A Travelogue

Friday, August 31, 2007

More questions, this time from FD

I can't wait to hear more about your trip.

Where does your mind wander when you walk?

What does it make you think of?

What do you ponder, step after step in that zen-like place that exists when all that really is, in your world, is one foot in front of the other?

How is the scenery changing?

Are you happy?

How is it different than you expected?

Love you. And I'm proud of you for doing this. You amaze me.

Favourite Dotter

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Messages from home

Len B, a friend from home, gave me some leg exercixes that I have found to be very helpful. I do them every day before I leave.

Also Don L, another friend, gave me a lovely card before I left. I was very touched and said I would take it with me. I have it here and I read his inspirational message every day. Have also shown it to several others who were very impressed. A couple of places have stamped it.-

Thanks to Favourite Dotter for the commentary and your encouragement. So far it has been very good. The toughest part (for the most part) is over. From here on in it's just a case of slogging along and watching the scenery go by.

Questions and Answers about the Camino

I am in Viana which is about 10 km to go to Logrono. Have completed about 150 km with about 623 to go.

Looks loke I will spend more time in the albuergues and not bother with hotels for the foreseeable future. Was unable to email yesterday because the town only had one bar and the internet at the albergue was inoperative.

Slept really well last night and the meal at the albergue was fabulous.


1. How long do you walk each day, approximately? I'm sure it depends on the terrain and other factors, but would like an idea.

A. 6-8 hours Have been doing 25-30 km each day. Terrain contimues to be a lot of up and down which slows the pace. A little more flat today and I was able to do the 30 km from Villamajor de Monjardin in 6 hours and 35 minutes. Today was a great day because it was cloudy, cool and a bit breezy. The heat can be a killer.

2. What have the refugios been like? Full of people? Clean?

A. They have all been very good. Each one has filled up and in fact they have had to turn people away towards the evening.

3. How many pilgrims have you encountered, e.g. in the refugios or passed along the way? Hardly any? Dozens? 100?

A. Lots of pilgrims. I passsed probably 20 today. I am guessing that each stage has about 75 people. Not all are going all the way and some are moving very slowly. What I have done in 6 days some have taken 8-10.

4. How many different countries have they come from, or do you have an idea? I'm sure you haven't spoken to each one, but those to whom you've spoken, where are they from?

A. Denmark, Ireland, England, Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Brazilo, Venezuela, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia so far

5. How is it working with washing out your stuff every night? Does it dry by morning or are you walking the path with your gotchies flapping in the wind behind you?

A. Every albergue has washing failities and clotheslines strung up all over the place. Stuff has been dry within a few hours with the warm weather and wind. Nothing flapping so far

6. What time do you leave in the mornings? Do you get breakfast at the refugio or do you have to buy something the day before to keep for breakfast?

A. Have been leaving between 6:15 and 6:45. Only a couple of places have provided breakfast. We stop at a bar or mercado along the way and have a coffee and then buy fruit and pana and cheese and sausage. Every town has a square where you can get a bench and eat your breakfast or lunch.

7. What about lunch? Can you eat in the towns through which you pass, or do you have to carry some food?

A. See above

8. How do other people's packs compare to yours: heavier or lighter?

A. Mine is pretty heavy compared to others. A few send their big packs ahead by car to the next place they are planning to stay....camino lite!

9. Do you find the walking staff helpful? How?

A. I would recommend it highly. It is like having a third leg. A lot of the terrain is really rough with rocks and mud and water and roots. The staff uis really good for going downhill under rough conditions. On steep uphills it helps to give me a push.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

100 km down, only 700 km to go

I am in Cirauqui which is about 35 km past Pomplona. We are at 676 Km which is exactly 100 km from the start. (you can follow Hans' progress on this interactive map: )

Here is a brief rundown on my health:

  • Feet are fine!
  • Pain in left lung is gone and is not a problem. (Just 2 days before he left Hans had his doctor check out an annoying pain in his chest. Turns out he had a slight touch of pneumonia...! However, on the eve of his departure he really didn't want to cancel it only to find himself hale and hearty a few days later. So he took the antibiotics and evidently they worked.)
  • Knee was still sore through yesterday but fine today although I will continue to wear the knee brace.
  • First blister! On my hand from the staff. Go figure.

Wasn´t able to email yesterday as there was none available. Today we walked 31 km including an extra 3 to view a Templar church. Got to Punta la Reina (Queen´s Bridge) and decided to go on for an additional 8 km to here, Cirauqui.

