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Reflections and Lessons learnt

DsixDsix

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances or Norte (Future hope)
#1
I sit writing this back at my desk in Canada, its been a week since my return from the first 166 km of the CF. (We went in Late June 2018)Yet the thought of it still lingers in my mind, a longing for the freedom and friendship that it brought me. I wanted to write this to reflect and to help any new Pilgrims or those that also sit at a desk wishing they could be one. Carpe Diem...seize the day. I was once like you and now I have done it and my heart longs to return. It all sounds so cliche but its true...all of it. The Camino will change you and you will be better for it.

A few thoughts:

1) Day one was my favorite (St Jean > Roncesvalles) St Jean is very pretty, the medieval citadel and cobbles adding to its charm as much as the hanging baskets and friendly locals. The famous bridge above the crystal clear river a sight to behold. The Pilgrims office were very friendly and helpful and should be recommended for their hard work. Yes some language barriers but with a smile we made it through. I picked up my shell here too. Often I would run my fingers over its many ridges, paths leading to a single point.

We hiked it on the one day starting at 6:30am in the mist. I found the scenery breathtaking as thankfully a sunny clear day. The walk is not as bad as some would make for anyone of reasonable fitness. We took our time, stopped as Orrison for a cuppa (I am a Brit!) and carried on past herds of cows and horses poking their heads through wire fences. The more I walked the more of France and Spain laid out before me like patchwork blanket. The sense of freedom as sweet as any ambrosia.

Onward past the Virgin Mary, Fountain du Rolande (fill up here) and up to the col for lunch. Below we could finally see our rest stop for the night below. Please beware at this point the pilgrim has two choice for the decent. DO NOT take the steep right path via the forest. Take the road to the left which winds around, past wild horses and grazing cows. Many friends we met fell on the steep forest path without fail. One poor lady the morning we were there slipped and broke her ankle. Be sensible.

2) Adressing a prior point again. Be careful on the steep decent (there are many) Lots are loose shale or stone or are very uneven. The decent into Zubiri was treacherous and my wife fell cutting her knee. We patched her up and she was OK thankfully. I did not take poles but in Pamplona my wife brought a set and said they helped a lot. She implied they take a percentage of the weight and stabilize the heavy pack that is so willing to tip you over. Take your time!

3) Don't be afraid to try the language, its fun and can open doors. even a few keys words can go a long way. For example. I would like, where is, Cheers!, etc. I was very proud for my schoolboy French and Spanish. Even carrying out a 45 min conversation with a lovely 70 year old lady. I caught a few keys words and was able to converse. What a lovely feeling. I met several Italian ladies as we past each other daily. I friendly ciao and we were dear friends by Pamplona. A smile goes a long way as does helping those who need it. Be it as simple as a band aid, some water or helping an older person. I stayed with an older friend and pilgrim on the bad Zubiri decent. She really appreciated this a lot and what was the cost to me bar an extra 15 minutes. it made us both feel better and that's the joy of Friendship.

4) You will meet people. Sometimes organically, as I mentioned a positive outlook and friendly smile does wonders. We met over 40 plus persons on the trip. Some were 18 and fresh from school, other mid 70's at a different stage in their life. Each had the same excitement! Some from Italy, USA, France, Malta others from Japan, South Korea, Ireland, Germany and more. All with the sense of adventure, all Pilgrims like we were. The people you tend to meet are generally like minded as you are. That's why they are there! We enjoyed so much walking with, helping, laughing. At times they would march off or stop for a rest. We would run into them two towns down shouting there name and seeing them smile and beckon us over.

At dinner the pilgrim menu and wide tables make for excellent conversations. I only wish this sense of compassion and joy of life would transcend to modern city life. Sometimes its hard to raise a grunt on the train to work. On the Camino its different. It really was the most joyous thing. I still think fondly of my friends and have many contact numbers. I hope to see at least some of them again one day, having got many invites to come stay. See end for some honorable mentions.

