Monday, September 1, 2014

Camino - The Road To Leon

Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement and kicks up the bum. It meant the world to me. I hit the road this morning with a song in my heart. Funnily enough it was my old high school song - Kia Whakatane Ahau. Whakatane was the big smoke over the hill from Ohope Beach. The correct Maori pronunciation is Fakatane. Yes, like that. 

My friend Steph sent me a note saying You can do this, you're from Whakatane. Our role model was Wairaka.  We were told she was in the canoe when the Maori discovered Whakatane. The men put down their oars because they were terrified of a huge rock shaped like a monster. They would go no further. Wairaka grabbed a tapa (sacred) oar, forbidden for women to touch, and called: " Kia Whakatane ahau!!" (I will be a man!" ) And rowed them all safely to shore. 

Well anyway, it was great to hear from you- Some people get angsty about social media but after all its just newfangled penfriends and all the Greats had pen-friends didn't they? Some Italians cyclists call our Quebec friend "Pilgrim 3.0" because he facebooks and he facetimes his new wife at every break. 

By the way, I'm writing this on a blogger app on my i-phone, Naomi told me about it. Apologies if I haven't returned bloggy comments, I've tried with minimal success, the comment boxes shut on me very quickly. Any app for this?

Today we walked 35km, the last 17km were a straight dirt road with no shade. Kevin spent the day trying to remember the words to "My Way" Kevin is what Sister Bernadette at my primary school, St Joseph's, Whakatane would call a droner (tone deaf). Its a testament to Kevin's parents and church choir mistess that he was not appraised of this fact until he met moi.

I hung back ...out of earshot. It was a good time to think about people we've met. Salvatore who is Italian but lives in Germany and his 14 year old son Julan who had always wanted to do the Camino and persauded his father to undertake it for two weeks. Julan was wearing an Icebreaker t-shirt. Its a kiwi no-stink brand. Julan is not washing his shirt for that whole two weeks! He bet his mother it would not stink! 

We ate a real Gout- arama of a meal together -  fried eggs, fries and veal.

The chef kept slicing more and more cured meats wanting us to taste. Veges look away as FF would say, the jambon is still wearing his hooves

He then bought us plums...

I noticed Anka, also from Germany, because she walked so fast without any breaks ( she eats one banana an hour) and she was so cheerful, laughing all the time. We caught up with her for dinner. 

Anka has a sign-making business with her husband and they have three children, the two eldest were foster children. Two of her children have disabilities - her nine year old  son is in a wheelchair. She is such a strong walker because they hike all through the mountains in the weekends. She carries her son on her back. "C'mon Mama"  he'll say to her as she hits the steeper bits "c'mon mama!" She laughs at the thought of him saying that.

Why is she walking the Camino? "My husband says I give 150 percent all the time. For me that is becoming a problem."

I point out she is giving 150 percent to the camino. "But now I am sitting down enjoying talking to you. " she said "I would never be doing that at home. I do not sit down, I am looking after the children."

We set out early the next morning, I was hoping we would see Anka so we could talk more. But she was well ahead of us. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Camino- The Messy Meseta Middle

Day 14 walking the Camino, 25 to 30 km a day. Two weeks left. Trudging through 
the gritty industrial edge of Burgos with my feet like flabby filets of halibut, I hit a very low low. Walking A to B day after day suddenly seemed pointless. And somehow indulgent - given the coterie of persons looking after the kids. 

Over black rice and squid that night we talked to a Quebec man who did the French Camino last year after an "unexpected break-up." He has already walked 500 km in France this time (after getting re-married three months ago). Did he ever feel like giving up?  Every night he said. "You've got to get up tomorrow morning and put one foot in front of the other." The Camino is only 50 percent fitness, he said, the other half is psychological. 

Of course the wonderful diversion, through the pain, is seeing people living alongside lives past.

Tallulah, 13, sends me funny texts. At home we butt heads a lot and she is less than chatty (with me) but we are compatible correspondents. She sent me this selfie of her and Cy. Taken when we were  in Cuba at easter.

She asks if we can come home early, it's too long to be away, she says. She's worried about forgetting things. Soccer and school stuff. Tallulah has a hard time focusing. I sent her this photo I had just taken of a sunflower field.

I said she reminded me of the one bright sunflower in the middle. Do you see it? All the other sunflowers were waiting for the sun to come up ( boring!) but the Tallulah sunflower was having a good old look around. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Santa Domingo: For Whom The Chicken Sings

Two live chickens reside in a gilded cage in Santa Domingo Cathedral with the special permission of the Pope. Legend has it: if they sing, you're in for some good luck. We'd decided to splash out on Parador Hotel for the night, and not leaving anything to chooky chance, we actually booked. Look at this view of the cathedral from our window! Hello chooks! 

This was taken at 9pm - can you believe how blue the sky is?
Here's a visual of the outside of the hotel

Here I am blogging to you from the lobby. I know.. So dedicated. 

Now i'm outside, if you please. 

