A Travelogue

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween



"Jack O'Lantern just couldn't keep away from the beer."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Only 289 km to go!



No, that's not a picture of Hans. Yet. But he's coming to the mountains and apparently, there will be snow.

I am in Mombuey with 289 km to go. Have been trying to get into our emails, ¨walktobeatpolio¨ without success because the rural system here is so slow.

Here is a brief update.

Since Zamora have walked 127 km over 4 days.

Conditions are unseasonably cold and windy. Minus 3 when I started this morning with a biting head wind. TV is reporting snowfall in the passes which I will be going through in the next few days.

Am expecting rain and possibly snow over the next few days.

Health OK although I am getting run down. Legs, feet etc. are sore. Hopefully will get to Ourense over the next 6-7 days where I will likely take a rest day to recuperate after climbing the two upcoming passes. Don´t expect to have internet over the next week. Lucky to find this slow rural system in this little village.

Camino Questions and Answers

Q. What are you eating for supper?

A. I heated up a can of beans with chorizo and a can of tuna in the microwave. Also bought 4 croissants on sale for 1.30 €. Two of which I am saving for tomorrow. Also had some red wine.

Q. Is it at or below freezing each morning now for you?
A. It has been around freezing for each of the last three days.


Q. When is the latest you can leave the Albergue?

A. They state 0800 but there are very few peregrinos and it doesn’t get light enough to walk until 8:20 or so. I won’t leave until at least 8:30 and it will get later each day (shorter days and heading north).


Q. When does it get light enough for you to leave, and when does the temperature become a bit warmer so you aren't so cold in the mornings?

A. I can always go to a bar and have a coffee or two while it warms up a bit. Am thinking of buying a pair of gloves. In a pinch I will use my socks. As long as it doesn’t get any colder I should be OK. Hopefully I can make it over the mountains in a few days without it being too cold. (Hans has been using his socks as gloves - gloves are just another item to carry. While each item in itself isn't heavy, every little thing adds up and the backpack is heavy enough with all the extra water he has to carry this year due to the distance between towns.)

Q. Are there many peregrinos in the Albergues with you?

A. A young lady from Germany arrived shortly after me. Iin fact she is on the terminal next to me. And, since then another fellow on a bicycle has arrived. So it looks as if there are three of us.

Q. Do you have to go far from where you are on the internet to where you can sleep?
A. Albergue is 5 minutes walk from here.

Q. Have any of the albergues ever had internet access?
A. No


Q. When the albergues are locked as you arrive into town, is there a caretaker who stays there also at night or are you alone for the duration? Do you have to lock up when you leave?

A. You are alone unless it is an albergue with a hospitalero. The other night the albergue wasn't open yet when I arrived so I sat outside waiting for it to be unlocked and watched a dad play with his 3 year old daughter. A dog came and lay down next to me. It was nice to have some companionship.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Zamora - October 25


It took me two days to walk the 68 km from Salamanca to Zamora. Walking conditions were ideal although it is really cold first thing in the morning, about freezing. But by noon the temperature is in the mid to high teens which is great for walking. I may have to look for some gloves or mittens if this cool weather is going to continue.

Unfortunately yesterday, out of the 36 km of walking, more than 20 were along the shoulders of a heavily travelled two-lane highway, N360. This is one of the things that I don’t like about the Via de la Plata as compared to last year. To this point there has been a much higher proportion of walking along or on tarmac. It creates a lot of problems as well as being hazardous.

- hard on your feet and legs
- dangerous
- noisy
- vehicles can throw up sand and rocks
- drafts from huge trucks almost stop your forward momentum
- you have to constantly focus on the traffic rather than on your surroundings
- boring

Today only about one km was along a highway and that was a lightly travelled road.

I didn’t see another peregrino all day yesterday or today. That’s about 15 hours of walking without seeing anyone including bicyclists.

Last night I stayed at the albergue in a little village called El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino. When I got there the albergue was closed but there was a sign on the door in five languages with instructions to call a telephone number. Well, I don’t have a phone, so being resourceful I went to the bar in the village and after some confusion got the bartender to call the number for me and voila soon thereafter I was showering and feeling a bit more human.

