Thursday, September 18, 2014

All About Lunch

Okay final (promise!) post on Spain before we hit Londinium for a brief day...It wasn't all soul searching on the Camino. We had a few giggles too. One of the funniest things was when we discovered Kiiwis and Aussies used the word "lunch" in different yet spookily similar ways. 

This is a picture of David taken by my sister Pietra when she did the Camino five years ago. We saw David this time in exactly the same place on a lonely dusty road 6 km out of Astorga. 

His bed was just beside the path and he offered drinks and fruit and muesli for a donation. He was a gentle chap and as stunning as a movie star though my photo here with Pietra doesn't do him justice.

David's bed.

There is no water out here, he has to carry it in.

I guess some people can't live in the real world, they choose fleeting, five minute relationships without conflict but they are totally present and engaged in those minutes.

David referred to himself in the third person "David hasn't gone to Barcelona in four years" (his two children are there). It was hard not to start doing the same: "Jody went to Barcelona once"

Anyway David is a free spirit - including such details as his sarong which framed rather than covered. Five years ago Pietra's Aussie friend said: "You have to get the cut lunch in the photo!"

That was interesting because that same night when there was no room in Rabanal we slept in a dorm room with 40 others, mostly Spanish male cyclists wearing particularly thin and shiny lycra shorts - "showing their lunch" as my Kiwi friend Mike would say. (No visual on that, sorry).

More lunch related things: one day I walked with a Chef from Fulham whose job it was to make lunch for a man who is the largest property owner in the UK.
Outside the office ( the most expensive one in London, natch) sits the same homeless guy every day, and he and the chef have a good old chat in the mornings. Can you believe one day the homeless guy was given 200 pounds by the Ecclestone girl's husband. Then he was given 150 pounds by Kate Moss. He hurried off to the nearest travel agency and bought a plane ticket to Ibiza. 

Finally, on this flimsily lunch-themed post, whaddayaknow when we got into Santiago the first thing you see in the main plaza are these statues. Back and front views 

The other side of the plaza. 

Close up of the left hand side statue to make the point ( scary, but just remember it's art).

So your turn now on the edification and elucidation. Please tell me what this all means. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Santiago de Compostela!

I did it! I got to Santiago!  825 km from where we started in St Jean in France. Walking every day for 27 days. Many 10-hour days. Relieved, ecstatic, so tired. 

Looks like I'm doing a Julia Roberts in this photo, but its just the underarm shadow, promise. 

Funnily enough the cathedral was covered by scaffolding and trompe l'oeil. 

The Compestela Certificate for completing the Camino. 

Inside the Cathedral. 

At the beginning in St. Jean in France 27 days ago. So young, so fresh!

What did I learn from this seemingly endless walk that ended at 3pm today? Tomorrow if you're around I can tell you. 

Thanks for coming along with me and for your funny, lovely, encouraging comments. They meant the world to me. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camino- Jellybeans

I missed Fathers' Day in New Zealand so just wanted to say thanks to dear old Dad. 

Even at 78 years old he still goes on week-long cycling and hiking trips with his family and 60-year old whippersnapper friends from the beach.

The trips are not without incident. Three times Dad has (literally) fallen off a cliff. The last time he was hanging on for dear life, already badly bruised by the fall.

One of the whippersnapper 60 year old friends, Crash, called to Dad that he needed strength before he started climbed back up and that he would lower down some jellybeans.

"I don't like jellybeans" Dad called back up.

After indignant insistence from the whippersnappers, Dad called up: "Okay then, I'll have three."

Once Dad had climbed back to the top, another of his friends scolded him: "You're a stubborn old man!" 

A couple of days ago I wanted to be finished, for the walk to be over. So yesterday I walked 36km. Today I walked 49 km. - it took 13 hours. I walked for hours this evening trying to find a bed, no luck, had to walk on, so it wasn't intentional. 

(That means tomorrow i've just got 25km to the end! I will have done it in 26 days - the guidebook allows 33 days)

Tonight Im so tired i can hardly chew. 

Thats too much walking, other people say to me. Ease up they say, be gentle on yourself. Yogic things like that. 

I suppose i could have called a cab, got a ride on a tractor, but i didnt want to. 

Sometimes it works better to be bloody stubborn. 

See you on the other side...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Camino- But What Did It All Mean?

As I was puffing up a steep, muddy hill in Galicia, I overheard someone say: "The first week on the Camino is physical, the second is mental, the third is spiritual and...." I stopped to tie my laces. And the fourth week? Wait- what about the fourth week? I didn't hear that part. 

Walking the Camino strips your life down to a few simple things. You get up, walk, find a place to eat, walk, find a place to sleep. Then you get up the next day and do the same thing over again. 

