Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Full Circle

I started this blog in 2008 and walked my first Camino in 2009 with my now ex wife,a short walk of 5 days on the English way,this September using that very first unfilled Credencil I walked the 2nd half of the Norte and then up from Oporto on the Portugese,the Passport was filled and also myself,it was enough the circle was complete time to move on,So thank you to all that have read this blog it was good to read your comments. I,m sure I will walk again somewhere it's in my blood now,but as far as this blog goes its enough.
    So goodby and thanks for all the fish
    see you on the road somewhere

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Day one June 2009 plus O Cebreiro and Hills of Leon

just wanted to put this music to my first day on the Camino and beyond to remind myself on this cold wet English day the reasons I walk

Monday, 8 October 2012

Via Francigena and Beyond

Late July I took up an offer on Couchsurfers to attend a free weeks camping at an eco farm two hours drive south of Rome near the village of Pescosolido  my first time in Italy,so why not start walking from there I thought-up through Italy on the via Francigena turn left at the top walk the coast through into France and then on to Santiago from Arles,seemed like a good idea at the time but what I didn't allow for was that the months of August and September had the highest temperatures ever recorded in Italy 40c plus.
the idea of camping for the week was for me to acclimatise to this heat and do a little local walking but spent most of the week partying with my fellow campers drawn from all over the world,its not that I drink too much,I'm just a social drinker that happens to be very social.
   the walk through Italy was a very solitary walk,only one other person met walking the same way Boris from Belgium who was joined for one week by his friend Bert later on the way,any other Pilgrims where walking to Rome, apart from sweet Sabina from Germany who brightened up my stay in Siena while making her way to Jerusalem.My most used Italian word at this time was "contrario" which I used to tell people I was going backwards from Rome which they found very strange.
My overwhelming memories apart from the heat and the beauty of Tuscany was the generosity of the monks nuns priests and locals who provided food and a bed for the night-mostly free.To walk into a town to be met by locals who somehow knew you where on your way and shown your bed for the night was truly humbling and on more than one occasion brought this cynical old man to tears.
 wandering round one town looking for the Parochial two priests drew up in a car (they had been looking for me) phoned the hospitilaro who rode into town on his bike opened up the spotless accommodation and then told me breakfast could be had free in a local bar as well as a cheap menu in the same bar that night
this hospitality was mirrowed in many small villages who truly took great pride in housing the Pilgrim-I was mostly on own in these places but never felt lonely.
these sheep walking slowly across my path create a dust storm as I did with every step on this hot dusty path
Farmers water the fields as I view my destination high in the hazy sky
so much of the way was down tree lined dirt roads like this,the heat seeming like an open oven as you walked from one shadow to the next
another Tuscan hill-hoping my bed was atop a smaller one

forgot my camera was on video mode
I love this square in Siena seen after the big horse race-the quarter than won vowed to party for 28 days (the number of years since they last won) I found out later my bed for the night was smack bang in the middle of this quarter,I had stayed out late eating melon and ham and drinking cold beers with Sabina while the sun set-we strolled sated and tired to our home for the night to be met by the local band,whose speciality was the drums-they played till dawn-happy days!!
climbing the big big hill up to Radicofani very little shade and no water doh,the Hospitalis was one of the best on the trip,spent the evening drinking wine with the volunteer's while watching what seemed like the whole village playing bingo in the main square,very surreal and a fitting end to a hard but beautiful day

