May 29th..

Not long now..

Not long before I throw on my backpack and travel back to Spain. May 28th to be precise. You should see my phone..it has a countdown on it showing how many days I have left. But at the same time, I am also dreading the return flight home. I so wish this was a longer trip but it is what it is.

I fly off on the 28th of May and start off on the morning of the 29th. I have a spot booked in Esprit de Chemin which is an albergue in St Jean Pied de Port and over the course of 11 days, I will make my way westwards. I hope to reach Belorado, which is about 240km from St Jean and 40km east of Burgos. I have in fact given myself an extra day but that is just the way my return flight worked out. Hey! If I am healthy enough I may make it to Burgos! I have a hotel booked in Bilbao when I finish up and fly back to Dublin the next day, on the 1oth of June.

Last year was great fun, and I returned home with very few aches and pains (no blisters! yay!). I met some amazing people and I still keep in contact with them today. People from all over the world. If I meet more people like them, I will be honoured. However, like 2012, I tended to stick to the same 8-10 people and “could” have got to know more people. I don’t know but I just felt safe with the people I met and if I lost them, I would be back to square one. So I tended to stick with them during the course of the 12 or so days. I would certainly hope to be my own person this time, and if I lose some people, so be it.

Apart from booking Esprit de Chemin and my hotel in Bilbao, I have no plans to book ahead. It was heart-breaking last year to have walked 30km in the sun, only to find the next town’s private albergues to be booked.  But these are the things can come with the modern age Camino. I “hope” to stay in Municipal or Donotivo albergues. I live in relative comfort at home so a few days without it is fine by me. Trust me if I was able to carry a tent, I would sleep under the stars. We are all meant to be pilgrims but there are some people who have forgotten what the word means! Ahem..ok..I digress!

I am also bringing along my trusting iPhone 4 for blogging and taking photos. This is the phone that was badly damaged in a rain deluge and was put beyond use. I had it repaired and now use it as a back up. One day I will leave the phone at home but one piece of tech is fine in my books. Besides, some of the views in the Pyrenees need to be captured. I also have my instagram account to upload photos as I go along.

The highlight of my Camino last year was witnessing the Corpus Christi procession in Carrion de los Condes. Amazing. That was on June 6th and I have my fingers crossed that I will see the same this year.

And finally…También me gustaría hablar español cuando y donde puedo. Es España, después de todo!!

I will most certainly write before I go, but if I don’t “Buen Camino a todos”!!

Article : National Pilgrim Paths Day

Article : National Pilgrim Paths Day

Today was National Pilgrim Paths Day in Ireland and this link has a great article to highlight that. Over the last few months, there has been a great drive to encourage people to walk one (or some) of the many walkways throughout Ireland. There are looped, circular and linear walks, each with their own forms of difficulty. Many (if not all) are way-marked and much work has been done to maintain these treasures. Websites like http://www.irishtrails,ie and www.pilgrimpath.ie promote these trails. A full list can be found here.

While trojan work has been done, I think that there should be work done in weaving these paths to create one trail over a number of counties. Not only will this attract tourists but it could be great for the many towns it passes. It may be difficult putting structure in place like the various Caminos in Spain but there is no harm working towards it.

 

Pre-Camino trek #2…Clontarf, Howth and the Loop

This trip was hard and I wanted it to be. It was close to home also, so no cars needed. This area is actually the only stretch with a little bit to climb in the north side of Dublin. It is also a tourist haven so I wasn’t alone.

I hit the road just after midday. It was warm, say 16c, and the sun was out for the first time this month. We were due good weather this holiday weekend. I walked from the house to the coast road at Baldoyle, about 5km and then into Howth Village, another 5km. I had some water with me and boy! was it needed. I reached Howth and it’s harbour. It is right by the coast and home to tiny restaurants, shops, and pubs…except the pubs were not open being Good Friday. Being a harbour, there were many yachts in the bay. Hundreds of people walked the main road, while others lay on the grass talking in the sun. I was as far away from being on the Camino as you can be.

I passed many people from around the world talking in their respective languages. I was so tempted to speak a few words of Spanish with some folks I passed. It takes about ten minutes to walk the main promenade to where it starts to climb. Up..up..up and up. Road made way for sand, made way for rock. But the view from the summit of Howth Head is amazing. I feel bad for not walking this stretch before considering I live 10km down the road.

It is well sign-posted also. There are 4 different routes you can walk, from a very difficult cliff walk down to a very easy path. I choose the moderate path. I could have taken the more strenuous option but it was close to 25c out there. Some other day. After another 12km or so, I finished up at the place where I started. After a quick stop for some water, I took a train home. I’m looking forward to one or two more long distance walks before I go back at the end of May, Hopefully, one of them will be along the west coast the first week of May.

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Decisions..

So what have I been up to lately?

