Monthly Archives: June 2014

“All the Creatures Big and Small”

Snake in the grass

Snake in the grass

“I Simply Remember the Beautiful Things…”

June 8, 2014

Reflecting on some observations these past few days in no particular order.

*Walking behind Abby and watching the blueish-pale grey butterflies flit around her as she unknowingly meanders down the trail. The butterflies follow her, attracted to her crazy multi purple colored pants and bright pink compression sleeves. They land on her, believing that she is a wild flower that is similar to the ones lining the side of the trail.

*Our excitement with finding different types of insects. We have spent quite some time examining the little creatures that we have ” discovered” along the way. Red with black spots winged insect that is similar to a Ladybug, but with an elongated feminine shape and not the typical squatty-body as the one seen in the States.

*We point out the various caterpillars inching along the trail or dangling from the fauna. Tiny bright green with black spots, covered with fine black hair. Black fuzzy thick ones. Orangish colored ones.

*We spent about 20 minutes observing a teeny tiny snake located in a garden bed by a park bench. No one else noticed its presence. They were too busy rushing by and not looking down. I was resting, waiting to be checked into an Albergue in Pamplona, when I spied the creature nestled amongst the green fauna. At first, I thought it to be a long earthworm, but as I studied it, I could make out its triangle shaped head. Abby and I watched as a teeny-tiny snail sat on top of its head. We wondered out loud what reaction would occur. The snail toppled off, the snake’s tongue flicked out, and it’s body wrapped up to continue sunbathing in the humid garden. All of this being watched over by an orangish-tan colored lizard sitting high up on an old cement pillar.

*Listening to the birds tweet in song. Beginning early in the morning and continuing late into the evening. The buzz of the bees. Big huge chunky black and yellow globs that makes you wonder how they are able to fly, but they do. Traveling from one flower to another, poking their bodies deep inside a flower, emerging with pollen dust on their head.

We meander along taking delight in these sights as others hurry by like the Mad Hatter focused intently on not being late to arrive at their next destination. For us, we have arrived and are enjoying sauntering along and watching the creepy crawlies proceed at their own pace.

We are at one with these insects and small creatures that live alongside The Way.

We Will Rock You

Rocky road

Rocky road

“We Will Rock You”
June 7, 2014

After “Spa Day” we slept in our nice cozy beds as the wind howled like a French Banshee woman ( I am so going to keep this phrase going throughout this blog) and rain drizzled down off and on, we woke to a glorious morning. I’m chalking it up to me praying that we have excellent weather for walking over “The Hill” as I am extra cautious when it comes to mud, loose rocks and water streaming down trails. I have fallen/slid 15-20 ft off the side of a snowed in trail in the High Sierras, ran over a small pine tree ( ouch!) and when I came to a stop by a boulder, the snow gave out beneath me and I was stuck. My dad had to climb down and pull me out, due to me having no leverage at all to pull myself out and the weight of my backpack kept me down. I was 16. I am now 48. Sliding down a muddy trail or slipping on wet rocks…yup a concern of mine.

Anyway, we packed up and left at 7:30 am. Once again, a German came to my rescue for my backpack. He is an engineer. I told/ showed him the problem with the one shoulder strap that continues to slip. He decided that it was probably due to oils from my fingers which has loosened the strap. Needs to be scrubbed with soap and dried. Well…maybe later I can do this, but no help now. So he fixed it by tying the strap into a knot to keep it from slipping through the buckle. It WORKED the whole way!

Carrying my pack is working out ok. We continue to trudge along. The trail today that we were going to hike keeps going up and up and up…but not as steep as the Pyrenees. The view is one that is seen in all the Camino pictures-the Alto del Perdon featuring the wrought iron sculptures of medieval pilgrims, up by the HUGE wind turbines. We wanted this picture too and we were gifted with a beautiful day to take pictures as well as to walk. We arrived at the Albergue Camino del Perdon, in Uterga by 1:30 and walked about 11km. The descent was done all on loose rocks. Took careful time descending. My tendons on the top of my feet are inflamed and swollen. I’m soaking them in cold water and will elevate. Just not worth pushing ourselves (me) another 7km to end up where others we have been hanging with are going. I am listening to my body. It said “Stop. Now!”

