Monday, 26 June 2017

Camino de Santiago - 2017

In English and Spanish 
En Español un poco mas adelante

Full set of photos from the Camino 2017

I was not thinking of writing a post to describe the latest excursion to continue our yearly progress along the Camino de Santiago, since we have now settled into a routine for organising and going along from day to day. The group of pilgrims is the same and the basic scenery, problems and experiences are more of the same. However a few friends have asked basically the same questions and wondered why I have not communicated this year. So I have put together a brief one off post.

This year we tackled the part of the Camino from Belorado (where we finished last year) up to a few kilometers before Sahagun at Terradillos de los Templarios (what a name!), the reason being that the last leg would have added up to 40 Kms if we had wanted to finish in Sahagun itself and that was about 10 Kms too many for most of us.

Montse, our travel expert and Ione her very suitable assistant had spent an entire day planning the overnight stays and we had advanced reservations for nine people in specific hostels or albergues along the route, and I watched for a while, when they did this.

They calculated for each day, more or less, where they thought we would get to with a rough estimate of the group's walking abilities. Ours were around 25 to 30 KMs max. Then on a good map they found a place at around that distance and found all 'Hostals' or 'Albergues' in the area on Google. Then they chose one or two, which looked promising, called the phone numbers and asked for availability and reserved if the price was right. Most of the hostels reserve and you pay when you arrive. Which means in many cases you have to call again a day or two in advance to ensure that the reservation is confirmed and that they know that you are already on the camino and confirm the time when you expect to arrive etc. It was time consuming but in the end worth every ounce of effort, especially when you find that your bed awaits when you arrive. Most importantly if you are using the mochila (rucksack) taxi then you know where your mochila should be delivered.
I used the mochila taxi throughout this time for various reasons. 1 it was cheap, 2 it allowed me to have a bit more flexibility with contents of my bag, and 3 it made walking (specially uphill) easier, which I found quite difficult the previous year.                       

All that worked very well. We typically started at 7am and generally arrived by 1.30 or 2pm. Then we had showers and a long lunch, followed by a siesta, a small walk around the town, dinner and to bed.
We started by taking the bus route from Laredo to our starting point of Belorado. The first day was a short walk to our first night’s stay because we did not start the walking until about 3pm after the long bus trip. After that we consistently walked 25 or more kilometers every day.                     

We had good weather except for a 30-minute downpour, which caught us in a very muddy part of the camino. My walking boots turned into muddy boats and luckily soon after the rain subsided we managed to find a bar, which had facilities for washing muddy shoes!

The Camino was just as delightful as other years and the fitness, plenty of meditative walking not to mention the customary eating and drinking followed by hours of conversation with other pilgrims made for another great outing.

However there were a few difficult moments along the way. The section of the Camino from Belorado to Burgos was very pilgrim non-friendly.  At one of the overnight stops at Orbaneja de Riopico we stayed at a small hostal, but we discovered the next morning that in the small town no bars opened until 10am! So our 7am start meant that we could find no breakfast until we were in Burgos about 3 hours later. This was a big deal for some in our group who typically needed a good strong coffee to wake up and get going.

Another annoyance for me was noise. Sharing rooms with several beds invariably leads to having to learn how to deal with this and I found this disturbed sleep somewhat and that invariably led to having to walk while not fully rested. Fortunately for my years I don’t need that much sleep and earplugs are the obvious answer. The other source of noise pollution that I sought to avoid as much as possible was the banter at high pitch of a group of people walking together. In this case keeping a few meters ahead or behind the group with my meditation exercises was the answer. I also had at my disposal a phone full of music and its easy manipulation through my Pebble watch.
Yet another difficulty was learning how to keep up with much younger fellow pilgrims while walking uphill. And here I discovered this year how to use breathing as an aid to make the extra effort.

There were also a few niggly ailments and the usual foot blisters among our group, but nothing much to write home about. Most of these are best left to the memories of those who suffered them. Fortunately for me I was once again spared most of these, through using good footwear and diligently applying non friction creams and other foot care.

On the last day of our walk with the end in sight we nearly missed a bus that was expected to take us from our finishing point at Terradillos de los Templarios to Sahagun, 12 Kms away. However we found out during the walk that there was only one bus that day and it passed our end point at exactly 1 pm. Given the length of our walk that day we estimated that we would arrive sometime after one. As our destination approached and we began to walk faster and faster, it became clear that unless the bus was delayed, we would be only just making the bus stop at one pm. In the end we arrived just a minute before the bus pulled into view and finished our journey comfortably.

