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Friday, 31 May 2013

Leaving Pamplona

Hello everyone. After our stop in Pamplona it was time to leave. We left at 7.45 and started the 24 K to Puento La Reina. It was a very steep climb to Alto del Perdon, a distance of about 13K and a climb of 790 mts. The ground under foot was very muddy and dangerous. Alto del Pedron was amazing. The wrought iron statues depicting ancient pilgrims, just like the film, the way. The statues and the view add together to form a very emotional experience. When we reached the mountain village of Uterga we stopped for a hot drink and met up again with the group we had dinner with in Pamplona. Oh yes, last nights dinner in Pamplona was a very social occasion with 9 of us sharing a table at the restaurant Iruna that was made famous in the Hemingway novel, The sun also rises. It's not all about climbing mountains and having all the aches and pains it is also about meeting great people. Anyway today we arrived at the Albergue  at about 2.30. Yes I was sore and tired but Mary and Pauline were putting me to shame so I took Paddy As advice and manned up. Right I'm going to hand over to Mary        but first I must admit to an earlier mistake. The lady who gave the money was called Maureen, her husband is Brendan and they gave 40 euros. Oh yes since I haven't been able to master the art of putting photos on the blog I will try putting them on Facebook.
Hello again. Mary here.  I am waiting for a washing machine in the Albergue  we are staying in tonight. Albergues are hostel type accommodation for those walking the camino. They have reputations that would scare the life out of you but this one is fine. No doubt we will return to the Albergue situation on many occasions over the next few weeks.
I must mention the amazing hospitality of the Spanish people.  They are so polite ,respectful and eternally helpful.  And despite the awful weather the countryside is beautiful. Hosts of poppies and all manner of colourful wild flowers.  Don't want a job with the Spanish tourist board . Just saying.
Oops my turn for the washer. Talk later.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Mary today

It's Mary here.
Colin didn't t trust me to blog earlier for fear of what I would say. It has been as they say,a murder picture! We arrived in Pamplona last night. Our accommodation is quaint and quirky but comfortable.
Would it be a surprise to say that it rained all day today? The temp is 6 degrees and freezing. Apparently that is a full 20 d colder than this time last year. Typical! And to continue our run of good luck the city had a general strike today against government cuts.  Riot police, banks of police tenders and protesters marching and chanting. Almost felt home sick! Almost all shops  and tourist attractions were  closed. But we walked the bull run and did all things Hemingway.
Tomorrow we start at 7 30 because if we don't arrive in Puenta la Reina by 4pm we loose our  accommodation! But our walk passes the iconic statues of the pilgrims over the ages which we are looking forward to.   Another day of killer climbs buts what's new!
We have met some lovely people on our way and that has been a big part of this amazing journey. Despite the rain and mud and being soaked to the skin,we have laughed our way through.
Did I mention the Navarra rose wine is fantastic?!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Two tough days

Sorry for not writing yesterday but there was no signal in Zubiri so I will do two days in one.
Tuesday 28th. We left our hotel at 8.30am after a nice breakfast. There were some very steep and demanding climbs today. It wasn't the climbs that caused us problems but rather the conditions under foot and the weather. It was slippery, muddy, and very dangerous. We stopped at Espinal for a bite to eat and to get out of the wind and rain. We had to ford the river Erros at Gerendiain because of the floods. The last 10 K from Linzoain to Zubiri really tested both our mental and physical strengths. The paths were very steep and because of the wet mud we had to concentrate on our footing. Trust me I nearly went arse over tit several times whilst the other three were like mountain goats skipping from rock to rock. Very tired and dirty we arrived in Zubiri at 4.3m to find no room at the hostel. Fortunately a local offered us two lovely rooms and after showers and IBULEVE we felt human again.
Wednesday
We left for Pamplona at 8am and guess what. It was throwing it down and it was freezing. Today was about 22 K and again was very muddy and slippery with several killer hills. We had a nice hot drink stop at Irotz and met up with people whose journeys have been criss crossing ours. Today was demanding and we arrived at our rooms at about 4.30. I've skipped through today because I must tell you about an incident that happened that sums up what the Camino means to people.  Going through a wee small village this morning we took shelter for a few minutes from the driving rain. We were joined by an Irish couple we had met in St Jean and then during several other occasions. In the church at St. Jean, Mary was lighting a candle, and this woman, Muriel, had no change, so Mary gave her money for her candle In the wet and cold this morning, Muriel came over to Mary, and gave her 20 euros for our charities. It was a very emotional moment but that is the Camino.  We are taking a rest day tomorrow and I am giving you a rest but Mary will post a blog.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Murder picture

We were told that the first day was hard. Climbing over 5000 feet and descending  2500 feet would be demanding but we would easily do it. Well I can tell you now that all we were told was a bunch of lies.  It started out sunny and warm. We had hail. We had driving rain. We had hailstones like golf balls. We had snow. I experienced hell and back all in one day.  It wasn't just steep it was pure murder.  We walked for 11 hours 30 mins and limped sore tired but triumphant into Roncasvalles at 7pm.  The hotel is great and was a wonderful sight. Mary and Pauline were brilliant. I was the wimp. Ah well tomorrow is another day and a day closer.
On a different note we would like to congratulate Michael Mc Cann on his wedding day. I'm wishing him all the best today in case there is no wifi tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

