Posted in Life sparks, Travel sparks

This time last year…

Sometimes I like to think back to this time last year/month/week and remember what I was doing. It’s hard to believe it, but this time last year, I was walking across Spain on the Camino Frances. My friend Steph and I were about one week into our journey and had already made some new life-long friends. These were the innocent days, before I got attacked (firstly by unidentified bugs and, shortly thereafter, by my own body trying to deal with the crazy looking bites). Ah yes, when all we had to worry about was being tired and a bit sore, the summer heat, blisters and washing our clothes by hand.

I do miss the guilt-free carb loading that came with 30 km days.
I do miss the guilt-free carb loading that came with 30 km days.

It has been nice to have a look back at my posts from this time. Such great days – beautiful places and people. And wine.

Sure, it wasn't always picturesque...
Sure, it wasn’t always picturesque… 

In case you’d like to reminisce about the Camino, or if you’re planning your own Camino adventure, I recommend this documentary by Drew Robinson: A Journey of the Mind. It brings back a lot of memories for me – undoubtedly, walking the Camino was one of the best things I’ve ever done. More for the people than for the bugs. But then the bugs showed me a different side of the people (myself included), so it really was all good.

We thought we'd need our rain gear for sure here. We didn't.
We thought we’d need our rain gear for sure walking into this. We didn’t.

The doco runs for 40 minutes, so maybe grab some sangria and tapas (bug spray is optional) before you settle down to watch it. Buen Camino!

Posted in Travel sparks

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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Posted in Travel sparks

Friday Foto – Camino style

And the countdown to the Camino is well and truly underway – just around one month to go now! I have most of my gear sorted (backpack, sleeping bag, hilarious walking poles etc), which is great. But I am still experimenting with socks and haven’t yet found the right fit – comfy, not scratchy, not too hot for the Spanish summer, nice colour and all that. And every book or forum post that I read stresses that socks are VERY IMPORTANT. They are also VERY EXPENSIVE at around $30 a pair, but that’s another story.

Today, I am trying something new. I really bought these just because they look funny and made me laugh. And they have a cool name.

Not gloves, but socks.
Not gloves, but socks.

Once I took the time to arrange them on my feet (much trickier than putting on normal socks, I tell you), they actually feel pretty comfy. Weird, but comfy. Like my toes are all arranged in a neat order in their self-contained little sockettes.

I am not sure if they make my feet look weird or if it's just that I've never really taken a photo of my feet before...
NB, the sock toes are square-shaped – my actual toes are not. Nor are my toes puffy, as they appear here. These socks do not help me put my best foot forward, I tell you. 

So, there you go. Some weird looking alien sock feet for your Friday. Now I have to go and try them out. Hope that you have a great weekend!

Posted in Sparks in the wild

Friday Foto – Things I never thought I’d own…

Happy Friday to you! I was very excited to receive a package from Kathmandu this morning. (That’s the big Australian outdoor retailer, not the capital of Nepal.) We started our Camino trekking training last weekend with a fantastic 18km round trip from The Spit to Manly. I wanted to take photos of the bzillion beautiful spots along the way, but I didn’t want to mess with our momentum. Next time.

Anyways, this walk made me realise that I need some more outdoorsy trekking gear if I want to do this thing properly. So, in the first of what I’m sure will be many, here’s a pic of something that I have bought that I never thought I’d own in this lifetime. It’s a 2 litre water bladder. So I don’t have to carry pesky water bottles and stop to drink – no way man, now I can just suck water through this tube and KEEP ON TREKKIN’.

Now I just have to work out how to fill it and make sure it doesn't leak through my backpack...
Now I just have to work out how to fill it and make sure it doesn’t leak through my backpack…
Posted in Travel sparks

Countdown to the Camino

I am excited. REALLY EXCITED. I have just booked my flights for a European trip later this year. But it’s not just any European holiday – no sunning it up in the Greek Islands, no David Hasselhoff gigs in Berlin, no Portugese tarts in…um, Portugal. Not this time. Not for me and my friend Steph (you may recall her as one of the Color Run Stephs). We are going to walk the Camino de Santiago – starting in France, popping over the Pyrenees and then trekkin’ across northern Spain. Because, why not?

The modern sign of the Camino - this shell marks the path. It's hard to get lost, they say. We'll see.
The modern sign of the Camino – this shell marks the path. It’s hard to get lost, they say. We’ll see.

If you’re not down with the Camino (a.k.a. the Way of Saint James), it was a super-important medieval pilgrimage – with many different ways to walk (as in different paths, not different walking styles) to reach the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are reported to be buried. Apparently, the route was very popular in the middle ages, but numbers dropped due to things like the outbreak of the Black Death pandemic and the Protestant Reformation. Pesky little things like that.

But in the late 1980s, the Camino was declared one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and the tourists came back – undoubtedly a lot of religious and spiritual pilgrims, but also a lot of people looking for a unique physical and psychological challenge. Apparently tens of thousands of peeps walk the Camino every year (with an increasing number of cyclists too), generally starting from somewhere in France, Portugal or Spain. If you walk at least 100km (or cycle at least 200km) of the Camino, as evidenced by stamps collected in your Camino passport along the way, you get a special certificate when you reach Santiago de Compostela.

The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.
The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.

Steph and I are walking the Camino Frances, which starts on the French side of the Pyrenees. Reports vary, but from start to finish, it’s approximately 800km. We’re hoping to walk it in around 30 days. Which means getting up and walking every day with our backpacks, regardless of the weather, regardless of our mood, regardless of our aches and pains. Needless to say, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really excited about the challenge ahead. We will get into training shortly and I’m looking forward to getting my walking poles and hiking boots like a real trekker. Well, like a real trekker or like the 250 year old man who uses walking poles to walk along the path near my home. The countdown has begun!