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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Over the past 18 months or so I have read many many articles and blogs about or relating to the Camino de Santiago. Most (95%) are positive and uplifting with the emphasis on sharing the pilgrimage with fellow walkers, getting to know them, sharing experiences both good and bad, sharing a table, helping others who are struggling, cheering on those who are doing well…… regardless of whether they are walking for religious, spiritual or bucket list reasons.

But every so often whether on a group thread, a Facebook page or a forum, you’d get that one person who had missed out on the ‘spirit’ of the Camino and makes an unnecessarily negative and judgemental comment like this one I saw on the Confraternity of St James’s page: “I don’t like the cheapening of the experience by commercializing it. I walked it 3 times and it was the most extraordinary spiritual experience. Tourists on walking holiday, as long as there aren’t too many, will hopefully not ruin it for pilgrims“. I’ll leave you to make your own decision on that comment.

I remembered a thoughtful post, 10 Commandments of the Santiago de Compostela, I’d read some months ago on the Camino de Santiago forum and I’m sharing it here in it’s entirety; these are not my words, but rather the words of the writer on the forum ( I’ve added the link below):

“There are many articles offering tips for walking The Camino. This selection is one pilgrim’s views and I do not apologize for any you disagree with or for not including any you believe should be included. This is my Camino:

I. Thou Shalt Do Your Own Camino: This is a personal journey and you walk, ride, crawl for your own reasons. Walk 5k or 20k or 40k per day. There is no right or wrong. Follow your heart and soul.

II. Thou Shalt Not Judge Others: Just as this is your Camino, theirs is theirs. Big pack or no pack, 30 days or 1 day, 3000k or 10k. One man’s 40k day may be another’s 5k as there are many people on The Camino with health and other issues.

III. Thou Shalt Be Humble: Lose your ego. For many this is a life changing journey. For others a bucket list item or just a fun walk. The Camino has a Spirit and she loves humbleness and gratitude. Look for ways to be of service to other pilgrims and anyone else in need. For example; offer to carry the pack for a struggling fellow pilgrim, give a hug to someone who needs one, listen and be compassionate when a fellow pilgrim talks to you. Pick one day to give back to the Camino and carry a plastic garbage bag and pick up trash.

IV. Thou Shalt Not Overplan Your Camino: She will communicate with you via signs, people, animals, music, etc.. There are no coincidences on The Camino. Be alert. You may come across angels. Anything and everything is possible on The Camino. So be ready to veer from your plan because The Camino will provide what you need. Open your heart and she will show you your soul. The more you follow Commandment III the easier this will be.

V. Thou Shalt Open Up to Fellow Pilgrims: Of course if a Camino of solitude is your choice it is your Camino after all. However, the Camino is a special place and a key part of it’s magic are your fellow pilgrims. You will find that you keep seeing the same people and very likely The Camino wants you to connect. Get out of your comfort zone and just go introduce yourself to anyone who you have a feeling about or see more than once. By following this Commandment you will make lifelong friendships or more.

VI. Thou Shalt Start and End Wherever One Chooses: Many do The Camino in stages perhaps a week or two at a time and take years to complete it. Many start from St. Jean Pied de Port, others from Pamplona or Le Puy En Velay or Seville. Some Europeans start at their own homes. While many end at Santiago, some go on to Finisterre or Muxia at the edge of the world. Some believe if you are religious ending in Santiago is appropriate, but if you are spiritual walking on to the sea is special. A few do as the pilgrims did prior to the 1900’s and walk back home. Again there is no right or wrong.

VII. Thou Shalt Travel Light: While it is your choice the lighter your burden the easier it will be on you both physically and mentally. There are many writings on what to bring and not to bring.

VIII. Thou Shalt Stay Wherever Thy Chooses: From a tent, to a municipal auberge, to a 5 star Hotel. Remember it is your Camino. Though I agree with the purists that the auberge’s are special and put one in better position to connect with other pilgrims.

IX. Thou Shalt Not Obsess About Blisters: If you read any of the books various former Pilgrims have written, many mention suffering with blisters. Just as with traveling light there are many publications on how to deal with blisters. Focusing on prevention and applying some lubricant such as Vaseline is best but be prepared with compeed or your treatment of choice. Wear shoes or boots that YOU are comfortable with.

