Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 49 - Down to basics - what is the Camino de Santiago really all about?

One of the first questions I'm asked when people hear that I'm planning to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrim's walk is: 'What is the origin?' or more often simply: 'What's it all about?'

The second question is the simpler one as I normally start chatting about the route, the albergues, the fact that you walk with just a backpack etc., etc. Easy stuff. The first question has caught me off guard a few times and I realized that if I'm serious about this business, I can't just start walking because it feels right and I know (or hope at least) that it's going to be a spiritual experience for me.

In other words - don't sound like a fool now Emilene. Educate yourself. Or at least feel like an educated fool by the time you start walking that long road with just your boots on your feet and a bag on your back...

I decided to start with a map of sorts. Hence the map above. I liked that one because it details the Camino Frances route, the route that I have chosen to walk.  I intend to start in the little town known as St Jean Pied de Port (St John-at-the-foot-of-the-mountain pass). It sounds like a delightful little town and this is also where I will be collecting my pilgrim's passport. (Not to be confused with a regular travelling passport, I read. ) ;-)

To learn more about the little town - visit this site: http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/st-jean-pied-de-port/

Anyway. Back to the history.

The word camino means 'the way' and 'Santiago' is the Spanish name for St James. (Santiago, as a matter of interest, is a compression of Santo Diego). St James of course being one of Jesus's apostles. The story goes that when the Apostles divided the world into missionary zones, St James was sent to the Iberian peninsula. He eventually returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded by Herod, in the year 44AD.

His followers put his remains in a stone boat that was then guided by angels and carried by the wind beyond the Strait of Gibraltar. It went ashore near Finisterre, at PadrĂ³n, in northern Spain. There his remains were buried  in a marble tomb together with that of two of his followers. The tomb remained forgotten, until the 9th century.

During that time, a local hermit, named Pelayo, had a vision. He saw a field of stars, which led him to the ancient tomb. The tomb contained three bodies. The local bishop confirmed that this was indeed the tomb of St James and his two followers. St James was subsequently declared the patron saint of Spain.

A small village named Campus de Ia Stella (Field of Stars) and a monastery were established on the site. The news of the discovery spread like wildfire and a trickle of pilgrims began to arrive. Miracles came to be attributed to the site, and the miracles encouraged pilgrimage and pilgrimage elicited more miracles...

At the time the Spanish church struggled with the Moors on the Peninsula and it certainly was in their favour to promote the idea of this pilgrimage. In fact, it became one of the most significant pilgrim's routes in the world, the other two destinations of course being Rome and Jerusalem.

The pilgrimage reached it's peak during the Middle Ages with the infrastructure along the routes being developed to support pilgrims. Bridges were constructed across rivers, hospices were built by religious orders and businesses thrived because of the steady flow of feet on the route.

The sheer number of pilgrims on this route during that period might very well account for the fact that the Moors never successfully conquered the northern part of Spain.

By the end of the 16th century Spain engaged in war with both France and England and effectively was largely cut off from the rest of Europe. This, together with other major developments, such as the Reformation that was initiated by Martin Luther, were possibly contributing factors as to why the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage became less popular during that period of history.

The 1900's saw a revival of the pilgrimage for a number of reasons. Let's pick up Tony Kevin's dialogue from here on:

' I thought more about how the Santiago pilgrimage,which by the early 20th century had become defunct medieval history, had revived spectacularly after World War II  and the return of democracy to Spain following Franco's death in 1975. It's an interesting story and in itself says much about the changing mood and values of our times.'