4)The Camino does offer pause for reflection. In our hectic lives this sometime is not present. Too many cell phones, Instagram or commitments. It can be different. My time away was a vessel to refill my soul meter. A soul that has been worn down by bills, bosses, kids and mortgages. I felt free. Liberated. Pilgrim life is simple. You wake. You walk. You stop eat and sleep. All the time eating well, meeting new friends and enjoying beautiful scenery. Little things matter as much as little stresses dont. If the bus is late going home, thats OK, if the shop has sold out of ham thats OK, try the cheese instead. If the inn is full thats OK try the next, The Camino will provide. The wonderful Sandwich by the church, the butterflies all around you, the friendly pony wanting a tickle, the sound of water running in a steam, warm sun on your face. If that does not fill a soul I dont know what does. Take home the gift you have been given and live better from it. I know I am trying.

5) We packed a little too much. Long sleeve tops, jumpers, four shirts etc etc. Keep it light and free like you will be. You can wash at most places on the route with ease. If you really need it you can buy it on the way for example. Its funny how little you do need in this age of consumerism. Its not important. Saying that footwear is important. I saw it all, from Sneakers to stiff leather boots. Its a walk not a climb so a sensible pair of supportive breathable shoes (with good grip) should suffice. Don't freak out about expensive hiking boots go with comfort. Also take a pair of flip flops or sandals, to let your feet breathe when done for the day. I hate flip flops but was converted. (I don not advise walking in them on the trail though in any way!) Backpack should fit well and use a hip strap. A popular brand I saw was Osprey. Very light too.

6)Take the time to enjoy the walk, Smell the pine trees, eat the local ham, drink local wine. Rest when you need to and walk at your pace. There is no wrong pace or time. Many were like us but others on tight schedules would walk 12 hours a day. Starting prior to dawn and going to bed at 7pm. They did not stop at the local churches and we surprised when we said we did. (Los Arcos is one of our favorites and must see). Each to their own but we still made 25-30km a day and stopped to enjoy the feeling of a cold stream on our feet or have a coffee and pastry. The great bed race debate is present in all minds. I was worried too I admit. BUT we never had a problem. I did book the first night but many did not and were fine. This was in June so please bear this in mind if going in peak season. If it makes you feel better maybe book a day or two per week, then chance it the rest. Every place we stayed at was very nice and no issues or bedbugs!

7)I am not a religious person. Atheistic to a point but even I had to admit there is a spiritual quality to the walk. The lore of Saint James, the crunching of gravel, the passing of the churches and prayers to those past. Be open to this, it can teach you a lot as it did me. If not to a deity but to yourself. Time can give you so much on the road. Humility kindness and appreciation too. Blisters only add to this! I often stopped to imagine a pilgrim in Medieval times. Little food, leather sandals at best. It puts things into perspective.

Sometimes it can mean something. We walked in part for the memory of my late Father in Law who passed from Lung Cancer. His name was James too, he looked like Hemingway and admired him, the road markers were red and white like his native Poland. All small signs of maybe he was with us. When dad died a rainbow crossed the sky that very moment. Now years later, when we stayed in Torres del Rio guess what...A glorious double rainbow danced on the setting sun. He was with us. It gets my tearful now.

A few quick Points from my Ramble:

Pamplona is awesome. The main square had locals dancing ad hoc style and the Local food is great.
The church in Los Arcos is awesome. In fact most small churches are glorious inside even in humble villages.
Try to get your stamps at the churches, leave a small donation for the usual nice old lady running the desk.
Support mom and pop hostels and restaurants. We tried to everyday and the experiences were amazing.
Visit the wine fountain at Irache, its great. But only take a sip. Many were taking full bottles which meant less for others and is not the spirit to me.
Wear a Buff, its great for keeping the Sun of your neck. On cool mornings it keeps you very warm as well.
I did not take any pants, its far too hot and if it rains oh well shorts and legs will dry.
Don't get too caught up by weather. Yes it can rain but usually its not long and refreshing. We only had a wet morning the whole trip.
I was so impressed with a young family walking we met on day 6. They had two children aged 4 and 6. Not once did those kids moan or complain. They seemed very happy and I shook the dads hand. Go Bilbao!
Take Moleskin...you will know why if you have blisters. It really helps.
One girl lost her passport and purse with hundreds of Euros in it. Two towns later a pilgrim tracked her down and returned it. Every last penny. Wonderful.
Take pictures, leave nothing but Memories.