X. Thou Shalt Have Fun on The Camino: Perhaps for some the walk is long and arduous but for others including this peregrino it is pure joy. As you begin walking each day, concentrate on your breathing for ten to twenty minutes, in and out, to clear your mind of any worries and you will find yourself in a happy rhythm. After a long hard day, if a waiter places a whole bottle of vino tinto in front of you, drink and enjoy the company and conversation with fellow pilgrims. Don’t take yourself too seriously or these Ten Commandments. The Camino shows you how precious the gift of life is. Make the most of it.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!” From the blog of www.thesenioradventurer.com

I loved these 10 commandments and plan to keep them in mind when I’m walking.

Of course I’m definitely guilty of #4 – I’ve planned my trip almost down to the minute LOL but I’ve left some days where I’m just going to go with the wind. My biggest issue has been securing accommodation. I haven’t yet managed to just go and let the Camino provide, so to that end and keeping #8 in mind, I’ve booked all the nights of my first 6 days and the last night on the route before I get to Santiago. Mostly because I really don’t want to rush to get to an accommodation by a certain time and I found from my research that in order to get a bed at the cheapest alburgues you have to get there early and wait. I don’t to stand around waiting, I have places to explore and things to see enroute. So for me, on most days, I’ve booked ahead. I have conceded though to stay in hostels in many places, to get some of the sharing experience. Although of course I use the YHA a lot so I’m used to sharing….anyway it’s just a bed and a pillow for the night 🙂

The Camino Provides - 2017

The Camino Provides – 2017

#7 has been a challenge. When I first started researching what to pack, I read that it’s best to stick to 10% of your body weight. Okay so that gave me at that time 8 kgs to play with. So once I had decided what I ABSOLUTELY had to take with me, things I REALLY couldn’t live without, I weighed everything and packed my backpack. 7.5kgs brilliant I still have .5kg to play with. Then I did my pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury!!!By Day 2 I ditched 1.5 kgs of stuff, packed it in a box and sent it home LOL Jeez! How heavy can 7.5kgs get anyway? I never realised the impact that weight would have on my body. So lesson learned; pack light. However I suspect this is still going to be a challenge. I’ll do my final pack on Tuesday next week and then see how I get on.

packing for the camino de santiago

Packing for the Camino de Santiago

As for #9, ahhh yes. Blisters. The bane of any walkers life. I learned a very hard lesson during my pilgrimage to Canterbury in July – I walked with wet socks and the resulting blisters were horrendous and brought my journey to a screeching stop on my penultimate day. Walking with wet socks is NEVER a good idea. So in order to protect my feet I’ve bought an extra 4 pairs of the best out of all the socks I’ve tested so far and they will be my luxury item for the Camino 🙂

This experience is going to be very interesting for someone who has mild OCD and loves to plan things down to the last item. I suspect there will be a lot of challenges ahead, I have no doubt I am going to learn some interesting life lessons, once of which will definitely be about being with people. I’m very much a loner and love being on my own for hours and hours, so it’s going to be interesting to see how I communicate on this journey.

pilgrimage

finding your way to Santiago

Buen Camino

Previous blogs about my impending Camino 2017

Countdown to my Camino 2017

Walking with wet socks

Harassment on the Camino

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St Augustine’s Way from Ramsgate to Canterbury.

The Way of St Augustine aka St Augustine’s Way – I first learned about this particular walk on one of my many Camino 2017 practice walks between Broadstairs and Cliffsend last year. Frankly I’d never heard of St Augustine before then but by all accounts he was quite an adventurous fella. I did some research and decided to do the walk.

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St Augustine

I’d made a list of walks I wanted to do in the UK so added this as it was quite short at 19 miles from Ramsgate to Canterbury and seemed eminently achievable.

As it turned out I actually walked 28 miles (?) and the hours are only my walking hours, not rest periods during the day. I was able to tag the walk on after my Southwark to Canterbury finale that ended on 29th July.

