Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 22 - A week of giving and discovering new pilgrims.

 It's as if this was the week of the Agapanthus in my garden. They've started opening up one after the other - what a glorious time of the year!

I've never been much of a gardener but it seems as if the older I get, the more my plants like sharing my space with me. I'm even contemplating a trip down to the nursery. I think it's time to invest in more colour, the fact that my clivias and the agapanthus have survived and actually flower more prolifically year after year, indicates that it's time.

I feel as if the colour in my garden is nature's gift to me, there certainly is something therapeutic in watching something develop from a little bud to a beautiful fragrant flower!

I am busy monitoring an an even bigger miracle in my kitchen at the moment. 

On a whim I stuck a custard apple pip in a pot plant together with the existing tenant of the pot, a Dracaena Lemon Lime Cane my mother gave me. And lo and behold, a little plant has actually popped up. At the moment it has four and a half leaves and a super slim little stem. I have to assume that this is a baby custard apple tree, unless it's a weed of sorts that found it's way into the pot.

I choose to believe it's a custard apple, the timing is just to weird for it not to be. I'm going to try my absolute best to keep this one alive and well - I really do love custard apples! A photo journal will have to follow soon - I'm just so scared I'll jinx it by making too much of a fuss but if this has a happy ending and eventually results in fruit on the table, I will be one happy gardener, not to mention a believer in miracles!

Here's one of the most beautiful Agapanthus in the garden - new life in all it's glory!

This week was also very much a week of giving for Cape Town. The last three days thousands of shoe boxes filled with Christmas presents for underprivileged children were taken to collection points. The initiative is called the Santa's Shoebox project, you can read all about it at The idea is that shoe boxes are filled with age appropriate gifts, wrapped up and dropped of at points all over the country. Each and every box goes to a specific child that you have chosen beforehand according to age, gender and school. This way they ensure that every child, in every school or home that they have picked to participate in the project, receives a gift this Christmas.

They started with 180 boxes in 2006 and this year more than 30 000 boxes have been pledged! What a wonderful way to ensure that kids, who might not have received anything this Christmas, also share in the joy this year!

As the heading says, this week was also about discovering new pilgrims. I have met the most interesting man in the virtual albergue that I belong to. His name is Fr.Picardal. He lives in the Philippines and has just recently walked the Camino Santiago. This is how he describes himself on his blog intro: Biking Priest, Professor, Theologian, BEC expert, Pro-Life & Peace Activist, Healer, Occasional Hermit, Tai-chi practitioner, Marathon runner, and Doctor in Sacred Theology (Gregorian University, Rome).

What drew my attention to him initially, is a video he posted on the site of himself, playing  a guitar and singing a song about the camino that he had composed whilst walking. More amazing is the fact that he walked a great deal of the route without wearing shoes!

I have asked his permission to post his video on my site as I think it is just delightful! I almost think that it could become the official camino song - I found my own feet tapping along from the first time I heard it!

Before I post the video, I thought I'd post a piece that he wrote on his blog. He reflects on his camino and I found it very inspiring. This is what he has to say:

'There are three important phases in a pilgrimage.

The first phase is the preparation - a time for planning and preparing (physically, psychologically and spiritually).

The second phase is the actual pilgrimage itself.

The third phase is the post-pilgrimage stage which includes a time of prayerful reflection, reentry and going home.

The third phase is as important as the first and second phase. We should not rush to go home and forget what we have just experienced. We need time to go over deeply what we have gone through, observe the changes and transformation in ourselves (physically, psychologically, and spiritually) and sum up the lessons and insights that we can bring to our life.

This is what I am trying to do as I live in solitude in my hermitage. Hopefully after this period, I can share my experiences with others and apply to my life what I have learned in the Camino.

The Pilgrimage did not end in Santiago de Compostela (the field of stars), it was not the final destiny, neither was the Finisterre (the end of the earth) overlooking the deep blue ocean. Our whole life is a pilgrimage to our final destiny - beyond this life, to the Divine Source of life. Meanwhile, the journey and pilgrimage continues - within ourselves and in our daily struggles to make this world a better place to live in.'

This is exactly what I am hoping to get from my own camino. Fr. Picardal lived in virtual solitude in the mountains for two months after completing his camino as part of a seven month sabbatical. I am discovering, as I talk to pilgrims, that there seems to be a need to reflect and be silent after the walk.