Now we just have another 250 Kms to complete the entire camino.
From Terradillos de los Templarios to Sarria.
Roll on 2018.
Buen Camino.

 No pensaba escribir esta vez nada sobre el tramo de Camino de Santiago que hemos hecho hace una semana para continuar nuestro ritual anual, porque en nuestro grupo de peregrinos hemos ya conseguido una rutina para organizar el proceso diario y mas o menos es la continuación de la experiencia y no hay mucho nuevo que contar.  Pero algunos amigos me han preguntado porque no he escrito algo, y también varias preguntas sobre como hemos logrado alguno o otro detalle.  Así que aquí tengo un breve descripción de la excursión.

Este año hemos andado la parte del Camino que empieza en Belorado (donde terminamos el año pasado) hasta Terradillos de los Templarios, unos doce kilómetros antes de Sahagun. Ya el ultimo tramo tenia 28 kms y andar 12 kms mas hasta Sahagun era mucho para algunos de nosotros.

Montse, nuestra agente de viajes y Ione una asistente muy hábil pasaron un día entero planificando las estancias en el camino y el grupo tenia reservaciones confirmadas en hostales o albergues para todas las noches. Tuve la oportunidad de observar como ellas hacían esto.

Primero calculaban para cada día donde el grupo podía llegar con nuestras capacidades de andar (unos 25 o 30 kms cada día). Después con Google buscaban todos los hostales disponibles en la localidad seleccionada. Llamaban por teléfono a varios y buscaban alojamiento para el grupo, y si el precio era aceptable lo reservaban. Casi todos los hostales y algunos albergues reservan, y uno puede pagar cuando llega. Pero es necesario llamar un par de días antes para que sepan que estamos en camino y confirmar la reservación, la hora de llegada etc. Era mucho trabajo pero valía la pena para tener la cama disponible cuando llegábamos después de varias horas de andar. Aun mas importante era tener una dirección para usar el ‘mochila taxi’.

Este año utilicé el ‘mochila taxi’ todos los días porque 1- era bastante económico, 2- me permitía mas contenido en la mochila y 3- hacia mas fácil la caminata especialmente las subidas que me fueron difíciles el año anterior.

Todo funciono bastante bien. Salíamos todos los días a las 7 y en la mayoría de los casos llegábamos a las 2 de la tarde. Luego nos duchábamos y seguido de una larga comida, siesta, una pequeña excursión para explorar el pueblo, cena y a dormir. Muchos de los hostales tenían horario de apagar las luces bastante temprano.

Empezamos con un viaje de varios autobuses desde Laredo hasta nuestro punto de partida en Belorado. Ya eran casi las tres cuando empezamos el camino del primer día, un tramo de doce kilómetros hasta nuestro hostal para esa noche. Después todos los días hicimos entre 25 y 30 kms.

En general tuvimos suerte con el tiempo, aparte de una media hora cuando llovió torrencialmente en un tramo con mucho barro. Mis botas parecían como barcos de barro pero afortunadamente un poco mas tarde nos encontramos un bar donde podíamos lavar nuestras botas.

 El Camino estaba bonito y encantador tanto como otro años y el ejercicio, la meditación, y por supuesto la comida y bebida seguido por horas de sobremesa y conversación con otros peregrinos resulto otra vez en esta excusión muy agradable.

Naturalmente había momentos difíciles como hay de esperar. Por ejemplo la sección de Camino desde Belorado a Burgos carecía de muchos servicios para peregrinos. Teníamos una parada en el pueblo de Orbaneja de Riopico y era complicado encontrar algo para desayunar cuando empezamos el día siguiente a las 7am en punto. Andamos tres horas hasta Burgos para encontrar un bar abierto donde podíamos tomar un café, requisito fundamental de algunos de nuestro grupo para despertar y empezar a andar.

Otra molestia para mí era el ruido. Compartiendo habitaciones con varias camas invariablemente conduce a tener que aprender a lidiar con este sueño algo perturbado y invariablemente tener que caminar no totalmente descansado. Afortunadamente para mis años no necesito tanto sueño y tapones para los oídos son la respuesta obvia.