To my new friends. I miss you and thank you for the memories : Luigi, Dylan, Ryan, Paul, Jurgen , My 3 Italian girls, Albana and Adrienne, Becky, Simon, Paul, Justin and Owen, Randy and Sandy, Bill, Beans, Rasmus and and John, My Pastor friends from Portland and Mexico, My Cafe friends from Abbotsford, Newcastle Buddies, Quebec and many many more we met over a coffee or on the road. You would do anything for these guys.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Thank you for this WONDERFUL Forum as well, we appreciate it. I will be back to complete the walk when life allows. I look forward to that very much. Would love to hear from you or if you have any questions please ask away. In closing, safe travels and Buen Camino to one and all.

Daniel
 

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FLEUR

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012 - 2016
#4
A good read thanks.
We (two 60 plus females) walked the steep path through the forest after heavy rain, down to Roncesvalles. We survived . I do agree you do need to be careful but it's manageable with care.
Agree with all your thoughts, sleep, walk , eat and for a while reflect, just escape the woes and complexities of our world.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
GR65(2008)Camino Frances(2011)both(2013

Hoping for Del Norte in 2018
#7
Thank you for sharing this and bringing back wonderful memories. The joy never leaves you
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#9
. . . . . . <snip> Please beware at this point the pilgrim has two choice for the decent. DO NOT take the steep right path via the forest. Take the road to the left which winds around, past wild horses and grazing cows. . . . . . Daniel
I really enjoyed this post, Daniel; thanks for posting it. :) Perhaps someone can help me on one point from the blog. From my recollection, the road that I took down from the Col to Roncesvalles is to the right of the path, not the left. Am I remembering incorrectly?
 

DsixDsix

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances or Norte (Future hope)
#10
Hi Dave, thanks for reading. It is a little confusing i admit. I checked my pics and the road winds from the left down and around. The steep path, you have to go by that bench thing and then down. To be fair the road does snake around to the right afterwards so I think thats the case. We are both right! how many times can I say "right" this paragraph...
 
#11
I really enjoyed this post, Daniel; thanks for posting it. :) Perhaps someone can help me on one point from the blog. From my recollection, the road that I took down from the Col to Roncesvalles is to the right of the path, not the left. Am I remembering incorrectly?
You’re right, Dave, it does go down to the right :cool:
It never crosses the woodland trail and it approaches Roncevalles to the right of the path.
 
#15
I sit writing this back at my desk in Canada, its been a week since my return from the first 166 km of the CF. (We went in Late June 2018)Yet the thought of it still lingers in my mind, a longing for the freedom and friendship that it brought me. I wanted to write this to reflect and to help any new Pilgrims or those that also sit at a desk wishing they could be one. Carpe Diem...seize the day. I was once like you and now I have done it and my heart longs to return. It all sounds so cliche but its true...all of it. The Camino will change you and you will be better for it.

A few thoughts:

1) Day one was my favorite (St Jean > Roncesvalles) St Jean is very pretty, the medieval citadel and cobbles adding to its charm as much as the hanging baskets and friendly locals. The famous bridge above the crystal clear river a sight to behold. The Pilgrims office were very friendly and helpful and should be recommended for their hard work. Yes some language barriers but with a smile we made it through. I picked up my shell here too. Often I would run my fingers over its many ridges, paths leading to a single point.

We hiked it on the one day starting at 6:30am in the mist. I found the scenery breathtaking as thankfully a sunny clear day. The walk is not as bad as some would make for anyone of reasonable fitness. We took our time, stopped as Orrison for a cuppa (I am a Brit!) and carried on past herds of cows and horses poking their heads through wire fences. The more I walked the more of France and Spain laid out before me like patchwork blanket. The sense of freedom as sweet as any ambrosia.

Onward past the Virgin Mary, Fountain du Rolande (fill up here) and up to the col for lunch. Below we could finally see our rest stop for the night below. Please beware at this point the pilgrim has two choice for the decent. DO NOT take the steep right path via the forest. Take the road to the left which winds around, past wild horses and grazing cows. Many friends we met fell on the steep forest path without fail. One poor lady the morning we were there slipped and broke her ankle. Be sensible.

2) Adressing a prior point again. Be careful on the steep decent (there are many) Lots are loose shale or stone or are very uneven. The decent into Zubiri was treacherous and my wife fell cutting her knee. We patched her up and she was OK thankfully. I did not take poles but in Pamplona my wife brought a set and said they helped a lot. She implied they take a percentage of the weight and stabilize the heavy pack that is so willing to tip you over. Take your time!