Nope, we did not go as far as others are going. I am in awe with those whom stride by us, some with heavier packs than ours. A great many people in their late 60’s-70’s, just moving along like we are really slugs. I am greatly impressed. But like I have learned in having conversation with them, they have been hiking mountain terrain forever. One young woman from Norway told me that her parents did the Camino twice with the entire family in their teens and this was her third time. She said that they grew up climbing mountains daily and that is a way of life.
Not like us Americans. We drive our off- spring to school two blocks away because they might be late. We drive everywhere, even though we could walk the distance.

I have been having great conversations with lots of people from outside of the states. They are quite interesting. For example, when they come to CA ( and there is a package deal that seems to be the norm that Europeans purchase- Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco- drive Hwy 101) and rent a car, they are blown away with how large a compact size is and when they upgrade to economy size they feel completely swallowed up. One woman said that when they came home from their trip, her mom got into their teeny car and was disgusted with it. She wanted the American one. Also are the comments about the size of food portions that are served. And the coffee size and the Coke size. “So big…I ask for a large and they serve it in a bucket!” One man stated. “That’s America for you. We like big and cheap,” I said. We all laughed.

Our Camino isn’t like the others whom we have met. It is working for us. We have the luxury of time to slow down and meander along. We have no problem with the thought of taking a bus. That isn’t seen as a failure or cheating. It is an adventure! Many of the Pilgrims are on a time schedule due to vacation days. Others are caught in a race mentality. A great many are under the belief that they HAVE to follow the guidebook layout in order to be “successful.” To each their own as we maneuver across this rocky terrain, aka life.

 

Spa Day- Our Way-On the Hwy

We are doing the Camino spa style

We are doing the Camino spa style

Spa Day
June 6, 2014

Ok…this might not look like the Korean Spa, but we do have similar ingredients-salt, vinegar and cold water. I will also be scrubbing our feet with pumice and than rubbing down both feet and legs with Vaseline. Feels great on our feet and ankles. Might even do this treatment again before bed.

We packed up our bags and headed out to the post office in Pamplona. They opened at 9 am and we already knew that by the time we started to climb “the hill” it would be very hot. Others who were going onto La Reina had said to avoid doing this in the heat of the day.

While on the way to the post office, a large group of middle school students were walking by us. Some girls stopped us to interview us…really they were more interested in interviewing Abby. Their assignment was to interview pilgrims in their native tongue. The teacher told me that the point of the assignment was to teach the students that they needed to know more than Spanish and English in order to be a pilgrim. She was their French teacher. The Spanish government heavily encourages their young people to walk either the full Camino or at least the last 100km ( the amount one has to walk in order to receive the Compostela) as this looks good on their resume when applying for the university and even for a job.

This took some time, but we enjoyed helping them fulfill their assignment. Afterwards, the teacher walked us to the post office. Ok, this was yet another experience in why you should familiarize yourself with the written language in the country you are traveling to. When you pack too much stuff ( it isn’t crap…it is good quality stuff that is needed for the Camino, but hey…every ounce counts!) and need to send it home, you have to fill out a form. And don’t count on having a friendly, English speaking postal worker to help you out. I will tell you right now, THAT is not going to happen.

We stuffed the box. Weighed the box. Gasped at the price to send the box home. Purged the box. Re-weighed the box and found it to still cost a lot, but it was doable for 36€. Yes…please go to my go fund me site and stick some more money into the account.
After we finished, we had the stuff leftover in the Ikea bag. So we placed the bag on a bench in the park. Someone will appreciate the good stuff within…unless the police are called for a bomb report.

Finally made it on to the Camino. We stopped at the fruit stand, the bread shop, the market. Then we had to find a restroom. We found it at the university AND we even got a cool Camino stamp on our credential for peeing!

Onto we walked. We are staying at this beautiful Albergue Roncal in Cizur Menor that is a family home. The gardens are way beautiful. Our feet. Our soul. Our body…they are all thinking us. Well worth the 10€ For each of us to stay here instead of the 4€ place down by the historic church. No bed bugs here.

So after walking 4km or 6km ( depends on the book you use) we parked ourselves for a nice rest stop before climbing over “the hill” which we will take on early in the morning.

 

Ja, Das ist Gut

One step at a time

One step at a time

“Ja. Das ist Gut”

June 6, 2014

We walked and walked and then walked some more, but we made it to Pamplona!
We wanted to stay at the Casa Paderborn Albergue for two reasons, it was inexpensive (6€) and it is ran by the German confraternity which meant it would be very clean and have no bed bugs.
Took some time trying to find the place. The directions say to go over the bridge, but we went over the wrong bridge several times. Ended up in a park and walked around and around. We saw the horse ranch, the miniature pony ranch, fantastic vegetable garden…but no albergue…until we crossed over yet another bridge and found it! We scored the last two beds ( mats on the floor for us) at 1:15 pm.