Day 1 : Walked 24.03 kms (15.02 miles) – 8 hours and 24 minutes
Day 2 : Walked 20.93 kms (13.08 miles) – 8 hours and 04 minutes

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Broadstairs to Ramsgate

 

The Way of St Augustine; my journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury started really from Broadstairs, at which time I walked from Viking Bay to St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate.  I’d had some really amazing help from Hunter and John of Friends of St Augustine, who prepared maps for me and answered my questions about the route and where to stay etc.

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The St Augustine Trail

I’d decided to attend the Sunday morning service at the shrine and so at 07:11 on July 30th I set off with Pepe; my fully loaded backpack, heading for Ramsgate. The service started at 08:30 and I figured I had loads of time since it usually took me just on 45 minutes to walk the distance…Hah!! I hadn’t factored in the weight of the backpack slowing me down and forgot that I still had to climb the hill on the opposite side of Ramsgate Harbour and walk to the shrine…as a result I slipped into the church with 2 minutes to spare and sweating profusely from rushing to get there on time.

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St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate

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Shrine of St Augustine

After the service I took some photos (of course) and then joined the parishioners for tea and biscuits and a wee chat, and at 09:44, following the map that John had kindly printed for me I set off from The Shrine heading for the 2nd of what was to be many stops; St Augustine’s Cross.

I passed through familiar territory walking along the clifftops at Ramsgate and stopped for a swing in the park…how can I not? It’s my favourite 😉

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stopping for a swing 🙂

From there it’s a short walk to Pegwell Bay

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Pegwell Bay – I wonder how it looked in AD 597

and taking the clifftop walk I soon passed the Viking Ship and Cliffs End village signboard,

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Viking Ship at Cliffsend

then a right turn and within no time at all I found the cross….I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there!! Managed by English Heritage, it’s free to visit.

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St Augustine’s Cross

After taking some photos and getting my bearings on the map, I found myself walking along secluded lanes and farmlands. One field in particular was really amazing…sunflowers as far as the eye could see.

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sunflowers; a touch of sunshine on a cloudy day

I had got a wee bit lost just before this as the map didn’t show the massive arterial roadway that crossed over the railway and so I missed the turn under the bridge…but thankfully some fella was walking towards me so I didn’t go too far off course. He directed me back to the bridge and mentioned that he had done this many times before!! hmmm. I also missed the crossing of the railway line, but after finding myself in a cul-de-sac of trees, I again retraced my steps and hopped across quick as a flash…I loathe railway crossings.

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the railway crossing I missed…

I got to chat to a lovely elderly gentleman at this point and he was quite impressed at my endeavour. Actually most people looked at me like I was quite insane when I told them what I was doing. LOL Nonetheless I was on the right track and soon I could see the spire of St Mary’s in Minster. I found the abbey quite easily. Oh my word. What a delightful surprise.

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Minster Abbey

Quite different to what I was expecting, but just amazing. I summonsed one of the Nuns who live and work there, and she kindly stamped my Pilgrim’s Passport for me 🙂 Of course I took loads of photos and then visited St. Mary The Virgin Church.

St. Mary’s Church, founded in 670AD is known as the ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ and is the mother-church of western Thanet. Fantastic place with oodles of history. Sadly there was no stamp for my passport.

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St Mary’s – cathedral on the marshes

Quite hungry by then I stopped off at The Bell Inn for Sunday Roast 🙂 A hearty meal very much appreciated.

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The Bell Inn, Minster

The Bell Inn was built during the reign of Elizabeth I in the year 1576 and is apparently a pub with ghosts……The earliest recorded occupant of the property is one Thomas Calfe who is mentioned in a sale document of 1611. In 1715 the rector of the parish held the first tithe supper at The Bell and in 1718 with his help and persuasion a 7 day licence was granted on condition that no liquor be administered between the hours of divine service. The penalty for doing so was a day in the stocks, a heavy fine or in some cases a flogging. In 1864, The Bell was lit by gaslight for the first time.

