Saturday, November 7, 2009

from Kate

I've been savouring each of these posts, hearing Dad's voice in the words and it's a gift that I wish could continue.
I have other emails from Dad, including MANY jokes, heartwarming stories and other forwarded messages, but this invitation to journey with him across Spain was unique. We couldn't communicate in person, by text or phone call and the emails paint a vivid picture that, at other times, would have been conveyed in conversation.
I am so thankful for my opportunity to share in the journey of Dad's life.
I read the following prayer a few days ago and it speaks to me of Dad. He certainly wasn't perfect, but his life was a journey with God. I am so thankful for the many people who have spoken to me this year of the ways Dad touched their lives and the footprints he left that they desired to walk in...

"God we are surrounded by a cloud
Faithful witnesses who have gone before
Those who have loved where we would have hated
Those who have healed where we would have hurt
Those who have spoken out when we would have remained silent
God may we walk in their footsteps
Learning courage from their sacrifice
May we learn to give so that others may receive
May we learn to love so that others may be set free
May we learn to die so that others might live
God may we join that cloud of faithful witnesses
Treading paths of loving obedience
Leaving footprints that others desire to walk in
God may we too lead kingdom lives
Christine Sine, in her blog GodSpace

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Annus Horribilis

The following is a note Dad posted on his facebook page on November 17th 2008 and speaks of his more recent journey.

My year has been dominated by my health. After being diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL) in June 2006 I had to start treatment (chemo and mabthera - (monoclonal antibodies B therapy)) in March 08 when in increasing pain and difficulty. The B cell count was 100 (normal is around 5). After the treatment and a five week rest the count was 270. My enlarged spleen was removed and found to be 85% mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), a relative of CLL and in the same spectrum as non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It took a long time to recover from the op. The count peaked at 350 then began dropping slowly. I started daily tablet chemo at home with mabthera every three weeks. There was a 10% drop over a four week period then 77% drop after 18 days before the last treatment. The count was then 60.8, arounnd the level of June 07 when the affliction was causing me no difficulty. My lymph nodes are harder to detect meaning the MCL is less aggressive. So one or two more big drops and I may MAY enter remission.
The whole thing has been interesting. At first I did what I was told with complete trust in the doctor and the treatment. When things went pear-shaped (You will die within months if you do not take this massive treatment which will destroy you and give you a 10-15% chance of living 2-5 years) I began the reading, questioning, exploring that I should have done earlier. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive family and we rejected the massive intervention, went to Port Douglas for a week, and planned to live as fully as possible. I wrote a Bucket List and enjoy planning and ticking off the accomplishments (short, medium, and long term). I pray, read the Bible and my list of aphorisms as well as positive books. I laugh and smile a lot and frankly am happier than I have been in many years.
The first thing I read each day is:
It's morning; I'm still alive. Let's go, Lord!
and the last few are:
I want to live so I set real targets.
I will follow the plan always.
I am temporarily afflicted and will recover.
My affliction melts away as I become healthy.
My reality is peace of mind always.
Two other really helpful ones are:
I always see the funny side.
If unhappy, I will smile.
This has been a relatively short time when compared with others' journeys but we have traversed much territory in it.
Right now, I feel I would not change a thing...

Feel free to ask me anything.


Hello from OZ
Yes, Folks, I'm back in the Promised Land.
I saw several new-to-me cathedrals in England including Ripon and Wells, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It was wonderful to stay with my neice Lyn and her children Daniel and Xana, and to catch up with Delia and Keith Davies and Patrick Duffy, friends from the Camino in 2000.
The plane left an hour late but arrived in Melbourne half an hour early at 4:15am so I went home by public transport and was in bed by 6:30. Unfortunately I'm still jetlagged and very weary, especially in the afternoons. With school starting today the kids may have free activities this arvo while I yawn!
My Camino was a wonderful time and I feel blessed to have met and made friends with so many people from all around the world. What can we say? The Camino is unique.
God bless you all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

lost count

Good day to you all
Left Germany at 11.45pm and got to Lyn's after 6pm next day. It was good to see her and Daniel and Xana again after 2.5 years.
Next day went to Oxford and after that to Winchester, Bristol, and now I am typing in a McDonald's in Exeter. Lovely evensong with a very good choir. They sang O Quam Gloriosum by Victoria but I did not sing along.
Tomorrow Retford to meet friends, dunno Saturday, and I'm back with Lyn on Sunday.
Leave Monday.
God bless you all

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Good morning all
I left Erlangen at 8 this morning and arrived in Heidelberg at 12:30. What a great decision! This is a marvellous town with a whole lot going for it. Basically, the town seems to be the castle (tourism) and the university. The numbers of bikes is immense and some people don´t lock them. I saw two stolen in 5 minutes! No doubt they were just borrowing. It is a Sunday, after all. There were also the usual ones clearly abandoned, one with ivy trailed through the spokes.
I took a bus to the castle station. The buses share the tram lines including the super stops. It worked just fine and as there were cars in the way only occasionally, the buses are able to keep their timetables well. A finicula railcar winds its way up the mountain with a stop for those going to the castle. 3€ to go up, 5€ the return. The castle is in various stages of disrepair because of war action, lightning, and other fires. The ruling families rebuilt bits until the 19th c when it was decided the ruins were more important. At various times the families here were important on a European scale. Much was made of the marriage of the Stuart princess (grandaughter of Mary Q of S) to the heir. Though arranged, this was a love match which delivered 13 kids in 18 years. The artillery park became her private garden, and her husband demolished the top of the main tower to build a hall with large windows for concerts and plays. Their wedding was in London and Shakespeare wrote a play for the wedding feast and acted in it. Then followed a fireworks display which pleased the prince so much he organised one such on their return, the first display in Heidelberg. It is re-celebrated annually.
The daughter of one ruler produced the boy who later became Elector of Hanover before George I of England. It really was a fascinating tour. Then I walked through the old city looking at the churches and houses.
There was an organ concert in a Lutheran church at 5, a piano and cello concert in a hall at 7:30, and a Mozart Mass etc for John´s Day (how suitable is this pour moi?) which I attendfed at 8. It was very good with a choir of about 45, an orchestra of less than 20, 4 soloists, and a small organ. It began with an introit in Gregorian chant, about as good as I´ve ever heard. They pronounced the Latin very closely (I think exactly) to how we do it it at Christ Church, which made a big contrast to the Spanish manner where some letters are giving two syllables, x being sung eck - ess, for example. For the rest, it was excellent, my only criticism being that the tempi were sometimes too fast, or the volume too great. Much of the detail was lost in the reverberant acoustic.
This Jesuit church is said to be baroque but is the most restrained baroque I´ve yet seen. It´s the same rectangular floor plan as a romanesque church with a rounded apse as the sanctuary. The side aisles are separated from the nave by squarish pillars and the whole interior is painted white. The capitals of the columns are composite - mixtures of styles - with the details picked out in gold or green. The main organ is a relatively small one, and though it is not old they are raising money for another.
My train leaves in less than 2 hours so I´ll leave this and walk to the station.
Counting the days to home!
God bless you all.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

47 (?)

Some random thoughts from abroad.
Tattoos are fashionable in Germany, especially with young women.
The young dropouts of society, who apparently have decided the best way to spend one's days is with a German Shepherd and begging are likely to have so chopped and died their hair (startlingly purply pink is popular) they are unemployable except at places where hair is chopped and died purply pink.
Young men can be as unattractive, boorish, and aggressive as young Aussie men.
The train and bus systems (and sometimes tram) in Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany work very well with quality interchanges assisting in the transfer of passengers.
(Jenny, Quelle is still operating, though I have seen only one store.)
Fewer Germans smoke than Fr and Sp. Advertising is still allowed. However the companies know the squeeze is on so the latest is for them to advertise something else, but using their logo. For example, Camel advertise matches and talk about light and vision. Another mob is advertising their pack with comfortable edges (I kid you not) and have generously reduced the number of cigs in a pack to 19, for only 3.60€.
Twice today I have used the Internet in a Gaming House like a Pokies in Oz. Peple are just as brainless and zombified here. There is an attractive mid-thirties woman near me who for a while was playing two machines at once but is now just rivetted on the one. She is placing a bet every couple of seconds.
Billabong remains the most obvious Aussie label here for anything. I saw a young man struggling to carry a Fosters can today. Actually it was a keg decorated as a Fosters can. I felt such National Pride. Not only a powerful drink, you need to be powerful to carry it.
Herr Ohm who gave us that Omega symbol for the electrical concept (ohms, watts and volts are the three - but don't ask me to describe them) was born in Erlangen. Siemens began here and it is the largest employer by far. A whole street is lined with their buildings.
The new fashion colours for summer here include white, a pinky red, and limish green. (I know you are busting to thank me for this.)
Gambling woman has just won some hundreds of €. She is now working the other machine. Her expression altered not a whit at her great good fortune.
It's 9:50 and time I went.
God bless you all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

