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St Jean to Roncesvalles

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
 
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jirit

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
The climb is nothing like you are expecting. Mostly a steady climb uphill, along mostly small paved roads and a number of dirt tracks - no steep drop offs I can remember.

If anything you may run into all strange types of weather from fog and rain to sun and clear sky all in the day same day.

If you are lucky you will be blessed with some wonderful views.

Probably the most challenging section is the descent into Roncesvalles where due to people being a little tired and scramble down too quickly result in potential knee injuries and the like.

Take your time going up and especially going down.
 
Last edited:

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Thanks for the reply, feel much better now!
I'm South African, but live in Thailand. Recently went back to SA and did a mountain hike of only 14km, but it was hectic! Almost sheer vertical climb and at some points, the path was only half metre wide, with deathly drop off on the side. My 10 year old daughter came with us (4 ladies, 3 kids) and the kids were like mountain goats. I didn't realise how intense the walk was, and although I'm proud of how the kids handled the 'walk', in retrospect I feel like an irresponsible parent for taking them...
From what you describe, no problem. I've tried several things to try 'break my fear of heights', even sky-diving, para-gliding, and several zipline tours, but I can't get past that paralysing fear when I come across a sheer drop!
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Planning July/Aug 2014, so hopefully the weather is OK. Living in the tropics, so heat is no problem for me. Don't do cold!
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
There is no place where you have a risk of falling. You could almost drive a car over the entire path. North America Class 2 hiking.

The risk between SJPdP and Roncesvalles is hypothermia due to cool wet weather. Another risk is disorientation due to low cloud. Its a long day and there is no place for shelter past Orisson. Thousands do it with no incident.
 
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jirit

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
Sounds like you will love July and August on the camino - weatherwise. Can not suggest it is will humid like the tropics but it will be hot.
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
There is no place where you have a risk of falling. You could almost drive a car over the entire path. North America Class 2 hiking.

The risk between SJPdP and Roncesvalles is hypothermia due to cool wet weather. Another risk is disorientation due to low cloud. Its a long day and there is no place for shelter past Orisson. Thousands do it with no incident.
Well if the mist rolls in, I'll just sit and wait, and not walk off a mountain... thanks for the advice.
 

Highheelcollector7

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sept/Oct. (2013)
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
I have the same fear. just today I decided to start from Roncesvalles.
 
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nreyn12

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide 2013-2016
As others have said, the walk from SJPP to Roncesvalles offers no steep cliffs to fall off of directly on the trail. If you leave the trail, you can find some, but I suspect you won't go looking for them!

There are a couple of very short stretches down the way that have a bit of a drop-off. One is located between Zubiri and Iroz, and the other is the bridge going into Portomarin. Will it help if someone is walking with you on these parts? Just knowing they are up ahead, you can ask a pilgrim friend to walk with you, then.
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
As others have said, the walk from SJPP to Roncesvalles offers no steep cliffs to fall off of directly on the trail. If you leave the trail, you can find some, but I suspect you won't go looking for them!

There are a couple of very short stretches down the way that have a bit of a drop-off. One is located between Zubiri and Iroz, and the other is the bridge going into Portomarin. Will it help if someone is walking with you on these parts? Just knowing they are up ahead, you can ask a pilgrim friend to walk with you, then.
Thanks Nancy, as long as the path isn't so narrow that you have to shuffle along... then I'll be fine! Perhaps I'll meet up with someone for that first leg. At this stage, travelling alone, but who knows!
 
D

Deleted member 12253

Guest
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
Walked napoleon route 5 times no cliff sheer or otherwise, stick to path, most of which is road , gravel paths, a few cork screws but wide paths, the bridge into portmarin has high railing and is very safe, hold on to somebody walking the bridge if necessary , Buen camino
 
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Ruth Ann

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!


I am so glad you asked this question! Although I had made the decision to take this route, I must admit I was a little worried because, like you, I have a fear of drop-offs. My husband and I should find ourselves on this route in a little over one weeks time. We are booked in Orrison for the night of Sept. 7/13.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPDP-SDC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) , Norte 2018
Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
I have the same issue at times with shear cliffs. What I do when confronted with that is just look ahead at my next step and DO NOT look at the cliff or even close to looking at the cliff. Just look and concentrate on my next step. Before you know it, you are past it all. Buena Suerte.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPDP-SDC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) , Norte 2018
Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
Hi there. I made the crossing just last week. I get really bad vertigo. It can stop me in my tracks for minutes.