I totally understand that and as part of my planning, perhaps I will do good to allow for a weekend of solitude after my walk.

Next I will tell you about a pilgrim that I have met closer to home. More about that, as well as Fr. Picardal's video tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Followers widget not working!!

Hi everyone. At this stage I'm actually pulling my hair out by the handful. The 'followers' function on my blog has decided to go on strike. I am trying to get blogger to address the problem, but to no avail. The followers come and go. One minute they're there and the next they're gone.

So please be patient - if you would like to follow and the page keeps rejecting you, don't give up, I'd LOVE to meet ya! I'll keep pestering the help page until I get help!

Till tomorrow! :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 16 - Contemplating blue skies,whistles and umbrellas...

One of the perks of this season of my life is the fact that I can go for lunch in the middle (or the start, or the end for that matter...) of the week. Today was one of those lucky days for me.

Blue Monday nowadays refers more to the colour of the sky on the first day of my week than my state of mind...

Not a bad feeling, I tell you!

Today the blue sky was admired from Moyo, the spot my husband and I chose for lunch. We felt a bit like tourists in our own city as we opted for the whole hand washing/face painting deal.

I felt like all I needed to complete the picture after my painting session was a teepee! Here I am then - painted face and all...

There is just something about washing your hands this way before starting a meal - I think it should be a standard option at all restaurants!

And then there was the bread - served with olive oil and dhukka -delicious!

Just to prove that I was actually doing something constructive yesterday - here is our team of eager beavers waiting for the stream of cyclists to arrive, VERY EARLY in the morning. I'm beaver no. 5 at the far end - what a great excuse not to get on a bike and cycle 85km!

I'm done making excuses though - I climb mountains once a week and slowly (admittedly SLOWLY), I am starting to fit in a few early morning runs. I haven't been running for three months now, my running partner is so far ahead of me at this stage, I don't know if I'm ever going to catch up with her again.

I do miss our running sessions though, that really should be more than enough to get me motivated!!

So back to the Camino.

What to take along. That, after the bedbug issue, is probably the next big question. I have a pretty good idea of the basics but I thought finding out from people who have actually walked one or more of the camino's, is the best way to go about it. Straight from the horse's mouth as it where.

I have joined a 'virtual albergue' that I found during one of my surfing sessions and the following advise is what I found on the forum.

I've copied the comments as they appeared and will compile a more official looking, organised list at a later stage.

Here goes!

- A spiral immersion heater to make tea, coffee, cup-of-soup etc. Never travel without it.

- In my pocket: a whistle. Weighs nearly nothing, hopefully will never be used. On the day my rucksack snapped, I needed to use it. Why? To scare off a herd of very inquisitive, even aggressively inquisitive, bullocks who were only a couple of metres from me as I crossed a field, even by keeping close to the hedge. Waving arms, stick, shouting did nothing - but on the first short blast of the whistle they flinched, the second longer blast, they bolted.

(Note from me: And I was worried about bedbugs?!)

If you fall down a ravine, you might be able to shout for an hour or so, leaving you without a voice. A whistle goes on and on. It is also useful to attract attention in other nasty situations.

- For me, a needle, polyester thread, and a thimble, all in an old film canister - total weight about 20g. Saved my pilgrimage to St Davids (SW Wales) when the strap over my left shoulder snapped on my rucksack.

- An umbrella! My poncho ripped open in many places in a storm. I already had a mini super lightweight umbrella with me, but my husband decided that we needed something a bit bigger. It proved to be a god-send - both against the rain and against the sun over a couple of long treeless stretches

- Twisted elastic clothes line. No clips are necessary; clothes are slipped into the line gaps for drying. There is a lot of competition for drying lines at albergues, and the clothes clips provided are used up fast (and if you supply your own, they will be gone by the end of the trip).

- A sink stopper would have been handy in all the places where they were gone. It is hard to wash clothes in running water.

- My 2 "must" items that some folks might consider the basics were my Spork and my trusty Swiss Army knife. I learned about the Spork just before I left on my Camino and I had planned to take my basic Swiss Army knife but I upgraded it just before I left with several more accessories (that corkscrew on the new one came in handy many times along the way). These are 2 items were very useful.

- Well, if we're talking luxury: a small tube of eye cream. On every camino it has soothed me morning and night and made me think/hope that I wasn't turning into a hag from the ravages of daily sun and wind.

