Writing from Camponaraya – Day 22


Sleeping in, breakfast in bed, descending mountains, the sweetest villages, new camino friends, making an obvious rookie food mistake, finding creative ways to solve problems, moving towards an ending and a beginning. Just an average day on the camino, layered with good and bad decisions! Maybe a bit like yours.

Days on the Camino – 22

Kms – Today 28 kms.

Starting point today – El Acebo, Spain.

End of the day – Camponaraya, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 23

Total funds raised so far – $6995.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $695 to go!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – The cyclists on the camino! They are a colourful Lycra’d bunch who are great mates with the hikers. Always kind and considered on the trail. And skilled … man some of those descents are rocky and steep.

Accommodation – A pre booked B & B (€19 each with breakfast) .

Food highlight – Well it wasn’t the pasta we ordered in Ponferrada! Rookie mistake – sit in the town square that’s surrounded by tourist restaurants and order food!

It definitely was this cheese and quince tapas plate we ordered as a pre-pilgrims dinner snack.

In a word(s) – Still re-adjusting.

This morning breakfast in our B & B was a make it yourself with what’s laid out kind of deal. We didn’t sleep amazingly so we didn’t wake until 7.30ish (no alarm clocks here)! I put the coffee pot on and made toast and surprised my sister with breakfast in bed. With the birdsong and mountains outside our window we lingered until 9ish. Our latest start yet.

We made the mistake of thinking that because we had planned a smaller day 26 kms that we could mosey in the morning. Today was the hottest day of the camino so far! So we paid for that two hour delayed start by walking 2 hours in the hottest part of the day.

That incredibly beautiful mountain we climbed up yesterday …. we got to descent it this morning. We were treated to a cuckoo bird call, a morning moon in the blue sky and a beautiful clear morning to view the entire mountain range.

The villages since leaving León have been truly spectacular. No longer are we walking though villages that are declining and dilapidated. These villages are alive and renewed … except at sista time (2-5pm). Then they are literally ghost towns. Always the time when we need food!!

Yesterday we bid our adopted big brother farewell. Just for now. He is waiting in this awful terrace for his brother to join him so they can continue their walk together. As a result the camino has been a bit quiet for us these past few days. We seem to have moved away from many of the people we know. Of course it doesn’t stay quiet for long! Tonight at the end of this small town amongst many small towns we ran into the flouros. And Hong.

Last night as we were heading home after dinner Hong was just walking into the village after a LONG day on the trail. We met with a quick chat as she was desperate to find a bed and a hot shower and we were heading to bed. Tonight when she walked into the bar where we were having our Après Hike beer we make plans for dinner. She is quite a hoot. Of course it turns out that she knows our good friends, the Texan A team. Small, small camino world!

A few nights ago my international adapter stopped charging my camera battery. You’d think this would be easy to solve … get a new adapter right? Not so easy on a camino. The last thing you want to do when your hiking 30kms a day is wander around a city trying to find a shop. Seriously you can’t walk beyond that camino trail! I can’t anyhow, my feet are too sore by the end of the day and my head space is not conducive to searching for an adapter! My priorities are hike, food, arrive, shower, washing, foot care, food, sleep. Nope, I’d need to walk past a shop that could solve this problem for me.

Last night my camera battery went flat so I had to use my iPhone to take photos today. About carrying a camera: people are often surprised I carry a camera around my neck but seriously I find it so easy. I point and shoot. I don’t even take it off automatic because the conditions are so great here and I can click while I’m walking. By golly I found the I-phone hard. Every time having to take it out, open the screen, having to stop still to click, no looking through the lens. And then of course the phone battery started running low from all the extra use.

So in this town hot and sweaty at 4 pm I set about trying to sort this issue. No one had an international adapter! After a phone call with mission control (husband) we worked out that the fuse on the adapter was missing … back to the hardware store. He sent me to a workshop … something to do with electrics. They couldn’t help me because the fuse wouldn’t activate without a cap on it, I’d lost that too. Mind you this was all with hand gestures and google translate. In the end I asked if he could swap the power cord plug from Aussie to Euro … bingo. My problem was solved and that was no mean feet in the small town. I was quite chuffed with myself.

With every day I leave behind I’m getting closer to Santiago where we will receive our compostella for hiking the camino. I’m also excited to be finishing this One Girl project. It’s been such an amazing experience and without a doubt it has made my camino experience. It’s what brought me here!

If I don’t reach my fundraising goal I’m cool with that. I’m already so happy about how far I took this. Walking the hike was never what frightened me, it was putting myself out there to find a way to build something that would create change for girls in Africa.