3) Don't be afraid to try the language, its fun and can open doors. even a few keys words can go a long way. For example. I would like, where is, Cheers!, etc. I was very proud for my schoolboy French and Spanish. Even carrying out a 45 min conversation with a lovely 70 year old lady. I caught a few keys words and was able to converse. What a lovely feeling. I met several Italian ladies as we past each other daily. I friendly ciao and we were dear friends by Pamplona. A smile goes a long way as does helping those who need it. Be it as simple as a band aid, some water or helping an older person. I stayed with an older friend and pilgrim on the bad Zubiri decent. She really appreciated this a lot and what was the cost to me bar an extra 15 minutes. it made us both feel better and that's the joy of Friendship.

4) You will meet people. Sometimes organically, as I mentioned a positive outlook and friendly smile does wonders. We met over 40 plus persons on the trip. Some were 18 and fresh from school, other mid 70's at a different stage in their life. Each had the same excitement! Some from Italy, USA, France, Malta others from Japan, South Korea, Ireland, Germany and more. All with the sense of adventure, all Pilgrims like we were. The people you tend to meet are generally like minded as you are. That's why they are there! We enjoyed so much walking with, helping, laughing. At times they would march off or stop for a rest. We would run into them two towns down shouting there name and seeing them smile and beckon us over.

At dinner the pilgrim menu and wide tables make for excellent conversations. I only wish this sense of compassion and joy of life would transcend to modern city life. Sometimes its hard to raise a grunt on the train to work. On the Camino its different. It really was the most joyous thing. I still think fondly of my friends and have many contact numbers. I hope to see at least some of them again one day, having got many invites to come stay. See end for some honorable mentions.

4)The Camino does offer pause for reflection. In our hectic lives this sometime is not present. Too many cell phones, Instagram or commitments. It can be different. My time away was a vessel to refill my soul meter. A soul that has been worn down by bills, bosses, kids and mortgages. I felt free. Liberated. Pilgrim life is simple. You wake. You walk. You stop eat and sleep. All the time eating well, meeting new friends and enjoying beautiful scenery. Little things matter as much as little stresses dont. If the bus is late going home, thats OK, if the shop has sold out of ham thats OK, try the cheese instead. If the inn is full thats OK try the next, The Camino will provide. The wonderful Sandwich by the church, the butterflies all around you, the friendly pony wanting a tickle, the sound of water running in a steam, warm sun on your face. If that does not fill a soul I dont know what does. Take home the gift you have been given and live better from it. I know I am trying.

5) We packed a little too much. Long sleeve tops, jumpers, four shirts etc etc. Keep it light and free like you will be. You can wash at most places on the route with ease. If you really need it you can buy it on the way for example. Its funny how little you do need in this age of consumerism. Its not important. Saying that footwear is important. I saw it all, from Sneakers to stiff leather boots. Its a walk not a climb so a sensible pair of supportive breathable shoes (with good grip) should suffice. Don't freak out about expensive hiking boots go with comfort. Also take a pair of flip flops or sandals, to let your feet breathe when done for the day. I hate flip flops but was converted. (I don not advise walking in them on the trail though in any way!) Backpack should fit well and use a hip strap. A popular brand I saw was Osprey. Very light too.

6)Take the time to enjoy the walk, Smell the pine trees, eat the local ham, drink local wine. Rest when you need to and walk at your pace. There is no wrong pace or time. Many were like us but others on tight schedules would walk 12 hours a day. Starting prior to dawn and going to bed at 7pm. They did not stop at the local churches and we surprised when we said we did. (Los Arcos is one of our favorites and must see). Each to their own but we still made 25-30km a day and stopped to enjoy the feeling of a cold stream on our feet or have a coffee and pastry. The great bed race debate is present in all minds. I was worried too I admit. BUT we never had a problem. I did book the first night but many did not and were fine. This was in June so please bear this in mind if going in peak season. If it makes you feel better maybe book a day or two per week, then chance it the rest. Every place we stayed at was very nice and no issues or bedbugs!

7)I am not a religious person. Atheistic to a point but even I had to admit there is a spiritual quality to the walk. The lore of Saint James, the crunching of gravel, the passing of the churches and prayers to those past. Be open to this, it can teach you a lot as it did me. If not to a deity but to yourself. Time can give you so much on the road. Humility kindness and appreciation too. Blisters only add to this! I often stopped to imagine a pilgrim in Medieval times. Little food, leather sandals at best. It puts things into perspective.

