Bag Lady

I have never considered myself as a bag lady but no matter how much I try, I always find myself with yet another bag. Take my Africa trip for example, I couldn’t have possibly gone there without my luggage being made of resourceable canvas and leather. I was on Safari after all. It was appropriate. I had to look the part. So I convinced myself that the small leather back pack would be great for walking Spain. At least my attempt to walk Spain.
A short visit to daughter number 2 in New York had her aghast at me explaining that the upcoming massive trek would be with me wearing my seasoned leather backpack.
Ridiculous or what?
“What happens when it rains Mun?” She enquirered.
“I have a wardrobe full of all kinds of bags, it’s not necessary and this has to stop.” I pleaded.
There are Clutch bags for light evening wear, strapping Hold all’s for shopping which are of every colour for every outfit I might add, and briefcases and laptop holders…the list goes on.
No, none of them would do. I had to be suitably equipped and so I was frogmarched of to the Ultimate American store for outdoor living.
Actually I thought I would go along with the thought of pretending to buy a new bag but resist getting one so as not to offend, especially when I saw the prices. They were astronomical prices. A dollar one-arm bandit seemed to be rotating through my head faster than a spinning wheel.
No, daughter number 2 was undaunted and searched out the ultimate salesman. An absolute expert on walking the Camino. He had done it!!  He was a changed man. I was sold!
Many dollars later I emerged not only with a Swiss Army knife, headgear and medical kit complete with duck tape??? …but , yes, with the correct backpack that sits on my hips and is light and just the job at 110 dollars!!…and duck tape??? (Maybe that was to bandage my broken feet)
“I don’t really like the bag colour” I tried to say. “It’s bright Blue!”
“Think of it this way mum, if you get into trouble, the helicopter can pick you out”
Job done!

Paddington arrives at Hogworts

It was my son in law that laughed when he saw the blue shiny label on my case. “It’s Paddington” he chuckled. Well if I had had  some marmalade I might have felt less empty.It was the realisation finally now the day had dawned that I would be away for ages on this Camino walk. The sun had risen, the sky was blue but my stomach was sinking  as I hugged my gang of little people. I have never likes goodbyes, or even to say it. My gut feeling says what if its goodbye forever? So I don’t say it.
Dropped off at Lime street and I couldn’t resist looking up at the clock. Do Ihave OCD? I have to check the time and the platform. Platform 9…9 and a half maybe? I felt like I was off to Hogworts and had turned into Harriet Potter. Aren’t railway clocks beautiful though. I love looking at the back of the one in the D’Orsay, but here I am in sunny Liverpool and today it’s MY clock ticking away. My internal clock catches up with it and I know there is no going back. So many people have been in touch and wished me well that it almost feels like they are helping to push me along….so I’m resolved not to let anyone down. I did get lost in thought as the train sped along the countryside to London until an announcement came very loudly over the speaker,
“This is your Guard speaking….this service and Euston station will not be open for business tomorrow and the following day, please make sure you have made alternative arrangements”
Gulp, why is it when you are on your own you have a brain flip. For a nano second I wondered if my journey went into tomorrow..phew, I was safe. It was Friday, I am almost there. Maybe I was still coming down from the Ofsted inspection. What an intensive day, daughter away, I have to drive through the night and it lasted so long that I think I grew a beard. But….but…. it was SO POSITIVE….said in shouty capitals….SO POSITIVE …😉 that now we all love each other forever..😍.but will they all forget me when I’m on the road? 😢
Thank you staff for singing in the restaurant at the top of your voices,”..and I have walked 500 miles….”. Oh and…Please can we get a Llama for the Nursery instead of minding a snail. We can take it home for weekends!!!

Is this what Transition means?