La otra fuente de contaminación acústica que traté de evitar en la medida de lo posible fue el tono de hablar alto de un grupo de personas caminando juntos. En este caso, la respuesta era mantenerse unos metros adelante o detrás del grupo con mis ejercicios de meditación. También tenía a mi disposición un teléfono lleno de música y su fácil manipulación a través de mi reloj de Pebble.

Otra dificultad era aprender a mantenerse en ritmo con los compañeros más jóvenes mientras caminaban cuesta arriba. Y aquí he descubierto este año cómo usar la respiración como una ayuda para hacer el esfuerzo adicional.

También había unas cuantas molestias y las ampollas habitual de pie en nuestro grupo, pero no hay mucho que destacar. La mayoría son mejor dejados a los recuerdos de aquellos que los sufrieron. Afortunadamente para mí, una vez más no las sufri, a través de usar buen calzado y aplicar con diligencia cremas y otros cuidados de los pies.

En el último día de nuestro paseo, con el final en vista, casi nos perdimos un autobús que nos llevaría desde nuestro punto final en Terradillos de los Templarios a Sahagún, unos12 Kms. Sin embargo, nos enteramos durante el paseo que sólo había un autobús ese día a la una de la tarde. Dado lo largo de nuestra caminata ese día estimamos que llegaríamos algún tiempo después de la una. A medida que nuestro destino se acercaba empezamos a caminar más y más rápido, quedó claro que a menos que el autobús se retrasara, estaríamos llegando a la parada del autobús muy justos. Al final llegamos un minuto antes de que el autobús apareció y terminó nuestro viaje cómodamente.

Ahora solo nos faltan 250 kms para terminar todo el Camino

Desde Terradillos de los Templarios hasta Sarria.
Seguiremos en 2018.
Buen Camino.
Todas las fotos desde Camino 2017

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Saramago, Manrique and Omar Sharif What do they have in common - Lanzarote

Mundo Senior - holidays in Spain for the oldies to escape winter. We decided this year to try Lanzarote, a volcanic island in the Canaries which we had not been to. Strange island covered in lava and black volcanic ash and a difficult existence. That is until the artist Cesar Manrique decided that unless they attracted tourists, the economy would remain in doldrums.

Manrique is associated with all the good things in Lanzarote, conversions of homes, tourist spots adapted to tourism and general ecology of the island. Several initiatives are attributed to him. These include the absence of Advertising boards, the limit of 4 floors on buildings and the white colour that all buildings have. Apparently one pays 2000 Euros a year in taxes if they want a different colour, and there are virtually no exceptions. Manrique's own house and the building that houses the Manrique Foundation are worth seeing. Sadly Manrique died in a traffic accident in 1992.

Saramago won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998 and his house is a gem of a place. We were shown around by a family member and loved the place. The library that houses his book collection has many books dedicated by the authors. One shelf contains all of his books translated into different languages. Our guide pulled out a couple translated into Indian languages of which I could read the Hindi but not the Tamil. I had not as yet read any of his books, but I certainly will read a few after that visit. At the end of our visit the guide said that Saramago always invited visitors to a coffee in his kitchen, and this custom has been maintained and we were treated to a lovely cup of coffee in the kitchen overlooking the garden.

And Omar Sharif, what can I say about the house called LagOmar that was designed for him and built into a mountainside. Its a terrific place on a grand scale. The curious thing is that if we are to believe the tale, one week after it was completed OS (who was an accomplished bridge player) lost the house in a bet while playing bridge with the constructor. Apparently OS did not know that the opponent was an international bridge player in his own right!

So there you have it three big characters share the common ground of a small island in the Atlantic.

The following is a list of things that we got around to seeing apart from the buildings listed above:

Paseo de Playa Blanca - a nine kilometer walk on the south side of the island in the town of Playa Blanca where we stayed in Lanzarote. While most of it is packed with restaurants and bars there are long sections with stunning scenery, beaches and in the evening views of sunsets not to be missed. The Marina Rubicon is also a very lovely area which this paseo goes through.

The Timanfaya volcanoes - This is a bizarre and frightening landscape where everything is flooded with lava flows. Temperature very near the surface can exceed 200 C. No one is allowed to either drive or walk around. A bus takes the visitor through the landscape on a single lane road. You would not want the bus to break down in this hostile but beautiful environment! Yet, that is exactly what happened to a bus ahead of us. About half an hour passed while it became clear that there was no way out, and then by some miracle the drivers of the buses cleared a space in the lava and luckily the inoperative bus was on an incline so they could ease the bus down to one side. We could then drive past, waving sympathetically at the stranded passengers.