After a rest (I took my shoes and socks off and revelled in the cool wet grass) and the delicious meal, I hoiked Pepe onto my back and made my way back to the abbey. While at the shrine in Ramsgate earlier I had noticed that there was a Gregorian chant event at the abbey in the afternoon, so I decided to pop in. Getting there a tad late (45 minutes) I slipped quietly through the door…LOL – I only entered right next to the speaker and with a huge backpack…quietly I was not!! However, it seems I had stumbled into what was a semi-private event and there was a fee to be paid?? eeee. Oh well… But the organiser chap kindly let me off since I had got there very late and wasn’t staying for the 6:30 event at the church…which was the chanting part of the event. Duhhhh. So I just stayed as long as it was polite to do so, had a cup of tea and a delicious slice of chocolate cake baked by the nuns, left a hefty donation in lieu of my entrance fee and at 5:30 I set off once again. Destination Plucks Gutter. Seriously? Plucks Gutter??  I thought I’d have a quick squizz at wikipedia and here is their description: “The hamlet is named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch”. I’m really not sure how that converts to Plucks Gutter…but there it is!! Although just a hamlet it has an interesting history with links to King Alfred and the Vikings, smugglers and of course was part of what was then the Isle of Thanet on the Wantsum Channel (now built over).

Most of the Way of St Augustine walk was through farmland and along streams and what was once Saxon Shore, although I warrant that Augustine would find things very different to his time!

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channels of water and fields of crops

Whenever the going got tough, I reminded myself that they didn’t have it any easier…I think! The land has been pushed back so far since then that you can’t even see the shoreline from that point, so maybe they walked along the beach whilst I was dragging myself through a jungle LOL

Traipsing across farmlands and recently cut fields that left horrible spiky stalks that crunched underfoot I was in danger of being pierced at the ankles!!

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spiky stalks…horrible to walk in this

Barring my first misdirection, I had so far managed to follow the map quite easily with the help of some signs attached to either gate posts or barriers etc…but somewhere, in the middle of nowhere I lost the trail.

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signs…..here there and everywhere…and anywhere

The map indicated to head inland at one point which I did and followed a narrow channel (there were a LOT of channels and streams in this area; salt-marsh works and farmland as far as the eye could see) but the crops were so high and so thick that I simply could not find ‘The Way’. I tried walking along a particular pathway, but that was making me double back and there was no way to cross the channel which appeared to go on for miles…that I could see anyway. Eventually after walking back and forth a few times and carefully looking for the pathway, I gave up and walked back to the river. I could see from the map that it lead towards Plucks Gutter so figured I would walk along the riverbank till I reached the bridge. Hah!!Great plan….or so it seemed.

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sigh

Firstly the riverbank was exceptionally narrow and I walked (dragged myself) along long grass with just a few inches between me and the river. Mindful of the weight of the backpack, I was having nightmare visions of falling in and not being able to surface due to the weight of the pack…but thankfully I had my walking poles. They really came into their own at this point and saved me from many a stumble on uneven ground and a possible tumble into the river. Eventually my luck ran out and the grassy riverbank ran into thickets of weeds and nettles as tall as me!! I was confounded as to what I should do. It was getting later and the sun was setting. Fortunately said sun was ahead of me so pulling on my ‘big girl panties’ I plunged into the fields of corn! Never mind ‘Children of the Corn’ – I am ‘Woman of the Corn’ hahahaha

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Woman of the Corn…no snakes!!

The stalks were taller than me and for at least 30 minutes of plunging and shoving my way through, I could not see anything other than green corn stalks and a faint glimmer of the sun. Walking through these stalks was eerie and a tad unnerving. I was reminded of when I was about 7 or 8 following my grandfather through a small field of corn that he had grown on their property in South Africa. I was casually strolling along behind him when I looked up and right there before me, with head poised to strike was a thin green snake! Fuck! I can tell you that never have I been so terrified. I screamed, the snake snaked and my grandfather came up with a stick and whacked it into kingdom come…or gone! As the case may be. So yeah, walking through this particular field was rather unpleasant. Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes…but perhaps they saw me and scarpered. I was kinda hoping that like Ireland, this particular field didn’t have snakes!

After what seemed like forever, with all sorts of greenery tangled in my hair and poking through my clothes, I stumbled out of the field and voila the bridge was ahead of me 🙂 Hurrah!! Only problem was that I ended up in a boatyard of some sort so had to find my way through a maze and then do some serious climbing of fences and gates. Forget the signs that say ‘Keep Out’ …mate, I’m leaving, no worries.

