Thursday, January 29, 2009


Half of the fun of going on a long trek is in the planning. Where to start? How to get to the start? How many days to walk? Ordering the guide book, reading other people's diaries. Then the big decisions - boots or shoes: sleeping bag or liner: fleece or thermals.
I have the Arles to Puente la Reina guide from the CSJ UK - also the Miam Mian Dodo guide that includes the Aragones.

We decided on starting at Lourdes so we have booked our multi-flight tickets from Durban to Johannesburg to Toulouse and home from Santiago on Iberia.
Remember to change to your country and your language (top left of the screen) before you start searching the timetable - and click on mulitple-routes to get to the window that allows you up to 6 changes.

We will get a tain to Lourdes from Toulouse.
There is a train at 12h09 that arrives at 15h04: Then there is a train at 14h00 that gets in at 15h53. So we have to decide, do we want to rush to get the 12h09 train that takes almost 3 hours or do we wait for the 14h00 train that takes less than 2 hours. Decisions, decisions!

We have decided to stay in a hotel in Lourdes to get over the Jet lag. It is the Hotel Saint Etienne ** 61, Boulevard de la Grotte. Triple room 46€. 250 metres from the entrance to the sanctuaries (Porte St Michel) Continental breakfast is not included - 4.50€ Services: Souvenirs/Gift Shop, Packed Lunches

We want to take part in the Torchlight Marian Procession which takes place each evening at 9.00 pm (as it has done since 1872.) During the Procession, the pilgrims walk in groups behind their pilgrimage banner. Everyone is invited to carry a lighted candle in their hand – a reminder of Baptism. The procession lasts about 1½ hours. Candles are bought in the town before entering the Sanctuary.At the end of the Procession, the Priests and Bishops present give the Blessing.
The welcoming of pilgrims and announcements begin at 20.45. The Evening Procession begins from the Grotto and ends in the square in front of the Rosary Basilica. Between torches, pilgrims carry a statue of Our Lady (a copy of the Cabuchet statue of the Blessed Virgin).

Our schedule for the walk to Puente la Reina is almost complete but, hey, one never knows how it will change once we are walking! The comments on the accommodation is from pilgrims who have walked this route.

Pilgrim accommodation: Accueil Saint Jacques, 3, rue des Pyrénées , Asson Tél : 05 5 71 04 83 Capacité : Sleeps 4 Prix : 10 € / nuit,399*#=52

B&B facilities and camp site:

Oloron Ste Marie:
Pilgrim accommodation: Relais du Bastet, 12, place de la Résistance Tel. 06 77 19 82 85 12,50 € per night 2€ for sheets.
Or: “Maison Guerra Laroque, run by a very helpful Canadian named Pierre who advised me that the way is well marked to Somport (the stretch I did from Urdos, along the 'route ancienne d'espane' was fine). It is a really beautiful area. You can get a Credential from Pierre, and his Refuge in the Rue Revol is a delight.” Sleeps 5
Or: Patchwork Pilgrims/walkers : (accommodation up to 4/7 pers.) : 12 euros/pers./night, without sheets/towels: option breakfast: 5 euros; option evening meal 8.50 euros

Former monastery, phone in advance! Les Fontaines d’Escot, a former monastery and St James study Centre has been for centuries a refuge for St James pilgrims. We are 200m from the path you just have to cross the river bridge. We offer special discounts for pilgrims: Two pilgrims in a twin or double room is €13 each pilgrim

Pilgrim accommodation:

"This former hospital St Jacques (also known as Hospitalet), is recognizable because it is shaped like a chapel with a steeple. It has been redeveloped into a museum and refuge for pilgrims and hikers. Sleeps 6 .

(Many of these photos are from the Aspe website)

Pepito Grillo.Habitaciones hostel multiple sleep-sac, should be open all year. Price: 8€ Tel: 974-37-31-23 CANFRANC TOWN The hostel offers a place to rest pilgrims going to pass 4 bed room 56.00 € - Habitación 4 personas Incl breakfast.
Albergue Sargantana 55€ 4 bed-room sleep sac in multiple rooms, open all año.Teléf: 974-37-32-17 Villanúa Tritón hostel in the old town, 8€ in rooms sleeping bag múltiples.Teléf: 974-37-82-81

Refugio, newly built, Tel: 974-35-51-16. Excellent rehabilitation of the old hospital of pilgrims in the streets Conde Aznar. 6€

The following photographs are from:

Shelter, run by volunteers, comfortable and fraternal, has 20 beds.
“Arres is a little like Hontanas on the Meseta in that it just suddenly "appears". The path meanders around the hillside, turns a corner, and lo and behold, there is the village! It is a beautifully restored house (as is Santa Cilia - cared for by a woman in the village at that time) and when I was there the hospitalero took it upon himself to cook dinner for us (there was no shop in the village - there was in Sta Cilia). Arres is a special place, and all the pilgrims were taken to a place to watch the sunset, then to the church for a special "blessing" and in the morning we were woken early for breakfast, given a sandwich and sent on our way in the dawn light, a wonderful experience clambering down the hillside path stopping frequently to watch the magical sunrise.”