47 - no2

Hello all
Last night's concert was excellent. It was a Vespers for St John's Day and the music was all JS Bach. It started with a few words from a Lutheran pastor, then a prelude on the organ. We sang a chorale. The congregational singing was amazingly good, just well focussed and positioned, and everyone giving voice. There were between 140 and 200 people at a guess. Then there were responsorial readings, again from the Lutheran. The bass was young and had a wonderfully produced voice and an amazing range with nothing forced. Alto quite good. The sermon from an RC priest went on and on. Then the young and beautiful Soprano had a recitative and solo. She produced wonderful notes but they were not as well strung together as could be. Poor old tenor had only a recitative so it was hard to get a really good judgement, but he seemed to be good. We had another chorale, and then the four clergy present had a bit to say. The whole closed with the fugue of the first prelude. The organist/director was outstanding, controlling well the disparate forces, and delivering a most satisfying stylish performance.
This was in St Sebald's church which had been greatly damaged in WWII. Most valuable stuff had been removed and stored in rock-cut cellars but the organ was not and ruined. The new organ is very large but not so large as St Lorenz'. They have a reliquary of some founding saint and in the 15th C it was encased in a tall cast brass or bronze gothicky case like a chantry. As it was far too heavy to move it was encased in a concrete box and thus escaped unharmed when the roof fell in directly above it.
I took tram and bus home and made it by 10:30 so went to bed. Temp was still over 30 degrees. During the night there was a cool change and wind made the chimes in my room ring at 4:30am so I'm a bit weary.
Manfred suggested I was going to visit the ENEMY in coming to Germany but people have been wonderfully helpful and friendly. That is said before I mention the sole exception. I wandered into a bakeshop and asked the young assistant what was in a slice. The older person then made a disparaging remark about the English which caused consternation and shame on the Y.A.'s face. I walked out, turned around at the window and looking at the smirking woman carefully placed cap on head and walked to a street stall where I was served, as usual, courteously, helpfully, and efficiently. One exception does not disprove a rule.
Our German tour guide yesterday several times talked about Nürnberg being liberated by the 8th(?) Army and Patton. I think it is a hard thing for a national to consider they are being liberated by foreign troops, even if they disliked or hated the guy at the top. (Iraq springs to mind. I wonder if in the future they will feel they were liberated by the Coalition of the Willing?)
Today after a sumptuous breakfast with Petra we came to Bamberg. The cathedral is big and old, and the Bishop's Palace interesting. The bishop was also a prince and one of them had even been an Elector, one of the group that chose the Holy Roman Emperor. There is a large, formal rose garden with a restaurant tucked in behind but it is open to the public and well patronised. Then I went to the city museum and after a while left because they were understaffed and the dragons kept following me. It made me feel most uncomfortable and not trusted, so I wrote that in the visitor's book, together with my e-mail address. It will be interesting to see if they reply.
After, I thought I'd walk to the station (Petra is at work) but by that time the shops and Information had shut and there was only a map with a "you are here" arrow. This was almost entirely useless as the map is not oriented to the direction it is facing. Fortunately a young couple helped me out and I'm just pausing on the route before catching the train.
This morning Petra and I booked my tomorrow's ticket. I leave before 8am and get to Heidelberg at 12:23pm, having changed in Stuttgart. That will allow some time to look around before the 23:44 train to Paris which arrives at 7:01. With the plane not due to leave Paris until after 12 there should be plenty of time to get to the airport.
Time to go
God bless you all

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Hello speed readers! (or the not-another-flaming-email-from-watson club) Day two in Swiss, Manfred and I went to Zurich and went up and down and in an out, saw churches and shops and houses and the lake and the river and the roman fort (look over this precipitous wall, John). It was great if tiring. Lots of the houses have their date or the date of a major redevelopment above the door and many were from the 1500s.
Manfred picked up that a guy who lived in a street centuries ago has nearly the same name as a guy Manfred knows who lives just a few doors down hill. This is not proof, but it is entirely possible that they are related. It will be a while before that is possible in Australia!
Zürich was a centre of the Reformation so several churches changed allegiances. Another RC church declared its independence from Rome in the late 1800s. It had a lovely "prayed in" feel. Both here and in Nürnberg the reformers did not trash the pictured and statues, which is interesting.
Manfred had a Latin lesson (yes, it's true. M is not satisfied with a love of five languages and their literature) and after I found that the museum was shut, I bought a book and read it until he arrived. We got home late but the chef delayed the evening meal with a good grace.
On day three we all took a train to the shore of Lake Zürich, walked across it (on a bridge, actually), and on to Einsiedeln, a Benedictine monastery with 90 monks. We climbed 600m and walked somewhere between 15 and 20km. It's good to know it's still possible, and not an aberration. The baroque church of the monastery is weighed down with its stucco and frescos. Unbelievable.
The train journey home was a little delayed but we found out the next day that the entire Swiss rail network ground to a halt with power failure about and a hour later. Whew.
With great difficulty, yesterday I pulled myself away from Manfred and Luciana's wonderful hospitality and travelled to Erlangen, beyond Nürnberg. The last section was on a high speed train but the conductor was slow making his rounds so I did not have to pay an excess.
Petra borrowed a car from her dad so she could drive us around (she normally uses a bike) and we drove into the countryside to have our evening meal at a small schloss or castle. It was a good time. She has an LCD TV and cable so I spent an hour watching CNN and then a German language program on the beginning of the 3rd Reich. There were some wartime images I had not seen, so that was good.
Petra is an intensive care nurse and is on arvo/evening duty for the next three days which is a pity. Still, this morning she drove me into Nürnberg and we went to an old cememtery. Very interesting! We found a 16th c pilgrim's grave, and that of Albrecht Dürer. Next year the world cup ends in Nürnberg, and the advertising is based on some of his images - a hare (covered in turf) and Adam and Eve. Eve actually looks like Steve with long hair. Make of that what you will.
I paid for a walking tour of N and at the end found that there is a concert in the form of a mass tonight at 7:30. It is to be recorded so presumably the standard will be exemplary. It is part of N's organ festival, and is free, unlike the 30€ for tomorrow night's Coronation of George II (Handel and others).
Bamberg is quite close to Erlangen so I may go there tomorrow. I'm thinking of leaving here early Sunday for Heidelberg before taking an overnight to Paris for Monday's flight. We'll see.
God bless youse all.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Dear All
One of the joys of the Food and Wine Festival in Bordeaux was the Italian icecream tent. The one I tried was a yoghurt softserve in a very wide and substantial wafer cone. It came with a serviette and tiny spoon and was really most pleasant. The first evening was Kiwi fruit and the second strawberry. The second evening I had a four seasons pizza with a very thin and crisp base and a variety of toppings. It was quite good, and I did not have the diarrhoea which I enjoyed following the Indian meal of the previous evening.

During this last day I made good use of the tram service which, by the way, is run by Connex, the Melbourne tram operator. Here can be seen the benefits of the changes they have been introducing to Australia - super stops, dedicated lanes, grass growing between the tracks. It seeems to be very popular and is well patronised.
The train sleeper carriages had 6 bunks per small room but the airconditioning was quite efficient. No-one snored though few slept as there were frequent stops and people embarking and disembarking. Why one would choose a sleeper for a couple of hours is beyond me. There is never enough room for the bags, and two of us had really large ones but they fitted OK behind the ladder, a substantial affair with wide rungs. I slept badly as I did not wish to miss my stop, the first of two in Lyon, but all was well.

There was not enough time to walk anywhere into Lyon so I did not bother. Soon the train for Geneva came and we were away. The land forms soon changed with an increasing number of large but tree-covered mountains. These were steep and with exposed patches where the covering earth and vegetation had slipped away in the past. On arrival there were the police and customs checks. With almost an hour in Geneva I walked a little around the outside of the station where pots filled with flowers and the tables and chairs of many cafes greeted us. I remembered to draw out some Swiss Franks but had no idea of the value of the currency so just had a stab at the number I may need.

Then the train for Zurich came. I was a bit concerned in that my Eurail pass was for France, yet I had been issued a ticket in France for this section of the journey on a Swiss train. The conductor came, glanced at eveything, punched the card, and that was it. Apparently I had just saved about 80 Euros. Not complaining!

Manfred arrived wearing a Santiago shell in case I couldn't recognise him(!) and we hurried to the next platform to take the train to the town nearest their village. They live in Illnau, a village with completely made streets, proper drainage and standard suburban Aussie-type housing of one house per block. The farms where they buy fresh produce are within easy walking distance and look more like parks and gardens. Beyond the farms are mature pine plantations with beyond those and off to the left, some snow-covered mountains. Looking through the study window now I can see a house roof, a copse of trees in a low lying area, four farms with about 20 cows each, Romanian girls picking strawberries, some farm buildings, a made road, and the plantations. The sun is shining, and there are some wispy clouds and condensation trails in a pale blue sky.

Manfred and Luciana's house is set on an almost square 900sqm block, sloping down from street to street. Luciana loves the garden which is a thing of beauty with lawns, plantings of shrubs, lots of flowers, and a vegetable garden with onions, peas, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and herbs as perfectly ordered as the rest of the country. A low box hedge separates the vegetables from the rest. Living here is hard to take!

Manfred and I go to Zurich today for sightseeing and who knows what.

God bless you all

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Hello everyone
An hour ago I was typing an email when I checked the tickets and they zere for the wrong day, so a trip to the station, all is well, and I'm writing again.
Three TGVs within 1/2 hour to Paris all booked out! So an alternative route. I go to Lyon on the sleeper tonight, then go to Geneva and on to Zürich tomorrow. Bordeaux was very quiet this morning and the weather was overcqst which kept the temperature down. Humidity has been high all day, and the sun has now been shining for an hour (it's 6.30pm).
Of course it's Sunday, the traditional family day. I orgqnised the tickets this morning, then bought lunch to have in a park. It's called Jardin Public and is part natural museum, part botanical garden, part trees and lawns. It was very pleasant with walkers, joggers, and cyclists making the rounds. There were families and parents with kids as well as the young and not so young lovers. The sparrozs and pigeons feasted on my leftovers and I strolled around. Then I looked over two museums, Musée Arts Decoratif and Musée Aquitaine. In both I claimed the Tarif réduit. Half price.
The first is in an old very grand house and covers household goods - furniture, pianos, ironwork, locks, pottery and crockery, curtains, pictures and so on. They have a first rate selection of portrait miniatures. As I went higher the building got hotter until in the servants' quarters under the roof it was dreadful. The girl in charge up there sensibly stayed downstairs until she had a customer.
The other I chose to just see the permanent collection which starts with old stone age but after the middle ages I'd had enough and scarpered. The quantity and quality of the stuff was very high, and a lot was the best I'd seen. A copy of Eleanor of Aquitaine's effigy was there but I've forgotten where she was buried. In some covent or monastery, I think.
That's about it. I'll have an early meal and get back to the station in plenty of time to get the luggage (gosh, it's heavy) and to the right platform.
God bless you all

Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Kate

Hi all
I just wanted to acknowledge that it is six months today since Dad died.
I find myself looking for glimpses of him and treasure the little things: a note scribbled on an envelope, a picture he gave me, the Geelong footy jumper he gave my daughter...
It is the searching that makes this blog so special for me. I can hear his voice in the emails, sharing his journey of life during his pilgrimage that meant so much to him.
Kate :)

By Fra Giovanni Giocondo

Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge
that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you,
not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer
that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and shadows flee away.