St Jean

Well folks we have finally arrived in St Jean. Damian left us at Dublin airport and we met up with Austin and Pauline. The flight and the connecting taxi all went as planned. The hotel is small and clean, everything you would need. St Jean is a really beautiful mountain village, cobbled streets and quaint little shops. On a negative note you can see the mountains and they look on the tall side. We went to the church and lit a candle. We walked over the bridge you see in the film, the way. We had a nice pilgrim meal and a few drinks and now we are going to have an early night and be ready for a 7am start tomorrow. Sorry but I tried to send photos but it hasn't worked.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Last Night

This is it. The point of no return. The backpacks are packed and are wrapped in cling film. This helps to stop them being damaged in transit. We have checked all the paper work. Mary has lists about lists, but I must admit, her organisation usually saves the day. Being organised is better that my gungho approach. We spent the evening with Maeve, Derek, Lucy, and David Maxwell.It was a nice ending to an emotional day. Damian and Judith are picking us up tomorrow morning at 8am and we are meeting Austin and Pauline in Dublin airport at around 10am. Peoples reaction to us going is causing me some concern. In the words of Arnie, we will be back. With the amount of hugs and kisses we are getting, do some of these clairvoyants know something and they are not telling us?
We went up to Cotswold's in Boucher today and met up with Leslie. Leslie works in Cotswolds and finished the full Camino last Thursday.  She put or minds at ease.  Mind you she said the first couple of days were really tough and that is saying something coming from an experienced walker.
Got an email from Davinia Brennan. Davinia and her father Joe are starting from St. Jean on Wednesday. Hopefully we will see them along the way. Will go now and will talk to you tomorrow from St. Jean Pied de Port

Friday, 24 May 2013

A strange day

Today has been a funny type of day. Because we are leaving early on Sunday morning we have been doing all the last minute things about the house and garden. Tomorrow is Rachels birthday. It will be a strange day but one all of us will get through by supporting each other. Dont have much to say tonight. The words are just not there. I will write on Sunday night when we arrive in St. Jean.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bank details

Today we were given the details of the candmcamino Ulster Bank account.  This means that from today anyone can donate directly into this account.  If  you are going to use this method of donating could you please give your name as a reference in order that we will know the source .
Sort code - 98 04 00
Account number - 10917515
Account name - candmcamino
Ulster Bank.   High Street,   Carrickfergus.
Again we would like to thank everyone who has given already.
Austin booked transport today to take us from Biarritz Airport to St Jean Pied de Port. When we arrive in St Jean we book into our hotel and then register at the Pilgrims Office. The office will advise us about the weather conditions for Monday and whether we can attempt the Route de Napoleons or the Valcarlos Route.  After we have done all that we can find a nice place to eat and have a drink. It will not be a late night since we have to be on the road by 7am in order to make the trip to Roncesvalles.
I don't like singling out individual donations but tonight I will break that rule. It was very touching that the play group at St Nicholas gave Mary a donation from their Teddy Bears Picnic fund. Children never cease to amaze me.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Bank Account