Mirador del Rio, which has spectacular views over the island of La Graciosa

Charco de los Clicos, near the nice town of Golfo

Jameos del Agua, a lava tube created by the gases and explosions during lava flows, which was converted (again by Manrique) into a restaurant, bar and some concert spaces. Perfect acoustics.

Caves of Los Verdes, a lava cave which is probably similar in formation to the Jameos, contains a surprise which those who have seen it are obliged not to reveal!

Mercado de Teguise, a Sunday market where all tourists end up. The town is very nice but probably best appreciated on non-market days.

The vineyards, different from any others elsewhere because of the way the vines are protected from the wind with walls built from lava rocks. Hard work and this probably explains why the wines are not cheap.

The Museum of Modern Art, a converted fort refurbished again to a Manrique design. It is said that to start off the collection, Manrique did an exchange of his own works with some famous artists.

The Red Mountain, about which much has been said, that its a place where a lot of UFOs and aliens might be found etc. It was just around the corner from our hotel and we duly went up for a walk. It did not disappoint in terms of natural beauty and an interesting crater, but we did not see any aliens or indeed any UFOs.
Once again it was time to pack our bags and return home, wash clothes, recover from an upset tummy and then head out to our next destination. Madrid and ARCO 2017.
A retired life is equal to a tourist's in that it is hard! 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

London, a year later -

This post is in English. Si solo quieren ver algunas fotos de nuestro viaje a Londres Click aqui.

We awoke to a sunny morning after a late night arrival at the home of our dear friends J and L in St. John’s Wood.
The flight from Santander had taken two hours but then we were confronted by a queue for Passport control, which stretched something like a mile snaking and zigzagging inside the arrivals hall at Stansted Airport. No wonder a majority of Brits want out from EU! A dash to the National Express A6 bus stop meant we were able to catch an earlier bus, which nevertheless arrived at our destination around 1am. There was still a fifteen-minute walk on the deserted Finchley Road before we could get home. Fortunately we already had keys (dont ask why, its a long story) to the elegant house where we were staying, and meant that we did not need to wake our hosts. After a minor panic when one of the keys appeared not to work, we silently got in and made our way to our beds in the house.
Later that day we had complimentary tickets to the Other Art fair where E, one of our Spanish artist friends who lives and works in London, was showing her work. So after catching up with J and L at breakfast we set out to reset our memories of London. Almost immediately we ran across the Zebra crossing made famous by the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, which attracts hundreds of visitors, keen to take similar pictures, run the risk of being run over everyday. Bemused motorists patiently waited to let happy and enthusiastic people walk across the hallowed crossing while friends took photos, but more often than not there was road rage.
A bit further we crossed the Finchley Road and walked into St John’s Wood underground (metro) station to refill our Oyster cards and dive into the bowels of London Transport. The Jubilee line took us to Waterloo Station where we could catch the RV1 bus to the Tate’s famous Modern art gallery housed in an old power station. Bad idea (of the bus)..because we had not thought about the new projects around London which may be causing congestion on the streets. Just around the Blackfriars Bridge there was a new hotel under construction with huge traffic jams.  After what seemed an age we finally alighted and walked around to get our first glimpse of the Tate’s new extension, a ten storey building.
 The Tate Modern extension