Here is Kevin in our room exchanging tres importante emails with Teddy ( the dog)

Anyway the Parador was worth every penny of the 100 euros for the night including breakfast. I caressed the very civilized paco lotions and potions for quite some time, murmuring "my pretty..."

Here are the live chickens, you can barely see them up there. Veritable Celebrities. 

Some of the artists in town are keen to capture the chooks. With varying results.

Lore has it that centuries ago a German family was walking the camino. An innkeepers' daughter professed her love for the son. The son told her he did not feel the same way. Furious, she slipped a silver cup into his backpack. He was arrested for stealing and hanged. Next day his parents found him miraculously still alive and asked the mayor to cut him down. The mayor, who was eating roast chicken at the time, said: "Your son is as alive as this roast chicken. " Right before their eyes his meal turned into a live singing chicken!

Back to keeping it real..Next night we stayed in an Albergue dorm room with 18 others. Six euros each for a bed and ten euros for a three course chicken dinner with wine. Clean place and run by very nice people but...its a dorm. 

While showering I prayed the man next to me was not doing a George Constanza (Seinfeld). Three men snored all night. Schnarers, the German pilgrims called them. The snorers slept in and all the rest of us headed off at sparrow's fart ( sorry to be technical, that's 6am). As we strode into the rising sun I mused: "gosh, that had to be the worst sleep i've ever had."

No matter. We'll always have Parador.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Camino - Rioja Country

JOur ninth day walking on the Camino. Today an old lady in her housedress saw me and made the sign of the cross that a good thing?

Last couple of days have each been 30km, taking us 11 hours, crawling into town at 6pm. Despite the sweary soliloquys amongst the grapevines, there is something beautifully simple about waking up and strapping on your backpack; your only task to walk until the end of day, find a room, find a restaurant that does a pilgrim's menu and go to bed. 

This man did the Camino many times in full robes and now hands out food and water. 

Every day you follow the yellow arrows and the sign of the scallop shell on the road. All the pilgrims are given scallop shells in St jean in France as well as passports which are stamped by the hostels and hotels. In the olden days, pilgrims were allowed to scoop the scallop shells into whatever was cooking in the homes of the villagers. Some pilgrims were sentenced to do the Camino and died along the way. 

Sometimes we are so knackered we dont even get the arrows right. These lovely fellows had to whistle us into the right direction. 

We've been staying in private rooms in hostels and Albergues (between 35 to 40 euros) sometimes sharing bathrooms. The dorms are 10 to 15 euros. Last night we tried a dorm with three beds, but at the last minute i chickened out and paid for the third bed. I'm not sure anyone is ready for our disco travel sheets.

In oakland news, Friends went out to Bay Wolf restaurant for their special Camino menu. I didnt recognise anything on the menu from our Pilgrims Meals ( cost 7-12 euros for three courses including wine) but as they say here "everyone has their own camino" The best meal we've had here was this mixta salad and trout.

Our kids slept through the 6.0 earthquake, but bloggy friend in Napa Edgar of Simple Images says it made a real mess but his family is okay.

Thought I would do Monty Pythin-esque "what is your name and what is your quest" to a few of the people we meet.
Name: Eric, Australian, 80 years old, staying in dorms. Heart condition. Carrying 27 ibs!

Eric did the Camino five years ago with step-daughter. He has been carer for his wife for four years but after three Camino-related coincidences he decided he must do it again. He and his wife decided if something happens to him " carc it" he will be cremated here. " No one is flying home!"

What he's learned: "whatever you need, the Camino will provide. "

Just don't call him an inspiration: " I don't want to be anyone's role model " Eric told us over lentils, fish fingers and rioja (his dr told him to drink one glass a day)

Next day another new friend, Sonja from Brazil said: "Eric is the King of the Camino!" Ssh.... Just don't tell Eric that if you see him...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Camino - Wine Fountains and Nice Knockers

Some snaps for you to shimmy through, from Pamplona to Los Arcos. Today is Day Six. We've been walking about eight to eleven hours a day. Yesterday we were passed by an 80 year old Australian with a heart condition who carrying a 25lb pack ( in comparison my pack weighs seven llbs). He is carrying three months of heart medication. 

Nice knockers

Of course what keeps you going is the 10th century Iglesia along the way. I wont waste my clicks on anything newer than middle ages these days. Our whippersnapper 1945 house in oakland is going to have to work blimin hard to get my attention when we get back....

About 30mins after this i had a very unspiritual meltdown rant on the side of a rocky mountain. Downhill is the hardest. 
Over bridges is perfect. 

Pamplona was the most wonderful walled town. I'd always envisaged it as party town for combi van-touring turps-sinking kiwis in tracky pants . Realised that was probably 1988. We kiwis are so much more sophisticated now ...but didnt stop me slurping from the wine ( yes! Wine! ) fountain today. It's blessed people!

A breakfast i'll never forget was in the dreamlike gardens outside Pamplona. The cafe in amongst the willowy lime green trees and the knobbly ones was like stepping into a noir film.

Even the wee boiled egg had a sense of ocassion and drama on its old silver tray.

Hope there are some comforting moments under blankets with friends and maybe a very blessed wine fountain in  your weekend?

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