day like this 1.

Day 0 and 1 Spring bogs and Public nonpaths

day 0. lands end to sennen.

mileage 1.5 (i know i know, but i did walk from st just too) weight : 10.5 kilos no sore bits yet.

easy first evening as i strolled down to lands end backpackless with the late afternoon sun shining and the offshore breeze in my hair. Bloody camera broken already but manage to get random stranger to take my photo to prove i was there, still waiting for the pic.Not expecting any facilities in sennen i had had a dinner of hedgerow blackberries and my emergency double decker in waiting...lo and behold they had a costcutter store......bring on the fine dining pot noodle range!

day 1 proper sennen to cambourne

mileage 27 (whoa..too much) weight : + 75grams (trail mix purchase) sore bits : left shin, right hip. stan the dog tennis balls found : 1 and a half

big big day, great weather, set out fair bouncing along the lane to the shiny 'public footpath' marker post and off the beaten track i marched.....within 10 minutes i was shoulder deep in bracken, waist deep in brambles, knee deep in nettles and ankle deep in spring bog. Fighting my way around and around this small but imprenetrable corner becoming increasingly scratched and stung i pondered the fact that during my ongoing packing/unpacking/repacking process of non essential or 'unlivewithoutable' items never once did perhaps the need of a machete occur to me, and yet here i was and of all the tools on my back it would have been the only useful thing in that moment. Finally i conquered the field throwing myself across a small but deep ditch at the mercy of the moss soaked stone wall the other side and fell into the grassy meadow beyond. This did not bode well for the future of my time on Cornish footpaths. Striving on i found my way around a couple of farms who begrudgingly were observing the public right of ways to another farm where they were clearly trying to obliterate it from the face of ordnance survey.Continuing forward regardless i considered the more straightforward approach of utilising B-road Britain, the main draw of not walking on roads would be to enjoy the natural beauty of the unfolding countryside. Since my focus however was continuously on cowpat watch i was not really fully enjoying this aspect. The next field with it's acres upon acres on neatly laid out seedlings finally did for me with no way around or across or indeed through the river that lay on the other side if i even made it that far. As i stood revising my options i noticed the abundance of spent gun cartridges at my feet at almost the exact moment that sharp retorts rang out from a far too less than comfortable distance across the field. Needless to say getting shot at such an early stage in the walk would be a serious setback so i was fast scurrying to the nearest C road. Back on safe ground and now enjoying the wildlife (fox, buzzards, farm cats) i upgraded my plans to following bridleways since no one could surely build a 5 foot wall across a bridleway and still reasonably argue that it was a perfectly accessible public passage. This started quite idyllically till eventually of course the way was flooded....second foot soaking of the day for which i would later pay a high price.
After spending a grand total of £1.44 on quite a sumptious lunch from the Penzance Lidl (with plenty left over for the next day) i headed on to Hayle, footpaths widened, routes were clearer and dogs more friendly...all was well in the walking world. Walked the first bit of official Camino route (allbeit in a backwards direction)and saw my first scallop shell symbol, which was a very exciting moment (yes, this is what it has come to)It is true that such activities are 95% mental and 5% physical as passing Hayle i foolishly convinced my mind i was almost there which then of course sneaked this information to my body which quickly began to shut down as the last 4 miles stretched on, so with aching joints and the first clues of blisters i was so sure i wouldn't get began to strike i was hugely delighted to finally reach my first welcoming host for the night who then proceeded to spend the evening making me cups of tea, running me a hot bath, cooking dinner, giving me his daughters very comfortable room for the night and providing great conversation over a bit too much wine and some rather delicious cheese......ah, this walking lark is great after all!!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

setting off!!

Thanks guys for all your support, what a great 80's/90's disco night we had, huge well done to Penny for organising everything! We raised £288 for the Walk Charities. I set off today......ooh errr......not without some intrepidation, all I have to do now is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.........several million times and i'll be there! Please follow this blog which will be updated every chance i get with raucous tales of getting chased across fields by wildly gesticulating french farmers i'm sure.

Thanks again to everyone who has sponsored me, anyone who hasn't please help, just a £1 will soon add up. Check out the website to sponsor me.

So today's the day and so far have no idea where i will be sleeping tonight.........my bag seems much heavier all of a sudden.

A special thank you to Chris and Lou Simmonds for their kind and generous support. You will keep me inspired during the 'lost in the fog, torrential rain, up to my knees in mud times' xx

i can't access the webpage now to update so will post the thermometer here, it is getting very close to the target now!!!! thank you all


setting off!!

Thanks guys for all your support, what a great 80's/90's disco night we had, huge well done to Penny for organising everything! We raised £288 for the Walk Charities. I set off today......ooh errr......not without some intrepidation, all I have to do now is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.........several million times and i'll be there! Please follow this blog which will be updated every chance i get with raucous tales of getting chased across fields by wildly gesticulating french farmers i'm sure.

Thanks again to everyone who has sponsored me, anyone who hasn't please help, just a £1 will soon add up. Check out the website to sponsor me.

So today's the day and so far have no idea where i will be sleeping tonight.........my bag seems much heavier all of a sudden.

A special thank you to Chris and Lou Simmonds for their kind and generous support. You will keep me inspired during the 'lost in the fog, torrential rain, up to my knees in mud times' xx