Stuff I see, which you might not.

Days 10 and 11 on the Camino

Days 10 and 11 were pretty good walkin’ – around 25km each day and not too hilly. Walking in the heat and over a lot of rocky terrain is pretty tiring and we’re all starting to walk like cowboys by the time we slow down at our albergue, with a range of foot, leg and ankle troubles.
Without wanting to sound like a spoilt brat, the landscape has become a little boring – the sunflowers are a highlight as we pass through all of the golden fields.
We ended Day 9 at Redecilla del Camino – a tiny town, where Steph and I were the only ladies in the bar. Also at the bar was a peculiar little kid eating an ice cream and sporting a long rat’s tail hair-do. Other than that, highlights included finding out the nationality of the blonde supermodels we had seen at the previous albergue (Lithuanian) and another delicious Dave & Tom meal – chorizo and apple stew (with cider).





Day 10 saw us head to Villafranca Montes de Oca, where we were welcomed to the fantastic looking hotel & albergue by a nutty sort of chap who kept interrupting Dave’s translations. We met an Australian guy, Charlie, who sounded as though he was being held hostage by his German walking pals – only allowing a 15 minute stop on a 30km walking day. Made us glad that we’re walking fast, but taking time for photo stops, breakfast and lunchtime picnics along the way.
As it was lovely Tom’s last evening with us (before heading home to London) we had a great pilgrim’s meal at the hotel restaurant to celebrate our time together. Good wine, good food, good company – a great Camino experience.
Day 11 started in very thick fog, making the moonlit walk up and down the steep hills very interesting. We walked with Luis, a Spanish guy who could only converse with Dave (and with me via Dave’s translation) – he was looking forward to a bocadillo for breakfast at the first town we visited (“9 o’clock is a good time for a sandwich”). Steph was very excited to find some German Ritter Sport chocolate in one of the little shops on the way today. We finally found out more about the German family with whom we’ve been keeping pace for a few days – a javelin thrower & her archeology-studying, discus-throwing sister, their Mum and coach Dad.
We’re an imaginative bunch, so we do spend quite a bit of time making up back stories about the people we see along the way. It’s always interesting to find out the truth about people – sometimes as fascinating as we’d imagined, sometimes not.
Ended the day in Cardenuela, at a fantastic albergue with a large sunny terrace. We met Chris from Texas, an electric cigarette-smoking graphic designer travelling the world for a year. The guy who runs the albergue has just brought us a jug of sangria to enjoy while we sit around chatting. Life is good!









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Camino 9

Our ninth day was another relatively easy walking day – nice and cool, with only a few uphill stretches in the 26km to Redecilla del Camino. Passing through fields full of sunflowers (some more with faces carved into them – still kinda creepy) and now the vineyards have been replaced by golden cornfields.
At one stage today, a huge flock of sheep crossed the path, blocking several pilgrims in their way.
Nothing else too exciting to report today – German Andy clipped his wings and walked with us, mostly to disprove our suspicion that he catches a bus to beat us to the next town. Somehow, we always seem to arrive around 2pm, looking slightly battle-weary, and Andy appears at the hostel (‘Hey guys!’) looking fresh as a daisy.
Andy also has the endearing habit of answering, ‘of course!’ to most of the questions asked of him: Do you wear lederhosen? Of course! Do you eat the deer that you shoot in your neighborhood forest? Of course! (NB, he carries them to the butcher for ‘processing’ first.)
If only world leaders would walk the Camino, I think it’d go a long way towards global peace & understanding…




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Day 8 on the Camino

Day 8 was another pretty easy day – about 26km to Azofra. We pretty much had a whole albergue to our gang of five last night, with only one other German bike rider with us in our large dorm. Was great to get a good night’s sleep without snorers or loud talkers! It definitely makes a difference to how we feel in the morning, that’s for sure.
A beautiful sunrise this morning and a day of wandering through more beautiful vineyards – not too hot for the most part, which was great. One of our gang, Dave, had an ankle injury that looked like ending his Camino (this is his second), which made us all pretty quiet this morning as he had to walk on in immense pain. Fortunately, he seems to be feeling a lot better and it looks as though he will be able to continue with us.
This albergue is pretty great – small rooms of only two beds (with a door for privacy) and a large courtyard with a small pool/fountain – though practical pilgrims have made the courtyard into a washing area, with lots of lines of clothes blowing in the breeze.
We calculated an average of 25km per day so far, which is pretty good – we’re walking at a good pace, but stopping to enjoy the sights and food along the way. Hard to believe it’s a week since we left St Jean – sometimes feels like yesterday, but then this routine has become so familiar, it feels like we have been doing it for years!