This last suggestion sounds like it should be number one on my list, unless some clever entrepreneur has latched on and has set up a mobile botox clinic along the way! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 15 - The weekend that was...

Yet another weekend has come and gone and the first Christmas decorations have appeared in the malls. It feels like yesterday that I packed away all the wrappings and vowed never to spend another entire day cooking Christmas lunch...

So much for new years resolutions, I'm already starting to think about this year's menu and colour schemes. Oh well.

Before I commit to more promises that I know I'm not going to keep, let me rather show you a few highlights of the weekend.

We had a VERY successful cycling event this morning - here are a few of the two million pictures I took...

And then there was the Pepper, Potato and Pea tortilla I managed to conjure up on Saturday - recipe will follow tomorrow, a quick and easy supper or lunch served with a salad. Takes half an hour to put together!

Finally - our little Abbey. I haven't discussed the whole bedbug situation with her, got to think of an incentive of sorts first. As you can see, she clearly is a little princess and bedbugs definitely do not feature in her world!

Tomorrow I'll be mulling over 'have to take along' items for the camino. Oh - and hopefully capture a sunny Table Mountain for a change!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 14 - What...bedbugs!?

Talk about discovering the good, the bad and the ugly! I've tried to ignore it everytime I read about it this week but I actually have to accept that there is a very real possibility of encountering bedbugs on the camino.

Ok. That's not good.

Albergues are hostels where people come and go and I suppose it really is inevitable that a bug or two will pop up somewhere. Best I just figure out how to deal with it because there ain't too many five star hotels along the route...

So, I figured if I could survive 6 days on a mountain without a proper roof over my head, electricity or running water, I can tackle a few bedbugs. This is my plan of action...

Firstly - find out exactly what a bedbug is.

Wikipedia describes a bedbug as follows:

'Bedbugs or bed bugs are small parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae (most commonly Cimex lectularius). The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The name 'bedbug' is derived from the insect's preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.'

Secondly - digest that information without cancelling the trip.

Thirdly - search the Internet for tips and remedies - especially as I'm going to be in a different bed every night.

Fourthly - invest in a tent and roll-up mattress and figure out what to travel without so that I van carry that extra weight.

And lastly - just relax, maybe it won't be a problem at all.

I'm happy to report that I think I found a possible answer to the problem. I'm going to have to train Abbey the Yorkie to detect the little critters.

I found evidence that you can teach a dog to do that. Abbey weighs 1,7kg and can come into Spain via Portugal with me as they have no quarantine laws. There.

Who said dogs sleep all day - watch this...

I have to be at our local sportsfield at 05:15 tomorrow morning to help with registration at our club's annual cycle race, so guess I'll put the bugs to bed for the time being!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 13 - All about packing

I know I only have to start packing for the camino in about 21 months time but I admit, it's nagging somewhere in the back of my head already. The fact that I'm going to have to pack almost everything I need for about 30 days in one backpack.

That just doesn't seem possible to me.

I'd like to show you what the bed in my spare bedroom looked like the evening before I left on my Kilimanjaro trip. Everything you see in this picture had to go into one backpack and one duffelbag. The sleeping bag wasn't even in the picture yet, as I picked that up in Tanzania.

Get the picture? I'm not a good packer. I won't admit to too many flaws but that certainly is one I can't get away from. The Kilimanjaro trip really has taught me quite bit though and I'm hoping that when I finally have to pack that camino bag that I will be an expert on what to leave and what to take.

It's going to be a long walk and there are no porters or sherpas, so I'm going to have to be a sensible packer for once in my life. I've started searching all the sites for packing tips and I've come across a wealth of information already.

I am going to have to sift through all the suggestions and make it fit for myself. One thing I've learnt from the Kili trip is to transfer shampoos, creams, toothpaste etc into small containers. It's surprising how long one can make shampoo eg. last if you really have to!

To give you an idea of the difference in my size moisturiser and the number of wetwipes I packed, compared to that of my friend who shared a tent with me, here is the evidence...

Looks like I have my work cut out for me!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 12 - Exploring the countryside

Our trip to Ladismith ( this weekend was everything I expected it to be and so much more. There is an energy in that beautiful part of our country that one simply can't ignore. I experience it as a vibrant, yet peaceful feeling that makes me want to stay there for much longer than we normally have time for.

