Monday, April 20, 2009


Yesterday we joined the 5th Annual Gandhi Salt march for Peace - a 22.5km 'march' from the Gandhi settlement in Phoenix to Battery Beach in Durban. The invitation I received for the march was from the Tibetan Society. Geshe Dhonden-la, a Tibetan Buddhist monk walked with the marchers but because of the recent news headlines, when the Dalai Lama was refused a visa to attend a Peace Conference, it was decided that marchers wear the Gandhi-ji t-shirts instead. Val was away down the coast and Marion had a cold, so it was Linda, Glynis and I who did the walk.

We arrived at the beachfront at about 5h30 and were taken to Phoenix by bus. On the bus we were issued with special t-shirts to wear on the march instead of the Peace in Tibet shirts. In the 1980's the house that Gandhi lived in was razed to the ground in political unrest. In the late 1990s, the settlement was restored and substantially reconstructed. It was opened as a heritage site in February 2000 and now forms an important local tourist attraction with a museum containing the old printeing pressed used by Gandhi.

It was a long, slow, shuffling march that took us almost 5 hours walking on the side of the busy North Coast road. The organisers did a great job of controlling the marching mass but a few people fell, tripping over the person in front, or being tripped by the person behind them.

We didn't bother to queue for our medals - or for the free vegetarian meal afterwards - and headed instead for the shady deck of the Suncoast Casino where we had something to drink before driving home.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A fellow pilgrim sent me this update on his Aragones walk:

I had one hell of a day yesterday!!!! Arrived in Jaca by bus from Pamplona and settled in for the night in a very nice refugio. I met two Germans who grew up in Spain. They came here two weeks ago to walk, but found that Somport, the starting place higher up in the Pyrenees, was snowed in. So they started at the nearest village about 6 km below. They returned to Jaca and wanted to do that section to complete the Camino Aragon.
That night there was thunder, lightning and pouring rain. They said that probably that meant snow in the upper altitudes, but we all made it to the lower village. There we met a Spaniard and a Frenchman who also wanted to go to Somport. When the bus came to take us up, the driver said that there was much snow and the Germans dropped out. We decided to see for ourselves.
Yes, the driver was fact a blizzard was still going on. The Frenchman took a bus back, but the Spaniard, with more grey hair than I and mischievious eyes said "Let´s try". He bought me a cup of coffee, and somehow I saw some wisdom in his eyes and decided to trust his judgement.We left and started walking but there were about 6-8 inches (16cm) of new wet snow. We could not even see the path, so walked the road down. There were few cars to dodge, and it was only a bit tense when the snowplows came by. I took a couple of Photos but not more because of the wind and snow. It was really beautiful when you could raise your head to look.
It was a very steep decline so gravity helped us down. It took a bit less than 2 hours with some stops to talk about the sites and try to photograph them.The Spaniard, Jose, had left a bicycle at the hotel at the village Canfranc Estacion and would continue on by bike. Canfranc Estacion, he told me, was used in the filming of Dr Zhivago, and is a grandiose trainstation of the early 1900´s. I continued by myself. The snow had become just cold rain. The path was a still very steep downhill trek made of rocks of various sizes from pebbles to small boulders. This made it very difficult to keep your balance, especially since the rain and runoff from the tops of the mountains turned some stretches into little streams of water. My ankles would be going one way, my knees another, and my hips still a different direction to keep balance.
Along with this being my first day of walking, I was quickly becoming very tired and hurting a bit. I knew I would not be able to make it back to Jaca, and saw that there were accommodations in Villanúa. This meant only 16 km that day, but they were strenuous ones. Just as I got to the town, the temperature dropped, and a strong wind came up. Then it began to hail...pea sized hail. To my dismay, I found the first Refugio closed...and the second...and to my horror the only hostel in town was closed. I stopped in a bar and asked about a place to stay and they told me of some hotels on the main highway. By this time the hail was thickly frozen on my hat causing the brim to droop. I walked on to the highway.
Then I saw a door open and a repairman was there talking to a lady (Isabel). I went up to them and told them of my situation. The lady invited me in, perhaps the frozen look of desparation spured her compassion. She and her husband (Felix)from Logroño were there on holiday. They made me hot tea and he phoned around to find that even the hotels on the highway were closed. He explained that the last day of ski season was Easter and that was probably the reason that everything was closed. It didn´t explain the refugios being closed...but then there were obviously not many "pilgrims" around. After sitting and warming up and getting refreshed. The weather had cleared up a bit, and Felix called the next village, Castillo de Jaca, and secured a room for me. Any room would have done, but this one had a tub...a rare and welcomed feature during my time in Spain. I soaked for a half hour. What a delight!!!!
All emotions that I experience here on the Camino, are more intense than normal. This is especially true when I experience these random acts of kindness like I did from Felix and Isabel. There seem to be a lot of mysteries on the Camino, and one is tuned to interpret them mystically. I chose to think that the hardships of that day set me up to have the peak experience of the kindness shown to me by these two EX-strangers. That is what I will take back with me from this difficult day. That is what will remain in my heart forever.GlennDay 2:The water is high here on the Camino Aragon. The crossing with the stepping stones outside of Castillo de Jaca is flooded. The man at the bar, recommended that I take the road instead. He said that a few days ago a peregrina tried to cross and fell in. She survived but had to be taken to the hospital because of the freezing water.
Later in Jaca I met some people, who, instead of turning back decided to walk the train bridge crossing across the river. I would recommend having a train schedule first if you want to try that.Had to detour once between Jaca and St. Cilia because the river crossing was not possible. A lot of the path seemed like walking through a trout stream. Oh and lots of mud too.I heard rumors that the Guardia Civil had to rescue some pilgrims within the last week off of the SJPP mountain crossing. Unsubstantiated though.Glenn