'Spain itself was searching for new approaches to civil society and to church-state relations. Franco's coercive and now discredited clerical-fascist ascendancy had run its course, and with his death in 1975 a new democratic politics was in rapid gestation. Progressive Spanish Catholics were looking for new ways to re-legitimise their church, to restore its standing and connections with younger, democratically minded Spaniards. In this context, the pilgrimage to Santiago was something fresh, holy and untarnished by past church mistakes and misdeeds. Local voluntary 'Friends of the Camino'  societies sprung up across Spain and Portugal to survey, waymark and restore the old pilgrimage right-of-way -routes that had in many areas became no more than vague local memories. Soon there were local alternative waymarked routes to Santiago being re-established: not only through the Pyrenees, but also from Valencia, Alicante,Toledo, Granada, Seville, Cadiz, Lisbon. All the ancient caminos of Spain were being re-located and re-signed with the famous yellow arrows'

By 1987 the Camino de Santiago was declared a  World Heritage site. And in 2010 I decided to walk the route in 2012.

There you have it!

After reading a myriad sites and summarising it for myself, based on the information that I saw repeated on these various sites, I understand the origin of the pilgrimage somewhat better now. One is overcome by information and I'm sure mis-information at times as well, but generally, I'm satisfied that this is a pretty accurate story. I'm sure that certain details have given rise to many a question and probably inspired many a book, but as far as I'm concerned, this is how I'm going to accept the camino.

I'm not Catholic, nor am I Spanish, so I'm pretty much an outside observer but I do know why I'll be walking the route and I do know that when I'm in a church along the way, it's not going to matter what my denomination is. I'll be in the house of the Lord. And I can't wait to pack my bag!

As for the blog-hopping experiment of yesterday.

Quite honestly, I've decided to stick to my camino-hopping! I've gained one lovely new friend, discovered some great blogs and received a talking-to by the owner of the 'hop' for not sticking to the rules. I really thought I did everything I was supposed to, but clearly I am indeed as challenged as I confessed to be when I posted yesterday!

Anyway, nothing ventured - nothing gained, I say!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 48 - Never too old to learn - lets hop along!

As I am finding my way around the blogging world - I've decided to experiment with the wonderful concept of blog hopping. This particular one is, as the name suggests, a 'Meet me on Monday' incentive.

The idea is that the host blogger posts 5 questions that everyone should ask in order for us all to get to know our fellow bloggers a bit better. I'm afraid I'm only figuring it all out now and sincerely hope I haven't gate crashed other such efforts by not complying with all the rules!

So here goes with this particular one's questions and I'll provide my own answers beneath each one.


1. What is your favorite way to eat chicken?
I love my old trusted chicken, mushroom and sour cream recipe! It's a real winner and by the way, I share recipes if you're interested!
2. Have you decorated for Christmas yet?
Not yet!! I have to get my act together this week though... I saw a divine light blue and white tree on another blog earlier this week, I am considering breaking away from tradition and experimenting with different colours this year. Watch this space!
3. What is your favorite article of clothing?
I LOVE my white cotton dress that I wore to a beach wedding a year ago, it's one of those dresses that you can wear for both smart and casual events - very plain yet elegant at the same time.
4. Do you pay your bills online or write checks the old way?
Not sure how my husband does it... :)))
5. Do you make Christmas cookies?
I've never tried it but I do bake mean Pasteis de Nata tartlets - the recipe and photos are on an older post on my blog. A real winner!! Oh, and by the way - I won't say no to a good Christmas cookie recipe if you care to share... :) 

So there you go! If you're new at this as I am - make sure to follow the rules - you have to link back to me in your post. I in turn have to link to the blog where I got the hop from, and that is Java at http://www.nevergrowingold.blogspot.com.

Now I'm going to make a cup of coffee and start reading all the other blogs - or lets be realistic, as many as I can fit in tonight and still have time for my 'real' life! Can't wait to see what I'm going to discover!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 47 - Of donkeys, pilgrims and an adorable dog...

One of my favourite blogs is http://www.wilfanddigby.blogspot.com/. The author lives in the south western part of France and his blog deals with their everyday life in their adopted country with their dog, Wilf, playing the lead roll.

Wilf is a most adorable Polish Lowland Sheepdog and he  has been diagnosed with a tumour on the spleen and has polyps on the heart and lung. When his owner posted this news on the 13th of October, he received 143 replies from followers of his blog. And I can understand why.