Refuge in the two houses rehabilitated. 72 in bunk beds, hot water, heating, blankets, lounge and dining room. Sleep is 10 € - breakfast 3.50€ more. They also provide meals for 7 euros and prepare food bags for 4 euros. Phone: 948-39-80-82.

Refuge in Labrit street. Run by the Daughters of Charity, who kept clean and cozy. It is essential to have a credential. Keys from the City residence. Phone: 948-87-00-42. 8€
Hotel Yamaguchi. Tel: 948-87-01-27; double with bath, from 40 euros.
The pension Navas. Tel: 948-87-00-77; double with shared bath, 25 euros.

Refugio, new construction. Eight beds in bunks, with hot water, kitchen and lounge. Open from May 15 to October 15. The keys are in the sale of Izco. Phone: 948-36-21-29. It costs 6€


Refugio, very basic, but serves for the night.. To shower, use the front of the locker room or the pool. Voluntary donation. Keys, Jose Mari. Tel: 948-36-02-22

Puenta La Reina:
We will take a bus from here to Pamplona as Val has to fly home the next day.


Albergues, hostals, hotels etc., We will probably stay at the Hostal Dom Luis in San Nicolas.
Val will be leaving us from here so it will be nice for her to have a place to spread out her stuff and repack for the return journey home.

Saturday 20th June: Camino Ingles
Marion and I take a train from Pamplona to Lugo. We leave at 12h36 from Pamplona and arrive in Lugo at 21h00 (costs 46.10€ ). We will spend the night at a Hotel and get a bus or train from Lugo to Ferrol the following day.
Bus - ± 2 ¼ hours. Week days - 11:00, 13:15, 16:15, 18:30. Saturdays - 11:30, 16:15, 18:30 and Sundays - 16:15 and 18:30.
Train: 7h08 arrives 09h13.
We might have to have an early morning and take the train. I'd like to visit the Tourist Office for a stamp and a map and their Sunday hours are 10:00 to 12:30. The CSJ guide says:

The Tourist Office is on the first floor of a modern office block tucked into
the left hand side of the Plaza España (if facing the direction of the port)
They provide pilgrims with:
Map out the route (showing 2 alternatives) from the city to the outskirts
A copy of the Xunta Guide in English
A schematic of the distances and elevations on the route (which isn’t terribly accurate!)
A Gallego phrasebook (which is perhaps too heavy to carry)
And…they have good toilets if setting off immediately from there!

This is the suggested itinerary for the Camino Ingles:

Ferrol – Pontedeume 25 kms (Albergue at Neda - 11km)
Pontedeume – Betanzos 20 kms (Albergue at Mino - 27km)
Betanzos – Hospital de Bruma 29 kms
Hospital de Bruma – Sigüeiro 24 kms (Hospital de Bruma 38km)
Següeiro – Santiago de Compostela 16 kms

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It is so exciting now that the three of us have booked our air flights for our walk. I cannot wait to be on our way. Today we did our first longish walk together, 18km from my place in Durban North to Umhlanga Rocks and back again. We never stopped talking from the time we started until we finished.
Syl is the most organised as she has everything ready, she could fly off tomorrow. Val & myself still have a few things to buy. On Friday the three of us will go shopping - Syl will bring the scale to make sure Val & myself don't buy anything to heavy!!!
I'm sure the time will fly by and before we know it, we will be on our way.



(Picture from

I have been wearing the new boots around the house, on short walks with the dogs and on ± 8km walks in Kloof but this morning we walked 19km and - I LOVE MY BOOTS. They are leather but are light, cushioned inside, great soles. They are an improvement on the HiTec Kevlar that I wore on the Via Francigena and in Spain as they are Waterproof. Hopefully, no blisters with these.