Leaving Punta la Reina we walked along the river and then all of a sudden the path veered towrds a ravine. At the top of it (about 2-3 km and a climb of about 300 meters) we could see cars on a highway. Didn´t think we were going all the way up there....yes we were! It was brutal with grades continuously from 10 to 20 degrees. On top of that we were all running out of water and the temperature in the sun was 45 degrees C and we were in the sun continuously!!!!

My Hungarian partner almost fainted and the fountain at the entrance to the town at the top was a godsend. I immersed my head under the faucet and drank half a liter of water in one gulp.

From there it was a relatively easy 3 km to here although the last km was all uphill and became very steep as we entered the town which is built into a hill side.

Give my best to everyone....I am confident that I will make it all the way to Santiago!!!!

Glad to see that Alethea is starting to get better. Make sure she doesn´t overdo it in her hurry to become fully functional. Love to you both.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Moving on

I am in Larrasoana, on schedule and OK other than a bit of a sore right knee which only bothers me when I walk downhill.

Today was OK other than a long 4 km downhill into Zubiri. Getting ready to go for dinner and then to bed.

Onward and Upward - mostly upward

On the first day of the Camino there was a hill. Not just any hill but in fact, a huge mountain of a hill. They call it - and its other hilly neighbours - the Pyrenees.

Hans writes:

I am in Roncesvalles. Just had a shower after a bit of a brutal day. Decided to take the high road over the pass rather than the low road deep in the valley. Even though harder I would probably always regret not taking it. (This his where he and I differ. I would be jubilant that I took the easy road! ~ editor Lo)

Now that I am here, at the end of the long and difficult down slope, I realize I made the right choice. But during some of the climbing I was seriously debating my sanity during the decision.

Of the first 25 km all but 4 was up with grades over 10degrees for the most part. (ouch) I left in fog thinking that it would dissipate as Igot higher. It did a bit but then we had thunder and lightening and a dowbpour. Got soaked inside and out.

The last 2 km were really tough as it was a very steep downhill. By the end my legs were crying out for relief. The beer I had at a bar at the end went down in nanoseconds.

Heading out to the mass at 7 with everyone else and then it's on to dinner at 8.

Tomorrow's day is just as long in distance but nothing near as difficult.

Editor Lo's comments:
From all accounts, the most difficult part of the trip is behind you. Too bad about the rain though - can't have been very pleasant. It gushed here too. Thunder woke me last night in Calgary and it just poured all the way home with huge billows of spray from all the vehicles in front and beside me. It was a relief to get home. But at least we were dry in the car, and not sopping wet outside like you.

Here's hoping you get a bit of sun - but not too much - tomorrow!

First news from Hans on the Camino

After a long and boring trip I have finally made it to St.Jean right on time. There was no internet at the hotel in Toulouse nor at the railway station this morning; however there is free internet here at the Camino information building in St.Jean. Through them I registered for the walk and they also made arrangements for me to get a bed at one of the two facilities here. So, in the morning I start. Not sure if I will go over the pass or take the valley road; however they have had a great deal of rain here in the past few days and the River Nive is in flood. The main concern on the pass is that it might be muddy in some sections.The distance is the same.

Bought myself a walking stick for 6 euros. I talked to some folks that are staying in the hostel and they all swear by them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Camino de Santiago

In the midst of the trauma with Favourite Dotter, Hans was busying himself getting ready for his 32-day walk along the Camino de Santiago/

He begins trekking on Saturday, August 25th and will finish in time to meet me in Barcelona on Wednesday, September 26th for a 29 day cruise through the Mediterranean and then transatlantic to Fort Lauderdale.

Yup. Retired life is grand!

Beautiful Outside, Bizarre Inside

This has nothing to do with travel.

Favourite Dotter is beautiful on the outside but bizarre on the inside. And we have medical proof. In fact, her doctors wrote on her chart, "very bizarre anatomy."

She was taken to the hospital in the wee hours last week with serious pain and no idea what was wrong. Turns out she has gallstones and was having a gall bladder attack. Evidently this produces serious, unreleting pain which they alleviated with morphine.