I must say that Abby had great time putting her high school and McDonald Spanish to use. She was asking for directions, held conversations with a variety of people. The older Spanish men are fascinated with Abby. The older Spanish women find me amusing. All are in awe that we are traveling together as mom and daughter.

The German hostess, upon seeing me struggling with my pack, quickly took it off and promptly weighed it. The let out a yelp. 13k! I have no idea how that happened. Mine had weighed 10kg at home. So, I was directed ( in a nice manner) to go up stairs and purge the pack and not go out until it was done. After of course having a shower and washing laundry.

Abby and I purged together. She is sending home her New Balance walking shoes. She prefers the Keens sandals. We are sending home our journals. This will become our journal. We purged ounces that accumulated to 5kg. We will donate it and also send home the rest. We weighed my pack again ( without water) 9 kg. The German hostesses rejoiced with me. Hugged me and kissed my forehead. Yes…instant gratification for pleasing someone.

Then the set about to fix my backpack, adjusting straps, pulling here, snapping there. Germans are very efficient. I know. I am one. However, I must say that the ones I have met out here are in most excellent shape and very punctual in most every manner.

We went up to the Plaza. Saw the HUGE bullfighting ring. Ate some dinner and came back to treat Abby’s feet. We bought Vaseline (5€ for a tube we would pay $1 for in the U.S.) which I proceeded to give Abby a foot massage. Other pilgrims watched the procedure with envy. See…going to cosmetology school did pay off.

We will stop at the post office which opens at 9 am and then walk about 5km to Cizur Menor. It will be hot today, about 85. We will be starting late. Our ankles are getting used to walking. Abby has a blister on her baby toe. We are in no rush. Have no race to run. Plus, if we get behind and feel rushed for time, we can take the bus!

Thank you for your support and thoughts and prayers. They are helping us along the way. It is all working out even though it isn’t working out the way we had planned…but see…it does all iron out in the end. Das ist gut.

“Well Howdy There Pilgrim”

It is NOT what you think it is...well...not the whole thing!

It is NOT what you think it is…well…not the whole thing!

June 4, 2014

“Howdy Pilgrims. Suck it up.”

Well, it kinda feels like we are bad pilgrims because we took a bus, are staying in a private room, with a shower/ bathroom next door and are being fed homemade paella, with fresh bread and salad and something yummy for dessert and in the morning we get fed this great tostada potato thing that is like quiche but only better and we paid a lot for this luxury-50€.

BUT there is a good reason why we justified doing this. Several in fact. First off, after we left the most wonderful, beautiful, luxurious albergue in Roncesvalles ( ran by the collegiate church, funded by the Navarre government- the place is amazing! They will wash, dry and fold your clothes for 2.70€. One volunteer made us this delicious pasta meal, just because) it started to rain. We had been advised by pilgrims in our forum group not to risk walking down a slippery part of the trail if it was raining. All of their advice we have heeded and it has paid off by doing so. We thought we could walk a few miles to a town and catch the bus there, but we were informed that the bus left at 9:20 am and there was just one bus that picked people up along the way.
So we walked a mile to a small town and waited for the bus there. We wanted to walk to get a feel of our full packs since we hadn’t sent along the heavy stuff this time. Along the way we stopped at the mini store and picked up fresh bread, cans of coke and some salami.

The bus picked us up ( after asking directions…in Spanish…thanks to Abby) and for 3.40€ took us to Larrasona 27 km. We bypassed the slippery part, and as we drove further to the location, the rain increased. Good decision on our part. However, we arrived there so quickly we decided to put on our ponchos and set out heading towards Pamplona since it was 10:30 and we figured that this was considered an easy part, why not walk as far as we could before we rested.

Well, off we set through fields and tree covered trails that contain mud and a slippery pathway that was covered with slabs of rock that are supposed to aid those in walking, but really just make you slip when they are wet. The German group, walked very quickly along the trail. No slipping for them, but not so for us. In fact, there was barbed wire hanging out from the side of the path that caught Abby in her backside. Ouch! On top of her peewee toe that has developed a painful blister, she was not a happy camper.

So we pressed on. We came to a cafe/inn that had wifi. It was drizzly. We were hungry. Something is wrong with my backpack- it isn’t fitting right like it has done in the past. We sit to relax, eat, use the restroom, catch up on the going-ons back home and decided to stay the night. It was almost 12:30. We have walked 4 miles today. But, we have a room to ourself to air out our wounds.