This time we stayed on a farm about 12km from the town and our main reason for going up there was because of the 80km Seweweekspoort mountainbike race held there every year. My roll is that of supporter and photographer, my husband is the one who gets on the bike!

He bikes and I hike. That works for me! His biking takes me all over the world and I certainly don't have a problem with that! In Melbourne I volunteered to help at the 'Around the Bay in a Day' cycle race and in New Zealand I drove the campervan around Lake Taupo while he took part in the race that circled the lake.

A pity my love for photography was still somewhat dormant at that stage, if I think of all the amazing shots I could have taken! I do have a few snapshots though, come to think of it, I'll have to go dig around for one or two to post.

Here are some of the weekend's encounters..

Only in Africa!

Our lunch stop in Greyton - lamb shank was good!

Our Abbey - enjoying farm life!

We met these two in Montagu - tired or bored, not sure!
Thinking back about this wonderful weekend we had also makes me a little sad this morning. One of my brother's childhood friends is lying in hospital today, fighting for his life. He celebrated his 39th birthday a few days ago and it seems as if the battle he has been waging with cancer is about to defeat him.

A few weeks ago he had surgery in the USA and there was tremendous hope that the treatment he received there, that our doctors were unable to offer him here at home, would give him time and healing. That wasn't to be though.

It just seems so sad and unfair. A young man with three small children and a future that is ebbing away. We all have our own journeys but his is taking him to places that he certainly could not have wished for.

I also can't help thinking about how his journey is affecting so many close to him and in fact shaping theirs. It just brought home to me how our journeys are intertwined and connected, whether we wish for it to be, or not.

My prayers are with this young family today and I hope that God fills them with love, acceptance and understanding - things that must be difficult to feel when someone close to you is having to endure such incredible suffering .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 11 - Of mountains and caminos...

This blog is supposed to be about the Camino de Santiago. And it is!

I just like taking detours! Here I am, almost three months ago, with my friend Sandra from Namibia, meters away from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

At 5895m high we felt as if we were on top of the world, not just on top of Africa!

This was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. Ok, giving birth to my two children wasn't a walk in the park but at least then I had an oxygen mask to attach to my face when I needed it!

If you've ever wondered how far you can push yourself, I can highly recommend climbing this mountain. Not only will it test your physical abilities but you most definitely will find out a few things about your mental capabilities as well!

It really helps to have good people with you. I certainly could not have asked for better partners. I can't remember when last I laughed, from my stomach, as much as I did on this trip. It was food for the soul, I tell you.

Walking the Camino in 2012 is going to present new and different challenges, of that I'm sure. Somehow I have a suspicion that the challenges are not going to be as physical as the Kili climb but I look forward to be challenged mentally and spiritually. I do hope that the challenges will lead to growth, both in my faith and in every other aspect of my being.

I hope that I will be led to wonderful people, places and experiences.

Today I read about a pilgrim who didn't know where she was going to sleep one evening and a family simply opened their doors to her, gave her a room for the night and fed her, not only that evening, but the next morning as well. To me, that is what the Camino is all about and I can't wait to experience my own unique encounters!

The more I think about it and the more I discover, the more I realise that all of the research and all of the new connections I am making, are all building blocks, essential to the building of my own pilgrimage.

I'm absorbing and storing all the information that comes my way at this stage. The smallest, seemingly most insignificant detail or tip I come across is written down because I know that it could have the biggest impact on my journey. Just like the suggestion I came across on the Internet when researching my Kilimanjaro climb. Someone said: 'Plan to summit when there is a full moon'.

I did exactly that, my trip was planned so that I reached the summit on the 26th of July and we had the most glorious full moon we could possibly have asked for!

So here's to inviting all things good and positive!

Camino fact of the day: The Camino de Santiago is also know as 'The Way of St James'. I have found a wonderful description of the walk on a website and I have asked them if I can reprint it exactly as they have it, as I cannot describe it better in my own words! As soon as they've given me the ok, I'll post it here.

As for our weekend spent in one of the most beautiful part of our country, photographs will have to wait until tomorrow - there seems to be a problem with uploading pictures right now...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day seven - The Clivias have opened up - glorious!

And there they are!

When I wrote the very first post on this blog I photographed these clivias in my garden. The flowers were all closed up then and it was really quite symbolic of new life, new beginnings and expectation of sorts for me.