With enough funds raised to educate 23 girls I’d say this project was a success. Now to wrap it up gently this week. To tie the laces and clear the path for what comes next.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from El Acebo – Day 21

Back in the mountains! Apparently the camino will make you cry the books said. For some those tears may be sad tears and they may also be happy tears. These mountains they bring me so much joy, a joy that’s so profoundly deep I feel sad and happy and love, mostly love. And the gift of those feelings – tears.

Days on the Camino – 21

Kms – Today 30 kms.

Starting point today – Santa Catalina, Spain.

End of the day – El Acebo, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 23

Total funds raised so far – $6995.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $695 to go!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – My brothers. Both of you. I love everything about the childhood we shared, the fun, the fights, the games and the fact that you always trusted me – your big sister. You’ve both grown into bloody good men and I treasure being an aunty to your kids and a sister to your wives, even though I’m crap at birthdays and such things. I’d like to say I’ll get better at that but I’m sure that won’t happen.

Accommodation – No booking today! We chanced it (with Ansett, Aussie joke). Since Leòn there are many more villages and accommodation choices. León is a popular starting point for many with its 311km route into Santiago. We walked straight into a twin room in this mountain town at 1,000 metres altitude. (€22.50 each with breakfast).

Food highlight – Yesterday we didn’t eat enough! That always results in tiredness. So today when there was toast on offer at our albergue we started the day with the mandatory banana plus toast and coffee. I would have preferred a few eggs but the simplicity of toast and jam was still ridiculously satisfying. You can’t always get toast here!

We decided to take the time to have lunch in the first mountain village Foncebadón in this new range we’re climbing. If you’ve ever read any camino books this was the deserted town with wild dogs that everyone feared! It’s no longer scary, it has a cool hippy vibe. There was even yoga at the albergue we had lunch. It would have been a great place to stay I think.

Oh and asparagus is showing up in the dishes instead of peppers so I guess it’s the new regional specialty. It’s quite different to what we’re used to in Aussie. I like these better, they are layered like a leek but quite sweet. And please don’t go there with the arrangement of the salad plate – I know what you’re thinking.

In a word(s) – A lucky sister.

Today we arrived at the iron cross – La Cruz de Ferro. Traditionally this is where pilgrims throw a rock brought from their home to symbolize their journey. I might not be religious but I’m a little superstitious. I brought a tiny rock from my home in Holland and my sister and I had also collected a pine cone along the way to symbolize our family home. In the summer my dad always decorates the open fire place with pine cones from the gazillion pine cones out the front.

My family was on my mind today. Not my little people and my great love, those crackers are fine at home with said great love; their super dad and my super husband. I’ll see them all every day again soon and we’ll be having pjs and all day couch cuddles. No, today the family I grew up in was on my mind.

I presumed if I missed a family I would miss my own but today it was the family on my mind that I missed. I even shed a tiny tear, don’t worry it was a good tear, a happy tear. It shows how much I love them and it reminds me that we’re still very connected and I need them … even with the distance between us.

We had a late start this morning eating breakfast before we started and ‘what’s ap’ing’ our brothers. One brother each. I know they would love this walk. Perhaps this beautiful gift of freedom, of being small in a big beautiful world and the simplicity of this life reminds me of my childhood. That time when you are lost in your head without a care in the world. Where you’re closest to yourself and your siblings are your best mates and your parents are your everything.

Here I am climbing mountains with my sister and today I wanted to feel close to my brothers and my parents. So I did. I thought a lot about them. People are walking this trail for many reasons. Some, like me come without expectations unsure of what the trail will offer them but open to what finds them. This day surprised me.

I’m not sure what the point of this story is. So I’m struggling to conclude it! But I need to sleep so I have to. As this camino continues the things that are surfacing are not things I’ve thought a lot about so the writing is getting harder. Simplicity, slow days, transition, letting go, gratitude I can write about those thoughts till the cows come home – those lessons I’d learnt before the camino, are well practiced in my life and they’re easy for me to spot with analogy’s.

This one is something bigger. I suspect it’s to do with a story I heard on this camino of why a family it walking towards this cross. So I’ve laid it out here briefly and now I will let it sit.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Santa Catalina – Day 20

After a few days of walking along the roadside we are again walking in the countryside under the shining sun. We have two parts to our day, the walk (6-7hrs) and our afternoon of rest. After walking on concrete yesterday our feet were a little tender for today’s walk. As was our afternoon, tender because one of us is missing.

Days on the Camino – 20

Kms – Today 28 kms. 200 and something to go!

Starting point today – Hospital del Órbido, Spain.