The posts are written beautifully, he describes events in such an eloquent way - I sometimes feel as if I know all the characters personally! I can picture the coffee shop where they have their croissants every morning and I feel as if I should tip the peroxide waitress who serves them every day because of the kind way she treats Wilf, the star of the show.

I hold my breath for a few seconds every day as I open up his daily post. I feel as if we're all willing this adorable dog to stay healthy and happy and to continue life just as it is.

So you can understand how I amazed I was to read that they actually stay on one of the pilgrim's routes to Santiago!  A couple of days ago he posted a piece about an incident involving two pilgrims and their donkeys. I found it so amusing, I simply had to share it here.

Here goes: "Long time readers of the blog will know that the little lane that runs past the front door of the rickety old farmhouse is part of the Chemin de St.Jacques. This is the route that tens of thousands of pilgrims follow to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. It's said that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried there.

Yesterday afternoon two Italian pilgrims, eye surgeons from Turin, dressed in their red pilgrimage shirts and wearing the traditional broad brimmed hats, stopped by the village church to fill their water bottles. They unsaddled their donkeys, settled down on the bench on the green for a rest, and within two minutes were blissfully and ignorantly asleep in the late afternoon sun. However, the donkeys were far from asleep and were soon off exploring.

The first we knew about their presence was when the ever watchful Wilf wandered outside into the garden for his afternoon constitutional . He was decidedly put out to find two large intruders munching their way across the flower beds. Wilf barked which had the immediate effect of getting the donkeys braying. It took a large bag of carrots and much gentle encouragement to unite pilgrims and their steeds. Our family fellow followed events from a respectful distance not quite sure what to expect from these large noisy visitors. Donkeys and eye surgeons reunited, he followed me back down the lane with a long suffering look on his face that said - " another crisis successfully dealt with by Wilf - time for a sausage ".

What a bonus it would be if my walk took me past the little coffee shop and I could share a croissant or two with this delightful pair! Here's wishing Wilf the PON pain free and happy days!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 45 - Get out of your comfort zzzzone...

That's a pretty comfortable place to be for most of the day, I'd say! I got this one on one of our hikes in the  Cape Point Nature Reserve. Most of the time I would prefer to be in exactly such a spot, sure looks comfortable, convenient and certainly safe!

Today however, I found myself catapulted right out of my safe place and for some reason found myself striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.

I noticed a little old lady, (I'm not defining old after yesterday's post!) but suffice to say that I think she was quite a few years older than me, in the mall today. We were both browsing around the clothing section of the shop and I was struck by how stylish and really pretty she looked. She was dressed rather informally but yet stylish, her colours and accessories really came together beautifully and to top it all off, she wore a cheeky little hat, perched at a slight angle.

Before I could stop myself, I found myself walking towards her and I complimented her on how pretty she looked. She looked at me for a while, burst into a huge smile and said: 'Thank you so much for saying that. I have cancer and I'm not feeling that well today and I don't always feel as if I look that good either.'

And before I could stop myself a second time, I found myself giving her a tight hug.

I've never done something like this in my entire life. Am I glad I did though. I'm still taken back by the incident as I don't think there was one bit of coincidence about the two of us being in that spot together at that exact time. Maybe we should really tune in to those little messages that are sent our way, and act upon it!

I certainly will be paying close attention from now on...

Walking the Camino certainly is also one activity that takes one way out of your comfort zone. Tony Kevin is one man who travelled halfway around the world to tackle the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Talk about moving out of a comfort zone! Tony retired from the Australian foreign service in 1998, after a 30 year government career during which he served in the Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister's departments, and was Australia's ambassador to Poland and Cambodia.

This is how he describes his departure from home and literally walking out of his own comfort zone in his book, 'Walking the Camino'...