Good morning all!
I know I should not be amazed when everything turns out OK. As you know, I do not believe in coincidences as they happen to me too often to be that (those). Today in Bayonne I saw a Japanese girl reading an English version of the Lonely Planet guide. NATURALLY I introduced myself and it turns out she is resident in Oz with an Oz boyfriend. Well, we sort of hung out together waiting for the train. Then when she realised she had no food and the shops could be shut before ze qrrived she went to the SM while I guarded the luggage. She made it back just in time. The train was a TGV and I had to pay 1.5€ to book, much less than I feared. I wrote down info from her book and after the journey we sought each other again. At the Information office they gave us a map but said there was no accommodation available because of the wine expo. We went to ring anyway. First number had a single room with everything for only 75€. Gasp. Second place had one room but Japanese girl (don't know her name!) had decided to get back on the train anyway. My room! Without her, I would have had to depend on the Tourism expert.
It's 10pm, the temp is well over 30 and sweat is dripping off me. I have just had a mild Indian meal in a street lined with temporary eating places and am typing this in a tent. This morning's email cost 4.5€; this will be less than 2€.
The population of Bordeaux is around 800 000 and despite the poor I see around the station, begging in the street and outside the churches, walking and on the tram it is clearly a wealthy town. It has expensive shops everywhere including 2 Bang and Olufsens. There is only one of these in the whole of Melbourne. Fancy cars abound and there are flash boats in the river. Steets are wide and the trams are new. (They have at least three routes which meet at various points, one of them starting at the station. Apart from one short section, they have no overhead wires but there are 2 extra "rails" in between the standard rails. How they get the electricity without there being a risk to pedestrians and drunk teenagers is beyond me. Certainly the appearance is a great improvement.)
I went to the 12th c cathedral this evening and the place was open for a mass in a side chapel. It is the place where Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis of France. (Later she realised he was a wimp and after divorce married the future Henry II of England, though his accession to the throne was by no means assured at the time. And of course, this was the foundation for the 100 years war in the 14th and 15th centuries: on Eleanor's death, Aquitaine, the richest, most cultured, and largest part of France passed to her heir, the King of England. I believe that both she and H II are buried in Bordeaux but not in the cathedral. And R Lionheart with his wife is here somewhere.
My room is a miracle of miniaturisation. It has a bed, shelves, wardrobe sort of, large windows, a small bore heater, toilet, handbasin, and shower in a space little bigger than four single beds. The shower is cylindrical and made of steel. Magnets in the hem of the shower curtain hold it in place! The handbasin is partly over the toilet, and the shower is so close to the toilet the user has to sit sideways. The heater is so close to the window that it can barely be opened. Right now I'm not so anxious to return to it as it is airless. Still, at 18€, who's complaining? It is much cheaper than any other place I've found in France, and I have a bed!
Anyway, I'll head off somewhere tomorrow, and then go to Zurich on Monday, which I'm really looking forward to.
God bless you all

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Good evening!
There was no interest in buying the Carrix, no doubt fostered by the hospitallero who, after initial interest, decided that it was too dear and therefore not worthwhile (irrespective of benefit). There were two women who would have benefited but they both knew everything ... Well, all one can do is show and offer and it's up to the customer. I've posted it home seamail.
The first bus to Irun (on the border with France) was 6pm so I went to Bilboa and saw the Guggenheim museum. The major exhibition is on the Aztecs so I'm very glad to have gone. I then strolled through town and caught the bus to Irun, arriving there just after 6pm. The Bilboa bus station was very well organised with a central info system, whereas the Pamplona one is a shambles.
In Irun missed the last train to Bayonne by an hour. A French couple took me to their home town of Biarritz only to discover the last bus had gone, so they drove me on to Bayonne! How good is this?
I booked into the hotel, had an expensive but excellent meal, and had the best night's sleep for a while. No shower available(!) so washed evening and morning at the hand basin. Not my favourite way of doing things.
In the morning I picked up the goods I'd left in storqge and wandered over to the Cathedral. The priests then started morning prayers. There were 9 priests, the youngest being older than me, with most in their 80s. The cantor intoned and the rest intoned in reply, about a minor third lower. As they progressed the chants became a little more interesting, but all were pitched much lower than any I have previously heard. The Cathedral is being restored as it is in quite bad shape, though interesting.
Today I'm off to Bordeaux and as the train leaves at 11.16 I will most likely stay there overnight. It is Saturday today so goodness knows what the train service will be like then. Not sure zwhere I'll go, either. I'm due in Zurich on Monday or Tuesday.
God bless you all

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Good evening all
It feels really odd to be back in Pamplona, and strange to tell, I´ve got itchy feet again! I see all these pilgrims with their new gear and I just want to hug them.
I got here last evening and am staying in a Fonda (low grade - 14€) where I stayed in 2000. It´s cheap.
Last meal in Seville was a pizza. It tasted OK but the base was bought, and the only things on top not from a can were cheese and a couple of slivers of pimiento (red pepper). I don´t think an Aussie restaurant would get away with that.
The train (Alta 200) to Madrid was full of rattles, was buffeted badly by the AVEs that passed, and our ears were affected by pressure each time we entered a tunnel. The one from Madrid to Pamplona was an Altaria and much better. I didn´t mind the day spent travelling as I needed the rest.
In Madrid, with a couple of hours to spare I went to the Prado Museum. Frankly (and please do not be offended) I would be happy to never see religious art of this Spanish type again. The poses are fake, the faces soppy, the colours pastel. (The only Crucifixion scene I have ever really responded to was by Dali, and it is not in the Prado.) El Greco painted his saints in dark tones, which is a change from the norm. There was a lot of sculpture of quality including Roman and Roman style from much later centuries. Velazquez had rooms full, there was a fine Rembrandt, but my favourites were the Brueghels (spelling?) There is such wonderful detail and the figures are meaningfully employed. In fact there was a lot of Lowlands art, not surprising in view of the imperial relationship of the times. Charles V, the HRE, was given prominence. Later it was fun to spot the relatives as they all have jutting jaws as opposed to that other European noble genetic trait - the chinless wonder.
The rail line section of the old station at Madrid has been turned into a rain forest with mist sprays. It´s very humid, of course, but very attractive. The new section is behind the old.
After Madrid the land was very dry with many previous water courses converted to the only cropped and green parts. Maize and olives predominated though nearer Madrid there were many fruit trees.
I cleaned the Carrix with water last night. Even the wheels came up very well. I will arrive at the Albergue soon after 12 and stay there with my sign - For Sale (picture from the Net) Se Vende - until I get a response. If there is no sale by tomorrow evening, I will send it back to Australia and continue the travels.
God bless you all

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Last night wandering Sevilla streets I saw some tram lines barely exposed. It´s a long time since they closed that service. Interestingly, though, they are installing a metro. The blasting and digging has caused a halt to repair work at the cathedral where two columns were found to have cracking. They have been encased in gigantic stacks of collars, custom made, liberally endowed with concrete. When the Metro is finished (at its closest point it is three hundred metres away and the same for the river) work will recommence on column repair.
It´s big, but I can´t say the cathedral is beautiful. It has some beautiful aspects, one of which is the bell tower, and the ceilings over the chancel are wonderful. As a building, it looks like it was designed by competing interests.
There is much of interest in Seville, and the prices are kept well down by intense competition. Postcards for 15 - 30 cents, last night´s Chinese Menu del Dia at 5.75€, the quality bedroom for 20€, for instance.
I managed OK to walk to the station dragging the house, but boarding the train was interesting. Being an AVE, it left on time, but the platform was not announced until 10 minutes before and we had to line up to have baggage screened. The first on placed their small bags in the luggage area nad there was literally no where for the later arrivals´ bag. Two passengers changed that. They identified passengers, and put the smaller bags above the seats until there was enough room for everyone and everything. But it took them 15 minutes! And yes, my bag was the greatest of them all. The trip was again quiet and short but I took more careful notice of the country. The greener-than-olive trees are oranges. Surrounding Seville there must be tens of thousands of hectares of them. The largest crop is maize - again, huge areas of it. And then, quite suddenly, about halfway to Cordoba, the olives took over. There must be something in the soil, becasue both places have hot climates.
It took about 15 minutes to walk to the city centre of Cordoba to find the Information office, and a further 10 minutes to reach the cathedral. I was directed to my Pension where I have a tiny room with double bed that´s very hard, and a washbasin for 18€. It is within 100m of the bus stop, so that will make tomorrow a little easier, when my destination is Pamplona (via Madrid). Departure is 8.55am, arrival 5.38pm, with a three hour stop in Madrid. If I can fit the luggage into a locker, I will go for a walk for an hour or so.
Cordoba´s old city is very small for what was one of the largest cities in the world in the 12th century (around 250 000). I found the oldest inn still standing - the Posada del Potro - and in the front there was an outstanding display of models with text in SP and Eng. There, the reason was made clear.
There was an economic collapse in the 6th and 17th centuries. I guess then, that large sections of the town fell into disrepair with people moving closer to the centre. Now, there are many wide streets apart from the three large boulevardes where it is possible for traffice to flow freely. Much of the city feels quite modern and considerable growth is happening further out. A km away over the river there is a very large retail complex dominated by Eroski. One the bigger chains of supermarkets in Spain, it is from the Basque territory.
I managed to find all the places recommended to me by the "i" centre, including the largest plaza where a guitar festival is right now taking place, Posada del Potro (Inn of the Colt), the Archbishop´s Palace, Castle, Synagogue (it´s Monday so most things were shut), and some very tiny streets. One is so narrow that two young men could not stand side by side in the narrowest place.
Another is famous for its flowers. There are artisan shops everywhere, many of them specialising in leather goods. During Muslim-controlled times, Cordoba produced the best leather in large quantities, so much so that English bootmakers were called Cordwainers. Oh, and Toledo produced the best steel for swords. Guess what artisanshops fill their streets.
Manfred asked me to take some photographs for him, knowing they would also be of interest to me. They were of statues of great Cordobans and I found five: Maimonides, Averroes, Seneca, the guy who built the Mosque, and one described as an oculist. The last has his name included on the photo but the other I will have to check on the Internet.
The big controversy in Cordoba for the last 800 years has been the Mezquita Cathedral. When it was conquered by a Christian king in the 1200s he brought in his bishop to consecrate the whole thing as a church. This is interesting, to say the least. Pretty obviously the Christians appreciated the beauty of these places. However, the worship styles are completely different, and just sticking chapels around the edge did not work. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, and the mosque was a dark place, with only the important bit facing Mecca lit other than dimly. In the 1500s it was decided to put a Gothic nave, choir, and crossing in the middle to raise the roof, making it better for singing and intoning, and to strengthen the building. Even a casual glance shows that many of the pillars are not vertical and it most likely would have collapsed by now with that added strength.
There is a fine belltower which may have a Muslim base but it doesn´t look it, but it must be said the quality of desing and execution of the Gothic structure leaves much to be desired.
As to the question of whether the Christians should have taken over this Islamic place of worship, the largest in Europe, I say of course they should have. Let me see now, where did the Muslims build their mosque? Why, right over a Visigothic church! We don´t hear too many offers from Muslims to rebuild that. And why would they? They defeated the Visigoths. And why would the Christians back off? They defeated the Muslims. That all three cultures tolerated each other in Cordoba for along time is generally accepted, but the Muslims would never have been defeated if they had not bickered and fought with each other.
Anyway, I´m being told to pack up.
Two days time I hope to have sold the Carrix.
God bless you all