End of the day – Santa Catalina, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 23

Total funds raised so far $6995.00!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – Last night I put out an invitation. I asked if anyone might be interested in educating One Girl and in turn I would also educate One Girl. I woke up to find that my friend Rory A.K.A @samedog said yes! He also created a character especially for the occasion.

My creative, wise friend with a nomadic soul and a wandering spirit I’m deeply touched by your kind and generous gesture. I have matched your donation and now we stand with 23 girls guaranteed an education next year. How amazing is that!?

I have no doubt you’ll find yourself on the camino one day and I look forward to more of our long chats before.

For more of samey’s creations you can pop in here.

AccommodationAlbergue el Caminante a twin room with ensuite (€20 each). Beautiful village, outdoor terrace, perfect to chill the afternoon away (with feet elevated).

Food highlight – Tonight’s pilgrim menu had a delicious chicken soup. You could taste how made it was.

In a word(s) – Tired must siesta tomorrow.

When I set out on this long walk I didn’t plan to document it in this way. I planned to write a journal. I wrote the first two days in my journal and found that this worked better for me. Here I am 20 days in with a post published each day!

I’m struggling to write today and to be honest I’m having a little writer’s block/fatigue so I’m going to adopt a little Elizabeth Gilbert and know that done is good. I’m excited and committed to what comes from this writing discipline. The joy of his space has been an added, unexpected bonus of this adventure.

We’re missing one of our own today as he had to head back to León for some medical treatment. Of the hundreds maybe thousands of people on the trail there are those that become your camino family.

We’re not always in the same town or at the same meals but our paths continue to cross. And at each crossing our friendships deepen. When someone isn’t walking we all feel it. If you’re reading this little brother we’ve only adopted your brother temporarily until you’re back on the trail. He might start making us have all the ‘true’ camino experiences otherwise. And frankly we’ve become used to our luxuries.

We spend the afternoon with our adopted bigbrother allowing it to pass by. We sat in the sun and watched the walkers and cyclists either stop for the day or continue to walk on. This village up high is like a ski resort in summer, full of adventurous types of all ages and nationalities.

We were delighted when we saw the ‘flouros’ walk in. A couple of Italian friends who always arrive in the very late afternoon in their marching flouro gear. Can you spot them? I’m not sure I’ve mentioned them yet.

Our host picked us some wild flowers with the most delicious smell and proudly gave all her guests a twig. It was one of those beautifully rich gestures and it stirred me to get writing.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Hospital del Órbigo – Day 19

Walking a camino is about forward motion. Waking each day and moving. As we walk we put distance between where we’ve left. It seems that even those resting injuries tend to hop on a bus to move forward rather than staying put. While the previous town is in the past some of the friends we meet along the way are still very much in our present. In a small make shift cafe on the outskirts of León we stopped to order a coffee and guess who was ordering their morning cups of tea? Those wise Danes! We haven’t seen them for a few days. Can you believe the coincidence of that?? We shared our cuppa’s together of course bid each other farewell and Ultreya, again!

Days on the Camino – 19

Kms – Today 36 kms. Under 300 to go!

Starting point today – León, Spain.

End of the day -Hospital del Órbido, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 21

Total funds raised so far $6,340.00 ($260 away from 22 girls). If anyone wants to meet me at an education – let’s do it $300 each.

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – Last year we campervanned around Europe, free ranging and living the dream. Along the way I hooked on instagram with Lix of Us and the big wide world. I know social media gets a lot of stick but used intentionally we can meet all sorts of wonderful people. People that can make a profound impact on our lives!

I invited Lix and her family to stay with us with their camper before they returned to Australia. I can firmly say it was like we’ve known each other forever! Bugger all the naysayers – as long as your trying to build something authentically then you will find something real in this online space.

One night on the couch I confessed to Lix that I am great at dreaming but nervous about standing up so publicly. She simply told me I needed to follow through. And so I did. It’s been an amazing ride and I am so grateful to you for that conversation. Look where we are. I can’t wait to visit you in Tassie one weekend in the future so the ten of us can pick up where we left off!

Accommodation – Tonight we are trying something else new! We are in a B & B (€20 each). The.Best.Shower.Ever!

Food highlight – Hands down – the buffet breakfast. We did make sure we packed snacks … we did not want this going to waste. I’m eating a lot of eggs this trip!

In a word(s) – A day of digging into the grit stores.

Moving forward is not about forgetting where you come from. We can’t leave that behind. It’s part of the tapestry of who we are. But sometimes we need to expand beyond who we are … when the time is right. We’re called to it. It’s about stepping up into our lives.

To expand there is only one way to go. Yep you guessed it – forward. Sometimes we have to leave people and some of the ideas about what we can and can’t do behind. We have to find our own way markers and find a way to be comfortable walking with them.