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Camino 5,6,7

It’s honestly so difficult to remember what happens and where we go every day, but hopefully this post will catch us up to today! I mean, the ‘what happens’ every day is clearly a whole lot of walking, but we are travelling through different landscapes, meeting lots of interesting new people and seeing so many amazing things that it’s hard to keep track.
The heat and fatigue mean that when we reach our destination, we focus on finding a place to stay, then a much needed shower to freshen up, then fixing our medical probs (blisters, sore muscles, aching feet), then washing our dusty, sweaty clothes. The routine is actually pretty nice.
We generally arrive at about 2pm, as we stop during the day for morning tea and then lunch – and to fill our water bottles from the fountains we pass along the way.
Day 5 saw us leave the cute little town of Cirauqui by moonlight and start a long walking day. We visited the famous wine fountain past Estella, which provides free red wine for passing pilgrims, from what looks like a normal water fountain tap. Definitely a Camino ‘experience’ and a nice drink to have with our picnic lunch in the park. Our albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin was run by Dutch volunteers and we were lucky to have a room for our gang of five, complete with our own private balcony with an amazing view…





Day 6 was a walk to Viana – a good walking day and another perfectly sunny (but quite cool) summer day in Spain. We passed through Los Arcos, greeted by a strange small farm and comprehensive sign about the town’s attributes. The hostel in Viana was interesting – three-tiered bunks and we all got sent to the tops of our bunks, which was quite the gymnastic feat, I tell you.




Day 7 was the day that a French girl had told us would be so great that our bodies would feel fantastic and we could skip along the path. No such luck and we’re all pretty tired and sore today, so settled for a town 22km along, rather than pushing on closer to 30km. A good move to take it easy and enjoy a nice afternoon and then tapas dinner in Navarette. Today we passed through the beautiful Logrono – including a massive park and very friendly people. And a giant sort of Snakes & Ladders, Camino-version. We met up with our funny German pal, Andy, but otherwise we’re seeing lots of new pilgrims as more people start on the way to Santiago. Now it’s 10pm – time for bed!







Buen Camino – days 3 & 4

Our third day started by moonlight (let’s just presume they all do from here on in – we leave at 6.30am). A big change today as we walked through urban areas and saw people & cars instead of cows & sheep that we’d been sharing the path with so far.



We passed through the bustling city of Pamplona, with some very cute streets & buildings and some very scary giant baby head sculptures.


Stayed the night at a hostel run by the Knights of Malta, where we met Janet & Fred, a couple from the USA walking the Camino to celebrate Janet’s recent 75th birthday. Amazing.
The next morning was overcast and a little cooler, thankfully, and saw us reach the wind farms and wrought iron pilgrims of Alto del Perdon. Our guide book suggested a 19km day, but we said boo to that and walked 26km. Passed through some beautiful olive groves and vineyards along the way to the cute hilltop town of Cirauqui. Where the church bells toll every half an hour – right through the night. And our hostel was right across the square, so no danger of losing track of time!









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Camino Day 2

Another early start on Day 2 leaving Roncesvalles by moonlight. A day with more rocky hilly challenges and very hot weather (35 degrees+) and all was going well, til we decided not to stay and play in the cool stream at Zubiri, but to continue on more than 5km of very difficult terrain in the intense heat.

We have formed a bit of a walking gang with two lovely young guys from Britain and also more of a Dad-like friend in Shane from Ohio. It helps with chatting away to distract (a bit) from the pain of hills etc.

Part of what makes this experience so amazing is how quickly you feel a bond with fellow ‘pilgrims’ along the way. And there are such incredible stories – an older lady from Bulgaria who speaks very little (ie pretty much none at all) English/French/Spanish. Then there are the two Glaswegians who pretty much walk as fast as they can to drink as much as they can at their destination. Oh, and the German man who dislikes us trying to speak German with him. And Melissa from Canada who has been cursed with the most horrible blisters already – battling on in intense pain as she tries to reach Pamplona where she will stay and rest for a short while.

A reminder of how lucky we are to be mostly blister-free (unfortunately Steph has some) and in good health. Sore muscles, but in good health!

These photos are a bit out of order and I can’t seem to fix them – moonlight start and three other early morning walk shots, then others along the way and finally the welcome arrival at Larrasoana, where we could dunk our tired feet in the cold stream!








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Camino adventures – Day 1

Here’s an update on the Camino, day 1. We started in the beautiful little French village of St Jean Pied de Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees. A great atmosphere in the busy town – it’s the popular starting point of the Camino Frances. We met some lovely people in our hostel and got some time to wander around the town before heading off early the next morning (around 7am, so still a bit dark) to begin our first day.

And what a day it was – I found it incredibly tough, as did a lot of the people we spoke to after we’d made it through alive. Nothing like an extreme physical challenge to form strong bonds with fantastic people from all over the world! The strangeness of the backpack + the very steep mountain climbs (and equally difficult – or maybe more so – declines) + ferocious winds + long distance and then the summer sun made for quite a challenge. But the breathtaking views, cows & sheep & horses provided a good distraction from the pain!

So satisfying to finish the day & share a beer with new friends in Ronvesvalles. A fantastic modern hostel in another great little village.













A little packing tip

I don’t really like packing. It might have something to do with the mean discrimination required – that’s in, that’s out – or the forward thinking about the possible clothing options required for activities that might occur on the trip. However, when packing my backpack for the Camino, the key focus is pretty simple: keep the weight down to around 6kg (uh huh) and as for the activities that might occur – well, that’s pretty much just A LOT OF WALKING.