Gatwick is so anal. Everything is mechanised even to the point of processing your luggage label and receipt. I quite enjoyed that really. How many times have we watched the ground staff lady print off the long sticky label and bent down to wrap it around my case handle and stick it together. Sorted. I’m now eligible as a ground staff sticky labeller. Of course the plane took off late and of course it was gate 110 not 5 or 7. It’s of no consequence because I’m sat on the front row next to a six foot 3 inch tall blonde lady with legs that went on forever…and she wore shorts. In front of me was the tallest cabin manager, so sweet with a long black pony tail and pencil slim skirt and she is a man…so I am in for a varied short flight.
It’s dark and I’m lugging my case and wearing my bright blue backpack so even though my app says its 0.9Km to the hotel I’m going to the taxi rank. I know that sounds stupid when I’m contemplating a huge trek but in front of me is spaghetti junction, buses and fast traffic with no sidewalks. So instead Ill wait in the queue. Mr. America next to me insists we form a line as he is first and there are no taxi’s in sight. I’m good, I’m positive even though the lady next to me is reading my luggage labels. I turn and smile at her.
“Are you going to the hotel Campanile? She asks. “ I stayed there last year, its just down the road, that one I think. It’s difficult in the dark isn’t it? You can share my taxi if you want”
Yeay!! She is second in the line and I am third but there are still no taxi’s.
The hotel looms and Mr. Taxi driver is charming and it cost 5 euros which means I probably only travelled 700 yards! So here I am, spat out in Biarritz. “Can I get something to eat?’NON
“Is it possible to have room service? Mais Non
“Oh”
She points to the fridge behind me which has crisps and chocolate and wine!!”
Sorted, 2 little airport bottles of Rose and rouge, and 2 cobs of bread begged from the chef and I’m sorted.

St Jean Pied de Port

The name is bigger almost than its size but my introduction to it and the little cream and rust railway station belied the next problem. Gorgeous blond receptionist showed me my room with a smile to die for, not bad for a  55 year old. Then the problem happened. I tried to unlock the padlock on my case but it just wouldn’t budge. In a nutshell, its Saturday the garage and every one but St Peter was out. I’m not good with tools at the best of times…no pun intended, that is an entirely different matter. No hope for it as the zip came away and completely broke my new case. Disaster. My life was in it. 30 degrees of heat and I’m jogging….JOGGING to the Carrefour to buy another case. Sorted, luggage transferred. Well, an aperitif was called for…an annis…very French.  I needed to eat though as well so  fell in with some amazing Irish ladies…aren’t they always amazing..so funny and full of life and crazy too. I was the only one to speak French so I deciphered the main courses which were pigs foot, duck ribs??? Or sausages in tomato’s sauce, so I ordered steak!! The girls went for sausage..good choice especially with my half carafe of wine!!!

It actually is the most wonderful little town, so medieval and with cobbled streets built up on vertical hills. Of course after the suitcase travesty…it was a NEW one..daaah…I needed my Credencial stamped to say That I had arrived and was ready for the trek. Why did I feel so calm? Needless to say the pilgrim office is situated in the highest part of town. I needed oxygen before I was initiated. I couldn’t go to bed without a red wine…what is wrong with me. I put it down to shock.

Im still having difficulty puttin pictures up, it keeps saying error…ah never mind. Bye bye St Jean de Port…6am start tomorrow. I left you when I had only just met you.

The Climb….and the descent!!! Roncesvalles

OMG. If I don’t write this down I will be days behind. Leaving the prettiest village of St Jean, there is an  uphill slog plus backpack. OMG. When did I signup for this. Was it the movie ‘The Way’ or reading Laurie Lee ,’ When `I walked out one summer morning’ !!! I misbehaved in a former life. I’m sure this is retribution.

Around me is the most stunningly pure Pyrenees countryside of clean air and  horses grazing beyond the tree line with bells on.. I thought I was in a Heidi fairy story. Up went from up to up!! I’m there,  I each the top…and then its down and down and treacherously down on scrabble or scree…I’m so tired I cant remember how to put words together. People become thinner and then I’m alone.

Which way to go, they say follow the yellow arrows…every post has yellow on it…I swear I’m lost in the middle of nowhere with just the goats…now and again if I’m lucky there is a goat. Deep in the descending woodland I can see a Japanese couple. I have to follow them because they are human and I have been 7 hours on the road. She is so sweet and diminutive and in the raging heat she is dresses for combat, sticks, boots, full jacket and headgear.