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Plucks Gutter and the River Stour

I have also learned that I can climb a gate with a fully loaded backpack in situ!! Something I had to do quite frequently on this walk. LOL

Once I reached the bridge over the River Stour it was so much easier; tarmac! Yayyy. I was in Plucks Gutter…but thankfully not in a gutter. I stopped to read the history board outside the Dog and Duck Inn; fascinating stuff!! Then my feet hit the mac and I was off…only a few more minutes of walking to be done and I would be able to have a cuppa and put my feet up, but first I had to navigate this road. It was however quite scary since the road, if you can call it that, was narrow and had no sidewalk or place for pedestrians. Once again I sucked in my breath and set off….The Sun Inn according to the map at the pub was within a 25 minute walk.

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You are here….Plucks Gutter and Stourmouth

And what a treat Stourmouth proved to be, lots of lovely quaint houses greeted me…although frankly I was too tired right then to be more than a little impressed. Suddenly as I rounded a corner there it was….. The Rising Sun Inn – my accommodation for the night. And once again, exhausted and dusty, but not wet (thankfully), I stumbled across the portal and traipsed across the reception area. A lovely young lass showed me to my room, and brought me a much needed cup of tea. The landlady soon came by to say hello whereupon I ordered a platter of sandwiches and crisps – delicious. The room at the Inn was absolutely fantastic. A gorgeous big bed and an ensuite shower.

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The Rising Sun, Stourmouth

Within no time at all I had my shoes off, my very dirty hiking pants hanging up to air, and with my feet up on the comfy couch I settled in for a bit of telly. 🙂 Exploring would have to wait for the morrow…for now, I wasn’t going anywhere except into the shower and then bed!! It seemed perfectly apt for me to be staying at The Rising Sun since one of my ultimate favourite songs is ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (The Animals). I still have the 7-single 😉

A spot of history: “Originally a bakery owned and worked by the Monks of the Diocese of Canterbury, the first part of the building was erected in 1372 during the reign of Edward III. Continuing as a bakery and passing through a number of different owners, the building eventually came into the hands of Edgar Rake; baker and brewer in 1682!! Said gentleman applied for an ale and cider licence that was granted on April 4th, 1695. He carried out some building work in 1708 & 1709 but died before this more modern structure was completed. One Jeremiah Bedley; baker and beer seller took over the premises in 1709 and granted a licence to sell liquor and named the premises “The Rising Sun”….probably coz his patrons saw the sun rising after a heavy night!! LOL From 1709 onwards till 1865 all the Inn Keepers of The Rising Sun were bakers, working the old bakery and running the Inn, except for Thomas Lucke who in 1776 was described as a ‘beer seller, baker and ferryman’. The inn was for many years also known as the Ferryman’s Inn as the men who worked the ferries across the mile-wide estuary to the “Crown” (Cherry Brandy House) at Sarre, met here.”

I was hoping to see the rising of the sun on the Way of St Augustine walk and so to spend the night at a 14th century inn called The Rising Sun is superbly brilliant.

And so to bed…perchance to dream. I slept really well that night….the bed was amazing.

Day 2 The Way of St Augustine

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The Spirit of The Camino and the spirits on The Camino.

When I first contemplated walking The Camino my head was filled with inspiring thoughts of happy, adventurous people all walking along; a merry band of comrades, climbing mountains and being amazing in their aspirations to reach Santiago. I had a somewhat romantic view of cosy alburgues, relaxing snoozes in the sun and the cameradie we saw in the movie ‘The Way’ (which, by the way, I must watch again before I go).  I had this notion of admiring locals who opened their homes and hearts to the ‘pilgrims’ who walked their way up mountains and down, along paths and through villages and towns, strolling into their chosen alburgue in the evening to find a cosy bed and a hot shower, of meals shared with laughter and fun.

And yes, this does in fact happen; the Spirit of the Camino.

