Posted in Travel sparks

Days 15 & 16 – the Camino kicks my ass

Apologies for the title, if that kind of thing bothers you. I actually hesitated about whether to write this post at all, especially since most of my Camino experience so far has been super-positive. But, this is my blog and my travel diary – and as incredible as the Camino has been, as much fun as we are having, these past two days have presented my ‘Camino moment’.
I had read of this happening – a true physical and psychological test that pushes a pilgrim to their limits. For some, it’s blisters (which have been affecting Steph from Day 1); for others, it’s knee/ankle pain (which nearly ended Dave’s Camino prematurely). For me, it was freakin’ insect bites.
I can only guess that I was attacked in that free range albergue a couple of nights ago. As we walked on Day 14, I could feel some itchiness and when the day ended and my shoes came off, there were maybe 8 massive bites on my left foot, 5 on my right foot, and around 4 on each of my elbow areas. Itchy and annoying enough to take me to the pharmacy in Fromista with translator Dave, where the nice pharmacist suggested some paint for bites, which smelled a bit like nail polish remover. Painted it on liberally, but by the time it came to head out on Tuesday morning, the bites were looking angry and starting to hurt. Walked another boring, flat stretch of the Meseta, fortunately limited to about 20km due to the gaps between villages. We arrived in the pretty little town of Carrion de los Condes before 12pm and once we were settled in our hostel, my left foot started to swell and redden quite dramatically from the bites.
It was so painful and swollen that I worried it might be infected.
Our lovely friend & translator Dave took me to the medical centre / emergency department in the village, where for 73 euros, a doctor and nurse looked me over super-quickly and spoke in Spanish super-quickly to Dave. I actually started crying at that point – not because I thought I heard them say ‘amputate’ or anything that dramatic, but because I was tired & broken & this was totally out of my control and not at all what I had envisaged for my Camino. And – for someone as independent as me in my normal world – I was completely dependent on Dave as he managed all of the discussions with the doctor. They spoke no English and my extremely limited Spanish clearly does not extend to this type of situation. I felt pathetic – like a small child who couldn’t communicate or understand what was happening. They think it’s mosquito bites & a very severe reaction from my non-European system.
Dave’s kindness in looking after me was unbelievable: ‘that’s what friends are for’, he said. And that’s the intensity of this experience – forging such strong friendships in only two weeks – it really is a unique pressure cooker!
Dave went to get the prescribed treats from the pharmacy and also a big bag of ice – note the brand, so appropriate for this injury! Steph & the gang really looked after me as I had to sit with my feet up under the bag of ice for hours.
No rest for the wicked – mostly due to my snoring neighbours in the big dorm room – and Day 16 was around 27km along the Meseta. The injury plus the heat plus the incredibly boring terrain made this a tough day all round. And, as I suspected, the walk was not kind to my feet. But we’re relaxing at the albergue now.
All of our Camino mates were so caring and considerate as I hobbled past them in the albergue – Maria the Hungarian who went to school at Cremorne High in Sydney, who we met on the first crazy day out of St Jean, has her own tummy troubles but was more concerned for me; Kieran & Mary from Ireland think Kieran has cellulitis in his leg (well, that OR an insect bite OR tendinitis, the doctor helpfully deduced), but wanted to talk only about how I am going. Lovely Bev from Queensland helped me with an ice foot bath & bandage with potato skins to draw out the poison or something. Lots of starers in the common area as they observed the weirdo with the giant foot. Steph & Susana have been so great at looking after me – it’s no fun being a sad hobbling patient, but I’m so lucky to be part of this incredible community of friends and other wounded warriors heading for Santiago.
Anyways, waa waa waa – I didn’t want this to be a whingey post to get sympathy, but it is what’s happening on the Camino for me right now! Hopefully I’ll be much improved tomorrow, with a heightened appreciation for the fantastic people around me, my usual good health, and a bit to think about re my life in the real world too maybe… And today marks the halfway point of our adventure – we’re all justifiably proud!

