Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Loving Madeira!

Just a quick hallo from the magical island of Madeira! We flew in to Funchal from Lisbon this morning and we've had a wonderful day. Winter in Madeira is quite pleasant and needless to say, the food is to die for!

We've just gone for a long walk and I'm ready to call it a day! How wonderful to be surrounded by the sounds and smells of a place that I love so much...

We plan to explore Funchal tomorrow, do some shopping, take a million pictures and perhaps have lunch at one of our favourite spots. I already have visions of my favourite dish in this city - pork, marinated in red wine and garlic, served with homemade Portuguese bread. Add a jug of Sangria, some good company and you can't possibly ask for more!

Boa noite my friends!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fado, magical Port and tartlets to die for...

If Portugal came to mind after reading that little teaser, you're spot-on! We're off to Portugal for two weeks and my boarding call is being announced as I type! Watch this space - will take loads of photographs and report back in the near future...

Ate logo!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 115 - An unexpected gift...

Gifts come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes it's right under your nose and sometimes we completely miss the most special ones. This morning I received what I consider to be one of the most special gifts that I could possibly have asked for.

I've really been struggling to get going with my training for the Two Oceans half marathon. This is an annual event that takes place in Cape Town near the end of April. So not much time left! My regular running partner has become so good that I can't possibly keep up with her anymore. After I climbed Kilimanjaro last year in July I have just never managed to get back on the road again, so I really am starting from scratch. I've had a few false starts this year, every panic attack brought on by thoughts of the route caused me to run to the cupboard, put on my running shoes and head for the hills! I've really just been kidding myself though, as allowing two weeks between a run/walk of 5km hardly qualifies as a 'training schedule'!

So yesterday I kicked myself under the proverbial behind and managed to survive a 8km run/walk. Thursday is my hiking day, so today I was supposed to be walking on Table Mountain with my little group of trusted hiking friends. That was not meant to be however, as the plumbing monsters (and I do believe they are universal inhabitants of all our homes) decided that a burst pipe in my bathroom will be much more fun to deal with. A newly decorated bathroom is being drilled to pieces as we speak... A 'gift', you ask? Well I suppose it was a gift of sorts, but this particular one I'm returning to sender...

The real gift came in a different form. As I knew the plumber was only coming at 10am, I decided to tap :)  into that new sporty energy that has appeared from who knows where and headed out for another run. I'd been going for about 15 minutes when I heard someone run behind me. I expected to have someone pass me by in a flash and then watch them disappear in the distance. Instead I was greeted with a big friendly smile and just like that, I had met my new running partner!

I'm going left, she said. I'm going right, I said. After thinking a few seconds about going left, which meant an extra couple of kilometers for me, I decided, what the heck. Left it was and that was the best detour I think I've taken in a while!

Vicky and I hit it of immediately and the road just slipped by under my feet as we chatted away. By the end of our run we had decided to meet on a regular basis and help motivate each other, she is training for the Two Oceans as well. So, this chance meeting would not have happened if the pipe in my bathroom didn't burst yesterday.

I was so angry last night at the thought that I was missing my hike today. Who would have thought that instead I was to receive this special gift instead. And who knows, once we get fit enough - we'll manage to keep up with my original running buddy, a double whammy that will be!

Seems like being out on the road really is the place to meet wonderful people. I can't wait to tackle those 780 kilometers in 2012!

As for Jeremiah - in this next extract of his journal he describes a gift of sorts that he received on the Camino from yet another stranger.

Picture: Jeremia Ray

“Did you do much sport? Perhaps, ice skating when you were younger?” I suppose the question made perfect sense. Jean, from Belgium, was performing reiki on my knee. It was late in the evening. A family of Koreans had already retired to the dormitory. Jean was taking a vacation from life. His intention was to take two years and explore. He would do El Camino Frances, head south into Portugal and farther into Northern Africa. We had walked together for two days, but I knew the pain in my knee would prevent us from staying together. He had started in France, carrying over 20kg of gear in neatly arranged pack and could walk 40km in a day without thinking twice. I admired him.

There was a basic level of communication between us. I hadn't spoken French since living in Namur, Belgium in 2002 and his English was of equal ability. He would indicate his ability to speak by mimicking a paddling movement with his arms as though to say “I can get by.” After the reiki session he spoke to me about what he felt. He told me that he can sense an inability within me to trust myself and, when this inability arising, rather than thinking positively (glass is half full) I tend to get down on myself thus placing more pressure on what isn't oppose to seeing what is. He spoke slowly, basic, child French so that I would understand. I did, perfectly. There, in that warm dining area in Estella he had seen a pain that ran deeper than just me knee. He had looked within me and seen the root of it, the cause. I gave him a warm hug that said both “thank you” and “goodbye.”

