Thursday, 23 April 2009

Four generations

The photograph above was taken on the occasion of my father´s 90th and my youngest grandson´s first birthdays. The party was an ideal and rare opportunity to take a family picture of all of us together. I´m seated next to my father, there are my four children and partners and my eight grandchildren. A lovely sight, but then I´m prejudiced!

I thought it would be fun to take a small copy of the photo with me, maybe if I get chatting with local grandmas they might like to see it.

I´ve actually got as far as sewing my pilgrim forum badge on my rucksack, and a small Brazilian flag. I would have liked to sew on a British flag as well but couldn´t get hold of one, understandably. And... I´ve finally and for the first time put everything I´m taking in the ruck sack to see how it fits. I literally packed everything, including the clothes I would be wearing, just out of curiosity. Well, it does all fit in, but I´ve decided not to take the wind jacket as my poncho will do just as good a job. I´ve also removed one of the three nappies as I managed to dry myself and my hair after a shower with just two, and I´ve also removed the gloves. A pairs of socks will keep your hands just as warm, so I´ve heard. All this is in aid of reducing weight, as I think that is what is going to get me in the end. When I tried on the fully loaded ruck sack it felt very different to when I am just carrying the rice even though the weight was the same. I hope it won´t take me too long to get used to it.

This spurt of activity is due to the fact that my friends are having a farewell lunch for me this weekend and I thought it would be fun to take all my stuff along to show them. It will be interesting to hear their comments.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Three weeks and counting

Three weeks today and I´ll be on my way to the airport. I can´t believe time has passed so quickly and although I am very excited about it all I keep getting butterflies as well. I don´t feel I´m ready yet, not physically. Last Friday I did 4km, Saturday 16km and yesterday 20km. Last night I was totally knackered. I know it was hot, about 30C, but even so I shouldn´t have felt that tired. Today I was a bit stiff when I got up, but after a gentle stroll to the shops I am fine. Maybe I could do 16km today if I had to (I don´t intend to!). One answer may be to alternate longer and shorter days on the Camino while I build up stamina.

In another sense I am totally unprepared for what is to come. Many pilgrims appear to thoroughly research every step of the way, from hostels to historic sites, and plan each day in detail. My life at home is necessarily highly organised, and maybe that is why I have no plans whatsoever. Apart from arriving in Roncesvalles to start my Camino that is it, nothing booked, nothing arranged. I intend to set off every morning and keep going until I fancy stopping, whether because I´ve had enough or because I find myself in a nice village or whatever. The freedom of not having to be somewhere or not cover a certain distance will be wonderful, a real escape from everyday life.

Of course, I could well come unstuck over this. My first night in Spain will be in Pamplona, on the way to Roncesvalles. I shall be arriving in the evening with nowhere booked for the night. I may meet up with other pilgrims on the coach willing to share overnight accommodation in Pamplona or share a taxi on to Roncesvalles, or I may make my own way to a pilgrim hostel or b+b. You have to be open to whatever fate has in store for you and let the Camino work its magic. I´m not daft enough to end up sleeping in a doorway, obviously, but there is no guarantee I´m going to have a pleasant or comfortable night either!

I shall try and keep posting about my adventures and misadventures during my Camino, whenever I can get Internet access. I may only be able to make short occasional entries but I intend to keep a diary and fill in the gaps when I get home again. It should be fun in the future to re-read and re-live my Camino one day.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

On bees and things...

I removed one kilo of rice from my rucksack so that from now on I always have my poncho with me. It weighs nearly 500g and what with snacks and water I am still carrying virtually the same seven kilos. Yesterday I set off to do my six hours and yes, the fates are still against me! I caught the train to the university and it was closed to the public... grrrr.

After some thought I set out to find the nearby Instituto Butantã. This is the (in)famous place from which the African killer bees escaped into the wild years ago, since when they have slowly bred and spread up the South American continent and reached the North American one. The institute carries out scientific research, extracts venom from snakes and spiders and produces serum. The grounds were not as extensive as I hoped and in less than an hour I´d been round, visited the snake pit and was wondering where to go next.

There really wasn´t anywhere else, so I decided to walk home instead of catching the train. Not my best decision. The walk was along a busy ring road, which I had to leave at intervals where there was no pavement under the bridges, making long detours. It was hot, noisy, frustrating and tiring. By the time I got home I´d only done five hours but I was bushed. I had thought to do a circuit of the riding club to make up the time but I was too weary, despite the fact I´d only walked about fifteen kilometres.

There are times when I really wish I were back in England, doing my training walks in the Pennines where I used to live, instead of pounding these city streets. I sure I wouldn´t get so tired.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Six hours at last!

The fates seem to be against my managing a six hour training walk, but I have managed it at last. The previous weekend I cut it short because of the rain, last Saturday my father was not well and I didn´t want to venture too far. Sunday he wasn´t really any better, but no worse either so I decided to risk it. Instead of going by train to the university, with an infrequent Sunday service, I decided to walk around the perimeter of the riding club which is only fifteen minutes from home. This meant going round twelve times! I stopped three times for a few minutes but the rest of the time I just trudged on. It was very boring and towards the end I was very tired, but I did manage the full six hours, twenty three km all told (accompanied by The Beast, of course). By the time I got home I couldn´t face the stairs so cheated by taking the lift. I´ll have to make up for that.

My father is still not well so I took him to the hospital today. He is in quite a bit of pain but the doctor said it is muscular and just prescribed painkillers. I felt as if we were being brushed off, but I suppose I´ll just have to wait and see if it gets better. Part of the problem is he is ninety now and any health issue is a worry. A couple of weekends ago we had a lovely joint birthday party for him and his youngest great grandchild who was one year old. The oldest and the youngest in the family.

Evenings are now taken up with Spanish lessons. I have found a BBC online course which looks pretty good. I am fluent in Portuguese and the languages are similar, but some of the vocabulary is very different - 'bocadillo' as opposed to 'sanduiche' and 'calle' as opposed to 'rua'. The written word is quite easy to follow as I can usually make an educated guess at the meaning of the words I don´t understand, but the spoken word is much harder. It feels as if I am trying to speak Portuguese with a lisp. Brazil is the only country in South America where Portuguese is spoken, all the rest speak Spanish. Just my luck!