An appropriate start for my new journey, I thought.

Now I'm one week into the 'walk before the camino' and my clivias are looking spiffy. They're opening up and they've transformed one corner of the garden into a beautiful showpiece.

The Agapanthus is not far behind, it seems like a race to show off colour is in full swing in my backyard.

Watching the seasons come and go in this garden that I started ten years ago is almost like watching your children grow up. I look at the myriads of designs and colour combinations of flowers that have just appeared in the last couple of weeks, not just in the garden, but all over and I have to acknowledge that God is great!

We're off tomorrow to a little town situated between majestic sand- and limestone mountains, a couple of hours away from home. My husband is participating in a mountain bike race and I'm hoping to do some hiking and perhaps get a few good shots in the mountains. Who knows what I'm going to find out there - the camera batteries are charged, little Abbey the Yorkie's bag is packed and my hiking boots are in the car.

Our fellow travellers will meet up with us along the way, so we're in for a weekend of good company, lovely scenery and great food. A camino of sorts then!

I'm excited to share the experience with you, I'll take you on a photo journey when we get back as I'm not sure that we'll have reception out there.

Perhaps not a bad thing... Cell phones, laptops and all other gadgets should actually just stay locked up at home. That certainly is going to be liberating for me on the Camino de Santiago, a life without gadgets for one whole month. What has become of us!

Anyway, I have to get up early so let me leave you with a quote...

'There was never a pilgrim that did not come back to his own village with one less prejudice and one more idea'

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day six - About excess baggage

Words of wisdom - not only on Women's day!

I discovered today that it is going to take me over a million steps to reach Santiago and reading these words made me wonder what I am going to find when I ultimately reach my destination.

I hope it's going to be joy. Isn't that really one of the most important things we search for all our lives?

What I probably really should strive for is to find joy every step along the way and not hope for it to lie waiting for me at step number one million and one.

Living in the now - experiencing life at its fullest right here and now, every day of our lives. Why is it so difficult?  Somehow the past always seems to try and hitch a ride and invariably casts unwanted shadows on the now.

As far as I'm concerned, I've had it with excess baggage! I'm allowed one backpack for one moth of walking the Camino. I have a suspicion that that in itself is going to be a liberation of sorts. Surely we can do life without all the extra luggage as well!

So here goes to living in the now and with only the things I need to experience joy. Nothing more.

The miners in Chile were finally reunited with their families today. Their two month ordeal certainly was a pilgrimage of sorts as well.

I would love to know how lives have been changed after this incredible experience. Relationships can't possibly be the same again. Mindsets can't be the same ever again. Lets hope that only good and lasting changes will take place in the lives of these people.

It must be special to have a second chance with someone when you came so close to losing them. There certainly was enough time to think about all the things that should be said.

Living in the now. Embrace it!

Lets end (or start!) with some of The Beatitudes of the pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago:

'Blessed are you pilgrim, if your backpack empties of things as your heart doesn't know where to fit so many emotions,

Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that a step backwards to help another is more valuable than one hundred forward without awareness of those at your sides.

Blessed are you pilgrim, if you search the truth and make of your camino a life and of your life a camino, after Him who is the Way, the Life, and the Truth.'

Amen, I say.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day five - Where children sleep

Telling a story with photographs, I really love that concept. I loose track of time when I'm busy capturing something that I really enjoy working with and have often missed cooking supper (like tonight), because I become so involved with getting that perfect shot. Well, perfect for me anyway! 

My two favourite subjects are food and children. It is truly rewarding when a child warms up to you as a photographer - getting those unguarded moments when they laugh from their bellies or show deep emotion, is very special.

To have a child, who was initially very shy and withdrawn, open up to the camera and allow you in for a while is extremely rewarding.

I came across an article today that really made quite an impression on me. For a period of five years photographer James Mollison crossed the globe taking pictures of children and the rooms they live in.

The book that resulted from this project is titled 'Where Children Sleep'. His work is extremely powerful and I don't think one can look at the images without being touched in some way. The following link will take you to some of the pictures:

I know I will be buying a copy.

On the topic of children - is it wrong to allow someone over a certain age to have access to IVF? If so, what should the age limit be? I need to do my homework, but I'm sure most countries have set certain age limits.

Not India though, it seems.

