everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

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!

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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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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!

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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…

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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!

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Stormy Sydney

So, Sydney was hit with a whopper of a storm on Saturday. It rained pretty much all day, usually heavily, and was super windy. I’m no weather guru, but on the scale of bring-an-umbrella to just-stay-home, I would officially classify this storm as start-building-that-ark. As the rain pelted down through the night, the wind was howling and things were banging and crashing and flying around outside. Not exactly Wizard of Oz-style, but it was definitely pretty wild in my neck of the woods.

The beginning...

The beginning…

I’m lucky to live in a very tree-y part of Sydney and I’m used to seeing some leaves and small branches on the grass after a windy night. When I looked out the window this morning and saw a fairly large branch on the ground outside, it seemed like a pretty big deal. And then as I went on my morning walk, a friendly lady (a) made eye contact, (b) smiled and (c) spoke. Imagine that! Anyways, she said “look out, there are huge trees down along the path – it’s pretty incredible”. I thanked her and smiled – thinking that she looked like the kind of fancy lady who would be bothered by stepping over a twig and getting her Prada sneakers dirty. Huge trees, I thought, uh huh.

Like a well-organised collection for the Council Cleanup, all along the path.

Like a well-organised collection for the Council Cleanup, all along the path.

And then I got to the corner of the path and it was like a war zone. Except, instead of people, tanks and guns, there were huge trees (yep, that lady was right) split away from their trunks and fallen over the path. Lying heavily over the power lines, which were then sagging way too close to the ground. It was both incredible and a little sad to see these poor, grand old trees who had lost their battle with the ferocious winds. And then there was the water – the little creek, normally dry, was gushing and water was tumbling over rocks.

So, yeah, after this morning, I guess you could say I’m a jungle trekker.

Yikes

It’s hard to get the scale in my phone photos, but that lady in red just past the tree was not a tiny pixie.

 

Yes, that makes things a bit trickier...

Yes, well, that makes this walk a bit trickier…

Like intrepid explorers, the morning walkers will find a way...

Like intrepid explorers, the morning walkers will find a way…

And lean to the right...

Today was a good day to be short.

Ok, fine, I'll go around then.

Ok, fine, I’ll go around then.

So that's how it's meant to look here...

Aha, so that’s how it’s meant to look here…

And this is normally dry. So I think it's safe to say we had a fair bit of rain.

And this is normally dry. So I think it’s safe to say we had a fair bit of rain.

Just like match sticks.

Just snapped like a twig.

This was not damaged in the storm. It's been like this for months. It used to be a normal bench, but now I'm not sure if they're still waiting to fix it, or if it's a modern art installation? You know, poking fun at the urban experience, or something incomprehensible like that...

This was not damaged in the storm. It’s been like this for months. It used to be a normal bench, but now I’m not sure if they’re still waiting to fix it, or if it’s a modern art installation? You know, poking fun at the urban experience, man’s inhumanity to man, or something incomprehensible like that…

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Allo allo allo

Short and sweet – here are some photos of our day walking around London. My feet tell me that we walked around a lot of London, but it was such a lovely day that it seemed a shame to spend it underground. Here’s the next instalment of my London travel diary – promise there are no more of that scary Mary, Queen of Scots.

Part of Buckingham Palace. (I think.)

Near St James Park. (I think.)

Something something building.

Big Ben. Sure about that one.

Nice day, thanks London.

Lots of people about. Lots and lots.

Everyone dressed up for the Olympics.

Guess it was an olympic sport – ping pong tables were all over town. Even the hipsters were at it.

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Walk on by

I like to walk (and run, on a good day) around my neighbourhood. It’s a nice part of town, near the water and lots of trees, so there is a lot to be happy about when out and about here. But you wouldn’t know it, judging from the faces of my fellow walkers and runners. In 40 minutes, I can pass around 50 people on this well-walked path and I reckon about 3 of them will respond to my smile or greeting. (NB, this doesn’t include tourists, who are often so jet-lagged that they will say hello to a tree.) Granted, I may look a little bit like a beetroot in a hat and activewear, but surely it wouldn’t kill people to smile back and keep walking? I mean, it’s not like I ask open-ended questions as we pass, in the hopes of building a lifelong friendship. No needy cries of, “Good morning! How ’bout that Greek economy, hey?” or, “Can I just tell you a bit about Joseph Kony?” or even, “Nice day, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?” Just a smile and a sort of nod and maybe a ‘hello’ if eye contact is made.

But then I realised what I need to get conversation flowing – a dog. Size doesn’t matter, as there are little dogs and big dogs making friends on behalf of their owners everywhere I look. Whether it’s the polite, “ooohhh, isn’t she cute?” to one of those tiny designer dogs in a little corduroy vest (it’s that kind of area – I swear some of the dogs smoke pipes too) or, “wow! hello! look at you!” to a very ugly but large dog with sharp teeth (or a very ugly but large owner with sharp teeth). Dog people talking to dog people, while the dogless just walk on by – smiling goofishly into the breeze.

So, tomorrow, I’m bringing my dog with me. It should be interesting – his name is Goldie and he cost $13.95 from Ikea a few years ago. But he’s cute and furry and as long as the other dogs don’t get too close, I think it’s a foolproof plan…

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