Tag Archives: challenge

Writing from Grañón – Day 9

Two maps because my watch went flat!

Isn’t it incredible how our bodies can adjust? In just 9 days we’ve walked over 200kms. Initially once arriving at our accommodation all we wanted to do was kick our shoes off, desperately! Now not only do we not need to do that but we also can walk comfortably up and down the stairs. No more DOMS.

Don’t get me wrong when we are walking during the day something can randomly begin to hurt but my body seems to be finding it’s rhythm – 30kms is still my max.

Days on the Camino – 9

Kms – Today 29 kms. Our total is now around 230kms.

Starting point today – Nájera, Spain.

End of the day – Grañón, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. 

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 – Mum and Dad. Ria and Frank. You taught me to be adventurous, strong, resilient, creative, capable and independent. I’m not sure if that was your plan … I suspect each of you have strengths each of the above. It has served me well. I can’t help but think this Camino is something that you would have both loved for different reasons. I’m a product of both of you so I love it for what each of you would have. And so today and most days actually I walk for you two. x x

Accommodation – I think we are trying it all! We are in a small town and the option was either a donativo or private accommodation. The donativo is above the church and has a communal meal, prayers and a sacred chant. We will try one of these ‘traditional’ pilgrim style stays but after the difficult night in that dodgy albergue a few nights back we’ve sought out our own space. Tonight we have an entire casa to ourselves. Kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom (€22.50) each.

Food highlight – After walking 20kms with very few places to stop … heaven was walking into a cafe that sold a homemade burger with fresh salad and a chocolate milk!

In a word(s) – Feeling stronger.

After a week on the camino you find your pace, the people that keep your pace and your preferred mode of moving through your day. Of course we’re all moving here but we do it differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do a camino, there’s just your own way. Just like life, as long as your not hurting anyone (obvs).

Today I’m tired so I’m going to leave it here with a few photos and a quick poem.

A day of friends

Around every bend

A moment in time

That is just mine

Time to delight

In all that takes flight

Buen Camino,

Fran

Xxx

Writing from Nájera – Day 8

“Yo que fui lo que tu eres, tu seras lo que yo soy” ~ inscripted on the cemetery gates of Los Arcos.

“I was once what you are, and you will be what I am”. A good enough reason to be living today and not counting down to something in the future don’t you think. We laughed a lot today mostly at ourselves and our alternating sources of discomfort. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else though, walking is my purpose now.

Days on the Camino – 8

Kms – Today 29 kms. Our total is now around 202kms. No major ailments the legs are less stiff, feet hurt by the end of the day, no more heat rash on the feet. Just waiting for the bites to settle now ;)

Starting point today – Longroño, Spain.

End of the day – Nájera, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. 

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 – My sister for making me laugh till I cried today x 10!

Accommodation – We tried something different today and pre booked a night. We found an Albergue that has a twin room and was clean and reviewed well. (€15 each). Very happy here although it was weird knowing we had to be somewhere by a certain time or we’d lose our room! We’re fast walkers so getting here by 3pm wasn’t a problem. Tomorrow we’ll go back to rolling into town and finding a place.

Yes Liz you can pre book the private Albergue’s. You don’t pre pay but you need to arrive by 3 or you lose your room. I’ve met people who have pre booked the whole trip. Remember sprightly Carol? She did a tour last year and this year she simply booked all the same places. If you forward your bags on via transport (rather than carry your pack) you must have a place booked. It does mean you can’t change your plans on the day though. We prefer the flexibility.

Food highlight – Eating a juicy Spanish orange on a mountain top.

In a word(s) – Laughing.

It was a day of laughing at ourselves. What else can you do when at any given moment something hurts! After a sluggish start at around 20kms with new sense of vigour I announced to my sister ‘I’ve woken up’! She replied ‘the nurofen you took 1/2 an hour ago has just kicked in’. Queue another round of belly laughs.

There was a lot of walking without talking today. Most of those we passed acknowledged us with a head nod … we’re all feeling it. Not like the first few days!

I love it though. This is the guts of the walk. The time you have to dig in, it’s the character building stuff. Today I thought a lot about how unreal it is that this walk of mine with the help of so many others is going to send girls to school! Girls who without this are more likely to be married at 12. We’re sending almost a whole class of them to school. That’s so much more than any discomfort I may feel. That’s my purpose. Following on from yesterday thoughts … it’s purpose that gives me a way marker in life.

On this day of walking between vineyards, of spotting animals, lakes and ancient pilgrim hospital ruins, photographing landscape and people (pilgrims – mostly from behind). This overcast day with its fresh breeze that made walking tired so very pleasant I think of all of those who have supported this project. I walk on knowing that while I’m here walking with a purpose and I won’t have regrets.