“OH I have bad knees “she repeats as she heads backward down the scree. “Where you come from? I have bad knees”

”We not find  Roncesvalles, we are lost!”

I’m mortified but the option is to stay with them or go it alone. I opt foe sticking with this enduring couple.After an enormous trek through forest we come across what looks like a monastery. I cant go further…like a crumpled person I ask if this is my hostel.  They don’t know. I stagger further …its not even a village…just monastic buildings and a church. I hobble in to what seemed like a reception…

”Oh yes you have passed it,its the building before this one” OMG. And its a palace. A monastic palace. My room is a suite but all I want to do is lie down, then cover myself with more water than you can imagine , eat and have a drink.

I did this and met up with Paul and Fiona, amazing people. For 19 euros, I have bread, water, a whole bottle of wine and choice of 3 courses…satiated I’m in heaven…but I have little faith in gettin up at dawn the next day.. It’s only day ONE. I feel finished.

Roncevalles

We walk till our legs drop off. Where is this place. I’m in the mountains coming through forest and there is no village. It’s the end of the day and I have arrived at a palatial suite but it seems too far to walk from the bathroom to my bed.

Dinner is amazing as is the shower and bed, I will not walk tomorrow, I cannot walk tomorrow. The early breakfast started at 7.30 and bizarrely we had to queue, and although the staff are lovely they seem to dash about in a panic.

”Do you have a breakfast ticket? Is it orange or white?”

I am shown to a separate room but the food laid out was so comprehensive, every kind of patisserie, lovely fresh fruits, toast, baguette ham, cheese, water coffee orange juice …everything.

But although I felt rested and the legs had regained consciousness …I suddenly realise that reception has my passport.Reception is closed  and there is no one about. I joined Paul and Fiona for breakfast and they had collected theirs the night before after having their credencial stamped. I am  beside myself…we are supposed to leave to make the ‘alledgedly’ 22Km walk to Zubiri. All my control just sped out the window.. I cant leave without it. It’s a sign I am meant to rest or give up. No such luck. The waitress rushes over whilst she is trying to serve at least a group of 50 and turns up with it in her hand.

”You 107?’ She asks…that was my room number..

”OH God , yes” ..and like everything so far, I go over the top and hug her as though she had saved my life. She had!…but Paul and Fiona are smiling and waiting for me to join them. They are so lovely, I must seem like some strange alien with a secret agenda.

Regardless we start walking. I cannot explain…we only climb to 900 metres through many shaded forest paths but day 2 after the shock of day 1 just feels as though you never slept or refreshed.

The road is long and I stagger behind my new friends whom I would be lost without. Paul is the orienteerer as the yellow scallop shell seems to point in every direction. The path is only one person wide and wends through a corn tunnel that scratches your face. Then we walk for several kilometres beside an open quarry…is coffee never happening. Then another single file trek along the river Arga  through a very very long bramble tunnel.

Yeah, a coffee shop emerges  with an iron man in the garden. I love the bar, as grandma is sweeping up in the back kitchen.  These lovely people must live for the ‘pilgrims’ and they deserve it. Although I can only feel pain in my toes….we get to the end. Zubiri. I am in the first Inn. A little alpine retreat. I don’t care…I have to hold the shower..I don’t care. I pick myself up. Literally. Crossing over the most beautiful little medieval hump back bridge, I can see a youngish woman pointing and laughing  at me.

“”Ha ha, you walk like I feel” she said in her Aussie accent. The inimitable Laura, elementary teacher from Sydney. We fall laughingly into rhythm.

” I need a drink and anything will do!” She laughs. “I don’t care,” Cafe des Caminos is simple and on the corner and its packed. Paul and Fiona walk by, or tried to, before they are haled to join us.

But my bed was delicious. I cant walk tomoorw. I have done amazingly well so far. Is it only day 2?🏃🏼‍♀️😅😴😴😴