Blog

C-Day -2

An ambiguous title but there’s logic here. We’ve arrived in Bayonne and tomorrow we’ll make our way to St Jean Pied de Port C-Day -1. The following morning, C-Day, we start. So, what’s Bayonne like? Bayonne is a charming town sitting on the river Adour. When we arrived, the town square was cordoned off and the square was full of people. We thought some protest was afoot but no, there was a local rugby match being televised  and the whole town was out to support their team. The square was alive with balloons of Sky blues and white and the match was being televised on a massive screen in the town square. What an atmosphere!

imageWe decided to get our train tickets to St Jean Pied de Port as it was a 7:45am start. Quelle domage, no trains on Sunday due to strike! Luckily we can get a 3:00pm bus so we have a day to kill in Bayonne, not difficult as they have a festival on this weekend.

 

IMG_0590
Arrived in Bayonne feeling exhausted and that’s without much walking.
IMG_0597
A chance to let the socks dry off.
IMG_0592
View of the station from our window.

The Trek Begins

Left early to walk to Rayleigh, just a 3 mile hike to get us used to the back packs. Arrived in time for a coffee before catching the X30 to Stansted. Bus pass came in handy for me but youthful Deb had to pay £16! Ha, and they say it’s no fun getting old. Deb decided to sit at the back of the bus so getting the back packs down the gangway was like a scene from Airplane with few passengers avoiding a hair makeover.

imageMade it to Stansted and spent a leisurely few hours eating, then onto the plane. The safety talk advised us that ‘in the unlikely event that we should land in water, life jackets could be found either under the seat or above our heads’. Now, I don’t know about you but if I should suddenly find myself plummeting towards the ocean from 30,000 feet, I really don’t want to play hunt the f@?&# life jacket! Luckily, the flight was uneventful, which is exactly the way they should, although the landing was a bit slippy, slidy. Still, not so much to go wrong once you’re on the ground. Any mishap at that stage is confined to two dimensions.

IMG_0585
Busy at the airport
IMG_0587
Everone is getting on but why has the plane only got one engine?

More Training…

So, today another 20k walk in preparation for the big slog which looms large. Today’s walk was part well trodden a part new territory. One major point to add here, this walk revolves around us eating at our favourite restaurant in France. Why does our favourite restaurant in France happen to be a five minute drive from our French house? Read on.   

 The plan. Walk 5k to our nearest town of Aynac, walk a further 5k to Lehme, a town we’ve never visited before then 5k back to Aynac and lunch. From there we stagger the last 5k home. All this and hope it doesn’t rain. 

The scenery around our French house is so pretty it calls to be walked in at every opportunity. Soft rolling hills, sheep, cows and very few cars. Sometimes we can walk 5k without seeing a single vehicle. We can picnic at the side of a lane and have a whole meal, wine and obligatory afternoon nap without interruption but not this day. 5k to Aynac is a breeze but the road to Lehme is all uphill and winding lanes. The only sign of life from the few houses we passed was the swiftly closed shutters of aged locals trying to avoid eye contact with the crazy Brits.

We made it to Lehme, an uninspiring little town which answered the question as to why we’d never visited before. My only regret is that we hadn’t arrived by car. In that way we might have made a speedier exit. The 5k back to Aynac was downhill and quicker. Deb took the lead and maintained her pace until we reached our lunch venue. One thing you must know about Deb is that whenever we leave the house the first question of the day will always be ‘when are we going to eat’. This is the same whether we’ve just polished off the British standard fry-up for breakfast or had a restrained ‘health juice’. So, don’t think for one minute that Deb’s pace had anything to do with fitness regime. No, she was just hungry!

Le Relais 1908 is not a Michelin star abode, it is not a posh nosh eatery, it is not even a respectable little restaurant we happened across. Le Relais 1908 is a humble artisan cafe. That is to say that from Monday to Friday the workmen in the surrounding area flock to this humble hostelry between 12 noon and 2 pm (the only time it opens). There is no menu, there is no wine list. There is only one price of 15 euros and for that you receive five, yes five, courses with limitless wine and the French custom of limitless bread. Believe me, when I said stagger the last 5k, I meant it. Not because of tired and aching feet from the previous 15k but from the consequences of not wanting to leave a single morsel from those five courses.