That being said...their was only one place close to the cattle grate...that I felt a bit un easy...so I just moved to the left a bit more.

That being said I found the last 2km coming into Zubiri really hard. At one point I thought I was going to have to scoot down on my butt. I have gotten better and treking poles help a lot.

My vertigo is probably worse going down some of the stairs in the albergees I have stayed in than the Camino. I sometimes have to come down backwards it's that bad.

If I can do it with my vertigo...so will you:)
Glad that you made it thru the difficult part. Keep the faith and keep moving forward.....
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
I am so glad you asked this question! Although I had made the decision to take this route, I must admit I was a little worried because, like you, I have a fear of drop-offs. My husband and I should find ourselves on this route in a little over one weeks time. We are booked in Orrison for the night of Sept. 7/13.
Great! Please post feedback...
 
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thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Hi there. I made the crossing just last week. I get really bad vertigo. It can stop me in my tracks for minutes.

That being said...their was only one place close to the cattle grate...that I felt a bit un easy...so I just moved to the left a bit more.

That being said I found the last 2km coming into Zubiri really hard. At one point I thought I was going to have to scoot down on my butt. I have gotten better and treking poles help a lot.

My vertigo is probably worse going down some of the stairs in the albergees I have stayed in than the Camino. I sometimes have to come down backwards it's that bad.

If I can do it with my vertigo...so will you:)
Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated! Wasn't planing on using poles, but maybe I will. Can't get anything here on my little island in Thailand, so maybe in SJPDP... but then I wouldn't have had chance to practice with them...
 

jirit

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
You can buy the old fashion wooden sticks in all shapes and sizes in Saint Jean or you can bring your own hi tech versions.

First time I bought a wooden stick and then purchased a tube container big enough to ship it back home.

Since then I have been using the hi tech low cost versions (since I seem to lose the old pole from time to time), replacing the ones I have lost or broken.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPDP-SDC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) , Norte 2018
Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
Hi there.
There are heaps of poles in St Jean. I am using Pacer poles....but Leki (which are available in St J) are also good. You may just prefer a humble staff.

Just make sure you get some that have rubber feet you can swap over. You use the rubber on road, cobbles, in towns etc.. and without when you are on loose metal or un even surfaces.

You can You Tube...on how to use them correctly. They are pretty easy to master.
And a friendly pilgram can assist as well with technique. I wouldnt have made it up the mountain without them either.

Plus your knees, hips, back, ankles will love you for it. ;)
My back sure does appreciate it when I use the poles.....
 

nreyn12

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide 2013-2016
Thanks Nancy, as long as the path isn't so narrow that you have to shuffle along... then I'll be fine!

The part I was referring to, between Zubiri and Iroz, is narrow, but wide enough to walk normally. It's a very short stretch, so hopefully it won't give you any trouble.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
You can You Tube...on how to use them correctly. They are pretty easy to master.
And a friendly pilgram can assist as well with technique.

I walk with poles half of my life and I can assure you that there isn't any specific technique. Not same with "nordic-walking" though. Adjust your poles high enough that your elbow will make 90 degrees angle (or higher, especially for downhills). Otherwise just put right hand with a pole forward at the same time as you make left foot step forward. And don't drag them, the sound might be very irritating for others. That's all of technique there is ;)

But of course you can adapt "the technique" to your needs.

Ultreia!
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPDP-SDC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) , Norte 2018
Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
I forgot to take my poles once on a training hike and it was something I just could not get out of my head. Had a terrible day hiking that day.....Seems as though once you get used to using them it becomes second hand like wearing good boots...
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Year of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
... What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? ...

Nops, none of those around on the Camino Frances - thankfully as I also suffer from vertigo - can't even stand on a chair (much less a ladder) without feeling dizzy. Buen, vertigo free, camino, SY

PS Learn this sentence: ?Tengo vertigo, por favor, me puede dejar la cama baja?" meaning "I suffer from vertigo, can you please allow me to use the lower bunk bed?"
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Nops, none of those around on the Camino Frances - thankfully as I also suffer from vertigo - can't even stand on a chair (much less a ladder) without feeling dizzy. Buen, vertigo free, camino, SY

PS Learn this sentence: ?Tengo vertigo, por favor, me puede dejar la cama baja?" meaning "I suffer from vertigo, can you please allow me to use the lower bunk bed?"
Thanks! But the bunks are no problem... it's cliffs that do it for me. I think I died by falling off a cliff in a past life... can't even drive around mountain passes in a car without freaking out. Fine on airplanes though, so odd!
 

jirit

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007,
Via Francigena Italy, 2008,
Jakobsweg Austria 2010,
Camino Frances 2011,
Le Puy to Lourdes 2012,
Via de la Plata 2013,
Future:
Ökumenischer (Via Regia), Germany,
Lycian Way, Turkey
Obviously you don't want to walk this particular trail !