'So there I was, proudly dressed in crisp new khaki pilgrim gear, walking boots, and floppy hat, a scallop shell around my neck, a packed rucksack and wooden staff at my side - no doubt looking rather ridiculous, but I wanted to do this thing properly - as Father John sprinkled me and these meagre belongings with blessed holy water, and offered his priestly blessings. I realised then with a shock that all this was truly happening, that I really was about to embark the next morning on the strangest adventure of my life. I would need all the help and prayers I could get, and was suddenly very glad that my family and friends were there to wish me well and pray for a safe journey and return home to the family.Looking around at the shining faces of family and friends, I felt more at peace with myself than I had been for a long time.

But the next morning's departure was considerably less happy. Suddenly I was lonely, and scared of what might be in store. I was going to the other end of the world, alone. I looked down at my pack and staff - they seemed both very heavy to carry, and very small. Everything I owned, my whole life-support system for the next two months, was in this little backpack. I was leaving behind - I realised now, for a long time - the warm comforts of home, the joy and love of a family, but for what real purpose? Waves of doubt and fear and a sense of my own foolish selfishness swept over me as I made my final packing checks.

The taxi tooted in the driveway, and I gave my wife and children hasty farewell hugs, fighting back brimming tears and incipient panic. It was crazy to be leaving for so long those whom I loved.Why on earth was I attempting this pilgrimage venture on the other side of the world. Had it all been a huge error of judgement?

I caught the bus for Sydney, and tried to drive away such bleak thoughts by closing my eyes and burying myself in Spanish-language tapes for the next few hours. The tapes were a good excuse for not thinking, a mental exercise in keeping fears and emotions at bay. I didn't know it, but the iron discipline of the pilgrimage was beginning.'

You can listen to a radio interview with Tony here: http://www.abc.net.au/overnights/stories/s2053793.htm. Fascinating listening!

Well I'm beginning to think that the sky is the limit for me now! Next year I'm going to learn how to play the guitar and I'm booking my long postponed Portuguese lessons. How's that for getting out of my comfort zone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 44 - What do women REALLY want?

I bet that got your attention!

What do women REALLY want? It clearly can't be hot running water and a plug-in hairdryer as this is me earlier this year on Kilimanjaro and I was as happy as can be here. And trust me, I do appreciate running water and use my hairdryer every day in my 'normal' life.

The past few weeks I have had so many questions regarding the Camino - why people do it, what they found to be different about themselves after they've done it, will they do it again etc., etc., etc.

So then I got thinking. Isn't the real question - what do we want from life? And as I am a woman, isn't it appropriate for me to examine what it is that women really want from life?

As a woman and one that's been around for a while, surely I should be able to answer that one myself.
In fact, based on those qualifications, I should be an authority on the subject.

So after much deliberation with myself on the subject (and a number of cups of coffee, alone and with others of my species) I have come to the conclusion that what I read somewhere was absolutely spot on.

We only want two things really badly.


If we have those two things, EVERYTHING else will follow. Respect, happiness, fun, the desire to nurture those around us - I can carry on naming things until the sun goes down!

Whether we receive it from our partners, our children, our parents or our friends - that's all we really want.

Well, as far as I'm concerned anyway...

My friend Snowy shared a few words of wisdom with me a couple of days ago. He said: 'Age is determined by what happens between your ears'. Amen, I say.

My husband owes him big time as I suppose third on the list of what women really want, is to retain our youthful looks! I'm going to stop googling 'face-lift's' for a while and instead I'll follow Snowy's advice. 

Think myself young - is that possible? I'm certainly going to give it a bash! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 43 - Never a dull moment!

This, my friends, is not a product of photoshop. I wish it was, but this actually happened to one of our neighbours a couple of days ago. Not what you want to see when you get home from work, that's for sure!

The crane was hired to lift a massive rock from one side of the house to another. The vehicle clearly wasn't secured properly and the rest is history. Nobody got hurt in the process but not a cool pre-Christmas present!

