Sunday, 29 April 2012

Connecting Dots

 After the dull very cold winter daughter number 2 Jenny brought the sunshine with a weekend visit and having decked her out in my oversize waterproofs we walked the 10k circular walk passed the Norfolk overflow system which were minus the mating swans seen for the last 3 years at this time of year,I still haven't seen them and fear for their safety
 but this day I was more concerned for my own well being having spent the winter in virtual hibernation and this was my first run out of the year having drank too much of the wine the night before and trying out the new boots for the first time,only now 2 months later do I feel comfortable in

         As I slowly woke up to this new-year my 65th or if your counting right my 66th-wow where did the time go? time to get moving before I myself get tangled up in the wire. The first to get into shape was the garden in the hope that I would benefit  from the exercise,I'm sure I did but it was hard work-the petrol mower needed fuel and a 10km round trip to the nearest garage on foot no car (memo buy car this year) having filled the 5ltr can carried in my backpack home passed the US military base feeling more like a suicide bomber than a gardener-made it home only to fail to start the mower that had sat outside all winter-after two hours of using my manly skills to no avail gave up and sat in the sun reading a book
it took a few days to get the Garden looking OK,just in time for me to host my first visitors  on couch-surfing,a young couple walking in the area,a great experience and one I will repeat,so anyone out there fancy visiting Norfolk (gardening maybe involved)        
I  spent the next  few days trying to organise a 9 day walk on the Camino with my youngest son Thomas,found it quite hard having to think about others and their needs plus it seemed a lot harder planing a shorter walk,where to fly to and flight home plus bus connections
the cheapest options by far was to fly in to Lourdes and home via Santander-90 euros in total return for both of us-result-the downside was its difficult to get access to French timetables on line for anything other than the high speed trains,( tip-go through the German train sites for French routes) I had to come up with plan A B and C
Plan B is what we went for-train to Oloron-bus to Canfranc Estacion-walk to Jaca-and then bus to Pamplona-walk to Logrono-bus to Bilbao and the Guganhime and home via Santander phew-being a bit of a control freak I had every bus and train connection filed in my little black book.
the reason for the bus between Oloron and the train station at Canfranc (An international border crossing,a station of such beauty it was used in the film Doctor Zhivago) was the French tore up the connecting rails after the Spanish kept undercutting their fares!
The station at 1500mts  now stands boarded up and empty?? as did the Alburge (closed for the weekend?) so we walked downhill the 5km into Canfanc itself in poring cold rain but a very warm welcome in the Casa rural-12 euros each,it felt good to be back in Spain.

I regret not walking over the Pyranees via Samport the bus journey itself was spectactual and a return is a must I feel.
The 20km walk down into Jaca started in snow and finished in sunshine and mostly followed a river with high gorge like drops at time.No people met on the way and just a few in the decent Albergues,including Fr Colin Rothery from Dublin newly ordained and a good man  

While waiting for the Bus to Pamplona-Tom went to get some money and discovered he had left his visa card at home #### so had to sub him for the rest of the journey
   walking the short 5km out of Pamplona to our nights stay at Cizur Menor felt good and for Tom the fact there was a lot more Pilgrims and mostly a younger crowd was welcomed too.


I had never stayed at this Albergue and even at 10 Euros was good value with a great garden in which to catch the evening sun-by the evening the place had filled up,and by the time shared meals and wine had been consumed and some songs sung they already felt like family,every one familiar to people met on previous Camino's


The next days walk up and over the hill into Puente la Reina was a good day and Toms first full day on this Camino.
 Cheri a middle-aged women from Florida was in tears at the top-she wore a back-brace and her pack was too heavy (it included 3 large spiritual books!) but she carried no guide-I gave her my old 2009 guide and sat with her awhile I hope she makes it to Santiago.

We stayed in the Municiple Albergue in Puente la Reina another first for me-and at 4 euro great value
 also a great garden which we used as the afternoon sun came out-stayed out in it too long and both of us caught the sun-in Toms case quite badly.
 Tom has Alapecia and no bodily hair-he has gone from  Rastafarian dreadlocks to looking more like a Buddhist monk. So me with my bald pate and Tom with his-our heads were soon burned and too late lotion was applied

As there was a big football game on a few of us went to the local bar to watch among them James from Ireland 19 years of age who had just spent the last two years living in Mexico and spoke perfect Spanish-I was well impressed-going on his own to Mexico aged 17 wow-he had hurt his knee and was resting up on doctors orders for the next 3 days-I had to confess to him that this man of a certain age gained a sad satisfaction from this.
also among the crowd was Kristos 27 from Austria who was to walk with me and Tom for the next 2 days  he was a drummer similar to Tom but in his case a professional,a quite man who had given up drink while on the Camino after partying too hard in his rock band and while touring with a "Stomp" group from Austria,when asked he would talk about it but didn't like to,he was a good man-and I hope he is still walking strong.

Estella was to be the highlight of the walk for Tom-he loved the Parochial Albergue there and the shared meal and conversations with people from all over the world.For some reason I also have always liked this town with its large square full of life-I was taken by a small apartment for rent overlooking this square-who knows maybe next year?
During the meal Tom was deep in conversation with a Russian couple just back from India (they thought Tom was a Buddhist) I was deep in conversation with a woman from Poland who turned out to be a Judge,she had sentenced 3 people to life imprisonment this year so far and said she was ready if I tried committing any offences I wasn't sure she was joking
The next days walk into Los Arcos was hard a cold wet day with the long 9km stretch at the end of the day with no bars and no shelter. Stayed in the municipal Albergue,again a new one for me.
        Passing through the Square I was stopped by an old guy selling a carved walking staff, I had met this man each time I have walked the Camino and always said no thank you-the staffs have always been of very-good quality-but I always prefer to find my staff laying at the side of the tree lined paths.
   Later that evening I saw him walk into the Albergue with a more ornate staff and leave with it sold.
The hospitalaro had commissioned this piece a beautiful coloured carved staff with all the towns of the Camino depicted.
 he told me this man a retired Shepperd had taken 5 full days to carve this piece and had not sold one of his normal pieces in the town for a whole week.He paid 50 euros for this commissioned staff and thought it a true work of art,I had to agree

the planned walk into Logrono was cut short and due to time constrants had to catch the bus in Samos after a final walk of only 7km,I was sad to be leaving the Camino and the people got to know so well in so short a time.

 they walk still and my thoughts are with them

                                                                                           Spent a good day and night in Bilbao with a room with beds and a TV for Tom good value at 35 euros in the old town,walking out that night took this pic of the old Feve train station-Tom got quite excited by the same view but for different reasons.
a well known graffiti artist famous for his mosaic pieces of space invader like figures had adorned the building-it made Tom's week?? its on the right -low down