Long story short, they kept her medicated with narcotic cocktails and reasonably comfortable until she could be taken in for surgery. Alas, it took nearly 36 hours before they could squeeze her in but the drugs helped. Normally, a gall bladder removal is quite routine. Tens of thousands are done every year in about 45 minutes and it's simple day surgery. You go home after. Unless, of course, you have a snakes' nest of ducts twisting and turning and appearing to be attached randomly to organs where they don't belong.

Dr. Mack prudently pulled out and closed her up.

"We need to see what we're dealing with here. She has very bizarre anatomy." The exploratory surgery seemed to indicate the gall bladder wasn't on the right side but more in the middle and almost on the left, with an extra duct connecting it to the liver. An aberrant duct. Shouldn't be there and it was causing the doctors some concern.

"If we make a mistake, this will ruin the rest of your life." Now there's a pronouncement you don't like to hear from a sober-faced doctor. "Cutting a bile duct will mean you need a liver transplant, and that will ruin your life." He repeated the 'ruining your life' bit 3 times just in case we hadn't been tense with attention the first two times.

One way to see clearly is an MRCP, which is simply a specific type of MRI. However, there's only one MRI available and, oddly, they don't run it 24/7. No no no. They close on weekends and don't run it after 6:00 p.m. weekdays. Lack of technicians they say. Too bad that just backs up the system. Nothing to do but wait, which we did and because she remained in hospital for pain control, she got in on Monday afternoon.

"The pictures look good, really nice and clear" the residents avowed as they traipsed into her room much later that day. "But the specialist has to take a look and decide how to proceed." When he looked, he really wanted more information and better pictures so he scheduled her for an ERCP Wednesday morning (now a full week since she was admitted.)

An ERCP sends a tiny little spy camera down your throat, stomach, and into the intestines to peek around and see, amongst other things, if the common bile duct is in fact emptying itself into the intestines to aid in digestion. And where all the other ductwork is leading. She does have two extra ducts, they determined, but they're okay because they're going into the intestine (that's good) and not into the gall bladder (that's bad). So, sometime Friday they're going in to remove the offensive bladder and with luck, she will be out by Sunday. Maybe even Saturday.

And that's great news.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Now that I have no job, I decided I should spend an hour a day working out: swimming, walking, whatever. Already that goal has taken a beating.

I swam twice this week, but for less than an hour. It's boring. Still, I really like it. How strange is that?

I spent my time in the car thinking about how to relieve the tedium a bit. Make it more interesting. Fun would be good too, but that`s pushing it. Decided I would change my breathing pattern so instead of taking a breath on every second stroke, I would at least once in each lap do 4 strokes. Next time I swim I'll do that twice in each lap and so on. I figured this would give me some focus (relieve the tedium) and ultimately improve my swimming/breathing/speed.

But, the pool was crowded today. Each lane already had 2 swimmers so I picked the medium lane and timed my entry for when the other 2 swimmers were at the far end. Mistake. I spent the next 10 laps swimming like the devil to keep away from them. By lap 11 I suddenly realized, "well, this has certainly taken my mind off the tedium." Both the others were faster than me, even doing the breastroke. How embarassing is that? As a result, we were jockeying for position and a few times I waited for them at the shallow end, then plunged forward right on their heels. Literally. This was actually slow for a length and so I tried bi-lateral breathing. Yikes. For 45 years I`ve only breathed on the left side but today, after 2 bouts of swimming, my neck is stiff and sore. I need to learn to breathe on the other side but when I tried it, it felt very awkward. Try clasping your hands in the opposite way, but do it while gulping water. That`ll give you the idea.

I did get to do a few lengths using 4 strokes per breath, as planned, and now I`ve revised my plan. I`m going to increase by 2 lengths every time I swim. Well, maybe. The plan`s written in water, not stone.

In other embarassing news, doing errands after my swim makes people stare. My face pulsates and I look to all the world like like a lighthouse beacon flashing red.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Camino training

Many of you already know that Hans will be walking the Camino de Santiago, http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/, an ancient pilgrims' trail across northern Spain. It's a daunting 800 kilometre walk beginning with a hike into the Pyrenees. 900 k if you go all the way to the ocean at the appropriately named "Finisterre".

In preparation, Hans has been doing long walks out here in the country. He used to carry a small backpack with water and some energy bars, but more recently he upgraded to his real backpack filled with many of the items that he'll need on his trip: sleeping bag, water, clothes, etc.

Today, backpack in place, he passed a survey crew who made him laugh as he passed by.

"Are you running away from home?"