Claustrophobic is the word. The new building nestles among already congested office and apartment buildings, which got there just a few years before. Multimillion-pound apartment owners are justifiably angry about the intruder where the gallery visitors can look straight into their living rooms, nice as they are!  Imagine you are quaffing 100-pound champagne and looking at your bank details (or heaven forbid more sinister activity) and a hundred people are looking over your shoulder. Also there was only about a fifth of the building dedicated to art, the rest being wasted on vast spaces for useless activity, such as looking into people’s homes and some amazingly peculiar lifts (elevators) which made up their own minds about when to stop, or not, at any floor.
Louise Bourgeous Room
The art exhibitions were mixed, some great such as the Georgia O’Keefe and the room full of Louise Bourgeois works, and some not my cup of tea such as the one by the Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar appropriately titled ‘You Cant Please All’, and they were expensive (entry tickets) like everything else in London. However we were in possession of Member’s Passes (again don’t ask!), which gave us free entry to everything.
Later (much later) we made our way avoiding transport, walking across Blackfriars Bridge and catching the District and Circle (maybe just the District as the Circle was switched off) to Charing Cross. Here we were within walking distance to Piccadilly Circus and then a short walk to my favourite Indian restaurant in Marshall Street for some well-earned grub. The waitress knew us, even if she was of East European origin and one of the worried set of people (including me) in the post-Brexit atmosphere. To be fair there was no evidence of the foreigner phobia that has been much in the news lately, but then London is very cosmopolitan and perhaps there are more foreigners than locals to be seen in the streets.
Afterwards with the tummy glowing from the food, we made our way to Oxford Circus, just around the corner and caught the Central to Liverpool Street station.
Outside the station we ran into Tracy Emin, who looked worried (she did not recognise us) and seemed to be waiting for someone. We knew she was going to be selling and signing prints at the fair we were going to. A short walk brought us to Brick Lane where the street signs are in Bengali! We were a few minutes early so we hung out in the area where the waiters are out to attract people to their ‘award winning’ eateries. We had already eaten and it was early for dinner.
Later we walked into the ‘Other’ art fair, so called because the main event in London this week was the Frieze, and looked for the stand of our friend E and walked past Mr Serota soon to be ex-chief of Tate, but he did not recognise us either. I was about to tell him about his lifts but he had other things on his mind..perhaps looking for another job! Again the fair was mixed and the prices high.   We did not buy anything including the terrible stuff at the Emin stand.
Taking a photo of someone taking a photo of someone etc.
at the Other 
I thought to myself that I had to revise the prices of my own works! They are a giveaway compared to these.
A couple of hours later it was time to withdraw gracefully and retrace our steps to Bond Street on the Central line and catch the northbound Jubilee and home. But not before we had bought a couple of bottles of red wine to celebrate with our friends at their home, which was temporarily ours as well.
On the agenda still loomed the Saatchi, Damien Hurst, RA, National and the National Portrait Galleries, The Frieze fair and hundreds of smaller galleries, the Turner prize exhibits at Tate Britain, a visit to Epsom, meals with a few sets of friends, some shopping and the obligatory catchup with the Indian food. 
The good news was that we still had a few more days in London!

If you really must see some more pics from our London outing then click here
Si realmente quieren ver algunas de nuestras fotos de Londres click aqui 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

St Thomas 100 Anniversary

About a year ago the current headmaster of St Thomas High School, located at Dehradun in Northern India, which I attended fifty years ago, sent me a message saying that the school was going to celebrate its 100 anniversary in 2016 and would I contribute a short piece recounting my memories for the book they were planning to publish for the occasion. 'Gladly', I responded and within a few days sent off some text and some pictures and without any further response forgot about the whole affair.
Imagine my surprise then when suddenly the doorbell rings and its the postwoman, with a registered package, a heavy object with a lot of stamps (864 Rupees) and all kind of postal gobbledygook all over it.

It turned out to be the book of the 100 anniversary from my school, and there it was on page photo and the text that I had contributed. The book contained an impressive collection of tributes from important people like Sonia Gandhi and other political heavyweights and folks in important positions, including one from the Prime Minister's secretary! Then there were sections devoted to teachers and past notables who were heads of institutions etc, however I was in a section of other past students listed in order of their attendance, who had taken the trouble to contribute some memories. So there I was at 1965 with this text:

