A Little Me Time – The Camino

I’ve always espoused the value of Me Time and today I had a lovely midday break  in amongst my busy schedule. I took time out to head to the cinema, unfortunately I couldn’t stretch to enough time for lunch too.

I went to see the movie 6 Ways to Santiago. It’s about 6 different people walking the Camino de Santiago and their experiences. Sitting in the darkened cinema with two of my fellow walking companions, we were transported back to our time on the Camino trail. Cows coming down the streetThe images were beautiful, so much so that we could almost smell the cow dung. As the pilgrims travelled their journey, I vividly recalled the aching muscles as I put one foot in front of each other.

Lucky for me, I didn’t suffer from blisters, but some of my fellow walkers did, however, we looked after each other and soothed our worries away together.

Sore feet
Soaking the footsies!

If you’re thinking of doing the Camino, I highly recommend this documentary. You can also read my blog entries about my experience here.

The Camino is a magical experience. I’m planning another walk in 2016. If you’re interested in joining a small organised group of women on the trip of a lifetime, I’d love you to hear from you.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 4

When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.

Symbol of the camino
Symbol of the camino

On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more.  Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait  a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.

blown out shoe
A marker stone complete with blown out shoe

The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams.  It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots.  We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.

Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 2

All walkers are issued with a Credencial which is like a passport into which perigrinos need to collect two sellos (stamps) per day to verify one has walked the minimum of 100kms to qualify for the Compostela which is th certificate issued on reaching Santiago de Compostela.

Sellos are issued in all kinds of places from cafes to churches with each being quite unique. Some individually go quite mad collecting the various sellos with it becoming a bit of a competition to see who can collect the most.

The most memorable sellos I collected was at the monestry in Samos which was founded in the 6th century.

Walking in single file along a very narrow, lush and verdant trail through the woods on a somewhat overgrown, muddy path flanked on the left by a crystal clear running river we emerged to the impressive rear view of the imposing monestry which dominated the landscape.

20130529_193144 20130529_185350 20130529_182036Following our guides Andres and Simon – more about them in a later blog – we entered the monestry ready for our official guided tour.

The tour was all in Spanish and we understood not a word but it was worth paying the adminission for the tour just to get inside the cloisters and see the treasurers of the church which included impressive books.

The inscription about the library door read ” A cloister without a library is like a castle without an armory.”

The monk who stamped my credencil , spoke only Spanish but was extremely forward and had clearly been imbiling a little too much of the liquor for which the Benedictines were famous!

In fact the monestry caught fire twice during its history as, according to the story we were told, the stills exploded and caused considerable damage. There is a gallery of pictures in the cloisters that tells the story of the fire.

Today, they no longer make Benedictine but it was for sale in the gift shop. Our monk was no doubt doing some quality control to ensure it was up to scratch or perhaps he was trying to keep warm as those old stone walls are definitely very chilly?

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MY CAMINO Part 1

It’s been a while coming and so many of you have been asking when I am going to put up my Camino blog – you have been very patient! To tell the truth it has been hard trying to put it all into words and decided how I should write the story about such an incredible experience.

Hobbit trails, magic places, celtic mysticism, stone crosses, white rabbits, ancient trees with secrets to tell, rushing streams and gorgeous wildflowers are just a small part of walking the Camino.

This is a unique journey on a mental, physical and spiritual level. The paths have been travelled for centuries and it is easy to picture what it was like in those bygone days.

 So what kind of individuals tackle the Camino de Santiago?

All kinds –  from all walks of life – just like our recent group of Dragon Sisters who comprised individuals whose age ranges were between 52 and 75 with the vast majority in their mid sixties.

Religious beliefs ranged from atheist, agnostics, Protestants and Roman Catholic. We were drawn from two sides of the globe – Australia and Canada – with very different upbringings and beliefs. Some knew each other and for others it was the first time they were meeting. I was the only one who had met everyone before.

The common denominator was a spirit for adventure.

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As I meandered along I did, fleetingly, wonder did one need to be of a certain age to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of nature that lined the route?

Definitely this was not the case as the peregrinos (pilgrims) were  all ages and each seemed to appreciate the beauty by which they were surrounded although our younger friends were only walking about 15km a day compared with our longer distances.

Susanna, a pretty blond 24-year-old, German lawyer commented “I don’t mean to say that you are old but old people are so strong! Much stronger than me.”  Definitely a back-handed compliment from Susanna who was walking alone to fulfil a vow that she would undertake the Camino pilgrimage if she passed her bar exams. Her worried mother had insisted on pre-book all accommodation and a nightly check in but as Susanna progressed along her walk everyone back home in Germany had become reassured that the Camino was safe.

The Camino felt very safe, a complete contrast to most other places where women often need to be careful of where we walk especially if alone.

I must admit I was rather surprised to encounter so many young people, including several Japanese and South Korean university graduates walking and cycling the Camino.

Everyone looked out for one another, offering to freely share supplies of band aids, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and offered advice on how best to deal with sore feet and tired muscles – but more about those in following instalments.

Michelle

Looking back and looking forward

I started this piece at the end of December as I reflected back over the year and as we approach the end of the first month of 2013, I finally have got around to popping it on my blog! 2012 was an amazing year which took me all over the place, not to mention well out of my comfort zone but it was always a great new learning experience – I cannot believe it flew past so fast. Grandma Lucy was right, time does go so much faster as you get older. I remember her with great fondness – seems like only a few years ago we were all watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in her little sitting room in Green Hammerton. How much the world has changed since then! That fuzzy black and white image on the TV was considered very high tech – now we have instant access to just about everything – and it’s not that many years really!

The world is changing so fast and so is my life but I have been very fortunate in 2012 and although there have been difficult times I choose to focus on the highlights instead. The Year of the Dragon was packed with land mark occasions and events which included Sasha’s 18th birthday and flying the nest to move to Bond University, Wayne’s move to Melbourne, my role as campaign manager for Katrina Fong Lim in her (highly successful) bid to become Darwin’s Lord Mayor, the AusDBF National Championships at Docklands – a memorable affair for all the wrong reasons, my first trip to Bali which I enjoyed courtesy of winning the prize at the Government House Ball the previous year, with my good friends Denise Lynn and Bonita Fong, my taking up Italian lessons, working with TESOL students, Yvonne’s 50th birthday and my contract at Lifeline Top End.

One of the things I am looking forward to most in 2013 is the chance to walk 100km of the Camino – it has been on my radar for a few years now and this is the year it will happen!  I am not a Catholic but have had quite an exposure to the various religions through a childhood spent in many different countries, making life-long friends with those of differing faiths and of course one of those locations was the ‘Holy Land’  Jerusalem so it will be interesting to see another other side of this faith. It will also be a great holiday that involves exercise as well as an opportunity to see the countryside at a leisurely pace (no boot camp foot-slogging for me!) and the luxury of being able to meander not just physically but allowing my mind to wander wherever it might take me; generally an opportunity for prolific new ideas to pop into my head.

It’s by having this kind of break to look forward to that I am able to better cope with the challenges that I face on a regular basis – we all need ‘me time’ and the fact that I will be sharing this time with other Dragon Sisters – some of whom have become good friends over the years – makes it all the more enjoyable. A perfect balance of work and pleasure.