What drives me forward? Regret. I don’t want to live a life with regret. It easy to get comfortable and pretend we ‘have’ it all. But then what? When the time comes that we start looking back … will we be happy? Content?

Did we give our lives our best shot? Were we too busy accumulating that we forgot to live? Did we listen? Did we care about what mattered more than what didn’t? Did we value our heart? Our spirit?

Did we take that trip we always wanted to do? Write that book? Lobby that politician for change? Move interstate because we dreamed of a different kind of life? Take care of ourselves because we love ourselves enough to? Were we the mother, father, wife, husband, partner, friend, daughter, son that we should have been? Moving forward today what matters?

This chapter of my story still has life but it’s drawing to its natural close. You can betcha I’ll take the best bits and the best people forward with me. Where to? I don’t know … that dream hasn’t arrived yet. But my inner confidence is building. I have just about walked a camino and ensured that 21 girls have an education next year. The nervousness I had about this age, this phase of life is dissipating – fade to invisibility with regrets? Bugger that.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from León – Day 18

You never quite know when the next village or city will show itself on the camino or what it will look like, big or small, declining or regenerating or even if it will be open or closed. It’s usually the church that shows itself first, towering up above the city. León arrived through the trees from 950m altitude. It was an exceptionally glorious arrival, complete with a backdrop of snow topped mountains.

Days on the Camino – 18

Kms – Today 20 kms. About 458kms down … 311kms to go.

Starting point today – Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain.

End of the day – León, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 21

Total funds raised so far $6,340.00 ($260 away from 22 girls)! 

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – Kirsty Bowlay you are so special! Another mother who I’ve never met. I was reading the comments on my Insta page the other day and realised Kirsty made her donation as a 60th birthday gift to someone special. I’ve never met Kirsty IRL! I think this is such an incredible beautifully layered story that makes so many people feel joy and ultimately gives a young girl without an opportunity a chance. Kirsty honestly this blew my mind in the best possible way. Thank you.

Accommodation – A hotel treat night! (€39 each, €44 with breakfast).

Food highlight – This tasty paella served with a beer. It’s kind of hard to get your head around having to buy a drink to get food. The beer prices are more expensive so you do pay for your food. When you’ve walked all morning it’s kinda hard to drink from early in the afternoon. We had a beer and this paella and then it was closing time so we walked to find a meal. Of course at 4pm it’s siesta time so we had to settle for a tourist restaurant … queue crap pasta! Dinner is fruit and yoghurt in the hotel room. Unlike other tourists we’ve got 32kms to walk tomorrow ;)

In a word(s) – Joyful .

Today I realised I don’t always take my pack off to go to the toilet! It has become a part of me. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I also learnt a neat trick to wash clothes. While I had mine soaking in the bathroom sink. Alan (the younger half of the Texan brothers A team) tells me he starts his shower with his clothes on and washes them while he’s wearing them! Genius!

It was a rest day here for us. We have taken a break in the ancient Roman city of León after only hiking 20kms in this morning. We seemed to get our times all wrong so we were completely out of whack with food service and siesta times. In true slow travel style we didn’t push to see it all – we’re too buggered to take it in plus we’re getting around in socks and sandals. I’ll come back with my family one day.

You know I’m always saying there’s 101 ways to do a camino! Well here’s a marathon guy who is running the camino and we have seen him run past us as we’ve hiked into every big city. Pamplona, Burgos and now here into León. Kind of bizarre timing right.

That’s life on the camino. There’s always someone you know or know of just around the corner. The Irish serenader from yesterday’s cafe well he was also singing in this morning’s cafe! He’s a Dubliner who said to me ‘why wouldn’t you be singing – we’re on the camino’. I can totally relate to his feelings of joy, I’ve got them too. This afternoon we ran into a few of our favourites in León and enjoyed chilling the afternoon away.

As gloriously as León arrived tomorrow it will be 30kms behind us. Will I remember the hard work of walking into this city on one of the first routes that was along the road? Will I remember that once we made the outskirts we still had another 2 kms on empty stomachs and sore feet to walk? Will I remember that all my food dreams didn’t quite eventuate?

Probably not. I’ll remember the absolute breathtaking sight of spying León through the trees and the beauty along the way that caught my eye that I hope I’ve captured through my lens. The characters, the textures, the vibrance of nature’s colors, the sights and sounds that make travel and hiking so exciting to me.

Another day on the camino – a gentle reminder that what looks like a fairytale doesn’t always eventuate into one. And that each day has hundreds of moments and choosing the ones we focus on … well that’s where to find a beautiful life.

Stories inspired by travel and life from the verdant Dutch Village we currently call home.

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