Arvinder Bawa
St Thomas’ High School 1962 to 1965

I arrived at St Thomas’ in 1962 to continue my High School education while my parents built a life for themselves in Ghana, West Africa. It was already July and the principal Mrs Alexander took a risk in allowing me to start in the middle of the academic year. Arrangements were made for me to join several other boys whose families also lived in Africa, mainly Uganda, at the Nabha House based boarding school run by Ivan Mann.
My father left me in the care of an elderly uncle who lived in Dehradun, who I could turn to in emergencies. I had a monthly fund of fifteen rupees, a bycycle and a suitcase full of clothes. I would return to Delhi and Ghana during holidays when clothes would be renewed and progress reviewed.
At school I remember several other teachers whose names have faded but Mrs Mann and Mr Joseph (PE) come to mind. I remember also many of my classmates with whom I lost touch entirely and none of whom could be found in the Internet or social networks. Recently I found Ian Howard on Facebook through his nephew, who was also a student at the school in recent times. There were Samarendra Deva, Laxmidas Thakrar and of course they are all listed on a letter from the school informing me of my High School results.
In particular I have very fond memories of our Maths teacher Mr Khanna(?), who kindled a keen interest which resulted in my abilities with computer programming and mathematical simulations. Our Health Science teacher was also excellent and we had great results because of his efforts. One Physics teacher will always remain in my memory for a couple of remarks that he made which we found amusing. He once said to some of us ‘Come with me both of you three’ which raised a few eyebrows. At another occasion when marking my homework, which was often presented on makeshift pads and paper, he wrote on my work ‘This what type of exercise book is?’ We laughed then, but later I realised that this was a word by word translation from what one would say in Hindi!
There was also a teacher, or perhaps he was a friend of some of our teachers, who had an impressive collection of records, particularly records which were not available in India at the time such as the Elvis albums on RCA, and which we used to love listening to. The gang of Nabha House residents with African connections, we used to have a lot of fun since our parents were not on our backs, getting around the area on our bikes, with outings to nearby places such as Mussourie. We were also members of many of the sports teams which took us to many of the schools in the area to play matches.
In my last year at school I was elected a prefect and head of one of the houses (I think it may have been called Fraser) which gave me a certain standing at school and I do remember being given a lot of support by teachers and students alike.
After leaving St Thomas’ with an excellent GCE under my belt I returned to Ghana and continued my studies. Later I went to London (Imperial College) for a postgraduate degree in Engineering mostly related to mathematical modelling on computers. One day outside the college on Exhibition Road I was approached by another Indian student and we started talking and it turned out that he too had been at St Thomas’ two or three years my junior. After a few minutes he said ‘ I think I remember you. You used play football and once I think I saw you score an own goal!’ We fell about in fits of laughter but I do not remember having ever scored an own goal. But then that would be something I would want to forget.
Some years ago I returned to Dehradun and came by the School, but being a weekend there was no one about, however the main door was open and we went into the entrance hall and I was amazed to see my name on the honours board.

In my working life I mostly worked on mathematical simulations and Computer Aided Design (CAD) for Computer services and later the oil Industry, finishing in the Industrial Gases sector. Some of the companies I have worked at are Atkins(UK), Maraven(Venezuela), Shell(UK), Air Products(USA, UK & China). I took early retirement in 2010 and I now live with my wife in Spain.
I still write computer programs, mainly to generate digital images from mathematical equations. I have also written a book which has been published via and still love to travel and to be out and about. I can also be found on some social networks and I write a blog to keep in touch with many friends and family all over the world.
I would like to send many congratulations to St Thomas’ College on reaching the centenary milestone and may it continue to provide an excellent education base for future students. It goes without saying that it would give me a great pleasure to get news of and from folks who knew me at the school which has been the source of great experiences.
All best wishes.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Camino de Santiago 2016

For those who just want to see the photos click here
Para los que solo quieren ver unas fotos click aqui

Once again we, a group of nine Camino enthusiasts take to the Camino de Santiago to do 5 Camino stages which go from Estella to Torres del Rio, Logroño, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and finally Belorado.

We had decided to cut short our first stage by walking 9 kilometres to Villamayor de Monjardin on the first day, so that the next day we would only have to walk about 20 Kms to Torres del Rio.

The day before the start
Tomorrow .. rucksack packed .. another 120 Kms of the Camino de Santiago. Estella to Belorado on the old medieval Camino de Santiago. Tomorrow morning a 2 hour bus ride takes us to Logroño at the heart of the Rioja. Lunch and a short bus ride to our starting point Estella. Then a two hour walk to our first resting point, the grandly named hamlet of Villarmayor de Monjardin.
Today was a beautiful day and for the second day in a row I dived into the sea. Still a bit cold but us pilgrims need to toughen up! 

Below is a compilation of my daily posts to Facebook during the walk

Camino de Santiago Day 1 of 6

I am now in my bunkbed in an 'albergue' in our first stop. There are 12 beds of which 9 are in our party..of the other three we have no idea. They were asleep when we got back from dinner.

There is not a bed to be had in this place..just as well we had reservations.