Caution, please sit down before watching this video.
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Obviously you don't want to walk this particular trail !


Caution, please sit down before watching this video.
Well that was just nasty! ;-)
I was lying down watching that and still wanted to throw up and my knees were aching!
That's just a crazy trail? Must have been deaths along there?
 
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D

Deleted member 12253

Guest
Obviously you don't want to walk this particular trail !


Caution, please sit down before watching this video.
Love to walk this trail, up till 3am watching it over and over, no fear of heights, walked on 3 inch ledge mid Pyrenees for 200 meters , sheer drop of 700 meters but a steel rope to keep you from falling.
 

Laliibeans

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2014)
Obviously you don't want to walk this particular trail !


Caution, please sit down before watching this video.

Wow, that looks amazing, I do like my life a little too much though, if the path were in good repair I'd be there in a flash. It's a shame it's been left to fall apart.
 
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nidarosa

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Inglés 2009+2017, Francés 2012+2018, Astorga-Santiago repeatedly
Hi, I have the exact same problem with sheer-drop vertigo, and I managed the StJPdP-Roncesvalles just fine. Over the weeks I was walking, I actually found it didn't bother me as much anymore - I suppose because all of a sudden I was walking up, down and along every day and nothing bad ever happened. I even managed to cross the bridge into Portomarin on my own (top tip: walk in the car lane if you can, to leave a bit of space between you and the edge), and got a congratulary and well deserved pint when I arrived on safe ground again!

You'll be fine.
Buen Camino
 
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Pattii

Guest
I have no trouble with the Frances route or the North route. I am not even sure this Camino del Ray is in a Camino route...but if it came to it...I am sure God would pardon my not walking that particular part and taking a bus or alternate route. I am also one with Vertigo so I am ok with my limitations....I am sure God is too! Hahaha!
 
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jimkaszynski

RIP 2014
Year of past OR future Camino
First step June 1st 2013
Thanks for the reply, feel much better now!
I'm South African, but live in Thailand. Recently went back to SA and did a mountain hike of only 14km, but it was hectic! Almost sheer vertical climb and at some points, the path was only half metre wide, with deathly drop off on the side. My 10 year old daughter came with us (4 ladies, 3 kids) and the kids were like mountain goats. I didn't realise how intense the walk was, and although I'm proud of how the kids handled the 'walk', in retrospect I feel like an irresponsible parent for taking them...
From what you describe, no problem. I've tried several things to try 'break my fear of heights', even sky-diving, para-gliding, and several zipline tours, but I can't get past that paralysing fear when I come across a sheer drop!
90% of what we worry about never happens the other 10%...oh well! I live in Chiang Rai, Thailand and just completed the walk it was the greatest experience in my life! That part is challenging, but you will be fine....just breath and we learned how to do that in Thailand!
 

walkalot

New Member
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
A lot of people who are also afraid of heights have responded to this post. The first thing I want to say is this is not crude advertising for anything. It is something I do for for free for the pilgrims of el camino. EFT, better known these days as tapping, is an incredibly effective technique for things like this. If any of you want to give it a shot just message me and we will setup a skype session.
 

Patricia Storey

New Member
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!

You will be fine. Weather is the issue in the Pyrenees. Paths are mostly paved; I don't remember any 'drop off' type cliffs. It was scary windy the day we walked but we managed. I recommend highy the stop in Orisson. The reguge is a wonderful place hosted by a lovely family; it's a great opportunity to socialize, have great food and relax after the steep climb from St. Jean. It breaks up the long walk, as well. Orisson is also a great place to take photographs. View is spectacular. Makes for an easier walk the next day, as well.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
Valcarlos does a better job of splitting the distance from SJPdP to Roncesvalles, so consider it if you do not want to walk the entire distance your first day. Many pilgrims in all physical conditions are able to walk all the way to Roncesvalles, so consider any stop as optional.
 