I know - this has nothing to do with the camino, but I warned at the beginning of this journey that we'll be taking a few detours... This one just seemed so surreal, I had to share it.

On a more positive note... (or should I say from a different angle...) :-)

I received an email this morning with the good news that my camino blog is one of the featured blogs on the Travel Blogroll for this week - http://www.travelblogroll.com/.

My nano moment in the sun! Feels good, even though it was probably just a random pick... Hey, I'm just human...!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 42 - A divine morning (and a similarly divine recipe...)

Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flows the springs of life.

A Saturday morning dedicated to learning about the camino and one woman's walk with the Lord. In my own home, surrounded by old and new friends with a table laden with freshly baked goodies. I'd say that was a pretty special way to spend the day!

Christi walked the camino in June this year and she put together a slide show with the most beautiful background music, documenting her journey. She shared not only the practical aspects of walking the camino but also aspects of her spiritual journey. 

She is also, as I am, a believer in signs and affirmations and for her, hearts seem to pop up everywhere, especially in nature. Hence her message centres around references to the heart in the Bible and how the Lord speaks to us in this regard.

I chose to quote Proverbs 4:23 above, and yes, she baked the heart shaped cake - delicious!

So the Camino is already affecting my life - on day 42 of this journey I have a whole new library of knowledge stored in my head somewhere, I've made delightful new acquaintances and I can't wait to see where else this is going to lead me. 

The question that I posted on the virtual albergue that I belong to a couple of days ago has created a buzz of a different kind all together. I asked: 'How has walking the camino changed who you are as a person?'
Up to now, the question has attracted more than 1200 views! What really surprised me is that somehow some of the answers lead to all kinds of debates that turned into people just about attacking each other! So much so that the moderator removed a couple of the posts and urged everyone to stay focused on the subject.

Good for him but I am left wondering. Do these heated debates regularly occur around the dinner tables on the camino? I know that whenever you have a mixed group of people together and religion is thrown in the mix - discussions can become heated, to say the least.

I am just disturbed by the negative energy that was created by some of the discussions that developed.

I reminded myself that at the end of the day, my own answer to that question is going to be the only one that really matters! Am I going to be changed as a person by walking all that way with a backpack on my back and a mind and heart ready to accept what the experience is meant to teach me? I hope I am - and yes, I do hope that it's going to be in a overwhelmingly positive way!

As for the promised 'Pasteis de Nata' recipe - well, photos first. The recipe comes from Mimi Jardim's book, 'Cooking the Portuguese way in South Africa'. Mimi has saved many South African girls who are married to Portuguese men. Portuguese mothers-in-law are all excellent cooks. Most of their recipes reside in their heads though and if there is a language barrier, how is an Afrikaans girl like myself supposed to figure it out! 

My mom bought me the book many years ago and this recipe produces little tartlets that tastes exactly like the ones you'll find in any little bakery in Lisbon!

I thought I'd capture my own little tartlets as they were transformed from being flour, cream, cinnamon, eggs etc. to divine treats that made you forget the word diet exists...

The recipe...

Roll out the pastry thinly. Cut into strips about 14cm wide and roll the strips like a Swiss-roll. Cut the rolls into 'wheels', 2-3cm wide. Place the pastry wheels in greased patty tins. Dip your thumb in cold water and press the pastry wheels so that they line the tins. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Beat the egg yolks. Add the flour, mixed with a little milk. Add the cream and sugar and mix well. Place in a saucepan and and bring to the boil. Add the lemon rind. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Pour into a jug. Pour the filling into the pastry-lined tins until three-quarters full.
Bake in a very hot oven (300 degrees Celsius) until golden brown, with a dark, almost black, centre. (15-20 minutes). I like to sprinkle a little ground cinnamon over the cooked tartlets.

Hide some for yourself, serve the rest, sit back and wait for the compliments!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 38 - Of talks, pilgrims, hikes and pictures!