That’s a part of the journey that I’m looking forward to, actually – no more standing in front of the wardrobe deciding what to wear, instead it will be a case of which of the two options in my pack is cleanest and away we go. As I packed some things in my bag this morning, I thought I’d share a tip that I read somewhere a while ago – in case you didn’t read it too. It’s a trick with the humble hotel shower cap – fits perfectly around shoes to keep the soles from dirtying everything else in your bag. A ShoeCap, if you like. You’re welcome!

The ShoeCap for my gorgeous granny-style trekking sandals.

The ShoeCap for my gorgeous granny-style trekking sandals.

Speaking of shoes, I am on to my fourth pair of Camino shoes – it has been quite the experience, I tell you. Luckily the good folk at The Athlete’s Foot give you 30 days to trial your new shoes in the outside world (as opposed to the outdoors stores that give you 48 hours to trial your shoes in your own lounge room, which isn’t exactly a trial). So technically, the last two pairs are the same purchase – I really wanted the third pair to work as they looked quite cool, but they did not like my ankles. Let’s hope this trekking version of the pinkies is up to the challenge!

Fingers crossed these will do the trick...

Fingers crossed these will do the trick…


Friday Fotos: Mr Button and friends

I’ll keep this short and sweet, but I couldn’t resist sharing these fantastic Mr Buttons – made by John Caswell in the UK and featured on the Frankie magazine blog this week. Now THIS is a way to add personality to your clothes. When I had a look at his online shop, I found that John also makes Mr Switch, to give boring old light switches some character. Oh, and Handy Ruler is pretty cool too.

[image from http://johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

Naked Mr Button(s)
[image from johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

Looking good, Mr Button(s) [image from www.frankie.com.au]

Looking good, Mr Button(s) – even the cranky green one
[image from frankie.com.au]

Mr Switch [image fromhttp://johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

Mr Switch
[image from johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

Handy Ruler [image fromhttp://johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

Handy Ruler
[image from johncaswelldesign.bigcartel.com]

If you want to see more, you can check out the Frankie blog here and John Caswell’s online shop here.

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Gimme Shelter

I have posted about the Ecouterre website a few times – generally when something on their eco fashion / sustainability site catches my eye as being at the extreme end of the wacky scale. So when their recent e-newsletter featured a post calledĀ 10 Wearable Habitats to Shelter You From the Apocalypse, I thought it was worth checking out. Not always practical or attractive, but I guess that’s not at the top of your priority list when you’re seeking shelter from the apocalypse, right?

Apparently, this jacket / sleeping bag combo is the result of a collaboration between London designer Tom Dixon and Adidas, in an attempt to create a “complete wardrobe for every possible occasion”. I presume that this piece is only part of the wardrobe collection, as I do not believe that it caters for every possible occasion. A black tie function, for example. Or, you know, working in a normal office. Or really, any place that requires your legs to be covered in something other than your bedding. It is a good idea if you’re looking for a jacket you can sleep in, though.

Dress it up for day or night.

Dress it up for day or night.

Then there is this ‘Portable Home’ that was designed by three students from Middlesex University in the UK. It’s a peculiar looking white frock that turns into a tent. And you get to wear a cool pointy hat too. Not sure how comfortable your dress would be with all those tent poles hanging around, but it’d be very handy in case you needed a tent on the run.

A great party trick - watch me turn into a tent!

A great party trick – watch me turn into a tent!

And from another British designer, Lucy Orta, comes ‘Refuge Wear’. It’s a great concept and apparently one of Lucy’s designs enabled four people to join their silver jackets together to become a multi-person tent. Pretty amazing stuff, but I really like it because it looks like the tent may well be alive. If I was the boss, I would add some arms, just for the effect.

Hello there.

Hello there.

And now to my favourite. Veasyble. From what I can gather (their website is in Italian), it is like a paper accordion style thing. That you can carry around and then PUT OVER YOUR FACE. The website is full of bizarro images – a lady on the train, with a small paper accordion covering her eyes; a lady on the steps in a busy city, with a paper mask covering her whole face. But I like the one in the image below as I can imagine how good it would be to use in the real world. Forget ‘talk to the hand’ or the old fashioned ‘I am not listening to you – la, la, la, la’. With this, I can show you that I’ve had enough by silently expanding my paper accordion and disappearing into my own cocoon. I don’t think it’s sound-proofed, but someone would have to be very persistent to keep talking once you were in here.

Say what?

Say what?

But I couldn’t leave out the Sleep Suit. American Forrest Jessee (yes, really) has designed this suit and according to his website, there appears to be a great deal of science behind the textile used and the design of the suit. So I do feel a bit guilty for liking it because it looks funny. I couldn’t find my favourite image of the suit to use here – it was a lady dressed in the suit, slumped over her computer keyboard, resting peacefully in an otherwise bustling office. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a suit that could make that happen?


You can check out all of the wearable habitats from the Ecouterre website here. If only I could have ordered a sleep suit in time for the Camino – now THAT would impress the other pilgrims in the hostel!

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