Monday, September 21, 2009

40 (whatever)

Once again, hello there!
Last evening´s meal was nothing to write home about. So I won´t.
When I aarived on the train a whole bunch of soccer fans was gathering to go to Madrid for the King´s Cup and Seville won for the first time for 77 years. Thank goodness for wax earplugs as I heard nuddings all night, though before I went to bed the crackers (small bombs) had started. My Hostal is in a quiet street, too.
Now that I am 65 años, I get some benefits such as reduced prices at venues. Today, entry was free for me to the Real Alcazar (Ray-AHL Al-CAH-thar) or Royal Castle, instead of 5€. They don´t take money from visitors to the Cath on Sundays, either, so the entries were cheap today!
Last evening it was so hot and still, I knew it would be hopeless going to bed early and ate at 9pm. After I wandered around looking to buy a coffee, the sound of music took me to the square alongsde the campanilla or bell tower. There were three Russian performers and the standard was HIGH. They had CDs and at the end I bought one. I gleaned the following from the third-named. Nikolai has been in Spain for about 12 years, unsurprisingly as his instrument is the Spanish guitar. Most of his CDs have been with other musicians, and about 4 years ago he invited Inna, a violinist, to join him. Together they played all the music last night, first, arrangements of classics, and then some Spanish. A moving audience of around 40 listened, and the coffers rang all the time. The third, Alejandro, joined them 4 months ago. He had just rung his wife when I met him and his heart was heavy, which is why he did not play his flute. His first questions to me were along the line of, Where is God? Who is he? an interesting start to a conversation. He was not anly sad but angry. In Russia (St Petersburg) he was a soloist, a professor of culture and a professor of flute but had no money. He earns more per month as a busker in Spain than in Russia. He would love to bring his wife and daughter out, but she is a music journalist and what would she do? She earns very little but she has a position. 130 years ago the two richest nations in the world were Argentina and Australia. Australia is still in the rich club, but Argentina is a basket case. A doctor earns $50 a month while a pair of Nike runners is $400. An article in the Daily Telegraph a few days ago was musing the same thoughts. How is Britain, which has shed 1 000 000 manufacturing jobs in the last 8 years, still able to supply services to its people? How can France generate wealth while insisting its workers at all levels put in 35 hours a week, while India is inventing the 35 hour day? It´s a mystery, but no wonder that people flee their homelands to wealthier countries.
I bought a case today, big enough to take all my stuff, and have packed up the Carrix. I´ll sell it as soon as I can.
Seville Cathedral apparently has a greater volume than any other church, according to the Guiness Book of Records. There is a central nave and four side aisles, 44 chapels, over 500 works of art, 50+ stained glass windows, and two interesting graves: Chris Columbus (Cristobal Colon) and one of his two sons. CC´s is a most interesting affair with his coffin held aloft by four bronze figures representing the 4 main kingdoms of Spain. His son was apparently desperate to ensure his grave would be maintained so assembled a huge library of books and donated them to the Chapter of Priests of the Cath, of which there are still 49! Ours this morning was in his 80s and was drowned out three times when the bells rang.
Photography was difficult inside as usual as the lights are kept so low. I took several videos instead. Apart from the bell tower, the oldest section is the orangery - 11th century. The trees are arranged symmetrically and are joined by a centralised water system.
Lunch was a bocadilla with ham and cheese. It most likely will be my last. They have lost their appeal.
I went to the Royal castle, built in two stages by Pedro I called the Cruel (because he lost his crown to his half brother, Enrique the Bastard. Others called him Pedro the Just) and Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Pedro made Muslim workers build it for nothing but in return they earned their freedom. They built it like a small (cheaper) version of the Alhambra in Granada. There are two hectares of buildings and fortifications, and five ha of gardens. Our guide (I tagged along) took us to the Juderia, the Jewish quarter, and said that the Jews´ living right alongside the Moors´ castle (which was where Pedro´s castle is) proved that they had happy relations with each other for centuries. Hmm. It seems to me that if you put a potentially troublesome group alongside your castle and barracks, you are ensuring control over them. It hardly implies trust.
Anyway, dinner calls!
Tomorrow I head for Cordoba.
God bless you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Good afternoon to you all
I left Toledo at 8:10 and arrived in Madrid on time but was unable to change my ticket from the 11am to 10am AVE service. This is the Spanish fast train, taking about one third of the time of the ordinary service, and charging 3 times as much! The trip was very smooth and quiet, the rail line seeming arrow straight horizontally and vertically. (Did I say that the French call their railways Road of Fire, and the Spanish, Iron Road?) AVE is bird in latin, I think, and the symbol of the service is four Vs overlapping each other like stylised wings. The A V stand for Alto Velocidad (high speed) and the E probably for España. The clouds gradually grew more sparse and we fled through apparently borderless properties of millions of thirsty olive trees. Pale blue-grey hills surrounded the rolling land of eroding gullies, reminding me of how Gallipolli must have looked to troops in 1915. There were scrub and dry grass interspersed for no apparent reason among the olive groves. Later we saw small bushy trees about the size of olives but much greener. On the trip I but rarely saw what would qualify as a tree. Perhaps it was this land that was denuded of oak to build the Armada.
We passed through Cordoba, so I booked to go back there on Monday and stop. If you look at a map, they are not in a direct line. The Information service (a private one) at the station rang and found me a fine Hostal at 20€ for each of two nights. It has a restaurante with an 8€ meal I´ll try tonight. There is no choice in the plates, so tomorrow willl probably try the nearby Chinese place offering a MdD for 5.25€.
My room has a double bed but unlike Toledo and the Pension Castilla, there is no fan. At 5pm today it was 34 degrees and while the temperature has dropped a little (it is now 7.50pm) it is still uncomfortably hot. Still, I am typing this in the Correos which is a. open til 10pm, b. charging only 1.5€ for 1 hour, less than the commercial opposition next door, and AIRCONDITIONED. It also helps that the guy in charge is polite, friendly, keen to practise his English, and HELPFUL! May he quickly be promoted to a position where he can influence others.
My Hostal is very near the cathedral which was closed today. Actually, there were marriages and baptisms and I am happy that they closed the church to all but those attending. It is not good that whille religious services are on, places are being visited by tourists. Anyway, there are several services tomorrow, of course, and the cathedral is open for tourists after 2.30pm.
I walked around the C. and after a bit started taking pics of the doors. Even the simplest is grandly decorated while the important ones are dripping with statuary. Over the years the natural sandstone (why did they choose this most erodable of stone for buildings they expected to last a 1000 years?) has blackened badly and work is now in progress. The most photoed feature is the Muslim tower for the mosque which stood where the Gothic cath is. Extra stories were added to this most imposing structure to make it a bell tower. (Which reminds me, the bells of a church were ringing as I passed and they turn right over. Spanish bells hang down but with a sizeable timber and iron superstructure. British bells also hang down, I believe, but the bell ringers turn them up before ringing the changes. Because they have no balancing weights, the bellringers have to use considerable skill to control them.) On the shady side of the C is a parking area for coches de caballo or horse drawn coaches to you and me. (The word coche is used for these as well as large buses and private cars.) When I passed there were 11 of them plus more working the streets. I saw three magnificent ones decked out for weddings, two very formal with the attendants/drivers dressed in black suits, white shirts and shallow but broad-brimmed hats. Another was a most flashy affair with four horses decked in red plumes, with the radiant bride sitting by her glum husband. Perhaps he was paying for it.
There are tourists everywhere. Lots are Americans, both gray nomads and students, with many European nations represented as well as some Asians. Cameras are clicking away, and I am amazed at how many shots are taken into the sun. The perpetrators will ponder why their pics are so pale.
Some of the passages (too narrow to be streets) are literally a metre wide, and they twist and turn confusingly. Despite having a good map I had to repeatedly ask the way to the Hostal.
God bless you