Earlier everything went to plan. Except that we had to rush through the time we found a place to eat in Logroño we had half an hour to devour a 3 course menu. I was still munching my profiteroles as we ran out of the restaurant and headed for the bus station to catch our bus to the start of our pilgrimage. 
Once we started our walk in Estella we began to settle down to our rhythm of walking. It was only a short 9kms which we did in a couple of hours. Just as well as it was all uphill or so it seemed to my 67 years old legs!
This is Navarra countryside and it is absolutely beautiful. There was the small detail of a drizzle which meant waterproof capes but we were in high spirits..perhaps because we had had a few glasses of Rioja already!
It was tough climbing steep uphill slopes and I was glad when we arrived at our first night's shelter at Villamayor de Monjardin.
There was a long spell of freshening up and the gang made for the only bar in town for a few drinks and a hard earned meal!
Now we are safely tucked in our bunks and enjoying the glow of a few wines, orujo and gin tonics.

Camino day 2 of 6..
First night in a strange bed is always difficult, specially if there are 11 other occupants and a church ringing a bell every hour. It was a very comfortable place with all mod cons, even washing machines and dryers.
Breakfast was pretty basic but enough. Within an hour of starting our 20km for today to Torres del Rio, we had reached a wonderful bar on the camino in such fantastic surroundings that we had to stop and have real coffee and tortilla.
This section of the camino has been maintained in very good condition and the surroundings are lush green sometimes resembling a golf course. The fields were full of vines, olive trees and wheat however the towns we passed through such as Sansol, were like ghost towns with no visible inhabitants but impeccably maintained, the economy dependent on pilgrim traffic.
On the way we met a Dutch man who works at Erricsson and was taking 8 weeks off to do the whole camino.
He joined us for lunch and even stayed at the same Alberge run by a Bolivian woman called Lily. Everyone was amused by an 80+ years old woman who seemed to be trying to seduce the Dutchman.
After freshening up we hit the town and tried out the various bars and restaurants.
Lily and her bar restaurant San Andres treated us like royalty, and would be highly recommended by me!
On the other hand I would give very low points to the competitor Restaurant La Pata de Oca, where we were given bad wine at an exorbitant price.
And so we get to the end of our 2nd day, less tired and looking forward to more 😊

Camino day 3 of 6 .. 
from Torres del Rio to Logroño .. 
About 20 kms
No churches last night so slept a lot better..after breakfast our group took to the road. We found that a very old church in town which had been closed yesterday, was open as we passed by. Its claim to fame was that it dates from around 1100 and that the statue of Christ wears an actual crown, which is apparently very rare.
It was another lovely day with no rain but significant ups and downs to test any pilgrim, and many are senior citizens. I started my music system but I must say that sounds of birds have accompanied us delightfully from the start. The Byrds playing Turn, Turn, Turn.
Once again beautiful countryside all around and well maintained path and soon we found ourselves in the lovely town of Viana. Majestic cathedral and beautiful buildings everywhere made to impress the pilgrims as they made their way slowly west through medieval times till now. Keith Jarrett playing piano in the Bregenz Concert.
Thought of all my friends and loved ones everywhere, and sent them cosmic energy for their well being.
After a few more kilometres of walking we finally arrived in Logroño to find our accommodation for the evening. Beatles playing Get Back..go back to where you once belonged.. tears ..will soon reunite with Marisol then looking forward to indeed getting home..
where ever that is....

Camino day 4 of 6
From Logroño to Najera
About 30 kms
Logroño was a strange experience. This is the capital of the Rioja wine region and yet my first glass of crianza at the Faro bar across the road from our apartment turned out to be so bad that I had to ask for a bit of lemonade to make it drinkable! Sacrilege.
Also we were in an area where several bars and restaurants seemed to have shut down .. perhaps because of a large population of muslims.
To make matters worse the water heater failed and we waited all afternoon for it to be fixed. Nevertheless there is no way to suppress the high spirits of 8 Spaniards and me so we had a merry evening and got up early for a 7am start for the long leg of our walk.
Today everything was at its limit. Our stamina, the state of our feet and muscles were all at maximum strain. The slightest pain in any part of the body a cause of concern. 
We have prepared well with anti blister creams and sun creams and a myriad of other applications, however we could not avoid a few problems. But nothing serious, a blister or two, feet problems mostly.
Now, group chemistry is so important, and there is safety in numbers and a great support system when in need. The camino can be a very lonely place. If you are an extrovert it is easy to make friends, otherwise left in your thoughts for hours day after day could drive you mad.
So the seven hours we spent on the camino today were much less by the goodwill of friends and the company they provided whenever you caught up with them.
Midway through a fairly easy but long beautiful sunny day we passed through the lovely town of Navarete, with its enormous church whose entrance reminded us of Petra. And lurking inside a tableau covered with enough gold to keep the Spanish economy afloat for a very long time! 