Today started with a cauldron of minestrone soup to be shared between us, oh and a carafe of red wine, not the greatest but quite quaffable and, as I said, limitless. Second course today was duck pate and brawn with pickles and our first basket of country bread. That saw off most of the first carafe and we needed a refill to do justice to the sliced pork with vegetables. Next, the cheese board. Always an eclectic mix from across France plus whatever the table next to us hadn’t eaten (I kid you not). Another basket of bread and a top up of the wine. On the downhill run now, only desert and coffee remaining. At this point we usually try to stop eating bread and drinking wine and this day was no exception. It must be clear now why we made the decision to walk 15k of our 20k before the lunch stop. In fact, had we had the choice, we’d have asked him to open his restaurant about 100 metres from our house. Far easier to do the last bit. Hay ho, we paid our 30 euros and waddled into the street our bodies desperately trying to reset the internal gyros to compensate for the additional weight and excess of wine. The last 5k is all uphill but when most of your body has lost all sensation, what the hell. The sun shone, the hills rolled (a little too much) and the sheep baad (this may not be a word but hey, I’ve had a bottle and a half of wine). Life is good. Pictures to follow.

Training in France

Decided to motor down to France for a bit of a break and to do some practice for the Camino. Target for today was Gramat, a typical French town about 9k from our house, easy peasy. We set off at 10:30am with a view to having lunch in Gramat at around 12:00 noon. The journey went well, mainly due to us living on a hill! On the final leg coming into the town Deb noticed a fork in the road and suggested we come back via this route. Hmm. We arrived in pretty good time only to find Monday is closing day for Gramat (who organised this day?). We circumnavigated the town looking for somewhere to eat. Eventually we found a cafe/bar and managed to find a table for two in between every other person who had been roaming the town in search of fair. After a good meal we set off to get some food for the evening meal. Luckily the supermarket hadn’t heard of the Monday curfew. We purchased our goods including two bottles of Malbec. We only intended to buy one for 4.95 euros but it was buy one get one free. Can’t wait to taste them when we get home!? Off we set heavily laden with wine, potatoes and a few other weighty objects. Route B home was going well until we reached a fork at which point I said “I think we need to go right” I accompanied this with several logical reasons to support my decision. Deb said she thought we should go left. We went left. After a kilometre the anticipated Tarmac road had not materialised. Instead we were walking on a grass track and a short distance further the track bit disappeared and our way ahead blocked by a gate. Deb took the opportunity to have an al fresco wee while I battled with holding back the inevitable phrase “I told you so”! We could see our road in the distance across two fields so over the gate we went for a bit of trespass. Now, what looked like a nice field full of spring flowers had been transformed with recent rains into an ankle deep foot bath of about two acres. We spished our way across, I’m sure we’ll laugh about it once everything dries out. We finally made it to the other side but were thwarted from our goal by a three metre wide stream sans ponte! Hmmm. We looked up and down and noticed in the distance what we hoped would be a bridge. We were half right, it was half a bridge connected to a tree stump by a piece of dead branch.

I’m sure the survivors will laugh about this. Backpacks removed I ventured onto the pole and made a precarious stumble and grab for the safety of a rusty handrail. Deb followed with slightly more grace and we donned our backpacks and resumed our journey home feeling quietly smug but a little damp of foot. Of course we had to pay the price for our outward journey so it was uphill all the way from here.

Only 3km to go but all up hill.

Made it! Now for a couple of well earned beers.

Packing List

Today we started our packing list. Up in the loft to retrieve back packs that accompanied us so closely in Nepal. An hour or so reuniting ourselves with kit that served us so well in the Himalayas. Hey ho, another year, another challenge. Rather than the vertical challenge of the Himalayas, we will soon be embarking on the largely horizontal road that is the Camino. So, what do we need for our 800k jaunt?