I’ve read some extraordinary stories of people ‘rescued’ by kind-hearted locals who seeing their distress take said distressed person under their wing and guide them to a hostelaria/alburgue, or give them a hot meal, a lift in their car/truck/lorry to a place of safety. How pilgrims help each other out, lending money, clean clothes, toiletries, guidance and very often a shoulder to cry on. The Spirit of the Camino.

The Camino is also, by all accounts, tough!! Some people die. The spirits on the Camino.

There is also the dark side, a little of which we saw in The Way. People die on the Camino. People start walking and never reach their goal; their journey cut short by the grim reaper. The reasons are many: heart failure, complications from surgery, falling off a mountain, falling off their bikes (those who cycle) and some die from traffic accidents; knocked over by trucks or cars. Some people start the walk in the hopes that they will reach Santiago, but knowing that they likely won’t. It’s their final walk. Some people have reached the steps of the cathedral only to drop down dead right there at the last step.

And then there those that are murdered. Wow, I can tell you when I discovered that last year…. it came as one hell of a shock to me. The prospect of dying on the Camino had never entered my head!! I learned about this quite by accident last year when I first joined the Camino forum on Facebook. It literally took the wind out of my sails. Just a simple post to say that she, the person who made the update, had laid a stone on the cairn for Denise Theim, an Arizona lass who had disappeared while walking.  If you have the stomach for it you can read about it here.

I immediately set about investigating the story and that lead me to the reports of her disappearance, death and the eventual discovery of her body. The perpetrator as per the above article has since been captured and tried, soon to be incarcerated.

But what startled me most of all was reading the many stories of people who have died on The Camino. I often see photos on the facebook groups of memorials to people from across the world, both young and old who never left The Way; the spirits on The Camino.

I often think about these people now as I prepare for my Camino in September and of course the thought crosses my mind. Will I die while walking? Of course I have no idea, that is, as they say, and depending on which religious or spiritual belief your follow, determined by fate or the book of life…..your death predetermined before you are even born. Not sure I believe that notion, but there it is.

I have to say that it does bother me a lot. The f.e.a.r. presents itself in many ways, and I am in constant conflict with the emotions that arise from these thoughts. My daughter is getting married next year and I will be walking her down the aisle, guiding her to the man she loves, watching as she and he join their hands and lives in marriage and walk into a new future. I would be devastated if by dying on the Camino I caused her any pain and spoiled her special day by not being there. Although I’m sure she would kick my ass for saying that!! 😉  Mind you, she’s already advised me that she would be seriously pissed off with me if I die while walking. LOL We have discussions about this from time to time. About the reality of death.

I’ve questioned myself over and over. Am I being selfish? Am I not putting her happiness first instead of my selfish desire for adventure? Should I have waited till after the wedding…? I did contemplate that.

See what I mean? FEAR – false evidence appearing real. It manifests on a daily basis and gives me palpitations – and I haven’t even started yet!!!

But after many talks and encouragement from her I went ahead and booked my ticket. Not because we are fatalistic in any way, not because we discussed it in depth and not because I have a flippant answer “it won’t happen to me” (I don’t believe in making promises like that!), but because life is life. I could just as easily step off a pavement in my day to day life and get run over by a car or bus…. I could get knocked over on the many walks I take in my day to day life, some of which are along narrow country roads where cars whizz by at 80 kms p.h. leaving dust and a shivering wreck of a walker in their wake. Or I could contract one of hundreds of diseases that abound and die anyway.

So should I not go on this walk? Should I allow the fears to win? Or should I grasp life and go anyway. Well since I’ve already booked my ticket, obviously so far, that is what I will be doing.

But it still doesn’t stop me from thinking about the people who do die. I’m sure it must be absolutely devastating for their families. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them to receive the news. I have read of one Mother whose daughter died before they started their Camino. She will be taking her daughter’s ashes along with her to distribute at special places along The Way. God, I can’t even imagine how hard that would be.

I was doing some research this morning and found this blog https://gabrielschirm.com/2016/08/22/deaths-on-the-camino-de-santiago/

Gabriel gives a number breakdown of the more recent deaths on the Camino. It’s not a macabre list, just a matter of fact observation that yes, people do die while walking the Camino.