Village fiesta in Pescosolida the people in the foreground were fellow campers from the couch-surfing Eco farm,one young Canadian whose Grandparents had emigrated from this town was made guest of honour got to meet so many relatives and was totally blown away by the whole experience
Marble statues everywhere in Italy,this one seemed very camp to me
      made me think of my own hedge at home and the hedge-trimming waiting for my return
                 Everybody looking for something
                    the Amphitheater in Lucca on "white night" when all the municipal buildings and museums are open and free-another excuse to party with a band in this great square dreaming of owning one of the flats
           Leaving Lucca you have a slow 5km Sunday stroll along the river till reaching this bridge what I didn't realise was the road forward would take me up and over those hills in the background
            halfway up the hill was this restaurant, made me smile as I wiped the sweet from my brow,its only since getting home trying to find out if purgatory was the English version of this restaurants name and getting sidetracked to Dante and "The Divine Comedy" and his hill made up of the 7 sins  and that purgatory is the place between death and the next world were they figure out your destination and if need be prepare you for Hell, The judgement on me must have been OK because my bed for the night was the Parrocchia in Valpromaro,this place an old priests house was sheer heaven,the Hospitilaro lived in the top half,pilgrims had the ground floor,she met me at the door and showed me the best stocked kitchen I have ever seen,told me to make full use of all the food showed me the donotive box and left me too it, a 3 euro bottle of wine from the local bar,an evening sat out in the garden watching the sunset this Virgil was sated.
              Finally made it over the top and on the downward side only to see more hills in the background
             you spend so much time walking through olive groves and vineyards,to the little old wine drinker me I loved drinking wine on a evening that I had walked through that day
          did think of doing a couple of laps round this sports field but thought better of it,just liked the colours and the setting
          a hilltop bar in Tuscany trying to decide on ice-cream or a quick getaway on the Vesper-vroom vroom
    From the beginning early morning shot of St Peters square in Rome,one hour later it was packed,I had tried to get a credencial in the Vatican behind the post office to the left having failed in the tourist office in the square behind me,had to go through 3 security points,the first one manned by armed Police, any sharp objects they asked yes I replied bringing my Opinal camping knife out of my pocket,the 3 police guys all took a step back raised weapons and ordered me not to move,I tried explaining they just shouted louder and kept their weapons trained on me till I deposited the knife in a large bin full of dangerous plastic bottles of water-the Swiss guards waved me through at the next checkpoint despite me having a large rucksack on my back-deposited my passport in exchange for a card on a neck loop at the next and finally made it to the office of the Via Francigena group where they only had certificates for walking to Rome,"why would you want to walk away from Rome" they asked-never did get a credencial untill Radicofani 7 days down the road (just used my unfilled one got earlier in the year at Lourdes) but did manage to retrieve my knife from the large blue bin while the guards were distracted.
               I think this is the Santa Maria church in Florence,I was taking time out from the walk to meet up with Vita a Russian girl met up with at the Eco farm,a masters degree in mathematics from the aerospace university in Russia an eccentric vibrant women who was now roaming round Europe juggling fire sticks to pay her way,we had been exchanging texts,she telling me I was quite close to Florence but I could not find the place on the map ( try it) turns out in Italy its known as Firenze!!! it was good to spend time with her in these marbled halls not realising I would soon be walking through mountains of the stuff.
        2 or 3 weeks into the journey tanned and a little weight loss - I tend to date my pics by the beard growth,even the bent brush pole I bought in Rome cheap does not look out of place, I was surprised by all the greetings and buen Camino's I received while in Florence due to the shell on my pack even a bar owner took time to sit at our table to tell me of his own trip to Santiago

       loved the way the sun lights up the Marble in the early evening

            time to say goodbye to Vita and continue on the way
                  the path to Carrara-the white mountain is where the marble is quarried and transported round the world,this path is tranquil but the road into town is busy busy a hard walk alongside traffic and busy stone factories line the entire route large noisy machines slowly cutting through huge blocks of marble, large flat back lorries race up and down ferrying this stone to god knows where
            large voluptuous females riding misshaped horses, no clue to what they represent
        a welcome break from the snow blinding marble
                      the way signs all marble I swear the path through town was made up of marble chippings
                  now this one I liked smack bang in the middle of the next town my vote for fountain of the year
                 early morning walk out of town this statue standing majestic in the town square