The albergue had 14 beds.....there was no need for snoring protection as I was the only resident. Later I made myself a dinner of Garbanzo beans, chorizo, tuna and stale bread. Dessert was a few squares of dark chocolate......YUMMY.

As the sun was setting I sat outside writing in my journal and watching a father with his young daughter, about 3 years old, using the playground equipment next door. Reminded me of doing the same thing 30 years ago. Later a local dog came by and laid down beside me....it was good to have some companionship.

I arrived in Zamora at about 3:30 p.m. this afternoon but the sign on the new albergue said that it didn’t open until 4:30. So, I waited and wrote in my journal. As promised, someone arrived on time and let me into the brand new beautiful facility. Later a young lady from Germany arrived....I hope she doesn’t snore.

I’ve been listening to the iPOD in the evenings....but today for the first time I had it on for a couple of hours while I was walking. I was listening to the US country singer, I can’t think of her name right now......¨Girls of the Eighties¨ is one of her great songs.

I have about 17-18 days of walking to go and am looking forward to coming home 3 weeks from today.

Camino anecdotes


Little Green Men

The crosswalks in Salamanca have animated little men as well as a countdown clock to let pedestrians know what is happening. When you are not allowed to cross the little man faces you and is coloured red. When it is OK to cross the little man turns green and starts walking in profile while the clock counts down. With about 10 seconds to go on the clock the little fellow starts running faster and faster. I wonder if he shoots jaywalkers?

....eria

Lots of the Spanish stores have names describing the services or products with a suffix ending in ...eria. For example, fruiteria, panateria, chocolateria, libreria, etcetera. I noticed a new one in Salamanca, joyeria.....turns out to be that it is an aptly named store that sells jewellery!!!

Even the Thieves Take a Siesta



When Franck and I arrived at about 3:00 in one small town our guide book indicated that we could get the key for the albergue at the local police station. We found it without difficulty only to realize that it was ....you guessed it, closed.

Walking Sticks


There are three options with respect to walking sticks 0, 1 or 2. Very few people seem to use two. I prefer one and it has a lot more uses than providing walking support.

- it really helps when going uphill to provide some momentum
- it steadies you when going downhill
- it's like a third foot when crossing streams and huge puddles (remember my situation on day 1)
- it deters dogs. There are lots of dogs in Spain and usually they are tied up or behind fences where all they can do is make a lot of noise. Today I ran into a couple of small dogs when coming into a village. One of them tried to attack me from behind. He almost lost his nose in the process.


Everything follows the siesta rule with the exception of a few bars. Tomorrow is Sunday so it will be even worse, I have to do some shopping later this evening in case stores are closed where I am going tomorrow.



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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Favorite Dotter says Hans is Amazing. Read all about it.

I am writing to tell you that I think you're amazing.

I tell people you're walking across Spain and their eyes boggle. Then I tell them how far it is and they look shocked. And then I tell them it's to help raise money for Rotary's fight against polio, and they're moved. We're all moved. (Not as moved as you, walking 1,000 km, but still!)

You are incredible. You just decide to do something, and do it, and I don't know anyone else who is like that. It doesn't matter if it's hard or a challenge, or takes months of preparation and planning... you just do it and make it happen.

You're going to change people's lives doing this. People will live better lives because you decided that instead of just walking across Spain --as though that weren't enough -- you were going to raise money to fight a horrible disease while you did. Kids will be able to run. Women will have children and families. Men will be able to work, when otherwise, they would have lived lives trapped in crippled bodies. You are doing this. You are changing people's lives.

I'm in awe of you most of the time. But never more than now. I think about you every day. I send you love and good thoughts and strength. And if you do this walk again, I'm going to come with you. I want to be a part of this. And I want to live up to the example you set.

I am so proud of you.

Favorite Dotter, awed

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hans' Walk in Spain


If you're checking the blog for news on Hans and his walk in Spain, the Walk to Beat Polio, you should instead check here. Look for the latest date in the upper left corner and click on that.