I also found this amazing blog; a beautifully compiled memorial to Camino pilgrims who have died on the way – some on their first day, others as they completed their walk.

http://amawalker.blogspot.ie/2016/12/memorials-to-pilgrims-who-died-on-camino.html

It makes a sobering read. The spirits on the Camino.

So again it brings me back to the age-old question! Should I or should I not? F.E.A.R. But as mentioned earlier I’ve already booked my plane ticket for this year, booked and paid for some of the accommodation, bought the backpack, the badges, the clothes and equipment, the books…..and so on. And with my daughter’s blessing, I will walk the Portuguese Coastal Route in September.  I certainly plan to discover the Spirit of the Camino; but I have no plans to become a spirit on the Camino. And yes, despite the fear, I am excited 🙂

 

 

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‘Pilgrimage’ What an evocative word. When you hear the word pilgrimage it has so many meanings and connotations, different meanings for each person. You can go on a religious pilgrimage, a spiritual pilgrimage, you can take a pilgrimage to a previous home or favourite place. A pilgrimage can be something you go on or aspire to.

Since medieval times, the main connotation of the word pilgrimage has been in relation to monks or religious persons making a journey to one place of worship or another, either as a desire to gain more knowledge or in penance. Most of these pilgrim ways have followed main route of transportation; routes well-worn and familiar, travelled by many – creating routes of pilgrimage; corridors towards a shrine.

As with the thousands of people who traversed these routes, the paths used, varied over time – always flexible, always changing to accommodate one change or another. Perhaps a muddy field needed to be avoided in one particular year of bad weather and so ‘pilgrims’ found a ‘way’ around it and formed a new path. Towns sprung up along these ‘ways’ to accommodate the pilgrims who were needing shelter and food or rest; albergues and hospitals were opened, relics were discovered and distributed to tiny churches along the way and so a path was beaten to that door.

I remember my delight on discovering a Pilgrim’s ‘hospital’ on one of the many visits my daughter and I have made to Canterbury.

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The Pilgrims Hospital in Canterbury, Geoffrey Chaucer and the River Stour through Canterbury

Perhaps some hardy monk or another decided he needed to test his mettle and climbed higher than before and so a new path was created.  Perhaps a pilgrim grew old and tired on his journey and so sought an easier way around the hills and mountains; found obstacles in his way and so created another new path……

And yet, despite these many paths, both old and traditional or new, some still to be forged, the pilgrims always found their way to where they were headed. In this case the road to Santiago – also known as The Way of St James.

I love the idea of this, different paths for different folks; isn’t this true of life as well? Traditional is great, but one thing I’ve learned in life is that we each walk our own path. We can create new traditions. Nothing is original. If we went back in time to when St James first walked and preached the gospels in Spain, the paths he travelled along then are probably very different to what they are now. And after he died and was buried, then found and his relics installed at the Cathedral in Santiago, and eventually pilgrims first started walking to Santiago, even the ‘original’ paths, of which there are many, would be vastly different to what they are today. Certainly more well trod!!

And let us not forget one of the most famous of all pilgrims; Geoffrey Chaucer

pilgrimage, geoffrey chaucer, canterbury tales

Geoffrey Chaucer; author of The Canterbury Tales – a pilgrimage (journey) to Canterbury

In September of this year I’ll be walking the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago de Compostela, and I’m planning on following my own path with an eye on the general direction towards Santiago. From Tui I expect I’ll be following more traditional routes, but I’m not going to stress too much about the exact route, after all, it’s the journey that’s important and what we learn along ‘The Way’.

pilgrimage the way to santiago

finding my way to Santiago

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.

I follow the blogs, instagram profiles and facebook updates of a number of people who are either currently walking or have walked one or another of the many many routes to Santiago, and I often read how they got lost, lost the path or were misdirected and again you can so easily relate this to life.

I travel a lot with my job and I love to travel in my off time between jobs, and when I lived in London in particular, people asked ” aren’t you afraid of getting lost?”. My answer is always the same…..you can never be lost, you are just in a place you are unfamiliar with and it’s not where you had planned to be. Jump on a bus or a train, look at a map, you will find you are not lost at all. I remember when I first lived in London back in 2002/2003, I had a conversation with my Father about how big London was and how much it terrified me to travel around that vast city. He replied: “just think of London as many small villages all linked together by the network of the tube/underground system. You are never more than a few meters from either a train or a bus, you can never get lost.” It changed my perception of London completely and from then on I was never afraid to go out and explore the many ‘villages’ of London; often getting ‘lost’.