Peruvian mineral? I ask..Spanish are pretty sensitive about this.. If it was not them then the English might well have stolen it instead!
The countryside is still breathtaking but today large chunks were alongside roads, so I used my music system controlled by a Pebble watch.
In the end we arrived an hour ahead of schedule perhaps because the distance was 26 instead of 30kms, well in time to tuck into a hearty lunch and more excellent Rioja.
Now the hard work is done. The last two days should be a lot easier!

Camino de Santiago .. Day 5 of 6
From Najera to Santo Doming de la Calzada
About 20 kms
Najera was curiously interesting. Big gypsy population, a small medieval part, some buried kings and a huge red mountain vertical face as a backdrop.
We tried to get close to the rock face but the entire town had built a barrier to bar all access. The wall has been built virtually to the rock. 
Two gypsy boys about 10 or twelve were lounging in a back street. Smoke was curling from the hand of the younger from something he was hiding. I asked about the rock, and the older boy explained that some years ago the access points had been closed because of suicides!
The younger boy offered to open the door to one of the rather dilapidated houses if we gave him a Euro. I was about to produce the coin when my companion pulled me away with a look which said lets get out of here. It was a dangerous situation and we left quickly.
Wined and dined as usual after the long trek and got up at a more civilised hour to start our fifth day which promised to be more comfortable.
It was a sparkling sunny and hot day and the walk started in an easy and fairly nice countryside. About 5 or 6 kilometres later we started a gentle climb which went on forever.
By the time we got to Azofra, about 10 kms, we were exhausted. The younger men pressed on, but some of us stopped for refreshments.
An Australian lady with a sore ankle was slowly making her way. Kalee, pronounced Kaylee, was from Brisbane and was doing a 30 day complete walk, but her ankle had gone and she hoped to be able take a bus to skip a few stages and catch up lost time.
More climb followed and it was not until we were virtually at our destination that we finally got to the top of the ridge..where spectacular views awaited.
After that it was an easy few kms into Santo Domingo.
And so, suddenly we find ourselves near the end. Tomorrow another 20 km stage will see us at the end of our chosen stages and then a bus ride to Burgos.

Camino de 6 of 6
Santo Domingo to Belorado
21 kms
Santo Domingo is a lovely has a beautiful cathedral whose claim to fame is the presence of a live hen and cockerel in a showcase. It goes with a curious tale which can be looked up on the Internet.
Attached to the cathedral there is also a tower which has a staircase which ends in a gallery with spectacular views. I was the only one to do this from our group after the walk of the morning.
It also has two fine Parador hotels but our accommodation was more simple. Across the road we were recommended a restaurant where we spent our lunch and dinner time.
La Strada produced excellent food at reasonable prices plus very friendly service. They also produced a bottle of champaign so that we could toast a happy birthday for my father who completed 92 years in far away India.
This morning once again we took off from SD de la C at 8am. Thunderstorms were forecast and for the first few kms we could see ominous clouds, but thankfully they dispersed and we soon emerged into bright sunshine.
The scenery was as nice as previous days but today was a day of lost in translation.
First there was Valery the Russian who was resting on a bed of wheat plants, who was doing his 4th camino and seemed to speak several languages. Then there was Alberto from the Canary Island of Gran Canaria who had learnt some Hindi and tried to impress me with this. Among others there was the Italian youth Paolo from Rome who was nursing a sore thigh muscle.
On the path I was also entertained by a couple of butterflies dancing, some toads or frogs who tried to tell me something loudly. Birds also have been in constant chirping all along the Camino. I tried hard to see if I could gather some mysterious messages from all these. But mostly they were lost in translation.
We tried to enjoy the walk and the company as much as possible as we were approaching the end of our planned walk. There was also the gathering of as many stamps in our Camino passport, normally given at all churches and bars. This was a requirement in medieval times as now, to show that you had followed the path and not appeared in Santiago to get the completion certificate.
The last few kms seemed endless, but after what seemed an age our objective Belorado came into view and we could get our rucksacks off our backs and start our journey homewards. Drinks and a well deserved lunch awaited.

And a final group photograph..

Buen Camino

P.S. Here is a full set of photos from the Camino walk