In my bunk that evening I could hear the others sleeping. The slow, measured breath that comes from a good meal and generous amounts of wine could be heard. I was awake. My mind was racing mad with questions and wonder. “My ability to heal resides within me. I have the power to both mend and heal, to rebuild and save.” My knee, the one upon which Jean had performed reiki, was warm. I could feel a pulsating rhythm within it that seemed to be in sync with my every breath. The warm sensation rose up my leg and created a pulse within the pit of my stomach. Reaching further it crept slowly into my chest and outward to the tips of my fingers. I fell asleep that night at some unknown hour. My mind, still racing, produced fanciful and telling dreams that both amazed and alarmed my being. “My ability to heal resides within.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 113 - El Camino - December 2010

For the past couple of weeks I've felt a little like the guy on the left. Talk about bloggers's block! I now get what writers fear so much, I can't imagine having deadlines and having to produce quality pieces for publication when the words just won't come together.

Life has just been pretty hectic with my days filling up with all kinds of unplanned events - I'm not sure how I found the time to actually work a few years ago, who took care of all these things that seem to fill my days now? I suppose it's all about priorities.

So right now my priorities are keeping me quite busy but my Camino is still an ever present - what shall I call it - event/destiny/reality? This blog has become a real part of that journey and I continue to be amazed by the emails I am receiving from the most wonderful people who already have, or are planning to walk the Camino.

Jeremiah Ray is one of those really special people, who like me, has fallen under the Camino spell. This young man from the USA has been fortunate enough to walk El Camino twice, most recently in December 2010. A few of us who belong to a wonderful camino forum were pretty much with him in spirit as he walked in Spain during one of the coldest winters Europe has seen in a while.

As I looked at fairytale photographs of a Spain covered in snow, I hoped that he would encounter fellow pilgrims and that the albergues would be heated! As it turned out he sometimes found himself to be the only person staying at a particular hostel at times!

One of the great things, for me, is how people start these journeys on their own and by the time they reach Santiago, they have met the most wonderful people, many of whom, it seems, become friends for life. Some often meet up years later on the Camino again - fantastic!

I asked Jeremiah, as my own walk is still so far away, if he would put pen to paper and allow me to share some of his experiences with the readers of my blog. He very kindly agreed to do so and I feel really privileged to be able to invite you along to discover the Camino, as experienced by a true pilgrim.

'I arrived in Pamplona from Madrid. The train ride was a blur as the transatlantic flight was sleepless one. On the bus from the station to the center I scanned every street for fellow pilgrims. I am not sure why I did this. I needed some sort of reassurance that others, like me, were on the move, heading westward despite the cold. Upon entering the bus I had asked the driver where I should disembark that would place me closest to the citadel. I figured from there I could find a hostel room or cheap pension where I could rest and prepare myself for an early start. He told me to “follow that old lady, she's also heading there.” I was surprised by his answer. My jet-lagged mind was expecting direction, advice... a name. Looking at the elderly lady I felt re-assured by her smile, it was warm. I followed her off the bus and watched in amazement as she scurried quickly out of sight. The day was freezing cold and, looking around, I noticed the streets were empty and the brave souls out-and-about were also scurrying in such a manner, fleeing to warm apartments, cafes or offices. I set my pack down and starting hauling out my thermals. “You're mad!” I told myself. “Why here, why now... why Northern Spain in the middle of the winter?” It was the first sign of doubt. I was tired, hungry, thirsty and beginning to doubt my decision to come to Spain in mid-December “just to walk.”

The sky was clear blue and I decided to walk a bit before finding food and shelter. I made my way to the center and allowed myself to get lost down the small, narrow streets. I remembered arriving in this city in 2006. I laughed as my timing always seemed a bit off. In 2006 I arrived in the midst of San Fermin. The city was a madhouse and the only pause in the insanity came when the thunder-clap of pounding hooves silenced the drunken masses. Turning down a small, cobblestone street I noticed an elderly man watching me. I greeted him in Spanish and asked about the weather. He was silent. I smiled, partly, and carried on. He was standing partially in a doorway and partially in the street. As I passed he held out his hand beckoning me to shake it. I removed my glove and gripped his cold, work-worn hand in mine and gave it a firm shake. “Buen Camino, peregrino.” He smiled warmly, his eyes shone brightly with the same intensity as the piercing blue sky above. I could feel his eyes upon me until I turned the corner and continued to loose myself in Pamplona. The hunger, jet-lag and thirst all melted away. This is where I was suppose to be, here, in Northern Spain in the middle of the winter.'

I've decided to publish a short piece every time I post - I loved his writing style and couldn't wait to read the next piece! I've told him he should write a book - I'm quite sure he could inspire a number of people to pack their own bags and head off to Spain!

Will you believe it, I think I've just overcome my 'blogger's block'!  ;)