It is a week now since I took my first “pre-Camino” walk. Afterwards, I developed a pain at the back of my legs, my calves. It has long gone away but I’m left wondering if that was down to lack of practice or something else. I had planned to take a trip out to Howth Head, not far from me, but the cloud was pretty low of it’s cliffs and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. So I may do that tomorrow as I need to walk more. I am simply not prepared and I am afraid of tearing something half way up the Pyrenees. Anyway, I have a good 40 days to think about that.

As you know, I have 11 days of walking ahead of me, and would like to get to Belorado to catch a bus to Bilbao. That is 210km approx and in 11 days, that is beyond do-able. I’ve walked that in 9 days before. So if I find myself passing Belorado, and I have a day or two to spare, I might catch a bus to Burgos and get a bus to Bilbao from there. 

When I was away last week, I shredded the bottoms of my trousers. They look pretty nasty. A new pair will cost €80 (yeah, I know!!) so I used my diy skills and turned them up! Da dah good as new!!

Work has calmed down a little bit over the last few weeks so I haven’t been working as late as before. 

Oh..if you have an instagram account, make sure you search under the #caminodesantiago hashtag. There are many many people on the trail as we speak and they are posting bucketloads of photos. It’s great to see the places I have been or (in my case) see some places, I will be in a few weeks. One guy I am “following” is in O Cebreiro, another is in Burgos and another is in Lorca. I am on instagram myself and I will be posting some photos also. You can find me under the username of david.clearskies.

That’s all the news for the time being.

 

 

Pre-Camino trek #1…the Leafy Loop

Well that’s my Camino countdown well and truly started..

I have just returned from a weekend away in Co Tipperary meeting some Camino friends. We took in the “Leafy Loop” trail while we were together. It is a 22km circular trail in Durrow, Co Laois and makes its way through woods and along the River Eskina. It has everything, from climbs to drops, long winding trails and with the recent rains, it was pretty slippy. It is marked as being “moderate” …just what I was looking for. Nothing too strenuous!

I met Jimmy and Christine first of all last year coming into Santo Domingo. It was a brutal day and we were all eager to get to the albergue after been beaten by heavy winds and rain. The mud on our shoes weighing us down wasn’t helpful either. How fitting that our first trek together before our respective Caminos would be in the wind and the rain!! Both Jimmy and Christine are walking from Burgos to Santiago in May, the very same time I will be walking from St Jean Pied de Port to Belorado.  They are a little more prepared than I am, having walked a number of trails over the last few months. This was my first outing, if you exclude the St Patrick’s Day Harbour 2 Harbour walk. Unfortunately, walking along paths doesn’t count..no matter how much I want it to be!!

I arrived down to Tipperary on Friday and after a filling Spanish-themed dinner plus plenty of vino tinto, we watched a dvd that I brought down called “The Camino: My Journey”. I have watched this at least 10 times and still use any excuse to switch it on. It is more of a guide to the Camino in general, talking about each major town, in a very light hearted way. The words “blister” and bed bugs” are not mentioned once,  but I don’t mind. You can get some information on http://www.thecamino.com. After the dvd, we traded albergue recommendations and tips. talked about people we had met last May and possible future treks before we head off in a few months.

The next day, we were up at 8am and after a healthy fry up, we drove 15km to Durrow in Co Laois. I brought my backpack along so I could get used to wearing it again. I also noticed I had gotten larger, as the straps needed to be re-adjusted. Dammit! Anyway..I hope the 250km or so in May will get rid of a few of those pounds.

The trail starts on the ground of Castle Durrow and makes it way long the banks of the River Eskina. It is very well sign posted as you can see in the photos below. The trail then winds through Dunmore Woods which has large beech trees giving plenty of shelter from the rains. The weather took a turn for the worse as the day progressed and it wasn’t long before I had the rain gear on. I didn’t mind as it was a great chance to try it on. The trail is relatively flat save for one section which rises 100m over 5kms. Not quite like the Pyrenees but it got the blood pumping.

The recent storm,  however, has fallen a number of trees in the woods and many have fallen on the trail. It proved to be difficult to get around but where there is a will, there is a way. I hope these will be cleaned up and replaced over time. Otherwise, the trail is very well maintained and litter free. We finished up after 5hrs, wet and cold, but glad to have it completed.  I reckon this trail would be perfect during the summer months. The ground will be harder to walk on and there would be a little more colour to the area.

I mentioned to Christine as we were leaving “Now, there is no need to pass through Galicia, you have seen it today”. We didn’t meet any other fellow walkers today, which will not be the case in Galicia!

We drove back to Thurles and after a bite to eat, we watched another dvd and decided to do a walk along the western coast around the end of April. I will write up about that afterwards.

 

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YouTube – it draws you in and won’t let go..

I’m a sucker for YouTube. I open up the site and before I know it, it is close to midnight. Well ok, I am exaggerating, but it is fairly addictive. But lately, I have been browsing through various Camino videos. Some people have put alot of effort into them. I have created a playlist of some of my favourite Camino videos. However, if you are like me, you may have watched the majority of these already. Enjoy!