It’s largely a balance between weight, necessity and how much or little you want to smell along the way. For my part I’m taking five pairs of underpants (I’m not ashamed of it), two pairs of trousers (detachable legs), and five wicking t-shirts. That should see me through two months although I’m not sure I’ll have many people standing close to me by then. Of course we’ll be washing along the way so it won’t be too bad.

Obviously, there will be other essential items such as a corkscrew and shoes and stuff but that’s not worth blog space. The important thing is, come the day we’ll be kitted out and ready to roll, laden with everything from wet wipes to emergency whistle, solar rechargers to nail clippers and insect repellent to scallop shell. We’ll be ready!

In Training

As part of our continuing training regime we try to walk wherever we go, time permitting. Actually, time permitting means we rarely walk wherever we go but we do make the effort to walk to any dinner engagements or on days out. For instance, on a recent day out to London we walked to Benfleet station, a distance of four miles and had every intention of walking home on our return. Luckily my continuing efforts to perfect my rain dance, for once, paid off. I had to put up with some strange looks on the train but oh the comfort of that warm taxi on a cold winter’s night!

Another example of our training efforts. We were due to meet friends in Leigh-on-Sea for dinner, a distance of 3½ miles. This is a well-trodden route for us as we have friends who live in the area so, a seven mile round trip for dinner was an ideal practice run, albeit a little short, for our projected ten miles each day. Unfortunately, the venue was changed to Hamlet Court Road, a further 1¾ miles! Always ready to make the most of a bad situation we thought aha, this will be a good test of an average day walking in Spain!

We made it, on time, smug and feeling no ill effects from the extra push. We had an enjoyable meal laden with the usual amounts of wine and near the end of the evening reflected on our return journey. After visiting the toilet, I reappeared in full rain dance regalia and proceeded to scare off what few customers remained. I can only surmise they were eager to depart before the imminent deluge! However, after twenty minutes and the breaking of two head feathers not a single raindrop was forthcoming, we resigned to the walk home!

Now, I don’t know what it’s like where you live but around the Leigh area they turn off all non-essential street lights at a certain hour, usually 1:00am but occasionally there’s an evil little council worker who delays it until your next step is about to avoid that rarity of objects, the dog turd! Hey ho, I’ll leave them outside and clean them off in the morning. The remainder of the walk continued without event but not without odour, we arrived home at around 1:40am feeling even more smug.

Now, I have to tell you people there’s a distinct difference between walking seven miles and walking eleven miles. When you walk seven miles you jump out of bed in the morning feeling fit, healthy and ready to tackle the world. When you walk eleven miles you jump out of bed, your knees buckle and you fall in a heap on the floor! You don’t feel fit or healthy; you just feel 65 years old. This isn’t so bad for me but Deb was certainly put out. We hobbled through the daily ablutions conversing only in groans and grunts reflecting that we would soon have to do this for fifty consecutive days!

Made a mental note to do at least three hours’ practice on the rain dance once I’d cleaned my shoes and replaced my missing feathers. No eagles around here I’ll have to make do with pigeon, do you think it will reduce the potency?

Setting up mobile posts

A new year and we’re focusing on the mechanics of our walk. 

In-going and out-going flights have been booked. All we have to do now is fill in the bit in the middle!

One important part is the ability to  add posts on the go from our iPhones so this is the test post with picture I hope. 

 Yep, there it is! Deb is testing out the very important wine stock that we’ll be taking with us. Who said this was going to be easy?  

Hay-on-Wye

IMG_3472Decided to get started with our training so we went to the Brecon Beacons for some extensive walking.

Actually, we went to the Hay-on-Wye literary festival with a group of highly irreverent friends with the good intention of some extensive walking.