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Good morning all!
Another hot day in Toledo but increasing cloud meant the temperature was down. It was 22 at 9.00am and 28 at 7.00pm but as it had tried to rain several times (and in fact has just succeeded in a desultory fashion) the humidity is Singapore style.
I did a lot of walking today, trying to see all the sights and failed a bit. The only person I met and spent some time with was a 30yo Argentinian with excellent English who has the same camera. We spent quite a time discussing them, and showing each other our pics. Then he rushed off to see Cristo de la Luz, the converted mosque, while I tried for a museum I´d passed coming into town yesterday. Unfortunately it shut as I arrived. I spent quite a long time at a Franciscan church, and a Benedictine monastery founded in (1476?) by the Catolic Reyes, Isabel and Ferdinand. Once they married and then controlled most of Spain between them, the wealth they had and threw around was almost obscene.
As each Muslim outpost fell, its treasury built another monastery, hospital, or church (just to rub salt in the wounds), and funded the next conquest. Of course, the fall of Granada led the way to the capture of the Americas and the stupendous riches there. They were absolutely insatiable, but I guess, so would I have been in the circumstances.
This monastery´s church is interesting and rich as you´d expect, and the lower cloisters pretty standard stuff, but the upper cloisters! Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! The ceilings are the most amazing mudejar (Arab) timber work and I was allowed to photograph them without sneaking. Sorry I can´t show you but imagine an Arabic pattern of squares, triangles and octagons of some complexity. Then picture that as made from pieces of wood with inlays and the whole painted in rich tones. I reckon the three pics I took are among my best.
Lunch was a menu del dia for 8.50€ in an airconditioned room. They had to throw me out after 1.5 hours! For tea I had a 2.20€ hamburger from a small shop run by Argentinians. Tryng to keep the costs down.
At the station I bought the return ticket for tomorrow plus a ticket for Seville. I´ll get there early enough to look for a cheap place, and I think there are Information places which will help. They have an "i" on a green background rather than blue. I´ll have to leave Pension Castilla at 7.30am to be sure of making the 8.10 connecting bus.
First thing this morning was la ropa, getting the washing done. 12€!!!!! No wonder she only works 4 hours a day or less. I wanted to complain, but left it too late. The system is (as I now know) that you demand the complaint form from the business operator. Next time.
Something I have noticed is that some girls are wearing clothes based on the old Spanish layered style. Manfred, they are also walking with grace, so maybe all is not yet lost.
The traffic in Toledo is really bad. The old city streets are really narrow and despite some streets being one way, and others pedestrian only, cars take ages to reach their destinations. They are mostly filthy from construction dust and have sustained damage down the passenger side. If you watch carefully, you can see it happening! WHEE! Another scrape, and there a bingle! Yesterday I was standing by a wall when a guy drove up and crunched his fender into it on my left. Then for reasons known only unto himself, he backed out and parked audibly on my other side. I moved before he got his aim really true.
A canvas "roof" snakes its way through some of the wider streets, giving some shelter from the sun, but also the feel of something special. It starts in a large plaza and goes to the Teatro. I wonder what the shop operators feel when the "snake" avoids their street.
Last evening I spent 1.5 hours at a free concert of kids from a music school. Fulltime or part-time I know not.) They were aged from 9 to 19 and the standard varied a bit. The choir (I think it´s just kids who learn an instrument) were tuneful if wishy washy but they sang several quality pieces. Most of the string players played the top notes flat and bottom ones sharp. A 15 yo boy clarinetist was excellent, as was a 16yo girl pianist. Last was a brass group numbering 12. This was a senior group and the quality reflected it. The Dean of the school (I guess) was the conductor and was much better than competent. They started with Copeland´s Fanfare for the Common Man which was much played in a summer Olympics some years ago. That was intermission but I left for bed. The Teatro is in the European style of a small stalls with everyone else in horse-shaped tiers. Having now sat in the front row of one, I can tell you they aren´t much joy for most as it is almost impossible to have a full view of the stage unless you are front and centre. And then you have to lean forward.
Toledo, as I said yesterday, is built on a hill, but the hill is surrounded on 3 sides by a river. On the river-free side at one spot it is really steep so the city parents have installed a series of escalators under a concrete ramp that bends and twists its way up the hill. There are about 6 or 7 standard length escalator sections and it is open from about 8 am to 10 pm most days. Good thinking!
Early this arvo I went back to the room for a rest. Just before 2pm I came down stairs to find the two front doors locked. Madam security who insists on taking the keys from us and giving them back when we go out was not there. There was no response to the bell or a knock on any of the non-guest doors. After 10 mins or so she came in from shopping. What, I asked, was I expected to do in case of a fire? Oh, she breezily replied, it was only 5 minutes. Well, I could do a lot of choking, burning, and dying in 5 minutes. But of course, it hasn´t happened yet. Apart from that, I am very happy with the place which is well set up. I have not seen anyone else using my bathroom, either.
Next e-mail, Sevilla!
Stay well. (And if not, please get well, and stay that way!)

Monday, September 7, 2009


G´day All
Dined alone last evening for the first time in many days, the diminishing no. of pilgers from "my group" virtually ensuring this. Anyway, I bought goods in the Supermercado and ate in the park. Funny thing is, I spent 6.15€, and for only 0.15€ more I could have had a Menu del Dia at Manolo´s!
Walked to the bus station to farewell Deanne and Barry which was a good closure. At 10pm on the station waiting for the Madrid sleeper, I met three Vancouver women I had briefly walked and lost contact with, so that was good. My room mate in our 4 berth cabin was a Spaniard returning to Madrid. As he had some English I was more comfortable with what would occur on arrival. Our train was late so I hurried to the ticket office to find everyone standing in line. After 5 minutos I realised a window was selling Toledo tickets independently, so got mine and made the train with a few minutes to spare. As they are building a rapid transit line, we had to get off the train and go by bus the last section. People rushed off the bus, bought a map for 2€ and disappeared while I was still wrestling with the Carrix! Setting off, I met two Oregon girls who looked just as lost as me. It turned out several of the family of one of them had taken a taxi, but took the only map with them. Hey ladies, I´ve a map, you´ve a Pension, let´s join forces. They were terrific to me, giving me a hand up the steps, of which there were MANY. And the charge for the night is 15@ so I´m staying here for two nights. It´s a small room and I share facilities but who cares!? It´s much more private and spacious than most of the accommodation on the Camino.
First item, a shower. Then to get my clothes washed. Walked to the Auto-Servicio Tontoreria to find it Cerado (that´s shut, folks) with no note or times of opening. The pharmacist shrugged - perhaps she´s French?
After lunch, a bit of shopping, a tour of the cathedral and a snooze, found at 5pm the wash shop was still closed. As I am sweating so much I will really have to wash the clothes more frequently, and it´s just not possible in the Pension. GRRR
Anyway, Toledo looks largely rebuilt, there is so much obvious restoration. The colors are pale golds and browns, and the city, perched on a hill, has as confusing a set of roads, streets, and alleys as I have seen. It has good feel, though, so I hope to pretty much cover the whole place tomorrow.
God bless you all.

Friday, September 4, 2009


G´day All
We made a night of it last evening. I was in bed by 12.10 but the others partied on. Barry and Deanne leave today on the 6pm bus. Jean spends tomorrow in the Parrador (5 star), courtesy of her parents while Sabine and Stephanie go to Finisterre. June Masuda is thinking of walking but with the weather so hot and the second day 37 km it is not a good idea. I hope to talk her out of it. I´ll go to the bus station to farewell B abd D. They are good friends and strong Christians.
I spent all up about an hour and a half in the PO today, posting stuff to London, France, and home. You take a ticket and line up to purchase the mail bag. Then you get another ticket, retire to address and pack the bag, then wait in line to pay for the postage. To Oz it is terribly expensive, and under 2kg has to fly. Today I protested so the lady sent the packet of presents seamail. Sorry Family, you will get your pressies in three months time!
The jacket arrived today so I returned the other one. One more chapter closed.
Then there was pilgrim mass and at the end the bota did fly! I used the video facility and it looks to have worked a treat. It should show up well in a presentation. The cantor lost her voice during it, and the priest took over, singing the last verse and a half. I sang along but as I dont know the words ... Barry saw a girl returning from communion with the wafer in her hand and laughing, so he grabbed her arm and told her to be respectful. She was suitably chastened.
After, we all had a big lunch for 6.50€ at Manolo´s. They feed lots of people so don´t like table-fulls sitting around talking. We were happy to go as we all had things to do. B and D shopped and packed, the other shopped and flaked out in the heat, and I walked to the station to reserve my sleeper. 28€ just to reserve. I leave at 10.30 tonight and will stay in Toledo overnight before returning to Madrid. Then I THINK I will got to Granada (34€) but will think on it. My hostal is looking after my bag, for which I am VERY grateful.
ANyway, with sweat running off me (no aircon in the computer place) it´s time to go.
Next email will be from a different city, and my camino is now officially over.
Once again, God bless you all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Last evening I sat in some hope on the plaza for any hungry peregrinos to arrive and gradually 12 did, which was great. It took so long to find a place to eat though that two of them peeled off. There were some old favorites as well as youngish Craig from UK, new to me, Elma whom I met in Burgos, Wolf of the grey hair, who has been pursuing Elma, and the Oz couple I mentioned, Peter and (oops). Very good time though we really weren´t settled until 9. Tonight we´re meeting at 8:30 so it will not take quite so long to find a place and order. (When I was sitting waiting, an Englishman appeared and after a time invited me to join him and some Dutch guys if my arrangements fell through. Our groups are not the only ones meeting outside the cathedral at 7pm or so.)
I´ve shifted into a single room at the hotel for the same price and am looking forward to the botafumeiro but apparently it swang(!) today so I hope that doesn´t mean they won´t swing tomorrow.
Today I went to the PO but the packet had not arrived (not there at 7pm either) so went to Finisterre by bus. 9.45 left and arrived 11.45. Sun quite hot though there was a cool breeze. The atmosphere was very heavy with a mist blurring the coast but I took some good photos of plants and coastline, including a couple of jerky films. Since I come from almost the end of the world (NZ is) Finsterre has not the same effect on me as on the Roman officer who asserted that as the sun went down he heard a hissing such as comes from iron plunged into water. Wonder what he´d been drinking? There I met six pilgims of my acquaintance and had a drink with four of them. One had just completed her third camino in three years. It gets in yer blood, though I don´t think I´m likely to do it again, certainly not by myself. Finisterre was the end of a pilgrimage thousands of years older than the Romans, and it was these early Ps who started the giant pile of rocks at Cruzferro. They were apparently following the milky way.
I re-met Flemmng who had just arrived after walking three days from Santiago. He said so many people were walking, the refuges were full each night and people were forced to sleep out. Yet the numbers in Santiago itself seem to be less, so maybe we were just part of a glut. Still summer has just begun and the pressure will really be on in July.
Saw a young couple from UK on the bus. They´re on their annual fortnight (2 weeks to you foreigners) holidays and are touring, starting in Vigo and ending in Barcelona, travelling by bus and train across the north - backwards from the camino. Had a good time talking to them. She is an archivist in Bedford who spends much of her time answering queries about family trees. It costs 26 pounds an hour. One she pursued recently was a 14 yo boy transported for stealing 3 shillings and sixpence - about two weeks wages. He was sent to Tasmania and released at 21 for good behaviour. He married a local girl, moved to Sydney and became a cobbler - his father´s trade. Years later, a report on his life in a Sydney newspaper coyly said he had come to Australia from London. Now, of course, people proudly parade their penal past, especially if they are First Fleeters.
The airconditioning in the bus broke down on the return and the driver flew home in 1.5 hours! It was also the grubbiest bus I have seen in Spain. Normally they are very clean and beautifully maintained. The trip was an interesting one and very hilly with many forested and plantation areas, the Aussie eucalypt to the fore. It´s interesting they are still planting gums though they are a pest, squeezing out the native varieties. But I note they also fell them small sometimes, stacking in piles the stripped trunks, most not much thicker than my wrist. What their use can be continues to be a puzzle.
I´m not sure that I said, but now my plan is to go to Madrid by sleeper (saves a night in a hotel), and then to Toledo. The Eurail pass pays only to Madrid. Then I MAY go on to Granada or something though the distances are great. Then up north again to sell the Carrix. I think I will contact Jean-Pierre, the Qantas bloke as well.
Marc from Alticoop where I bought the jacket replied today. He said he had passed on the information to the company that made the jacket, and they had despatched a new one "some days ago". If it doens´t come Thursday I will send the old jacket back to Marc, and redirect the new one (IF that´s possible) to Lyn´s. I will buy another jacket (cheap nylon) if we get rain. It has been a real saga. Still I am seeing some more of Spain and Santiago.
God bless you all.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


