Yep you read it right! I’m on my own, I’m off! I’m taking it to the next level! Finally managed to shake free of my beloved who will sit gripping his chair by the fire at home, reading my blog with eager anticipation and quite possibly sipping beer, as I conquer mountains and forge through rivers walking for days alone across the vast expanses of Spain. (Well sorta maybe kinda!)
Actually I’ll come clean – its not quite that simple. In fact its not that simple at all. I had a break in my busy schedule and threw my hat in the ring to volunteer as a hospitalera on the Camino. I volunteered our home for a weekend last February so others could also undertake the training and my beloved and I were fortunate to have both been able to qualify thanks to the wonderful volunteers from Sydney and Adelaide who flew interstate to run the course.
So, i started thinking, if I was going to go to the expense of crossing the globe to provide my services to help pilgrims in need, then, maybe, just maybe – I should consider walking the Camino Frances again or walking another camino (or two) whilst I’m at it. Perhaps I could actually finish without the need for medical assistance! It would provide a whole new level of excitement! Could it be done? Is it really possible given my Irish grandmothers feet and with no husband to cuddle up to when the nights get cold?
It sounded like a challenge to me! So I set the train in motion. I booked flights, dusted off my boots, bought a new super light pack so I could fit all my knee braces and other requirements in without breaking my back. And I started walking again. I started the circuit near my house, moved on to the 5km in town with my friend and then began conquering Mt Cootha again with another friend when the weather cooled down enough. Others began to join me.
My training buddies were enthusiastic and supportive but at times fell to the side one by one. A torn meniscus here, a cold and flu there, and, most disturbingly for my fifteen year old dog Bruce, an attack from a sheep dog here and there too. So I threw in pilates and lap swimming to mix it up and, just when I thought I was on the home stretch for fitness I woke two weeks out with a pain in my shoulder that threatened to ruin my pack carrying days.
I was in a shambles. I pulled out the old pack that seemed to have a bit more support but weighed a kilo more, I removed all the contents and reassessed one by one. Do I really need three pairs of socks? Can I survive with one change of clothes. Should I take the spare long pants or just a pair of shorts to swap out with my zip off hiking pants? My swimmers, my goggles? I simply cant go without my super light sleeping bag- but do I need 400gm hiking sandals that I actually cant hike in because of the pebbles? or, could I survive with 150gms of croc like sandals? Thank heavens I didnt have to leave my fold up keyboard.
Our physio worked miracles! After only one visit (and some new exercises) I was back in the game. I had extra friends join the weekend hikes and also met with the Camino meetup group to jaunt around Enoggera Reservoir. I was at last in peak condition! 😉 (well for me anyway) so I stuck with my new ultra light pack.
What on earth is she talking about? Has this woman gone mad? Who on earth goes away with only three pairs of socks ? What on earth are albergues let alone donativos?
Let’s clear the albergue business up first – I’ve probably explained to some extent in earlier blogs but Ill give it another shot for new followers or those with short memories.
Albergues are hostels with mixed dormitories, often bunk beds and unisex bathrooms. Sometimes they provide meals, other times you can use the kitchen and make your own. You learn to be considerate of others and you learn that others will not always be considerate of you. Mostly you find a great sense of camaraderie amongst pilgrims all enduring exhaustion or pain and you meet people from all corners of the globe.
Many of the albergues across Spain are run on a donativo basis. This means they are run by volunteers who must first have walked a camino themselves and, for official hosvol albergues, must have undertaken the training. Here pilgrims are able to obtain a bed and often a meal and pay what they can afford without a set fee. The money goes back to help maintain the albergue and provide the service for pilgrims who follow.
But back to me – could I actually complete a camino without the need for medical assistance? Is that possible for this Aussie wanderer? Could it actually be done? Well the answer is clear. Others have done it. Actually thousands every year do it. Possibly over the centuries millions have done it! So why can’t I? The challenge was set so the training began in ernest !
So there I sat somewhere above Russia letting all the stresses of regular life slip away. Quite easy really- I had new worries.
Within an hour of takeoff I was hit with a sudden urge to throw up. Trouble was I rushed to the bathroom with barely enough time to close the door behind me and then spent 45 minutes cleaning up the result! Travel sickness altitude sickness- call it what you want – I was not well! I had fortunately opted to upgrade myself to a flatbed so was able to survive the first leg with a bit of sleep but no hope of enjoying my upgrade food! The staff were lovely but I just wanted a shower and a soft bed.
I had just enough time to find a shower in Hong Kong before boarding the next flight. I felt much better but couldn’t wait to retrieve my pack and have a real rest in Helsinki and, on the suggestion of a wise friend,was glad to have cancelled a hostel booking and changed to an airport hotel for my stopover.
So this flight was uneventful really. Well, compared to the first leg that is. But the next upheaval was just around the corner.
I usually only send my luggage on when I’m with my beloved these days because his pack’s too big to carry on. Although you can’t take hiking poles through the gates either so I thought I’ll save my new pack from being squeezed into the overhead locker and bent out of shape and send it on too.
So I took all the things I can’t easily replace in carryon and sent my beautiful new pack with sleeping gear, a third set of clothes, swimmers, headlamp etc into the hold. But did it make the hold of that first flight? Is it sitting forlorn on the inside of the luggage carousel in Brisbane? Or is it being held for ransom by the Chinese government on the second leg because the Cathay employees keep participating in protests? Or has a Finnish resident accidentally mistaken the ikea bag it’s travelling in for the one their Swedish Cousin gave them before their flight ?
The answer may never be known. It doesn’t appear to have been entered into the system in Brisbane the lost property lady said. Or it may reappear some time over the coming days weeks! Thankfully I have one change of clothes and my medical kit with me! Gotta love these little challenges life throws at ya!
Buen Camino from Helsinki !