The Hay festival was fantastic as was the company and the scenery, the walking however did rather take second place, no – fourth place to festival, company and wine. Temperance is not a virtue shared by our group. To avoid being completely alcohol dependent by the end of the week we rented a separate house about 1½ miles away. Fantastic, luxury place with a hot tub shared with the other residents in the complex.

Despite the distractions of Hay-on-Wye and wine we did manage an excursion. We selected a hill in the distance (785ft) and set out to walk to the top. It worked well for the first 1½ miles but we were passing the house where our friends were staying and decided to pop in and say hello (rude not to). Two hours and several coffees later we continued on our walk. Backpacks in place, lunch packed, pedometer switched on we set out.

IMG_3469A beautiful walk along a reservoir, slowly climbing to our selected peak. Unfortunately, whilst supping coffee, clouds had descended to obscure pretty much the top 50 metres of our hill but we persevered. At a point where cloud met grass we did a health & safety check on our surroundings and decided trying to climb at a 45 degree angle on wet grass with nothing much to brake our slide would not make good reading on a subsequent insurance claim form. With this in mind we decided to traverse down a few metres to a rocky outcrop and settle ourselves for our packed lunch.

Now, a trekking lunch for us has been honed to perfection over years of experience. One must ensure the optimum weight to energy ratio of the foods to be carried and also the speed and efficiency with which they can be assembled beforehand.  Ours consist, quite simply of bread, cheese, a good bottle of red and a corkscrew (just in case the one you picked wasn’t a screw-top).

IMG_3473So, here we were passing the next hour shielded from the wind enjoying our repast. Not the most healthy or sensible meal for hill walkers but we like to live on the edge while we still can.

Lunch finished and resigned to having reached our pinnacle for the day it was down to the bottom. Now, I don’t know if it was the wine or years of hill walking technique (I suspect the former) but what took us an hour to climb took us about ten minutes to descend and strangely accompanied with a good deal of giggling (I’m sure it wasn’t me). It would have been quicker had I not inadvertently missed my footing several times and rolled gracefully through the grass coming to a gentle rest surveying the clouds. Deb said “I hope you haven’t rolled in any cow pats”. I checked my self thoroughly, the last thing I wanted was to return home and jump into our communal hot tub with the neighbours only to see a large cow pat rising sedately to the surface (try explaining that away).

IMG_3485We managed to make it to the bottom and found an alternative route back to safety. Having checked the pedometer we’d managed a humble 8km, less than half of what we need to achieve each day on the Camino but hey, this was our first training day and we still have 420 days to go.

Planning Part 1

Well, there’s been a lot of thinking about this and how best to approach it. The bottom line is, there’s a lot of walking to do! There’s two of us. How can we maximize our goal of helping the children of Nepal not only to rebuild what they had in terms of schooling but to provide a better standard of education?

One of the great ideas we came up with was to share this challenge to anyone and everyone. We know that not everyone is able to simply take two months out of their lives to come and walk the Camino with us but what we hope is that with enough invitations, friends, family and complete strangers will look at our itinerary and pick one part of it to join us in raising money to ease the plight of these children.

How’s this going to work? We don’t exactly know at the moment but if you’re interested, contact us and we’ll work it out.

Our first major step is a rough itinerary to set a framework on which will hang the details of the journey. The aim will be to arrive in Santiago de Compostela in time for the festival on 25th July 2016. This will be an incredible international affair and a fitting end to our challenge. With this in mind we’ve worked backwards to a starting date of 6th June 2016.

The hope is that this will give us some flexibility to shorten or lengthen to overall walk without missing the finish event.

Below are the details so far. They are not final and will probably be changed slightly as our next phase of planning begins. This will entail fine tuning each day’s walking to ensure all the appropriate towns are reached and there is ample wine and accommodation available at the end of the day.