As I walk the Camino in September, I will have my handy wee app ‘mapmywalk’ switched on, and with an eye on the east to my right and the west to my left I will follow my own path north till I reach the Minho river that separates the north of Portugal from the south of Spain. From there; at Caminha, I will head inland with the sun in my eyes in the morning and at my back in the evening till I reach Valença and finally cross over into Spain to Tui.

looking east

Looking east at Broadstairs; sunrise

looking west

Looking west at Florence; sunset

From Tui I will follow the more traditional routes as I traverse the final 100 kms to Santiago so that I too may gain my ‘compostela’. A pilgrim.

Footnote:

The Minho divides the Spanish Tui and Portuguese Valença do Minho, towns that guarded an important bridge for road and rail. Both towns preserve fortifications and are national monuments.

Addendum: you can even go on a pilgrimage to a famous place to see the final resting place of a King; Richard III (thanks Beth 😉 your facebook update was most timeous).

http://leicestercathedral.org/about-us/richard-iii/richard-iii-tomb-burial/

a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Richard II at Leicester cathedral

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I love books. I have a weakness for books. I have a shelf of books (now in storage) that I love to look at and recall the tales between the covers. In South Africa I had hundreds of books…some as old as 60+. Sadly when I moved my possessions over from SA to UK I had to leave a great many behind due to lack of space in my current home and plans for the future….100’s of books won’t fit into a campervan 😉

I read voraciously as a child, seldom without a book in my hand, I read at every opportunity from morning till night and then some. At school my teachers were hard put to keep up with me….I’d get a class book and bring it back within a few days having read it right through. My teachers would get suspicious and ask me questions…..they soon learned to not bother but just kept me topped up.

Even today, I love nothing more than a quiet corner and a good book. As for organising them…..sometime, maybe, I may. But mostly they just live happily wherever they land. 😉 Most recently a very lovely and dear friend of mine sent me a book on the eve of my visit to Florence, Italy. – ‘A Florence Diary’ by Diane Athill.

a florence diary diane athill

One of the many fun things about coming ‘home’ after being away for 3 weeks is opening my mail. To my delight one of the envelopes contained this wonderful book ‘A Florence Diary’ from my lovely friend Lucy

 

What a delight. I started reading immediately, but unfortunately, once I actually arrived in Florence I was out from early morning till late a night, returning to the apartment only to brush my teeth, change into pyjamas and fall into bed till the morning; at which time I would repeat it all over again LOL So no time to continue reading in Florence I’m afraid.

But I have brought it with me to Ireland and with a few days of mucky weather in store I plan to read it…..Thanks Lucy my sweet, I shall treasure this little book and add it to my collection in the campervan 🙂

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I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to announce that my delightful, darling daughter has said YES!!!! to her wonderful beau, Simon’s question 🙂 They’re engaged and I’m thrilled.

they're engaged

Cémanthe & Simon…he proposed, she said yes 🙂

They went to London for the day with some friends. They went all over the place and then when they got to Tower of London for the ice-skating….he proposed…on the ice!! 🙂

Bless him, he’s been practising like mad to learn to ice-skate and not fall over….so tonight he asked her the big question. First he had the DJ play their song ‘At Last’ by Etta James, and then as she rushed back over the ice to be with him, she noticed a big sign, held up by his friends, that said “Cémanthe will you marry me?” He then, so very romantically, went down on one knee, on the ice and popped the question….the ring was all ready. They then announced over the tannoy that she had said yes, and everyone cheered. Awww, I love it…..so romantic.

Love is in the air….I guess I have a wedding to start saving for. Welcome to the family Simon. What a gem you are. Clever man!!!!

At last…….

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Gathering Leaves by: Robert Frost (1874-1963)

autumn colours in Canterbury

autumn colours in Canterbury

SPADES take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I mage a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight;
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who’s to say where
The harvest shall stop?

work and travel as a carer

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