The socks are FALKE stretch hiking socks with padding around the toes, under the foot and heel and around the ankle but they are not padded on the top which allows some air in. They were very comfortable and I don't think I'll need sock liners.
It was a HOT day - 30oC - and it was a loooong, flat walk on tarred roads, grassy verges and on the hard sand along the beach from Durban North to Umhlanga Rocks and back.
We stopped at the pavement cafe for a coffee and I asked for a black Decaf - but, I don't think it was Decaf because by the time we had walked a couple of km I started to feel twitchy and by the time we got back to Durban North I had a red face like a rooster and was feeling a bit woozy. Could have been the heat or could have been my thermostat! A short rest at Marion's, a cold Cranberry Juice and a few grapes and I was feeling again.
On the way home Val and I stopped at Sportsman's warehouse in Springfield and we bought her plastic cutlery set, waist bag, folding backpack, telescopic pole and a few other odds and ends.
I bought Marion a Karrimor waist bag for her birthday next month. We've been looking for something less bulky than the Cellini bags we used to Rome and this is a really nice bag with 3 zippered compartments and a soft, mesh back lining to absorb perspiration.
On Friday morning we are going to Westwood Shopping Mall to visit Cape Union Mart for boots for Val & M, and to Dischem to buy the shoulder-strap pads.
Our aim now is to get fitter so we are going to walk the 'Pot 'n Kettle' walk next Sunday. Woooo ... those hills are killers and the 18km is more like 25km!! But, if we are going to cross the Pyrenees we need to get hill walking.
Val doesn't work on a Friday so in a couple of weeks time we will do three-day, back-to-back walks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and see how we feel.
I feel a bit like I did when training to run Comrades! I want to be slim, fit and strong for the walk.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Now we are down to three of the original VF Five. Linda has had to withdraw for personal reasons. Val can only join us for two out of the 3.5 weeks.

It was my turn to have a luncheon get-together on Saturday. We discussed air flights, transport to Lourdes, where to stay etc.
We three will walk from Lourdes to Oloron Ste Marie, turn south to the Sompost Pass and walk the Aragones Route to Puente La Reina. We will have a rest day when we take a taxi from Jaca to San Juan de la Péna with it's massive over- hanging rock (that gives it its name). Here is a legend about San Jaun.

"One day in about 732 a noble Mozarabic youth from Saragossa went hunting deer in these mountains and he chased a steer until it fell over the cliff. The young man almost fell over as well but he was able to rein in his animal. Looking over the edge he saw the dead steer lying next to the entrance of a deep cave. Inside the cave was a tiny shrine and on the ground, lying dead with his head on a stone was the venerable hermit Juan de Atarés. The youth buried the hermit, sold all his own wordly goods and with his brother came to live in the cave. Before they diedm, they handed over the hermitage to two disciples and thus the fame of this saintly place reached the outer world. In this tiny sanctuary was born the Kingdom of Sobarbe which gave birth to the Kingdom of Aragon." (Walter Starkie - The Road to Santiago)
Val will return home from Pamplona and Marion and I will be continuing on to walk the camino Ingles from Ferrol.

We had a great working lunch. I did a tapas platter and variation on the Coquille St Jacques using artichoke hearts instead of scallops. I also made polenta slices with leek and rocket, and did Caprichos (meringues) with a special almond cream. Mmm...mmm.. it was all very delicious!
I even found a bottle of white wine called Muchas Gracias.

We have all booked our flights on Iberia. We leave for Toulouse on the 4th June and get a train to Lourdes on the 5th June. Whilst in Lourdes we plan on taking part in the torchlight procession. Joy and I visited Lourdes in 2004 when we were walking the Via Turonensis but we didn't stay there. We start walking on Saturday 6th June. Can't wait!!
Yesterday the 1Time newsletter arrived in my email inbox. They have a special on until the end of June - limited number of seats at R278! That is half the price of a normal one way ticket. So, M and I booked our tickets to Johannesburg from Durban. I haven't booked my return flight yet - will wait until another special comes up in a few weeks time. We have 4 months and 16 days to go.
Val will book her flights this week. She and M have British passports - I have to apply for a Schengen Visa from the Spanish Consulate in Pretoria.

Here begins the journey .........

Sunday, January 4, 2009

YEEHAAA!!!!!! 2009 - 21 weeks, 6 days, 4 hours and counting!!!

The FIVE are down to FOUR. Kathy can't make it. She is doing her Ph.d this year, has a son graduating and does not have time to make the walk in June. We will miss her - she was our map reader, mountain goat leader and great fun on the VF. I've promised her that when she has time to go walk-about again, I will organise a walk on the Via Romea from the South of Italy to Roma. (She LOVES those Carbinieri in their tall black boots!)

So we are now down to FOUR - Marion is thrilled that her foot has improved so much that she managed two back-to-back hikes in the Drakensberg over New Year without any pain or discomfort.
Val still has to ask her boss for four weeks leave in June. We are all holding thumbs that she will get it. If not, she might still make the first two weeks from Lourdes to Pamplona.
Marion has been considering whether to go to the UK before we walk to do a few weeks of care work. If she does, she won't have to re-register with the Agency here and won't have to renew all her papers.

Linda wants to wait before she books her air ticket and will buy her clothes ' later ' so it seems that we are not completely ready for booking of tickets and making our final plans yet.
But, we are having our 2nd get-together here on Sunday 18th January and we should all know by then where we stand.
I am considering doing a two week hospitalero stint at Corcubino after the walk. That means that I will be away 6 weeks.