Two years ago an Indian woman who waited 40 years to fall pregnant, gave birth to her first child at age 70. In her country there are no laws regarding age restrictions when it comes to IVF and she sold two buffaloes and bartered whatever crops they had to pay for the procedure. Rajo Devi Lohan is now gravely ill and unable to feed her little girl, her illness apparently brought on by the fact that she gave birth at such a late stage in her life.

So, what future does this little girl have? Hopefully her extended family will be able to love, care and provide for her after both of her elderly parents are no longer around.

I said at the start of this blog that my journey to Spain and this epic pilgrimage is going to one of discovery. It certainly has become that in so many ways! It is as if another part of my brain has been switched on and I feel like there hardly is a topic that is not begging to be explored and debated!

I think I should post at least one fact or question about the Camino at the end of every post from now on.

That way I should have it all covered by the time I have to pack my bags!

So here goes then...

Direct quote from a handout from one of the Refugio's (Refugio means 'safe place' and refers to the pilgrims hostels along the route - the term Refugio is apparently being replaced by the word 'alburgue'):

'When, at the end of a day on the trail, the pilgrim looks back on the amount of land he or she has crossed, they can hardly believe that their fragile feet could have walked such a distance. It is at this moment when the pilgrim understands that the way is a symbol: a symbol of effort, of work, and of victory. And that is how it is conceived in the Bible.

But the way has another meaning. It's a liberation from the 'clamors of the world'. The pilgrim abandons all of life's daily preoccupations. It's a total 'letting go'.

The pilgrim finds him or herself in a situation similar to a 'desert'. To be in a desert doesn't only mean to be away from society, but also to live with God. It is a total giving of the self to God's love.

The spirituality of the pilgrimage at this phase enters into a mystical phase:

The pilgrim walk is not a mere physical experience but becomes a profound inner experience'

Food for thought indeed!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day four - Unlikely pilgrims...

A symbol of freedom - the clear blue African sky that I wake
up to every day
I would love to invite Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea, to walk all 780km of the Camino with me in 2012.

I'd love to hear how someone like him justifies his actions of the last couple of years, in fact, lets change that to his entire life. Granted, the world you're born into shapes and influences you tremendously, but at some stage you certainly have the ability to decide what is right and wrong for yourself.

Looking at him today, parading himself, his son (who has come from nowhere and doesn't have enough space on his jacket for all his new medals) and his army of robot-like soldiers to the world media, made me feel both anger and sadness at the same time.

I don't think the world media should indulge him, if you can't show everything, you should refuse to show what the 'esteemed leader' permits you to broadcast into the homes of the entire world. I just found it extremely hard to look at his obviously overweight profile when we all know that hundreds of people in his country have died of hunger.

I am reading 'Nothing to Envy - Real lives in North Korea' by Barbara Demick at the moment, so I am particularly focused on the country and it's history. It seems unreal that this incredible tragedy is a reality for so many people in 2010.

Then there is the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner, democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last year for 'inciting subversion'. His wife had to inform him on Sunday that he'd won the the prize. Her telephone communication has now been cut off, amongst other things. This is happening in CHINA? In 2010?

What are we not getting?

So anyway. If I could choose two people today to take along on the Camino, it would be those two men. Kim Jong-il and Liu Xiaobo. Imagine walking with one on either side of you. For 780km.

I wonder if I'll be able to get a word in...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day three - A lifetime together...

Today we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. We had very little when we stood in church in October 1981 and here we are, two children, one grandchild and a couple of dogs later...

Won't it be just amazing if they can all join me in Spain!

With all the ups and downs that life throws our way, family is the one constant. They define us, as we define them. Looking at my husband's face today when he handed me this beautiful bunch of roses made me realise once again how fortunate I am.

Here's to the next 29!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day two (only about 640 to go!)

On my kitchen sill
I've been thinking about why I've chosen to do this walk when I turn 50. Well, I guess because I'm only human. We start panicking when we get older and it seems we get bolder and tackle adventures that are much more significant than what we did when we were younger.

The more I think about it, the more the emphasis seems to fall on the word 'panic'!

So I'm going to stop myself from getting stuck in the '...have to prove that I still can, no matter what age I am' rut and really investigate why walking the Camino de Santiago is so appealing to me.

Lets face it, a month ago I didn't know it existed and now it's all I can think about. Lets start with the word pilgrimage, as this really caught my attention before anything else.

So, let me open up my crossword dictionary. (I did say I'm over 40...)