His last news was Thursday, October 16 and he had completed 300 km at that time, which was after 11 days of walking. Many of the small towns through which he passes have few amenities and Internet is only sporadically available. Keep checking the website above as it will have the latest news.

Buen Camino.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rain and more rain. And hail



Hans got stuck in a 20 minute downpour. I'll be posting his account on our website later today.

Thanksgiving


Top 10 reasons to be thankful at Thanksgiving and every other day:

1. I’m thankful for my life. We don’t realize how slender the thread is that binds us to this earth until it threatens to snap. I’m so grateful mine hasn’t broken.

2. I’m so thankful for Hans and Alethea. Without them, my life would turn from blazing colour to drab black and white, and I would stumble through life like a somnambulist in a grey world.

3. I’m grateful that my Mom and Dad are still healthy enough to be able to live alone in their home, and with most of their marbles intact.

4. I’m grateful that Hans’ Dad has such a positive outlook on life that, despite his blindness, he is out and about every day to take long walks.

5. I’m thankful for all my friends, close and far, who care about me.

6. I’m thankful for Rotary, which has opened a world of friendship around the globe with people who share our values.

7. I’m grateful to be living in a place that has 4 seasons. While I don’t like to be outside in the cold of winter, I do love to sit by a roaring fire and look out at sparkling hoar frost and the brilliance of white snow that has transformed the landscape into a wonderland. I’d miss that.

8. I’m grateful not to be poor (though if the market keeps tanking next year might be different.)

9. I’m so thankful for the abundant comforts in my life.

10. I’m thankful that I’ve had, and continue to have, the opportunity to travel.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Xplornet

Latest word from xplornet is that they expect to have resolution by late Saturday afternoon. We'll see. Meanwhile, you may be able to log into webmail. If so, don't try to delete anything or you'll get hung up and have to log in again.

We may get snow flurries tonight.

Note for Hans

As of Friday morning I have been able to log onto the Walk To Beat Polio webmail only once, but email on our other 2 accounts is coming through on the computers.

If you cannot log into webmail next time you are near a computer, you can continue to use the comment section of the blog to communicate or, use my gmail account to send emails. Hopefully by the time you read this all will be well again. It's very frustrating.

Meanwhile, it's -6.2 degrees here. Yesterday morning it was -5. I think you have better weather.

(Not an actual picture of today as we have no snow, but it's darn cold anyway.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Farewell dinner in Budapest


It was sad to say goodbye to our friends from Debrecen and Budapest. Zsolt, who sadly caught a bad flu and couldn't join us, nevertheless made reservations at a fabulous trendy new restaurant in downtown Budapest called Klassz.

Look where we're sitting. It was like dining in a wine cellar. And the food was excellent.

Even though we didn't stay late, darkness comes early in Budapest. The moonlight was glazing the sidewalk as we stepped out into the cool evening air and we hugged goodbye.

It was a great holiday. Now, Hans is on his 4th day of walking the Via de la Plata in Spain. Internet in the little villages through which he's travelling is so far non-existent but soon I should be able to update the blog and our website with news on how he's doing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Day 1 in The Walk To Beat Polio

October 6

Day 1 in The Walk To Beat Polio

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When Hans left Budapest on Saturday October 4 for Seville, Spain it was raining steadily.

"It seems like a fitting way to leave Central Europe since the rain followed us for three weeks through Budapest, Vienna and Prague," he wrote.

Unfortunately the continuous cold and damp weather that plagued us for three weeks also left Hans with a cold just four days before his scheduled start to the Walk. Colds pretty much come and go at their own pace but we treated his symptoms anyway as best we could with salt gargles and Ibuprofen. Since he's in excellent physical shape he's bouncing back very quickly and is off and walking on Monday October 6th just as planned. He writes:

"It is 8:00 a.m. here and I will definitely leave a bit later this morning. Am feeling about 98 per cent and getting better all the time. I may not wait until 11:00 a.m. to get the sello at the cathedral since the high here today and tomorrow will be 28C. I don't want to walk in the main heat of the day.

Had a good day yesterday touring the city which is beautiful but also a place where it is very easy to get lost. Getting out of the city and into the country will be a bit of a challenge as there are very few 'Camino' signs.