This is my friend Christi - photographed earlier this year on her camino in Spain. If Christi hadn't made a decision four years ago to walk the camino, I might still not have known that there was such a thing as the Camino de Santiago!

My sister mentioned a couple of weeks ago that her friend, Christi, has just walked the Camino de Santiago.

The whole 780km journey. On foot. 

She immediately had all my attention. I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago and had only met Christi very briefly on a previous occasion.

I knew I had to meet her again and a couple of days later we met for lunch and I was privileged to be introduced to the camino in the most perfect way. From the mouth (and heart) of a true pilgrim. Someone who has actually walked it herself and came back blessed in so many ways.

I bombarded her with questions and again, I am just so amazed at how people who have followed this journey are so generous with sharing their experiences. Christi clearly had a very spiritual journey and has started presenting talks on her experience.

So this Saturday, twenty odd women will be coming to my home to hear her talk. To say I am excited and filled with expectation is putting it mildly. I have secured a screen as she will be showing us some of her pictures and on Friday evening you'll find me in my kitchen, preparing those yummy Portuguese Pasteis de Nata tartlets that I'm famous for. (Thanks to the 'Cooking the Portuguese Way in South Africa' cookbook that my mom gave me 30 years ago!)

I'm hoping that everyone will be intrigued by this pilgrimage as much as I am and who knows, some of them might even end up walking with me in 2012!

On another note... I posed a question on the forum of the 'virtual algergue' that I belong to and it has been quite interesting to read the replies. The question was 'Has your camino experience changed who you are as a person?'

The answers made me realise again how different we all are. And thank goodness for that! Here is one of the replies that was posted:

'That's a really good question, and something I've been thinking a lot, especially since talking to a student who is writing her thesis on a related topic.

The Camino has changed my life in that I want to go back. Any extra money goes into my Camino fund. It's had enough of an effect on my life that I started a Camino blog, partly to process the experience--almost two years after my walk. And I've never been athletic, so it's amazing to know that my body is capable of astounding things like walking 1500km.

But I suspect I'm not particularly more spiritual, or necessarily nicer, or (much) better at dealing with life than I was pre-Camino. When I got home, I wasn't any closer to knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. But then again walking the Camino has made me look at these things more, and maybe to some extent in a different way.

So it continues to affect my life, I suspect often in ways I don't realize. Judging by myself and my Camino friends (although we could be abnormal), a lot of people don't have huge epiphanies on the Camino. But I think the experience can keep working away in our lives if we let it.

Walking the Camino for almost three months was an incredible experience for me. I went through some miserable times, physically and emotionally, but the whole time I had this feeling of rightness--that this was where I was meant to be. But it's hard to bring that back into regular life.'


There was also a very short and sweet 'No'. That one really made me smile.

Thank goodness we're not all the same!

I guess walking for kilometers on end with all your belongings on your back and not always knowing exactly where you're going to sleep, in a strange country, with a strange language and surrounded by strangers, is certainly going to take you to places you've never been to in more ways that one! 

It seems that one should have an open mind and certainly an open heart when embarking on this experience. I for one can't wait to answer my own question at the end of my own walk!

I promised earlier that I will quote pieces from Tony Kevin's wonderful book, 'Walking the Camino' and this is what he says about pilgrimage:

'The idea of pilgrimage, the dream of 'an arduous journey far from home undertaken for sacred reasons', is embedded deep in our culture and history. It is part of us, part of what inspires our urge to travel,to experience foreign places. We may not know it, but each time we leave our homeland to travel the world, we are looking for something more than just 'holidays', fun, and sex in the sun. I think we are seeking, whether we recognise it or not, spiritual enlightment, wisdom, and the revelation of God in the richness of the great world that lies out there beyond our home town.

Every traveller, especially every young traveller, is a pilgrim: whether they go consciously to seek spiritual rebirth, to escape from oppression or grief or boredom at home, to seek interesting or spiritually rewarding work experience abroad, or simply to enjoy the thrill of unfamiliar places and customs. The desire to go a-pilgriming, it seems, is part of our human condition.' 