Date Day Distance in Km Distance in Miles Total Km Total Miles Locations
06/06/2016 1 24 14.9 24.0 14.9 St Jean to Roncesvalles
07/06/2016 2 14.9 9.2 38.9 24.1 Roncesvalles to Lintzoain
08/06/2016 3 17.6 10.9 56.5 35.0 Lintzoain to Larrasoana
09/06/2016 4 16.5 10.2 73.0 45.3 Larrasoana to Pamplona
10/06/2016 5 18 11.2 91.0 56.4 Pamplona to Legarda
11/06/2016 6 5.7 3.5 96.7 60.0 Legarda to Puente la Reina
12/06/2016 7 21.7 13.5 118.4 73.4 Puente la Reina to Estella
13/06/2016 8 19.4 12.0 137.8 85.4 Estella to Los Arcos
14/06/2016 9 18.1 11.2 155.9 96.7 Los Arcos to Viana
15/06/2016 10 12 7.4 167.9 104.1 Viana to Logrono
16/06/2016 11 11.1 6.9 179.0 111.0 Logrono to Navarrete
17/06/2016 12 15.7 9.7 194.7 120.7 Navarrete to Najera
18/06/2016 13 20.1 12.5 214.8 133.2 Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
19/06/2016 14 10.7 6.6 225.5 139.8 Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Redecilla del
Camino
20/06/2016 15 11.1 6.9 236.6 146.7 Redecilla del Camino to Belorado
21/06/2016 16 11.1 6.9 247.7 153.6 Belorado to Villafranca de Montes de Oca
22/06/2016 17 12.5 7.8 260.2 161.3 Villafranca de Montes de Oca to San Juan de
Ortega
23/06/2016 18 23.1 14.3 283.3 175.6 San Juan de Ortega to Burgos
24/06/2016 19 20.8 12.9 304.1 188.5 Burgos to Hornillos
25/06/2016 20 11.8 7.3 315.9 195.9 Hornillos to Hontanas
26/06/2016 21 9.2 5.7 325.1 201.6 Hontanas to Castrogeriz
27/06/2016 22 23.9 14.8 349.0 216.4 Castrogeriz to Fromista
28/06/2016 23 18.9 11.7 367.9 228.1 Fromista to Carrion de los Condes
29/06/2016 24 17.1 10.6 385.0 238.7 Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza
30/06/2016 25 20.7 12.8 405.7 251.5 Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun
01/07/2016 26 18 11.2 423.7 262.7 Sahagun to El Burgos Raneros
02/07/2016 27 18.7 11.6 442.4 274.3 El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas
03/07/2016 28 18 11.2 460.4 285.4 Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon
04/07/2016 29 21.8 13.5 482.2 299.0 Leon to Villar de Mazarife
05/07/2016 30 14.1 8.7 496.3 307.7 Villar de Mazarife to Hospital de Orbigo
06/07/2016 31 15.3 9.5 511.6 317.2 Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga
07/07/2016 32 20.2 12.5 531.8 329.7 Astorga to Rabanal del Camino
08/07/2016 33 17.1 10.6 548.9 340.3 Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo
09/07/2016 34 15.6 9.7 564.5 350.0 El Acebo to Ponferrada
10/07/2016 35 23.3 14.4 587.8 364.4 Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo
11/07/2016 36 16.1 10.0 603.9 374.4 Villafranca del Bierzo to Vega de Valcarce
12/07/2016 37 12.4 7.7 616.3 382.1 Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro
13/07/2016 38 20.3 12.6 636.6 394.7 Cebreiro to Triacastela
14/07/2016 39 21.8 13.5 658.4 408.2 Triacastela to Sarria (Route 2)
15/07/2016 40 23.7 14.7 682.1 422.9 Sarria to Portomarin
16/07/2016 41 24.7 15.3 706.8 438.2 Portomarin to Palas de Rei
17/07/2016 42 15.5 9.6 722.3 447.8 Palas de Rei to Melide
18/07/2016 43 13.9 8.6 736.2 456.4 Melide to Arzua
19/07/2016 44 20.2 12.5 756.4 469.0 Arzua to Arca
20/07/2016 45 17.9 11.1 774.3 480.1 Arca to Santiago de Compostela