         now turning the corner at Sarzana and following the coast to France
          up and up out of Sarzana no coastal path branched off the main road following blue arrows turned out to be a disused circular walk in the hills at one point sheer drop on one side,big signs on the other warning the area may still have land mines left over from the war,stumbled and fell my way back to the road just where I had left it covered in dust and not just my ego bruised
                  up and up on the main road through a long tunnel and this lay before me,the whole coast for the next few days was like this,little towns clinging to the rocks, to begin with just the one road in and then back out to the main road I was standing on,at first small footpaths hugged the cliff edges later a disused tramway tunnelled through the hills now a cycle/footpath that went on for 20 odd km,you would walk through these tunnels emerging every now and then to villages just like the one depicated,this coastal walk for me was the best part of the whole way,but first I had to traverse that scary looking cliff walk to my bed in the next town in the next bay round the far corner
         scary looking path and me with no head for hights,just as well this shot was taken from the small train-station platform with a 12x zoom while waiting for a 2km train ride to the next town and my bed for the night were I would first meet Boris from Belgium the only other person walking to Santiago I met
                   I think this place is Sestri Levante left the back packing hostel at 6am Boris had left at 5am,he was a powerful walker,meeting him last night he said he felt he knew me already having left Rome a week behind me slowly getting closer stopping at the same places as me hearing about the lone Englishman also walking. I love walking out of towns in the early morning feeling you have the whole place to yourself

    this town was earlier in the walk memorable for the long walk uphill on the intact Roman road the place never seeming to get any closer,my bed for the night was in the large towered building
     on this coastal walk you have the choice of heading for the hills or hugging the coast,mostly I kept to the coast (flatter)
        the people seen on my early morning walks fishermen and late night revellers making their way home
     taking a break,Boris is on the float-my swimming shorts were now to big with a tendency to slip down plus someone has to guard the belongings -well thats my excuse

    more early morning scenes the one below was young boys base jumping off the rock

            meeting us in Genova for a one weeks walk was Bert also from Belgium and a co worker of Boris,they had worked as supervisors of young men sentenced to walk the Camino as part of their sentence,Bert the permanent supervisor faced loosing his job due to cutbacks to public spending .Never got over the size of the pack that Boris carried,it was 20 kilo and the black rain cover never came off
          view from outside our "house" in Porto Maurizio, having climbed to this spot by the use of 3 escalators  to reach the convent of S Chiara we were given the keys to the house and told to come back at 7-30 to collect our dinner,in the bay below tall ships on there way round the coast-the bay had been full of them in this rich tourist town but we had been treated like royalty by the Nuns

         Having collected our dinner placed in the Red Riding Hood basket by the nuns we dined like Kings
             this could be anywhere on the route so many times you walk down tree lined canopied tunnels
              sunset in Porto Mauizio as the last private yacht makes its way to Monaco
                 Morning view making my way out of town
              So many Km this view to your left is constant
             Boris had continued on the coast I took to the hills,below is Monaco and Monte Carlo,Boris was stopped and asked 3 times for "documents" by the local Police!!!
           Back on the coast every spare inch is sold on these private beaches 15 euros a spot plus same for loungers and large Brollys one of which would have come in handy on these hot August days
           A feature of this way is the Hospitality offered by Church towns and individuals,
           one such was Francois,whom I met while taking a break at the side of a small dirt road
          and not for the first time wondering why I kept punishing myself pushing out these solitary km's
         in this blazing heat.
           having noticed the shell on my back Francois stopped his car started to tell me of his own Camino
         and asked if I fancied a break just 1km down the road where he was slowly building his own house
           he was a trusting soul so I excepted
           his nearly finished house was right on the Camino (the reason for buying the land) and was the third one this oil company worker had built, he showed me his onsite English caravan placed a drink in my hand
  and raced off to his main house to fetch his Camino photo book.
  the next hour was spent pouring over the book,sharing experiances and more drink, he'd had to split his own Camino the CF due to a very bad reaction to bed bugs (the photographs took up 2 pages)
      I then spent a hairaising ride in his mini moke (small jeap) no seatbelts small half-sized door with a wonky catch to a small private bar next to a small lake-met up with more people who had walked the way and just returned from climbing the big hill in the pic above,they then stuffed my pockets full of spare energy bars and fruit.
          and so the afternoon wore on more drink was consumed,I was just going with the flow and getting a bit concerned about the drive back-his caravan was full of photo's of a younger Francois driving rally cars-but this crazy Frenchman did get me back safe to the building site- I took up his offer of the use of the caravan which was stocked with food but mostly drink, I think building houses in his spare time was his way of escaping and having a quite place to drink-he left me the key to the caravan and sped off into the night,only to return in the morning with hot coffee and food.
           Francois is a good man and an example of the bond that all who walk the Camino share