I just love this book!

 And then on a final note...

Tomorrow is hiking day!! The weather looks good, so we are going to head out of Cape Town on about an hour's drive and we'll be spending the day hiking in the mountains just outside of our Winelands region. I am taking my camera along - so watch this space!

I thought I'd leave you with a picture of the beautiful Blue Disa we found on our last hike. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one way to describe this little flower - perfect!

Until the next post - cheers!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 34 - Affirmations

Today I went walking. For almost two hours. I hung my imaginary scallop shell board around my neck, plugged my earphones in and headed down to the beach. I didn't take my camera along as I wasn't really in the mood to take pictures but about half way into the walk I was in such a beautiful place, I just had to relent. So the above photo was taken with my phone.

This was such a peaceful, serene spot, I simply had to capture the moment. This is where my walk became so much more than what I'd expected when I set out. About twenty steps later, I spotted this sign. I had to take another picture as I could not believe how uncanny this was! My head had been filled with camino thoughts up to that moment - in fact I'm finding it hard to not book that ticket to Spain and forget about waiting until July 2012! This really took me aback a little...

Pelegrini of course, means pilgrim. And then, probably twenty more steps away - this just jumped out right at me...

If you think it's pretty far fetched up to now, wait for this. I'd been listening to jazz on a station called Fine Music Radio up to that point. Here the reception became really bad and I had to search for another station. I put the radio on the automatic search function and it stopped on a local station at 94.5. After the first song faded away, the presenter introduced himself.

marc pilgrim.

Well, I'm speechless. The scallop shell means 'don't talk to me today'. I guess there are more ways of communicating than saying things out loud. All I know is that someone spoke to me today.

Loud and clear!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 33 - What does the word 'pilgrimage' really mean?

'Pilgrimage is a spiritual discipline that involves walking'. I like that definition. If you've ever spent the day walking out in the mountains you'll know how true that is.

Life as a whole is a pilgrimage. Getting from point A to point B. Sometimes it feels as if I 'm stuck or going in circles. Point B seems incredibly elusive at times. Perhaps I'm not walking fast enough, or maybe that's just it - perhaps I should slow down a little at times!

When I climbed Kilimanjaro our guides told us at least ten times a day: 'pole, pole...!' Slowly, slowly. Your chances of being affected by altitude sickness when you rush is just so much higher! You want to ease your body into the altitude as it were, giving it a chance to adapt at a rate that it can handle.

That really required discipline in the early days when we were still all fit as fiddles and full of enthusiasm. Climbing was easy and oxygen freely available! Things changed drastically as we got higher and with the help and instruction of our guides, we found our pace.

I guess that's how the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is going to play out for me as well. Pole, pole. After all, I am going to walk 500 miles to go to church! (I wish I could take credit for that statement, but I have to admit, I heard another pilgrim describe his journey that way - I love it!)

This same pilgrim also described pilgrimage as follows: 'Pilgrimage engages your emotions, your intellect, spirit and body.'

They tell me that if you walk the camino and you don't want anyone to talk to you, you simply hang a little board around your neck. (The board has to have a cockle shell, the pilgrim's symbol, painted on it.) In the pilgrimage of life I think those little boards should be standard issue.

As for my Kilimanjaro pilgrimage - it was a huge success. It turned out to be so much more that I had even anticipated. As for my daily pilgrimage, well, it's a work in progress. And the Camino de Santiago - the more I read and hear about the experience, the more impatient I get to pack my bag!

What was it they said again? Pole, pole pilgrim...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 32 - Say it with colour!

Our photography club meets tonight and I thought I'd post a preview of my attempts! This month we had to choose a theme colour and than photograph anything we felt drawn to. I chose to have fun with food and flowers...