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Posted in Sydney sparks

The amazing Color Run

What a fantastic day we had – arriving at Sydney Olympic Park with tens of thousands of peeps of all ages, shapes and sizes, while most of Sydney was still in bed on a lazy Sunday. Passers-by must have thought there was some sort of cult gathering, as everyone was dressed in white – some with crazy wigs, angel wings or colourful socks and shoes to help them stand out from the crowd. Thanks to the awesome eagle-eyes of the youngest Steph in our gang, we somehow managed to meet up with everyone at the starting area. And then we waited. Standing in the sun, already roasting hot before 9am, as they released runners in waves from the crowd of thousands that were in the queue.

In the beginning...
In the beginning…
Lots of wings and tutus around.
Lots of wings and tutus around.

The music was pumping and there were beachballs, dancing, Mexican waves and people-watching to keep us all entertained as we waited for our turn.  The place was buzzing, I tell you – such an amazing experience to be a part of something like that, everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying the fun atmosphere: DEFINITELY the ‘happiest 5k on the planet’, as the organisers had promised.

Nearly at the starting line...
Nearly at the starting line…

My friend Anne and I were caught out by a nice sort of chap who seemed to be spraying water at people in the crowd – we were so hot and thirsty after standing around waiting to start, so we went right up to him to be refreshed…and then realised that the tank on his back was actually full of purple coloured water, which was now all across our faces and shirts. Ah well, off to a colourful start!

The Smurf Village was the first colour checkpoint.
The Smurf Village was the first colour checkpoint. You can see the Blue volunteer holding the bottles that they used to blast powder at you as you passed through the checkpoint.

It’s hard to explain what happened from then on – each km was marked by a colour and at the colour ‘checkpoint’, it was bedlam as volunteers sprayed liquid colour or blasted coloured powder at you as you passed through. Gone were the pristine white t-shirts and the clean faces as people emerged looking as though they’d been dunked in colour.

The Orange checkpoint was called Oompa Loompa land and they were probably the craziest volunteers, determined to turn everyone orange. Mission accomplished!
The Orange checkpoint was called Oompa Loompa land and they were probably the craziest volunteers, determined to turn everyone orange. Mission accomplished!
Some oompa loompas after the orange checkpoint.
Some oompa loompas after the orange checkpoint.

And with all that was going on, the 5k passed pretty quickly and soon we were running Chariots-of-Fire-style to the finish line. And it was then that my lovely friend Steph decided to open her packet of coloured powder (meant to be saved for the ‘finish line festival’ when all recent finishers throw them in the air together, I might add). She opened it and threw it…IN MY FACE. So my left cheek, ear and down my neck was a very dark (and very pretty, to be fair) magenta colour. An interesting beauty note for you, peeps – painting your skin a really dark magenta colour really makes your white teeth ‘pop’ and looks like you’ve had a Hollywood-style dental whitening session. But be warned that you may scare young children and yourself, when you finally get to a mirror.

After the attack.
After the attack.
Finish line.
The End.
Not a white t-shirt in sight...
Not a white t-shirt in sight…
Yep.
Yep.
Color Jump-ers.
Color Jump-ers.
Not even crutches and a heavy cast would stop this lady being part of it!
Not even crutches and a heavy cast would stop this lady being part of it!
Cheers to ice blocks and slushies at the end of the run.
Cheers to ice blocks and slushies at the end of the run.

We all had such a great time at the Color Run – I highly recommend signing up when it’s next in your town!

Posted in Sydney sparks

Time for the Color Run

You might recall some time last year when I posted about the Color Run, which was coming to Australia for the first time in 2012/2013. Well, Sydney’s time has come and it all happens on Sunday morning. Basically, it’s a really fun run – the organisers call it the happiest 5k on the planet – and at each km mark, a group of random strangers throw brightly coloured powder at you. Hopefully not in a mean way, although my lovely friend Steph is prepared and bought us some protective glasses (don’t worry, they’re not like a scientist’s lab goggles, they’re Ray Ban lookalikes).

Uh huh.
Uh huh.
We sure are!
We sure are!