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Chacharm

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Via Frances (2012) Vie Del Norte (2015) Via Frances (2016) Le Puy (2017)
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
Take the other route. We were told that the weather wasn't good so we went around - and it was so lovely and green...little waterfalls everywhere and tiny natural grottos. We just had a spectacular day with incredible views, a picnic in the loveliest area I have ever spent time in - and then when we got to Roncevalles we heard how rotten things had been for those who went over the top. High winds and freezings temps.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
On all my caminos I have walked the Valcarlos alternative; it is the ONLY way open in snow. The new municipal albergue is VERY comfortable with good heat, blankets and showers. You can reserve in advance if you wish. For more info see http://www.luzaide-valcarlos.net/. On October 16 last year two other pilgrims and I spent the chilly night here before tediously climbing up to Ibaneta and continuing to Roncevalles the next day. That stretch is NEVER easy! Read this earlier Forum thread for additional positive comments on the Valcarlos alternative.

Margaret Meredith
 

kogga

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Aept 2012
I understand that this first stage is steep and challenging. I can do steep, and I can do challenging from a stamina point of view. What I'm not good at is handling hikes with sheer drop-offs (vertigo issue). So what I want to know is what is the actual path like? Are there any cliffs to negotiate with sheer drops? Or just steep mountain and country paths? I'd really like to start in SJPDP, but if this stage is hectic then may start further on.
Thank you in advance!
From the looks on your picture - I say you are still young and full of energy - Pyrynees will be easy for you - do enjoy the walk up and down as you walk - rest when necessary - the main thing is to enjoy it - this could be a once in a lifetime - Johann Pretorius from South Africa - we walked it in Sept 2012
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
From the looks on your picture - I say you are still young and full of energy - Pyrynees will be easy for you - do enjoy the walk up and down as you walk - rest when necessary - the main thing is to enjoy it - this could be a once in a lifetime - Johann Pretorius from South Africa - we walked it in Sept 2012
Thanks Johan, I'm nearly 41... and currently unfit, but healthy, so starting training now! As a fellow South African, was it hard to get the Shengen visa? I'll have to get mine from a consulate in Bangkok as I live in Thailand.
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
On all my caminos I have walked the Valcarlos alternative; it is the ONLY way open in snow. The new municipal albergue is VERY comfortable with good heat, blankets and showers. You can reserve in advance if you wish. For more info see http://www.luzaide-valcarlos.net/. On October 16 last year two other pilgrims and I spent the chilly night here before tediously climbing up to Ibaneta and continuing to Roncevalles the next day. That stretch is NEVER easy! Read this earlier Forum thread for additional positive comments on the Valcarlos alternative.

Margaret Meredith
Thanks Margaret. I'm going July/Aug, so snow is unlikely, right?
 
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thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Take the other route. We were told that the weather wasn't good so we went around - and it was so lovely and green...little waterfalls everywhere and tiny natural grottos. We just had a spectacular day with incredible views, a picnic in the loveliest area I have ever spent time in - and then when we got to Roncevalles we heard how rotten things had been for those who went over the top. High winds and freezings temps.
Such mixed replies on this question! Maybe decide on the day...
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
90% of what we worry about never happens the other 10%...oh well! I live in Chiang Rai, Thailand and just completed the walk it was the greatest experience in my life! That part is challenging, but you will be fine....just breath and we learned how to do that in Thailand!
Hey! so stick with the 'mai pen rai' attitude, and I'll be fine... Kapkhun ka!
 

kogga

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Aept 2012
Thanks Johan, I'm nearly 41... and currently unfit, but healthy, so starting training now! As a fellow South African, was it hard to get the Shengen visa? I'll have to get mine from a consulate in Bangkok as I live in Thailand.
Hallo travellingpen - do you teach in Thailand? - we did our visas through our travel agent and it took the normal time,1 month - but you have to include lots of stuff - strange they did not ask the size of my underpants - haha - send me an email at: kogga@webmail.co.za - thanks - Johann Pretorius
 

thetravellingpen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
June 2014
Hallo travellingpen - do you teach in Thailand? - we did our visas through our travel agent and it took the normal time,1 month - but you have to include lots of stuff - strange they did not ask the size of my underpants - haha - send me an email at: kogga@webmail.co.za - thanks - Johann Pretorius
Hi Johan
No, I don't teach as such, but I do co-own a TEFL training centre, training teachers (www.samuitefl.com). I don't do the training, my partner does that, I do admin etc. I'm actually writing full time for several publications, including Samui Holiday Magazine, The Villa Guide (reviewing upmarket villas, hard work, involves staying over, private chefs etc... tough life!) and travelfish.org and some airline magazines too. I'll mail you re the visa, thanks.
 
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