The author of the wonderful book I'm reading at the moment, Tony Kevin, has given me the green light to chat about and quote from his book. 'Walking the Camino' is a fascinating read and I will be sharing it with you over the next couple of days. 

Here is a little piece that sets the tone:

'As I looked at the faces of the happily chatting men and women pilgrims around me - English, Germans, Spanish, Dutch, Canadians, Japanese - I began to feel the spirit of the Santiago pilgrimage starting to enter quietly into my soul. There was fellowship here,human solidarity, and generosity of spirit.It wasn't just about endurance walking and blisters on hot, dry roads: there was something more happening here.'

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 31 - The dreaded Albergues

Overnight hostels. Those two words together do not work for me at this stage of my life. Especially not if it forms part of my travel itinerary!

On the Camino de Santiago they are referred to as 'Albergues' and I have no idea what to expect from these ominous places. From what I've read they are all very different. Some seem wonderful and some seem to be just as the description says - overnight hostels and nothing more.

So now you'll understand why I was intrigued by a recent post by my new friend, Annie, on her camino blog. She decided to showcase some of her favourite Albergues and I was all ears. She has very kindly allowed me to post some of the pictures here. I must say, I am pleasantly surprised!

To read more about Annie's experiences at these Albergues, visit http://www.caminosantiago2.blogspot.com/.

I am indeed thankful for people like Annie, Sil and Karin, all recent acquaintances of mine, who are so willing to share their camino experiences. I know that when I finally pack my backpack to start my own walk, I will be so much better prepared because of all their advice and guidance.

Gracias peregrinas!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 30 - A lovely book about an inspiring journey

The past week has been one of reflection for me. I spent a lot of time thinking about why I find myself so attracted to the idea of doing the Camino de Santiagao - something that I knew nothing about a few weeks ago.

So I started searching on the Internet and spent time reading blogs written by people who have either walked the camino, or like me, are still contemplating doing it. I found some wonderful material and I'm even more fascinated than ever.

The fist of my great finds was a a book called 'Walking the Camino' by an Australian author, Tony Kevin. I've bought the book and find I can't put it down! Many pilgrims have written about their experiences but I think I'd have to look far to find one as eloquently written as this one.

The introduction to his book reads: 'Tony Kevin retired from the Australian foreign service in 1998, after a 30-year government career during which he served in the Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister's departments, and was Australia's ambassador to Poland and Cambodia.' So what would prompt someone like Tony to walk a pilgrim's route of 1200 kilometres over hills and stones, with just a wooden rod and a backpack on his back?

I felt as if I've arrived in good company and that discovering why he chose to do this might help me understand my own fascination with the camino experience.

After some searching I found a clip of an interview done by an Australian radio station. It's about 26 or so minutes long but really worth listening to, right until the end. Especially if, like me, you are planning to tackle the camino somewhere in the future. Have a look at this link - you'll find the prompt on the pages where you can listen to the interview.

In the interview the presenter asks him why he thinks people do the walk and this is what he answered: 'One of the reasons is that it is an affirmation of common humanity. It is a way of saying - we are all one people in a world that is so divided - where people shut each other out. The Camino is a place where people meet as equals, reaching out to each other. There is a wonderful feeling of comradeship and empathy that comes out of that. It is an opprtunity to live a life (a brief life) without all the complications of normal life, our insecurities, our anger and our aggression. The Camino is always friendly, always reaches out. It's an opportunity, for a short while, to live a perfect life.'

I would love to post quotes from the book and have sent the publishers a note to ask permission to do so. As soon as I have the ok, I'll go ahead and share some more if this wonderful book with you.

I said at the beginning of this blog that I have a feeling I am going to discover some great things and here we are, 30 days into the journey. It certainly has not disappointed yet!

Finally - here is the picture of what I suspect is a baby custard apple tree. Against all odds, it is still alive and well on my kitchen sill! I'm not known for my green fingers, so this is a miracle of sorts - I wrote all about it in a previous post. Miracles do indeed still happen!