A very good morning, afternoon, or evening!
Saturday at the Pilgrim Mass the botafumeiro flew but I was late to the service and missed out. Yesterday, with a HUGE crowd, there was no B flying. Today, no again, but apparently it will on Wednesday. The good thing, Manfred, was that June arrived. Yes, the young slow coach finally got into gear and did a few days in excess of 25km. She met with and chatted long to Stephanie of S Africa. It was very good to catch up since we haven´t seen each other since Redecilla, I think. Also re-met the Oz couple who needed a refuge in Carrion de los Condes.
Yesterday evening we had the second of John´s Santiago Birthdays. It was a lovely relaxing time though not as special nor as spiritual or reflective as Sat. evening. There are some times that really stand out and it´s hard to put your finger on it. Why is this occasion more special than that one? I guess if we could put the special-occasion essence in a bottle, we could make a fortune, but then, if every occasion were special, special would be ordinary. (Or, as WS Gilbert said, "If everyone is somebody, then no-one´s anybody.") Both will live on in memory. As Will said, It´s the people we will remember. Will told us a story, and I´m unlikely to retell it orally so listen up.

Will was asleep in O Cebreiro (at the end of the steep climb) when there was a cry in the night. A German pilgrim sat up and fell out of bed. A nurse, a dentist, and a policeman were in the room and set to work, the first two trying to revive him and the third recording all that was done. The ambulance arrived without any equipment but a doctor pronounced the pilgrim dead. People gathered around and sorted out his belongings, isolating his Credencial. They notified his wife to assure him her husband did not die alone and that people cared for him. In Ponferrada they organised a funeral service attended by crowds. Therafter they carried his Credencial from place to place, stamping it with sello after sello until they arrived last week in Santiago. There they organised for a to be awarded to him and presented it to his widow.

The shopping is done and I am surpirsed by the weight of things I´ve chosen. Ouch. Last time I think I bought T-shirts - a bit lighter than books and such like. I sent home two parcels today. The first was a book and some papers and cost 35€! ARGGH!! The second was my Compostela with some small presents and cost less than 5€ despite being registered. There´s a moral here somewhere.
I´ve sort of decided to take the train for a few days in Spain, first to go south (Toledo? Cordoba? Granada?) then up north again to the Yuso Suso monastery before going to Pamplona (maybe) to sell the Carrix. I think there wil be no shortage of buyers after their three or four days of walking from SJPP. That should help the funds a bit and enable me to travel in France (Le Puy? Conques? Monsac? Vezelay? Carnac? Coucy? Chartres?) There is no end to the places I want to see. Trouble is, there´s no one to see them with! Sob. Lee left this morning. She has suggested I come to visit if i have time, but I think she won´t have time, returning to receive a crowd of visitors and being heavily involved in the July 4 celebrations.
Am feeling a bit flat today. Oh well. Even the best of things comes to an end.
Despite my loneliness in France and for big slabs of the first week or so on the
camino, this has been a wonderful time.
All the best to you

Friday, August 28, 2009

33 - no 2

Last evening was an absolute hoot! In 2000 a group of about 8 of us sat around a table and enjoyed a wonderful summation to our pilgrimage/travels. I then went to Italy and had my birthday on the train to Bari. This time I thought why not invite people to a party? The numbers grew and grew and people who knew people invited away. I was getting quite concerned as it appeared 12 would be going and where could we be sure of accommodating that number? I spent two hours in the late afternoon exploring and soon discovered that most places were opening around 8 or 8:30. So I went further afield, close to my abode but a little off the beaten tourist track of the cathedral and its surrounds. Soon, near Alameda Park (and Sa Garcia, Manfred), I found just the place at the end of a blind alley with umbrellas. They had a menu del dia for 10€ and said I didn´t have to book as they were open all the time from 11:00am. It was perfect.
At 7:00 I stood at the steps of the cathedral wondering if I had any friends at all but by 7:10 there was a bigger bunch than I had dreamed of! Eventually we started moving off, but one guy had forgotten his camera so the second bit was later arriving. A German guy I had never met said he would help round up the stragglers and may well have done so but he was not sighted again. (A pity. Who did he eat with?) I told people I was paying 8€ a head, and if they spent more would they please cover it. More confusion as MdD was 10€. Mine Host was staggered and flustered. All these people! He had plenty of room but it transpired there was only himself and his wife working. Tables were grouped together, then regrouped until 21 folk sat laughing, talking, and eventually eating and drinking. Sharon, the Scot speaks Spanish but the host was having great difficulties. Eventually all were served but at pay up time so much money was put on the table I ended paying less than 8€ myself, even after leaving a tip!
How to describe the mood. Frankly, I can´t. Everyone was of one mind, and we shared and listened and contibuted and interrupted, laughed, told jokes, and laughed again. It was much less a birthday party for me (though what a party! and I lay exclusive claim to it) than an immaculate finale to a wonderful camino.
Charlie, bless his heart, led the singing of H Bday to me and then I sang, as he had previously suggested I may, though at a different time and place. It was a song of a bloke´s secular and lifelong camino, text by ?, music by R Vaughan Williams.
Give to me the life I love,
let the lave go by me.
(Mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb)
Bred in the bush with stars to see
Bread I dip in the river
There´s the life for a man like me,
There´s the life for ever.

Or let autumn fall on me
where a-field I linger.
Silencing the bird on tree
Biting the blue finger
White as meal the frosty field,
Warm the fireside haven.
Not to austumn will I yield
Not to winter even!

Let the blow
fall soon or late
Let what will be o'er me
(Mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb)
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love
Nor a friend to know me.
All I ask, the heaven above
and the road below me.

I sang only one "verse" made up from the first and last verses and people seemed most appreciative. But of course the song is nothing like the real camino or John, because without people earlier on I was in serious disarray at times. Buildings and churches and monuments and history are all very well but it is being part of each other´s caminos which will be remembered and talked of - probably for years. And the mood among us was so warm and loving.
Charlie spoke again and gave a most generous speech on me and I replied to it, putting in as much of my camino-bought wisdom as I could. Soon after, people started to go and by 9:30 we were all on our way. A few of us saw the cathedral bathed in the red-gold light of the setting sun and headed off there where me met a Spanish couple aho invited us to hot chocolate (thick stuff - you wouldn´t like it, Jenny, Kate, or Deb!) and churros (Spanish doughnuts, only they´re sticks). I had decaf. But again we had a wonderful time with our genial companions talking mainly about politics, the new Europe, and why the E Constitution had just been rejected decisively by the French and Belgians. MOST interesting. One item was that the constitution had not one word about Christianity. How is it possible to leave that out when it is the basis for law? No doubt a new Constitution will be written, maybe several times, but it does appear that Europeans want closer ties and are very happy with the Euro, etc which have already happened (except in UK).
I must tell you a story. I walked part of two days with Henry from Canada and forgot to invite him to eat with us. As we turned into the alley towards our restaurant, there he was! but very worried. Oh he said he was having a terrible day when I apologised and invited him. Had he eaten? No. But his ankle had been sore for a week and a half and he was worried, too worried to eat, as he could not find his hotel, and the print was too small to read on his card. This was quickly sorted out and he was prevailed upon to sit, first to chat, then to drink, and last, to eat. He talked and laughed and felt quite at home. At the end when I asked how had his day been, he said excellent, especially the end.
We all have had angels on the track (I told you of Flemming, one of my many, who has now walked on to Finisterre). I was given the opportunity to be angel to Henry. There are just too many items here to be coincidences: we were off the beaten track! He was there just as we came! Fortunately I recognised him! (no mean feat as we see so many people and I have a good forgetory) and was not so bound up in my own probs that I could not give him the brief time he needed. We all get opportunities to be angels every day, and I pray that we all, more and more, will be given the grace to take those opportunities.
In the cathedral shop today I met Petra. She had waited last eveningat the wrong steps! Anyway, she´s coming tonight. So far there seem to be 12 as there were 8 of us for lunch (paella, and good, and cheap too - 9€ a head) but as these things go it may be there are many more. To make sure our host was prepared, Jean and I sought him out after lunch. It transpired that Sharon´s Scottish accent had been too hard for the guy and he had not understood one word! I guess he panicked and then nothing made sense. Well, he understood Irish Jean OK, so he should be a calmer chappy this evening.
The botafumeiro swung yesterday but not today, which was a pity. I had a trial run with the camera in video mode and it worked wonderfully so I hope to see it again before leaving permanently. I have to hang around a couple of days at least as my replacement jacket has not arrived.
All the very best to you all!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