Monday, April 13, 2009


I am going to be walking a shorter distance than usual this year - just over 500km - but will be doing four caminos in one.
6th - 11th June:
About 140km on the Arles route, starting at Lourdes to Somport Pass:

12th - 19th June:

Then 170km on the Aragones from Somport to Puente la Reina:

21st - 26th June:

108 Camino Ingles

27th to 30th June:

95km from Santiago to Finisterre.

30th June - 13th July:

And then - VERY EXCITING - I'll be doing a two week volunteer stint at the Albergue San Roque run by the Asociación Gallega de Amigos del Camino de Santiago in Corcubion on the Fistera route!
Corcubion is on the coast about 8.5km from Finisterre so I will spend a night there on the 29th on my way to Finisterre and walk back again on the 30th to start my duties as hospitalera with Ana, the other volunteer.
They have 20 beds and offer meals so I am busy compiling easy recipes for 20 people. I am also going through other hospitalero's notes.
One thing that comes through loud an clear is that ".... the pilgrim arrives and the hospitalero receives her and tries to meet her immediate needs. The pilgrim talks, the hsopitalero listens. Its not about you any more.."

What kind of hospitalero will I be?
I have fond memories of many kind, welcoming hospitaleros in the albergues I've stayed in. I hope to follow their example and be a considerate, helpful and patient hospitalera. Many albergues are in run down, basic, unprepossesing buildings but it is not the structure that one remembers, it is the welcome one receives, the smile and kindness of a stranger who helps you with your backpack, offers a cool glass of water, gives you time to settle in and offers to see to your blisters. That is the kind of hospitalero I want to be.
I am going to take extra Arnica oils with me so that I can offer foot massages. The distances between towns on the Finisterre route are longer than most and I know that there will be pilgrims who would appreciated a soothing foot massage.
For two weeks I'll be cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, pulling hair out of shower drains, making beds and preparing food for 20 people. I can't wait!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I have started booking a few places for us to stay.
We have got a room for three in Lourdes for 45.99 euro (15 euro each) at the Hotel Saint Etienne, 61, Boulevard de la Grotte
It is close to the bridge that leads to the sanctuary so we won't have far to walk to join the candelight procession.

I've also booked 3 beds at the Accueil paroissial au Presbytère in Arudy and received this charming reply from the Abbé:

Pas de problème pour vous garder 3 lits et le repas si vous voulez pour le 7 juin. C'est la fête de ma petite ville . Il y aura peut-être un peu de bruit la nuit dans la rue. Amicalement Pierre

No problem to keep you 3 beds and meals if you want for June 7. It's party time in my small town. There may be some noise at night in the street.

And, at the Monastery in Sarrance they charge a special rate of 13 euro each for pilgrims in a double room.

The Albergue Pepito GRillo at Canfrac Estacion has also confirmed three beds for three peregrina with breakfast for 51 euro (17 euro each)

I am going to book beds in Pamplona so that we don't have to trudge around the city looking for a room and I will also book ahead in Lugo because Marion and I will only get in at about 10pm - no time to start looking for beds then.