I will try my best to stay in touch but I suspect that there might be a shortage of places to email until I hit some of the larger towns and cities along the route."

Fellow Rotarians and friends, I will definitely update this website the minute I get any news. ~Lolita


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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Getting to Heathrow Lodge Hotel

Damn. Missed the free shuttle from Heathrow to the Lodge by a mere 5 minutes.

When I landed at Gatwick everything went smoothly, but there was a line-up getting tickets on the National Express bus to Heathrow. I knew I would be late arriving at Heathrow since my information was that the last free shuttle on Saturday and Sunday was at 10:00 a.m. so when I got my bus ticket and the lady asked at which terminal I wanted to be dropped, I said the first stop. It only took about 30 minutes and I was quite prepared to throw myself on the mercy of the innkeeper when I phoned for the shuttle, which was at 10:30 but she wouldn't be swayed. Very apologetic she was. Eventually gave me the phone number to LHR, a local "taxi" service which would pick me up for about L9.

I asked if there were stores nearby where I could buy aspirin but she said no, they were located in a little village. "There is a MacDonald's about 10 minutes walk away... If you need something, you'd best buy it at the airport."

Oh well. Since the shuttle was gone I had lots of time. Not that I was going to wait until 6:00 pm when they started up again, but I figured I may as well pick up what I needed at the airport since it's loaded with shops. Got some Ibuprofen for my sore throat and bought 2 packages since it was a fairly mild dose. Marks and Spencer yielded 2 roasted chicken legs and some Pringles which would be my lunch and finally, I phoned LHR to get picked up.

"It's quite complicated," said the dispatcher after she found out I was at Terminal 5, "so listen carefully." I immediately broke into a sweat. "Do you have a mobile?" she asked. "No." "Well then, it will be very hard to tell you what the car looks like that will pick you up," she sighed in frustration. "Go to the departure level and take door #21 and wait there. What are you wearing so our driver can recognize you?" I gave the description and just before we hung up she said, "If you can get to Door #21 in 5 minutes, there will be a silver Audi to pick you up. "

So I hustled. I was on the arrivals level and managed to wrestle the 2 bags up the 3 long escalators to Departures where I accosted the first employee and asked to be directed to Door #21. "Door 21?" he asked, furrows creasing his brow. "I've never heard of that." He scratched his head as if to retrieve the hidden information. "Go over there and ask," and he pointed to an information area luckily not too far away.

"Door 21?" repeated the lady. "I don't think we have anything like that," and she turned to the other 4 ladies with her and in unison they furrowed their brows and looked around as if Door #21 would suddenly appear with flashing lights.

"I'm being picked up there, and those were the directions I was given. There is traffic there, right?" "Yes," she replied. "That's the only area where cars are allowed. There's a bus #21 but it's further to the left out that door" and she indicated where she meant. So that's where I went. At least there was traffic and maybe I'd get lucky.

As soon as I was outside I saw a red sign proclaiming Fire Stop 21. So I presumed I was at the right spot and sure enough, there was an Audi there. However, it was dark blue. It also wasn't my Audi though I peered in the window at the startled driver. Then I saw a grey Audi pull up a short distance away and hustled as fast as I could with my 2 roller bags. Success.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Going Postal in Prague

What is it about postal employees?

We had postcards to mail and needed stamps. The post office was quite difficult to find and when we did, there seemed to be no organized process for who got served next. We lined up behind a woman and the three of us kept an eye out on the two clerks on duty.

Both were moving at the speed of evolution.

Meanwhile, more customers arrived and after initially appearing puzzled, lined up behind us. The lady in front got served. Then a third wicket opened and since we were next, we presented ourselves in front of her.

Her pretty face hid the snarling hag beneath.

After waiting long enough for the other two clerks to finish with their customers and deal with those who had been behind us, she looked up and informed us to go to one of the other wickets. Which were now occupied. Then she beckoned over a customer who had been hanging around the counters and helped him. *sigh*

When we finally got our row of stamps they had the extra little blank ends at the beginning and end of the performations. So after we applied the stamps, Hans licked the blank pieces and stuck them on the counter.