Yes…in the picture is a side shot of part of my boob. Now don’t go gasping about my porno shot, you can see this when I wear my bathing suit! Anyway, last week I got bit by a bug while sleeping in the airport. Since then, it was itchy, I scratched, it festered, has kept getting wet and was being rubbed raw by my purse strap. YIKES! I have been taking care of it, but it really needs to be dry. Not like I can walk around topless in an albergue ( though the men think it is ok to wear their tiny speedos while freely walking in the sleeping area). So, Abby and I are both air drying our wounds in the comfort of our private room.

We splurge now, but will be cutting back later. It all evens out in the end. However, I am going to have to send my heavy item ahead each day due to the weight of my pack and it not working right. Now THAT is an unexpected turn of events. So go to my gofundme.com/8hte10 and help out if you feel so inclined to do so. As you have been reading, we aren’t living high on the hog.
Thank you for your comments. We appreciate your support. Due to lack of time, I am unable to answer each person, but we do read them.

 

Looks Like we Made It

Like my slugs? Let me tell you that the slugs in France have thick secretions. That goo gives super glue a run for its money!

Here is what hiking in the Pyrenees is like. I cried the first 10 minutes into the climb. If you walk up Lemon, starting on the Lion’s Field side, and keep doing this same walk over and over and over, adding in fog, mist, rain, mud, cold, rocky paths, slippery grass, hearing cow/ sheep bells but you can’t see them due to fog and ya…walking through a bunch of sheep turds, avoiding cow plops and you do this for 8 hrs until you reach 5,000 ft…then you too can climb the Pryenees.

We are pooped out. We sweated the entire way. The sunscreen melted off my face, but due to the cold and the mist, my face looked like a beard grew on it.

Love staying at the Roncevalles Monastary. Super clean. Wonderful people. First rate place for 10€ each.
We walked/climbed about 15 miles today and people passed us like we were slugs….’cause we are.

Oh…best thing I ever did ( besides taking drugs for birthing) was to pay 8€ each day for the past two days to have my backpack shipped to the places we were staying at. I couldn’t have done this with my pack. It was difficult enough to balance my daypack and myself through the muddy trails butted up to barbed wire fences and one way trips down the mountain.

Tired

Tired

Tired

Sing Songs of Praises

Rainy Sunday morning

Rainy Sunday morning

June 1, 2014

“I Will Lift You Up”

We have made friends with two pilgrims, one from Holland, Danielle (age 22) and Pierre ( age 30 something) from France. We met them at the Pilgrims office as we were sitting there waiting for our clothes to dry. They have been walking now for 7 weeks. They both started further up in France. Anyway, Danielle has a fungus in her boots due to the constant rain. Both have knee and feet issues.

We sat and talked and I told them where we planned to stay the next night as we were not going back to Banshee French woman’s place. We all decided to stay together for the next 2 nights at this wonderful, absolutely beautiful donativo ( donation) called Kaserna at 43 Rue d’ Espagne. The place is ran by Catholic volunteers who have all been on the Camino and come back to serve for 2 weeks on their vacation time. The people are friendly, sweet, nice, pleasant, helpful. Our meals ( breakfast and dinner) are cooked by them. The meal…oh…delicious! For 15€ a person this is a wonderful place to stay. We had a great evening listening to all converse in French, and then translated to us in English.

The French language is beautiful. You could be calling me a fat cow, softly speaking and I wouldn’t know it and it would sound nice. When one yells in French, there is no better language to be chewed out in…it still sounds beautiful…though the tone of anger leaves no disguise as to the anger.

Abby is feeling a lot better. We both took a 3 hour nap before dinner. We had spent the day meandering around St. Jean Pied de Port looking the village over. The architecture is amazing. The cobble stone roads worn smooth over the thousands of years of use are beautiful. It is everything that you imagine France should look like in the country. Green fields and hills doted with white sheep and yellow cows and black& white heirloom pigs ( there is a whole shop in town dedicated only to their meat!).

We are glad that plans changed and we stayed here to rest these past three days. We will go to mass inside this beautiful chapel this morning. We didn’t locate a LDS service, but we look forward to listening to mass in Basque language. It will be an adventure.

My backpack will be picked up on Monday to be taken to Orisson and it will be picked up to be taken on to Roncesvalles on Tuesday by Express Bourricot.
It is all working out.