Sometimes it can mean something. We walked in part for the memory of my late Father in Law who passed from Lung Cancer. His name was James too, he looked like Hemingway and admired him, the road markers were red and white like his native Poland. All small signs of maybe he was with us. When dad died a rainbow crossed the sky that very moment. Now years later, when we stayed in Torres del Rio guess what...A glorious double rainbow danced on the setting sun. He was with us. It gets my tearful now.

A few quick Points from my Ramble:

Pamplona is awesome. The main square had locals dancing ad hoc style and the Local food is great.
The church in Los Arcos is awesome. In fact most small churches are glorious inside even in humble villages.
Try to get your stamps at the churches, leave a small donation for the usual nice old lady running the desk.
Support mom and pop hostels and restaurants. We tried to everyday and the experiences were amazing.
Visit the wine fountain at Irache, its great. But only take a sip. Many were taking full bottles which meant less for others and is not the spirit to me.
Wear a Buff, its great for keeping the Sun of your neck. On cool mornings it keeps you very warm as well.
I did not take any pants, its far too hot and if it rains oh well shorts and legs will dry.
Don't get too caught up by weather. Yes it can rain but usually its not long and refreshing. We only had a wet morning the whole trip.
I was so impressed with a young family walking we met on day 6. They had two children aged 4 and 6. Not once did those kids moan or complain. They seemed very happy and I shook the dads hand. Go Bilbao!
Take Moleskin...you will know why if you have blisters. It really helps.
One girl lost her passport and purse with hundreds of Euros in it. Two towns later a pilgrim tracked her down and returned it. Every last penny. Wonderful.
Take pictures, leave nothing but Memories.

To my new friends. I miss you and thank you for the memories : Luigi, Dylan, Ryan, Paul, Jurgen , My 3 Italian girls, Albana and Adrienne, Becky, Simon, Paul, Justin and Owen, Randy and Sandy, Bill, Beans, Rasmus and and John, My Pastor friends from Portland and Mexico, My Cafe friends from Abbotsford, Newcastle Buddies, Quebec and many many more we met over a coffee or on the road. You would do anything for these guys.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Thank you for this WONDERFUL Forum as well, we appreciate it. I will be back to complete the walk when life allows. I look forward to that very much. Would love to hear from you or if you have any questions please ask away. In closing, safe travels and Buen Camino to one and all.

Daniel
Its simple really you walk eat sleep repeated for 30 + days
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 -SJPP- Santiago .Oct/Nov
2017 -Porto to Santiago.Oct
2017- Santiago- Finesterre. Nov
#16
I really loved reading your account .. and reflections .. to me it expressed the real spirit of the Camino! Good on you mate ! Buen Camino of life
 

long trails

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances June 2016
Portugues April 2017
#17
I was so impressed with a young family walking we met on day 6. They had two children aged 4 and 6. Not once did those kids moan or complain
I wonder if the kids were truly happy doing a Camino? After all, they would probably not have had much say in the matter being so young.
 

DsixDsix

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances or Norte (Future hope)
#18
Hi,

Yes I hear what you are saying. I am a father of two kids around that age myself. Its def not for everyone and my kids would not have been so keen. But every time I passed those kids they were chasing butterflies, waving singing and smiling. Of course if they were in distress I would have been upset. The family were Spanish and only doing a few day stages not the whole thing when I talked to them. Nice to see them enjoy the countryside and ice creams on the way rather than I pads etc.
 

ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
#19
Wow. You have already learned on your 166k what many struggle to learn over 800k (and then some!) !! :)

Best wishes from a slow learner ;-)
 

JohnMcM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Some, and with luck, some more.
#20
I wish I had the wherewithal to write about the Camino like that.
Nice one DsixDsix.
Buen (get back again) Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - central from Porto (2018 - planned)
#21
I wonder if the kids were truly happy doing a Camino? After all, they would probably not have had much say in the matter being so young.
When we did the camino there was a family with two kids (5 and 7) who were walking. We were amazed at how much energy they had after their arrival in the albergues, when we were wiped out (this would have been the days leading into Burgos). They also seemed to be in good spirits, never moaning and complaining. Their parent's said we weren't getting the full picture and sometimes it was very different during the walk.
 

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