Right I'm going off on a rant. The Ulster Bank. The bank that cares. The bank that tells you that you matter.  19 days to set up an account and they are still making excuses. They couldn't even guarantee that it would be set up before next Friday. We fly out on Sunday. All we wanted was to place money in their bank and at the end of August, beginning of September have two presentation cheques for the charities - NI Children's Kidney Fund and Roddensvale School. With press photographs that would have been good publicity for the bank and the charities. I was told today by the manager in Carrick that their fraud section would view this as a high risk type of account. Mind you by tomorrow he will deny having said that, the same way they deny anything else they have said, after failing to deliver.
Sorry, shouldn't subject you to this but it really got up my goat. I'm displaying incredible will power with my choice of language. If only you could read my mind.
Anyway tomorrow is another day and The Northern is another Bank.
This time next week we will be climbing in the Pyrenees. Last Friday morning I was spraying our sleeping bags with Permethrin. It was the first sunny day that I could do this outside and have enough time to air and dry the bags. You see last year when we walked from Ponferrada, because it was for 10 days, I was able to book small hotels in advance. This time because we will be on the road, so to speak, for about 34 days it is not possible to book in advance. We have booked small hotels for the first two nights and for Pamplona. After that it is pot luck. We will have to stay in Albergues.  Albergues are hostels and accommodation is usually in bunk beds with additional overflow space on mattresses on the floor. If you have seen the film, the Way, with Martin Sheen and Jimmy Nesbitt, it gives you a good idea of trying to sleep in an Albergue, with maybe 60 bunks to a room. Anyway, we will have the experience of Albergue accommodation and their dreaded bedbugs. Even though the Albergues are chemically cleaned, monthly, the bedbugs live in mattresses and can cause major problems.  Hence the spraying with Permethrin which is highly toxic but hopefully will keep the bugs away from us. By the time we get to an Albergue we will be so knackered that bedbugs won't matter, and anyway,Mary is more concerned that she cannot take her hair straighteners than she is of bedbugs.
On the subject of nasty things. How long does it take the Ulster Bank to set up a charity account that requires money to be deposited and only two cheques to be written in September? Answers written on the back of Ulster Bank notes. Seriously, we still don't have account details yet.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Well today highlighted two different approaches to preparation for the walk.  Austin and Pauline trekked to the top of a 2000ft Welsh mountain carrying full backpacks. In all honesty that is what Mary and I should be doing. Anyway we, on the other hand, were being entertained to lunch at Little Flower Girls School. For those following this blog who can still remember school lunches this was an experience you would not have had. This was not a school lunch, this was equal or even better than most of the top restaurants in the city. Mind you over the years this has become the standard I have witnessed in everything done by this great school.  The 6th form hospitality students under the expert guidance from their teacher Joanne Mc Aloran treated the staff to a magnificent array of French and Spanish cuisine. The stuffed peppers, spiced chicken and savoury meatballs were all mouth watering and worth every penny donated by the staff towards our selected charities. We would like to again thank Mary Collins the principal, her staff and pupils for the kindness, generosity and support they have shown to our family. Who will ever forget the school choir during the Mass of the Angels.
On a more negative note we still have no bank details from the Ulster Bank but we live in hope. Maybe we will have them by Monday.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Hopefully we will be in a position tomorrow to give bank details in order that donations can be made direct. This should have been set up last week but the Ulster Bank had a slight problem !!!  These things are sent to try us.   The staff and pupils at Little Flower Girls School in Belfast  have been fantastic in their support. Tomorrow they are holding a Spanish and French sponsored lunch and have invited Mary and I.  We have been in constant contact with the Pattersons in order to trim down what we are carrying.  500 miles is a long way to have to carry all your belongings and there is no sense in duplicating items.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Two weeks today and the four of us will be in St. Jean having what I hope is not the last supper but rather the first of many along the length of the Camino. The preparations for this trip have been full of many positive and negative emotions. Today I experienced both. Firstly, Mick Mc Cann sent us an email which went on to tell us that the distance we will be walking is roughly the equivalent of walking from his parents house in Glengormley to our house 55 times. Putting it like that he scared the s*** out of me. I was in a really bad place but then Mary found a little gem of information and when she shared it with me both our spirits lifted. On the 6th day of walking, 2.8km outside Estella,  you arrive at the Bodegas Irache with its famous Fuente del Vino. This is where pilgrims can fortify themselves, at the generosity of the Bodegas, for the journey ahead. In NI speak, plenty of wine  for nathin and who's going anywhere.
We continue to be humbled by your generosity and messages of encouragement. Thank you.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Just finished getting money ready to put in to our candmcamino account tomorrow. The total now stands at £1400. Saying thanks to everyone for their kind generosity doesnt seem enough. Repacked our backpacks this afternoon. Everything has to be weighed and then you have to decide if you could do without it. It is recommended that you carry less than 10% of your body weight so I have about two weeks to gain an extra stone in weight. When everything is on your back for 500 miles every single ounce counts. Find it hard to believe that in 18 days time we will have hopefully completed the first day. The other three will have long finished so hopefully they will have a nice pint waiting for me at the finish.
Will publish  Ulster Bank details tomorrow for anyone wishing to donate directly in to the account.
All the best  Colin

Sunday, 5 May 2013

This time three weeks we will be in St. Jean Pied de Port getting ready for the first days walking in the Pyrenees.  Mary and I will be joined by two old friends, Austin and Pauline Patterson. Austin, Pauline and I have been friends since our University days in Leeds in the late 60's and I hope we will still be close friends when we finish the Camino. 500mls is a long way.  Austin is experienced in this mad type of adventure having been to Everest not once but twice. Oh and by the way Everest the mountain not the double glazing firm. I have now reached the moment of truth that I am the weak link in this team.  Last year when we did 250K I struggled to keep up with the pace set by Mary and now joined by two fit experienced walkers I hope my old flat feet can keep up. Since Austin and Pauline have stayed with us on many occasions they knew and loved Rachel and have set up a fund raising link for the Lily Foundation that carries out research into Mitochondria Disease.
I'll sign off now with a thank you to everyone who has supported us.  Your support has been very motivational and emotional to Mary and I and will be of enormous financial help to our designated organisations.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Just to let you know that Mary, Maeve and Peter Howard had a meeting with the Ulster Bank today and have set up a candmcamino account. This account should be operational by the end of next week and I will then give payment details. I'm still struggling with how to manage this blog. I finalised our itinerary today and as yet have not been able to find out how to copy and paste it from my documents on to this blog. I dread to think what I'll do about photographs.  Anyway suffice to say, at this point, Day 1 of the walk is Monday 27th May from St. Jean Pied de Port and is 23K. The 35th and final day of the walk is Tuesday 2nd July when we arrive in Santiago.
I'll post another bolg at the start of next week and let you know how our training is doing.
See you soon