You realise all you need is in a 7lb backpack and that is an incredible freedom. The trick is bringing that feeling back with you. To return to everyday life and to be so valiant and free is the hard part. 

But first I just want to say that anyone - anyone - can do this walk. But nothing can prepare you for it. 

An ultra marathoner I met was struggling. Running does not train you for this, he told me. Another man who had backpacked the Pacific Crest and the Appalachian Trails got shinsplints half way through the Camino.

And nothing can prepare you for the astounding people you will meet. For a couple of days I walked with a 45 year-old Lithuanian. Although he had trained in computer hardware, the last years have seen him stocking supermarket shelves for 2 euros an hour. 

He was like a really pale sunscreened Tigger in a yellow scarf, so jolly and bouncing and knowing everyone on the trail "Hello my Brazilian friends! Greetings Kiwi friend! " He was doing the camino on 10 euros a day. In six months he had lost three family members and his wife to a shoddy medical system

His wife had been everything to him:  "She was queen of the financials " he explained one day "She reigned over all the bank branches in the land ...,and she had a kind heart." He cried and cried but kept stumbling along. I had thought the yellow scarf was to shade his neck, but really it was to catch his many tears.

He told of family and family friends who had been sent to Siberia, sentenced to fish the icy waters, wet and frozen all day long. And yet what he wanted to talk about most was how kind the Siberian villagers had been to them. 

Besides my weeping, laughing Lithuanian friend, there was Eric, the 80-year-old Australian and Anka the mother- of-three who needed to give less than 150 percent when she returned home - and the many, many pilgrims who had stories both sorrowful and magical.

Together and by ourselves we crossed mountains and deserts and rivers, on and on through the beauty and the pain and boredom.

And finally, there it was. The fourth and final week. The unexpected euphoria of joy and peace. 

Then came the part that was harder than any Camino. The realisation that I need to go back to live in the everyday. But to do it with more dignity, to find some sort of grace in the carpools, the back to school, the fundraising, the college applications. 

There are those who elevate everything around them. I want to be able to smell the squashed bananas and crackers in a carfull of sweaty 13 year old soccer girls or sit beside Harley while we go through the college lists and laugh and think "Yeah, this is life alright. Man alive, this is living." And to realise for sure, for really sure, this exact moment is all that I have and all that I need and it will never come again.

 I've been wishing away the hours and days and years with the kids; being always tired all the time and thinking I was nearly done. My job now is to click the scuffed heels of my chartreuse hiking shoes and be brought right back home, but this time in technicolour. 

Some people I met were hoping to find God along the trail. I did not find God in the gilt-laden cathedrals with the crypts entombing the wealthy and powerful of the time. Aren't those places exactly what Jesus told us not to build?

But on the top of a barren, scrappy hill, I laid a stone under an old wood cross. Legend has it that placing a single pebble ensures you finish the Camino. There was a rush of feeling like no other. Was it the presence of God or being part of centuries of pilgrims laying a stone and limping off in the same direction? I don't know. 

Along the path, there are little memorials to the dead, some quite elaborate.

Some remember a pilgrim who has died on the trail (it happens). And - the saddest thing I've ever heard - memorials to people who had always wanted to do the Camino but didn't. Relatives had also scattered their ashes. 

The path is always here, but these moments do not wait for our ashes. 

Whatever our Camino, wherever it is, don't let's wait for that too-late time. Just get yourself here, and as someone wrote on a rock in the path: "The only thing you have to do, is do it." 

Camino- The Perfection of Villafranca

Did you know the reason the "c" in Spain is pronounced "th" is because a long time ago one of the kings had a lisp. Instead of telling him, the whole country just started lisping too. Galicia (pronounced galethia) is so beautiful, green and babbling brooks and stone walls. The gateway town Villafranca is one of the loveliest towns I've ever seen. This was the view from our window, we stayed in an old convent school (40 euro)

Heres the outside of the convent from the bridge. Spooky possums sky innit?

We seemed to be the only ones staying... It had more than 100 bedrooms. The whole experience was a mix of The Shining and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Heres the old Kevstar havent seen him in three days so i keep looking at this photo....He is still resting up in Santiago and has been forced to watch round the clock Kardashians which is the only english thing on telly. Oh well at least he and Cy will have something to talk abt when we get home. 

Look at the town gardens.. Love toi toi (the white fluffy plants) it grows wild in nz.

Heres that same statue pilgrim guy during the day... He had many moods this bloke, pensive then dramatic, he has the full range. 

Back in the day, everyone went through here - the Brits chased Napoleon through Villafranca. Its a wonder the Brits didnt stay... I walked with a chef from Fulham today and he said: " I cant believe I'd never heard of that place before I walked through it- it's perfect."

Ever been through somewhere like that?
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