Apparently, a pilgrim is also known as a crusader, wayfarer, sojourner, traveller or wanderer. A pilgrimage is also described as a journey, trip, excursion, tour or expedition.

So I guess I can describe myself as a traveller of sorts, planning a journey. In this case however, the journey that I'm planning is going to entail so much more than just packing a suitcase. It feels more as if I'm going go have to unpack before I can start packing because the more I read about this very spiritual journey, the more I realise that I might not be sleeping in the nicer guest houses and my backpack really is going to filled with only the bare essentials...

An old poem, referring to the Camino Santiago reads ' The door is open to all, sick and healthy, not only to Catholics, but also to pagans, Jews, heretics and vagabonds'.

It therefore seems that I really do have an open invitation, and a choice as to which guise I choose... I'll have to continue thinking about it. I certainly have enough time!

In the meantime, its Saturday afternoon, the fire has been lit and soon we'll have a chicken grilling on the coals. In honour of my Mediterranean adventure and my husband's heritage, I decided to prepare a Portuguese marinade a couple of hours ago. I'd love to share it with you!

Marinade ingredients for a 1,5kg chicken:

3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
60ml olive oil
60ml lemon juice

Mix together using a mortar and pestle until a paste has formed. Flatten quartered chicken, cut a few slits in the skin side of the meat, marinade in a shallow dish in the fridge for 2-3 hours before grilling.

Will let you know how it tasted tomorrow!

Nothing like fresh ingredients! Combining cooking and photography is one way for me to actually enjoy the process of preparing ingredients for recipes!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The start of a new journey

Brand new blooms in my garden today - just waiting to burst open

All journeys start with a beginning. It normally has an end. Normally, not always.

You can choose to carry on travelling for as long as you wish. You can plan your route, or you can just get on the road and go where life leads you.

I've decided to do just do both. My heart is set on a journey that has started in my head a few weeks ago. I have decided to plan a route but along the way I am going to allow life to lead me along as many detours as possible. I don't want to know when or where it's going to end - that doesn't seem important.

My official route is going to start somewhere in Spain (I think) in July 2012. The road I plan to travel has been travelled by hundreds before me, so it's not a new or original route. For me however, it's going to be a first, filled with promise, hope and excitement.

I am planning to walk the Camino de Santiago. And I'm doing it because I will celebrate my 50th birthday in July 2012.

There. I've said it.

No big parties, just a big walk. Big in more ways than one. It is going to take me about a month and stretches over about 780km. Big also because I am hoping to have some of the people in my life join me for sections of the route. I can't think of a bigger gift to myself than this adventure, what a way to celebrate life!

Until about three weeks ago I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro two months ago but I knew nothing about this pilgrimage that has attracted so many for so long.

My sister mentioned over a cup of coffee that a friend had just walked the entire route and I was hooked on the idea. So at this stage all I have is the following - an intense desire to walk the route, basic information that I have googled, printed notes that a friend has passed on to me and a few hmmm's from a few people who are considering meeting up with me along the way.

The new blossoms in my garden symbolise the start of something new. I'm going to keep close tabs on them as they open up and celebrate life with colour and fragrance. This is how I feel about the journey that I have embarked on. By starting this blog today I feel that I can't turn back. Something new has taken seed in me.

The journey doesn't have to start when I get on the plane in July 2012. It starts today. Walking in the steps of pilgrims that have honoured and acknowledged the importance of God in their lives for hundreds of years before me, is going to be a privilege that I am going to remember for the rest of my life.

Until then I am going to embrace my everyday journey. I have less than two years left of my forties. I intend to celebrate it as best I can. I'm going to surround myself with good people. I am going to push myself as an athlete so that I can actually feel what it feels like to run a full marathon. Who knows, I might even put my dancing shoes on again - they're in a box somewhere - they might even still fit!

And once the Camino is behind me - well, that is going to simply be the beginning of the rest of the journey. The route from there on is going to be as special as I choose to make it. One thing I know for sure, I am going to be wiser and more focused than I've ever been!

If you wish you can join me for the next couple of months - I'm not sure who or what to expect around all the corners that lie ahead, but I am excited and can't wait to see what life has in store for me. A couple of months ago I had no idea whatsoever that I would ever climb the highest mountain in Africa. Now I have and I know my life has been changed forever.

Can't wait to see those blossoms pop open!