We went along last night to register for the event in the CBD and if the registration hype is anything to go by, we are in for a great time on Sunday. It was a lovely sunny evening and the music was pumping as hundreds of people stood in Martin Place after work to check in, get their packs and maybe buy some of the crazy Color Run gear on offer. Pink tutu? Sure! Knee-high fluoro socks? Absolutely! White short shorts with ‘COLOR THIS!’ written across the back? Alrighty then. For the record, we didn’t buy these things, just saw them for sale at the Color Run shop.

The official Color Run tutu.
The official Color Run tutu.
Yep, all that.
Yep, all that.

Anyways, we’ve got our official t-shirt, race bib, headband, temporary tattoo, big pack of coloured powder to throw at the ‘finish line festival’ and the rest of our gear ready and we’re very excited to be out there on Sunday. At Sydney Olympic Park, no less. With my friends Steph, Stef, Steph and Anne in the Sydney summer sunshine. (The Steph/Stef/Steph bit isn’t a gag either – it wasn’t a pre-requisite, must just be something great in the name!)

The Shirt.
The Shirt.   
The Race Gear.
The Race Gear.
The Powder.
The Powder.

And if you’re interested, or if you just want to see something cool, or if you want to get in the zone for Sunday Run Day, here’s the official Color Run You Tube clip… Have a great weekend!

Posted in Sparks in the wild

A unique urban forest in Melbourne

I’m in Melbourne for a few days and yesterday as I walked past the little City Square part of town, I noticed some brightly coloured trees. I was on my way to meet a friend though, so couldn’t stop to check them out. This morning, I went back to have a look at these amazing beauties that are brightening up the CBD – a yarn bombing initiative to draw attention to Melbourne’s urban forest plans, as far as I can work out. Whatever about the plans to preserve the city’s trees over the next 20 years (see, I did actually have a look at the website that was advertised on the trees, so their clever plan is working), these colourful tree cardigans and quilts have won me.

And it does get quite cold here in the winter, so I hope that they leave them on for a while – am sure the trees will feel quite naked without them. Good job, city of Melbourne – your razzle dazzle urban forest attention-grabber is fabulous!

A yarn-bombed City Square, Melbourne.
A yarn-bombed City Square, Melbourne.
A bizarre rainbow of woolly trees...
A bizarre rainbow of woolly trees…
A blue granny blanket at the tram and bus stop.
A blue granny tree blanket at the tram and bus stop.
Keeping it green.
Keeping it green.
Sure brightens up this part of the CBD, with lots of trees wrapped down the street.
Sure brightens up this part of the CBD, with lots of trees wrapped down the street.
Posted in Sydney sparks

Wake Up Sydney!

Wake Up Sydney! That’s not an order, it’s the name of a kind of movement that Sydneysider Jono Fisher started in 2008 after he quit his corporate job, became a manny (not as in Handy Manny the cartoon character, but as in a male-nanny manny) and generally took his life on a different path. Jono was burnt out, exhausted and his successful business career no longer held the appeal that it once had – in his words, it all just felt wrong. (I hear ya, Jono Fisher.)

So Jono started Wake Up Sydney – “a community of 12,000 people celebrating kindness and courage”. Jono’s goal is for Sydney to become the “kindness capital of the world”, encouraging us to be kinder to each other and build a stronger sense of community and connection in this super busy city. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but like this idea a lot. And to help people get started, the website has a heap of info and suggestions for being kinder to ourselves and others.

KindIdeas

You can even request a pack of free “kindness cards”, which you can then use to accompany random acts of kindness, encouraging the recipient to pay it forward and do the same.

I read a story somewhere once that has stuck with me and seems to me to be a great example of this kind of thing: a couple and their young kids were having dinner at a restaurant and when they went up to pay, their bill had already been sorted by an older couple who had been dining near them. The older couple had left a message to compliment them on what a lovely family they were and what a great job they were doing raising their children. Apparently, this same thing had happened to the older couple way back when they were younger and they wanted to share that kindness and warm, fuzzy feeling with these young parents.

It might be sappy, but I think that is pretty awesome.

KindCard

 

KindCardBack

I really like the kindness cards – I have just received some and will get them out and about working their magic soon. If you’re interested, the Wake Up Sydney website (where you Sydneysiders can order some cards too) is here. And if you’re not in Sydney, I’m sure you can still do this and be kind, wherever you are!