(Actually there were 16 around the table in Arzua.) Despite what I said, it became clear that to stay at Monte del Gozo was impractical in the extreme. Pack up and get out by 10, then book in again sometime after 1:30. Bang, the day´s gone.
Flemming left about 6:45 and after humming and haa-ing (we say these things but how to spell them!) I packed and walked to Compostela. Only got lost once, which is better than last time. I have a triple room for 25€ per night in A Nosa Casa where I stayed in 2000. Currently I will leave on Monday, but still have little idea where I´m going.
I pIcked up the Eurail pass from the PO but to my mild surpise and irritation it is for France only, whereas the previous one was for Spain and/or France. I really wanted to spend more time in Spain, so I guess I´ll just have to spend extra money on travel. I had ordered an E-Book from Franklin but it has not come. Would someone at home please check if it has gone there, please? If so, I wont have to look here, but I´ll eventually be sending it back for a refund.
Before I left the Albergue this morning I met Petra who has invited me to her place in Germany. I confirmed with her that I will stay with her after spending a day or three with Manfred and Luciana. (I´m ticking off the countries. Yes, I shall breezily say, I have been to Germany and Switzerland, and little will they know the tiny length of time spent or the microscopic parts of those countries I will have seen. It´s a bit like saying I´ve been to Spain, when all I´ve seen so far is the deep north.)
The feet are groaning from yesterday´s effort but there are no new problems. I´ll take it easy today and tomorrow so they should settle down. Several of our toutring group of pilgers I have seen this morning and arvo. People seem well and fit enough if a trifle dazed.
Compostela is bustling today with pilgrims and locals plus tourists. Shops are all busy, with hustlers out trying to entice the unwary in. There was a market this morning but I had no time to shop then so i had an aspargus omelette with bread and water for lunch. It was OK. I´ve now got the job of trying to find a place where we can celebrate my b´day this evening. There could be 12 people there which makes the search a little more interesting than just what´s on the menu.
ALSO I have to get my Compostela, the certificate to show I´ve walked the requisite distance. I went to the office before lunch but the queue was so long I had visions of fainting again.
Anyway, it´s 2:45 and time I was a-doing.
God bless you all

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Good morning or good afternoon or good evening to you all!
After writing yesterday I went shopping and on to the albergue where I hoped to find friends to eat with. Wise move! About 8 of us sat down to eat and another 4 came in later to have coffee. The biggest surprise was Lee. I left her in Melide where she ate in the church yard, took out sleeping bag and had a snooze! When she woke she felt as refreshed as if it were a new day and she started walking again, arriving in Arzua at 6:00. She was as pleased as Punch and actually laid the blame at my feet, saying what an inspoiration I am! Me!
We had a wonderful meal. People were quite concerned about where to stay and all resolved to either book reservations or leave very early. It was apparent that in the villages ahead there were not the places to cater for the pilgims in Arzua. The bedroom was quiet so I didn´t wake until 6:10 which meant I was not ready to leave until 7:35. I made good time and then was overtaken by Birgit (D), Charlie and Diana (NZ) who sang happy b´day to me. At the time I was walking with Henry, a Canadian. Soon we caught up with Lee and we stopped for coffee.
Lots of people came over to say happy b´day - it is such a contrast to 2000 and my private celebration on the train to Bari, Italy. I then left them and walked on with Charlie, having a great time. Both of them are extremely friendly, outgoing people and our chats covered a lot of ground. At Arzua (18+km from Compostela) they walked on while Birgit and I looked in at the Albergue. There were over 60 people lined up for 100 beds which meant no bottom bunk for John. B stayed and I went off looking for a hotel. There is only one and it was full. (I swear the girl said "Qantas" so maybe thay are having a convention of flight attendants, but later she did say "Completo".) What choices now? Go back? NO WAY! So it was sleep on a top bunk or go on. I walked on.
It was already 2 before I got going with the only accommodation at Lavacolla 7km on, or Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy) 5 or so km from Compostela. I stopped for a drink 2km shy of Lavacolla and chatted briefly to a tour party of Germans who were walking assisted by a minibus, and staying in hotels. Along came my angel for the day. Yes, folks, the Lord answered my prayer before I made it, which is often His way. Flemming Petersen is from Denmark, speaks excellent idiomatic English, is 30 and walks big distances. Here he was having walked already from Melide and being tired he was delighted to be able to slow down and chat with a geriatric (hey, 65 means I´m officially old).
Let´s put this in perspective. Last time I took 4 days to walk the same distance as I have walked in 2 this time, because I actually made it, with no apparent damage though greater than the usual aches and pains, to Monte del Gozo! Last time the final 17 km I thought would never end but Flemming helped me a lot today. He walked 50km(!) for the day and I 34km, another personal best which will likely stand for ever.
The first night here is free but we have to pay 7€ a night for up to two more nights - not bad. (I´ll be pretty cross if they make me pack up and move tomorrow, but it will still be cheaper to stay here.) The place is huge with dormitory accom. for 2800. There are shops, a tiny Supermercado, hairdressing place, coffee shop/bar, and a self-service cafeteria. Fl and I had a hamburger with the lot for 2.75€, then went next door for more. The prices are very reasonable so I am surprised the Guide says that the place is expensive.
I will go in by bus tomorrow and spend the day there - Pilgrim Mass at midday, Correos (PO) if it is open, planning my next itineraries at the Information Centre, shopping for family gifts, (please pretend to like them and fall on them with glad cries) and of course finding the right venue for my HB Party.
Our paths the last few days have largely been through forests of native trees including oak, beech and elm, and large quantities of eucalyptus. Sometimes it has been extraordinarily beautiful, with the branches arching above, vines winding around trunks, and grasses filling the gaps. While the surface varied, mostly it has been gravel and sands, with leaf litter in the forests. The closer we got to MdG to uglier it became, which is really why I don´t want to walk again into Compostela. It is dreary, dreary, dreary until you walk through the gate to the old city.
Last night as I looked out the fifth storey window over the distant, misty hills I was struck with sadness to think the grand adventure is almost at an end. Monday will probably see my departure and most of the people I now think of as friends I will never see again. Charlie and Diana have invited us to to stay with them, Jenny, so our planned visit to NZ will be even more interesting.

Still, it´s not the end of life but a beginning. If I have learnt anything on the Camino this time apart from relearning to unhesitatingly trust in a God who loves me and cares for me, it is to take one day at a time, one section at a time, one step at a time.
God bless you all

Thursday, August 13, 2009


There´s nothing wrong with my memory, I just can´t get in contact with it reliably! Yesterday we passed the first eucalyptus tree and it was a great joy to me. Today we encountered some new plantations, which surprised me, since they have long since escaped into the Galician countryside and in some areas become the dominant species after having been introduced 90 or so years ago. Spaniards are not big on timber homes, concrete and brick being more their style, and their timber workers are just not geared to the use of such hard timbers. I guess they are using them for fuel.
Yesterday´s Pension was quite good and at only 10€, very popular among those who found it. Sabina from S Africa found it and brought her daughter Stephanie and me. I found the further 10 people. Why me and not the owners? The lass turned up at 10.35pm to collect the rent! If they just had someone hanging around the albergue they´d fill the place every night.
I ate out with Sabrina, Stephanie, and Sergio from Brazil. The pulpo was good but not as good as the first time. Apparently the best place to eat it is in Melide and since we passed through there today I think I´ve had my last octopus meal for a while. The Santiago tart is good and I´ve enjoyed several pieces. It´s an almond tart with a stencil of St J´s cross on top and is very popular.
I had my Carrix and sac transported to Arzua 29km away, dropping it off at 7:30am. Walking without it or a backpack is a relative breeze. Quite a bit of today´s walk was up and down hill and those with sacs were struggling. The transport man pronounced the Z in Arzua as a"t" with a touch of "th" to it.
Met up with Lee on the way. I was walking at 5km per hour and caught her after 2 hours. She had left at 6:00am. We were both pleased to see each other. Part of our conversation was on old time remedies. She has a book about rememdies grandma knew. Several concern the use of urine. She told me that for the first time today she tried one of the remedies. She used her own urine to wet her socks as she was walking using shoes she had not used for weeks. The idea is to prevent blisters. Hmm. So I told her of Jenny´s grandma´s diary in which she said that her mother kept a spotless house except for the cobwebs under the porch. These were used on cuts and abrasions to help the blood clot. Oh, said Lee, I use onions for that. Apparently she cut her finger to the bone once, grabbed an onion and found the membrane between the layers. She then pinched the skin together, pressed the membrane over the cut, and it healed with no scar! I left her at Melide as she was not sure how far she could walk, and I HAD to get to Arzua or be without all my necessaries. I hope to meet her again before I leave Compostela.
Then joy of joys bumped into Jean, Deanne, and Barry and walked along with them. Jean told me they were staying in Hostal Rua. After picking up the Carrix from a Repsol service station I found it was on the way. A room with baño is 25€. Fantastic. The hostal is nearly new and very nice indeed, but the baño was only a ducha - a shower not a bath. Still I had a really good shower and lay down for a bit. In fact, I went out to it for an hour. And here I am, on the computer in a new large facility that includes a children´s play area, a smaller version of Rare Bears in Hartwell.
I´ll head off to the albergue to see who´s there and then eat. It´s 6:40 pm now with the sun still shining as it will until after 10pm. This arvo as we walked Jean told me the stack with bells on it is a foxglove and she believes them to be wild. They are remarkably big since most wildflowers are quite small. The closer we got the more misty it became and the temperature has also dropped. I hope this does not indicate a change to rain. We have been very fortunate so far and are quite happy to remain fortunate, thanks very much.
Tomorrow I expect to walk only 18 km to Arca which will leave 14 or so to Monte de Gozo. This is a monster facility to accommodate 2800 pilgrims plus those who camp. The first night is free and there are buses to Compostela so both those ideas attract. I don´t expect to be many days in Compostela. The arrangement is to meet friends outside the cathedral on Saturday, 7pm and I´ll go there on Sunday at 7pm as well. Then will begin the grand tour, and frankly I have no idea where or what I will go and see. There´s too much! sob.
And with that note of pretend regret, I move on.
All the best to you

