You will know by now that a trip overseas for us should not be classified as a holiday, rather it should be considered an adventure. Furthermore you should know that this particular trip has special significance to us.
Firstly, I had decided some time ago that in order to celebrate my 50th birthday I would mark it by walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage of some 800 kilometres across the North of Spain. Life has dealt us some extraordinary challenges over the years but this seemed like a life affirming challenge that needed to be undertaken sooner rather than later. We have learned over recent times that, for some of us, life can be very short and it is important to do things as soon as the opportunity arises lest one never again have that chance. Anyway this pilgrimage has captivated me for some time after reading books, watching movies and seeing documentaries of the legendary journey. I have undertaken numerous classes in Espanol and undertaken some fairly treacherous training hikes in order to develop my physical capabilities (treacherous to me that is but maybe not so bad for your average daredevil). I have also undertaken knee surgery in the hope that the sharp pain that indicates my kneecap is rubbing directly onto my femur would dissipate (I am not overly convinced of the surgery's success but oh well there is always strapping tape).
My beloved did not really become captivated until seeing the movie “The Way” which has inspired many pilgrims to pick up a back pack and head to the South of France and to many other routes considered part of the Camino. His greatest challenge it seems will be the lack of Scuba diving facilities on the way and henceforth we are visiting Malta to wind down at the end of our journey and meet up with some long lost relatives of my Aunt on my mothers side (and Mr Wong). Anyway the journey could not begin until we felt our boys were of an age where we could rely on them to hold the fort so to speak. (We decided this may be difficult for us to accept at any time so planned our journey anyway in the hope our absence would give them both a challenge and in particular, for the one left at home, a great opportunity to experience independence and prove reliability!)
In addition to the birthday thing and the do it now or never, the journey also has special significance as we met in London almost 25 years ago to the day – well at least the day after my 25th birthday was the first kiss! So its also something of an anniversary trip. We were backpackers at the time and travelled together through the USSR and China before heading home to marry and start a family. This family business subsequently provided some significant barriers to our wanderlust and henceforth we have not been back since.
So, before heading to the Camino we are therefore heading to stay in London in the exact street where I was staying at the time my beloved captivated me with his smile and his crazy circus antics – he had stayed at the same hostel on and off over three years. He was an expert at leapfrogging the barriers which were installed to stop people sliding down the side of the long escalators in the underground and, when catching a train, he could anticipate the best carriage to enter to ensure a rapid departure at any station on the circle line! Furthermore, he was prone to undertake complete body flips at any given time when out mosying along the street. He was most definitely a catch! His magic tricks were also infamous at the local pub where he was also known as the guy who fell through the kebab store window and allegedly spent the night in the clink due to the fact that he had had too many beers and was unable to say his own name. He was also known as the one who evaded arrest after he and a mate climbed into Kensington palace hoping to visit Charlie and Diana. I was moonlighting as a barmaid when our paths first crossed and I was besotted with his big smile and big eyes and had no inkling of his shady past, he was overwhelmed with my beauty and wit it seems (snicker snicker)! We will surely go to our pub for a drink to reminisce on our stopover – and we shall then return post Camino for a longer visit to old London Town as it has a special place in our hearts.
Anyway we are now enroute to London and have just completed a two day stopover in Dubai. There I finished the third course of antibiotics in as many weeks and finally feel a sense of normality returning to my flu ridden body – finally gone is the cough that would frighten small children and a bit of energy is returning to my body. We had a wander around the old part of town as our hotel was walking distance to the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk (nevertheless due to the heat we still decided to catch a taxi). Unfortunately the temptation to purchase anything has had to be held bay as our backpacks have been meticulously packed to ensure we can actually carry them on this 800 kilometre journey. (Although I admit to sneaking the odd thing in at the last minute!)
We managed to swing a deal with a Groupon coupon to head up the worlds tallest building in the fast track queue, had a Desert Safari, which included sliding sideways down sand dunes in a Hummer, riding a camel ever so briefly, and driving a quad around the sand (a little too slowly for daredevil husband). Lastly I had a henna tattoo painted on my upper arm to mark the occasion while we watched a rather exotic belly dance performance. Our boys will be pleased to know we did not succumb to the mystique that is the Shisha pipe!
Dubai perplexed us with the number of modern buildings and expensive cars (I'm talking Lambhos and the works!) and appeared as if it was something out of a science fiction movie where endless construction anticipates the beginning of a new life on a distant planet. There was a monstrous aquarium in one of the shopping centres which mesmerised diver dave for quite some time – watching fish swim is not one of my favourite pastimes so I had a bit of a look at the shops before we journeyed further afield to see the indoor ski slopes.
You could walk kilometres in airconditioned tunnels between buildings – even the bus stops were air conditioned and out the windows you could see busy construction sites everywhere. It was hot – it was damn hot! It was 30 degrees celcius at 2am in the morning when we first arrived for our two day stopover and well over 40 during the days – I have no desire to consider a longer visit to this space station in the desert. A quick visit to the beach was enough – it was too hot to even consider sitting there for a cold drink – the thought of walking over the hot sand to the water filled us with fear. Mind you we seem to have a particular knack for visiting places at the peak of their heat waves (remember Santiago?) so I am sure we will again drift into other cities that test our ability to survive extremities. Thankfully we stayed at the perfect hotel – the Hyatt Regency – air conditioned and well located (unlike our first stop in Chile). Admittedly it wasnt Atlantis the Palm (the one they advertise everywhere as being a new level of luxury) but it was perfect for a stopover and for sightseeing. It was definitely worth looking around as the city is quite spectacular and surprising, but for now, you can have Dubai – its off to London town!
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