Saturday, August 8, 2009


G´day Pholks
Bro Allan says he received only the word "We" for 29 so I hope it actually got to others in fully form. Unfortunately the computers were down at Portomarin so I could not write yesterday.
Set out to Porto on the track but the first section had several very steep sections so I took the road option as soon as I could. This was not a good choice as it was not well marked and longer, the last 9 km seeming to take forever. All beds in Albergue were taken but they opened the old school building and i got a bottom bunk. The showeres were not so much warm as uncold but I braved them. Ate out with four Canadians - Anne and John, and a mother and daughter whose names I have never known. Frankly, it´s not the first thing we pilgrims ask or say but it is remiss of me to have not asked. A week ago I bought a thriller book called 24 Hours about a kidnapping. It is very engaging, but I wondered if it were the trigger for the TV series 24? Halfway through. Read a big section last evening and slept very well. That shows how tired I am.
Left at 7:15 this morning and on the way met Lee, the Czech woman married to an American whom I had assumed had come to grief crossing the route Napoleon. As it is, she did exactly what I did - walked to Valcarlos on April 25, and so on. She had far too much weight and has shipped home (to Luxemburg) at least 5kg. It was excellent to see her. She walking slowly but clearly welcomed a chat. This slowed me down and together we devoured the kms. The 24km for today was the most she had walked and she was delighted. We walked the whole way on the track which was in very good condition and mostly level.
Lee told me that as Germans living in the Sudetenland in 1945, she aged 9, her younger sister, brother, and her mother had to pack their belongings and were shifted in cattle trucks close to the border. They then had to walk for days (she can´t remember how long) before reaching East Germany. She and the others played hide and seek while their mother toiled up and down the mountains with a backpack and all the belongings they could pack in it. Her mother had packed a new backpack but it was stolen and so had to use an old one with leather straps that dug in. They had to hand over their house keys and any jewellery before being trucked away. Even while Lee played she felt guilty and feels now that one of the driving reasons behind her camino was to be at one with her mother´s experience. Her mother is still alive.
We arrived at Palas de Rey to find no bottom bunks available but managed after some time to find single beds, she in a sort of hotel for 18€, and me in a Pension for 10€. I have a single room, sheets, and towels. Not having to unpack and then pack again the sleeping bag and liner is like a holiday in itself.
The computers are in a cafe and cost 2€ for 66 mins which is quite fair. Yesterday and today we have seen large purple bell-like flowers arranged up stalks. They are so large they look like garden escapes and I suppose it is possible they are, but there are so many! Today we saw brilliant yellow flowers with 4 waxy petals, and huge quanitites of purple heather. It was sunny the whole time but with a good breeze. We are having marvellous weather with only three wet days. Quite amazing.
In this same cafe, on arrival we saw Barry, Deanne and Jean, but they have moved on another 5km. I forgot to have my bag shipped today so I did not have had the energy to go with them. Anyway, I have invited them to my birthday party in Compostela. I´ll supply the Santiago tart and maybe subsidise the bill. It will be good to celebrate with others, though on the train to Bari in 2000 was an unforgetable experience.
Time to go. God bless you all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


We´ve been walking through the hills and there has been no internet available - hence no e-mails from me.
We worked it so when faced with the steepest climb on the Camino, we were close to it - about 10km to O Cebreiro. Most of us paid a taxi to take our bags to the top and believe me it was a wonderful feeling to just step out with only the daypack. The first 1.5 hours were beautiful, on well-marked tracks well off the main road. Then it got steeper but we just slowed down and strolled. I was with a group of 4 Canadians married to each other (you work it out!) and we had a great time chatting. Then we were in misty clouds, climbing through a chestnut forest. Suddenly we were there! The only person complaining was Barry from NZ who carried his backpack, so that must be the difference. The book said that experienced walkers should allow 3 hours and we did it in 2h45, so in a sense it was anticlimactic. There was quite loud Celtic music playing (the Galicians are proud of their Celtic origins) and Gregorian chant in the church. There must have been four cafes and more tiendas in what is a tiny place. Two German pilgrims wondered when the first MacDonalds would appear on the Camino. Tourist buses rolled in and out, and all the while the fog was fairly dense with visibility down to 100 m. We all decided to walk on to Fonfria because there was a rumour new albergue there. We set off, cresting two ridges (Alto de San Roque and Alto de Poio) over 1200m high. Then we dropped down to Fonfria - about 27km for the day, about 5km more than my body enjoyed. Yes, the albergue was new and matched with a new restaurant both built by the same family. There is no shop ... get the picture? The four Canadians and I booked in with a guy (7€ each), grabbed our bunks and unpacked when in rolled the hospitallera. It was fiesta time for Corpus Christi (o no, we groaned) and no doubt she had been otherwise occupied. No, we could not use those bunks as they were reserved for a touring group of kids. Well, after a lot of tooing and froing she relented and when the kids came, some of them were bused back to Hospital (a village, not an institution). When Barry, Deanne and Jean arrived there were only private rooms available, the ones which had been offered to us. They took them gladly, so all were happy. For dinner I bypassed the Menu del Dia and had instead Pulpo, the great Galician signature dish. Pulpo is octopus and you will be pleased to know it was chopped up and cooked. Actually it was wonderful, leaving the impression of having been cooked in wine, with a light touch of virgin olive oil. I will certainly be having it again. The pieces were mainly discs around 1 - 1.5cm thick and had a lovely not-too-chewy texture. It cost 8€ and as I had only bread and water with it, the price for the meal was still most reasonable.
The wax ear plugs are great! I had a sound sleep and heard nothing of the fiesta. Barry said the band stopped at 4am. Next morning we walked through Triacastela (which has no castles and certainly not three), through Renche which was having its CC fiesta on the Sunday, to Samos where we enjoyed a guided tour of San Julian monastery, and the 6 o´clock mass. Apparently almost the entire monastery was burned out in 1959, but the walls were fine so it was rebuilt pretty much as it had been. This is the place whence set forth in the mid 19th c, Don Salvador to found the Benedictine monastery at New Norcia some way out of Perth. He is described as Apostol do Australia.
The monks singing was not fine as 5 yrs ago so I think they need a music director. A hesitant and feeble organ accompanied the singing which was dominated by the monk/priest who runs the shop, and the president of the service who last time was cantor. There are only 15 monks now but about a third are young (monjes in Spanish, with nuns monjas). OK, it was CC, so after the service there was a procession out from the church and through the cloister. Everyone joined in and the wafer representing Christ´s body was held in a dazzling monstrance, with a pall held over it by 6 men of the town. The women walked before the monstrance bearing candles. (Monstrance has the same root as demonstrate, not monster. Thought I´d sort that out for you.) I asked Deanne what she thought and she was ecstatic as it took her back. Apparently her church no longer processes.
I ate with two women from South Africa. They are recently divorced, I would say, and heard of the camino only months ago. They are walking to clear their heads, enjoy the simplicity, and work out what is important. We all had the M del D and it was OK. We felt sorry for the poor waitress as she was alone and literally running. I had bean soup and 4 rings of calamari and chips. Pulpo was better. (Later I saw the hired help having 8 rings, so it pays to work there.)
Arrived in Sarria in 2.5 hrs and chose the only one of the 5 albergues in the same street to be open. 6€ plus 6€ for washing and drying clothes. That´s fine.
Walking into the city centre I passed the Centro do Culturo, bowled into this old school where there were no signs or sings of life. Eventually found 2 people on the third floor, one of whom brought me to the ground floor and in through a blank-faced door to a library. (Now, don´t advertise you´ve got a library - someone may actually want to use it!) Sure enough, they have two fast computers with Net access and NO CHARGE! WhooHOO! That´s what I call cultured.
I hope this arvo to have my pics transferred from chip to CD ROM. I´ve pruned the number down to around 700, I think, so it will be a good insurance policy. You know, I have only had to charge my battery twice? Pretty good.
A couple of weeks ago Manfred and I swapped aphorisms. Mine was, A traveller may lie by authority, while M´s was (probably from Dante) A traveller has no shame. Folks, while I MAY lie by authority, all I tell you is the truth, but it is true that we travellers have no shame. You should see the piles of rubbish we leave by the road. And we wee by the track and get changed in our dormitories. We are all terribly discreet and nobody perves (an action done by a perverted person), but I am sure the attitudes will change back home.
Yesterday as I walked by the road I studied the grasses alongside me. There were flowers in abundance with whites, bright yellows, russets, reds, and browns, and the grasses themselves ranged from new growth in light greens to yellows and browns. Through it all there was the wild life - birds, butterflies, ants, spiders - and I thought how as I child in class I had painted my pictures with green grass and blue sky. We have to learn to observe, and have to time for it. I wonder how often we notice a fabulous sunset or rejoice in the new growth of spring? Of course we do when away from home and especially in a new environment. I know I need to make time for this. So often I just don´t see anything except what i have to do.
God bless you all

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Yesteraday was SO HOT! But it remained so into the night. This morning the first person left, banging the door, at 4:00. The next repeated the early morning call at 5:00 so I got up, dressed, had breakfast etc before 6:00 at which time I was able to pack. A bunch of us left at 6:30 and after the usual hassle of getting out of the town, we were on the track beside the road. With the opening of the motorway much of the traffic has gone anyway so walking beside the road was notn so interesting or attention-demanding as the fact we were walking beside a swiftly flowing river and a strip forest. We made good time and I was in Vega de la Valcarce by 10:30. The new Brazilian albergue did not open until 1:00 so I walked to the municipal one, booked, had shower, washed, had lunch, all before 1:00.
Then there was some serious bed rest and book reading. Actually just before that was the most dramatic event of the day for me. I removed a plaster from my smallest left foot toe and thought decent advice was needed. When I showed the Farmacist (my spelling is WRECKED!) she said O my God and she wasn´t being an American teenager for the day. The toe is pink to just beyond the joint and is then a ghastly white. I will lose the toenail eventually and she impressed upon me the necessity of keeping it Iodined. So, iodine, gauze, and something to keep the gauze in place, changed twice a day. Oh well, so long as it doesn´t become infected, and I can continue walking.
The albergue is OK - a bit old and rundown but the kitchen is open on one side, there is a small eating area, a large open room with stadium seating and too few WCs. The newer one is better, but I´m not complaining. Vega is a tiny place but well eqipped with three banks, two supermercados and one tienda, a panaderia, and a couple of cafes. In summer "they" dam the river and there is a most pleasant swimming area and shaded resting place.
Tomorrow several of us are having our bags taken to O Cebreiro so we can walk the hardest steepest climb of the Camino relatively unencumbered. I will still take water, a little food, poncho, and something warmish as the weather can change up there in an instant.
Time to go prepare the meal.
God bless you all.