Buen Camino

Fran xx

Writing from Orrison – Day 1

Today is the REAL beginning! It’s drizzling in this charmingly historic town of St Jean Pied de Port but our spirits are not dampened. We’re in the foothills of the French Pyrenees and there’s a spring in our step.

Days on the Camino – 1

Kms – easing in, 7.7 blister free kms.

Starting point today – St Jean Pied de Port, France.

End of the day – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 15

Total funds raised so far $4,755.00 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 – Today I stepped for my friend in Wales. Sometimes we need to take a bit of weight for each other. I admire her willingness to share her struggles and her ability to know exactly where joy lives. A beautiful and courageous woman sharing her story.

Accommodation – The refuge in Orisson €36 per night dinner, bed and breakfast. Three bunk beds per room :)

Food highlight – Lunch. Soup of the day €5 (bean I think!) with cheese on baguette made from breaky leftovers.

In a word(s) – Happily soggy

There’s a spirit in this town that has endeared itself to me. I already know I’ll be back to share it with my husband and children. Staying at our B&B there was also a French couple who had returned to St Jean Pied de Port for a visit. They did the Camino last December over winter … that’s the kind of town it is, people fondly return. Little pieces of hearts are left here. There’s a good energy vibing from that don’t you think?

The next main stop on the Camino is generally Roncesvalles in Spain. It’s 25 kms away and one of the most strenuous legs. There are two routes. This house is the crossroad where you choose. The Napoleon route to the left or along the road around to the right. Choosing the left is weather dependent and that’s the one we chose today.

We opted to stop at Orrison, the last French refuge on the ascent up through the Pyrenees (you need to pre-book this one). I had read of this refuge in Ger’s Camino blog and decided early on that if we took this route we’d stop here. One, to ease into the Camino and two because if I’m in the Pyrenees I want to see the Pyrenean sky at night, the morning sunrise and spend a few days enjoying one of my favourite mountain ranges.

My husband who is an experienced outdoorsy type joked that navigation (especially in fog) would be my only risk. Ok maybe not joked, I tend to get lost in the walking and missing an arrow is something I could definitely do. No fear I took the advise of the pilgrim’s office – this week the Napoleon route is safe (last week it wasn’t). It’s drizzly and foggy today and it felt a lot like being on the movie set of ‘The Way’. Tomorrow, for the harder part of the trek into Roncesvalles the forecast is beautiful!

We arrived at the refuge after 2 hours of hiking up the hill – nice and soggy. It was a welcome sight and the restaurant was packed with walkers. We checked in and received our little piece of gold … that token up there, the 5 minute warm shower! We were shown to our 3 bunk dorm room. The Aussie bloke who also arrived told us he has a machine to stop him snoring :), he’s not really blokey, more gentlemanly seems like a good kind of roomie. I’m the older sister so I got the bottom bunk – not sure how long I can pull the big sister thing off ;).

A warm shower, socks and sandals and a long afternoon to write my journal. I’ve also shared some laughs with my sister. There are many pilgrims around but we’re enjoying a quiet corner. It goes in waves, it’s quieter now but I’m surrounded by people meeting and chatting and it’s quite lovely to notice but I’m happy in the shadows today. If you like company or are worried about doing this on your own – don’t. You won’t be alone on a Camino! If you like quiet corners you can find them too.

Walking one foot in front of the other today was a familiar and homely feeling for me. Wandering amongst the rustic French countryside with the beginnings of the Spring blossoms and the lush green’scape of this region, even when it’s drizzly is worth celebrating.

Everyone likes to tell me it will be hard, that there will be hard days. If there are, I’ll write about them, I promise. Today I thought about hard. It’s relative don’t you think? Last night I met an inspiring woman who is back for her second Camino. She called herself elderly, I called her young. I think she’s living more than most. Her sprightly exuberance and willingness to live without excuse and regret is something that moved me a little. The friend she was due to travel with couldn’t come – she received a serious health diagnosis. That’s hard.

A steep mountain, feeling soggy and a shared dorm … that is all part of my experience. It makes the 5 min hot shower, the toasty dry woolly socks, the fresh air, the magic and peace of the mountains and the genuine comeradery amongst this crew I’m watching even sweeter!

Day 1 and I smiled inside and out. Just as another ‘one’ girl in Africa will when she hears about her scholarship! Without an education her life is hard. I also walked for her today as the tally in my fundraiser gave her that gift – thanks to some more MASSIVE generosity.

See you tomorrow from Spain.

Writing from St Jean Pied de Port. Day minus 1

Here I am! In St Jean Piet de Port the beginning of my Camino into Santiago de Compostela. It has taken me two days to find my way here and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve journeyed via Brussels and Bayonne, caught buses, trains and a plane. I’ve eaten from a French cave and dried my socks in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. My backpack has the 8kgs I’ll live with for the next 5 weeks. The simplicity of that is quite honesty one of my favourite layers of this adventure.

Days on the Camino – 0 (Tomorrow!)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Bayonne, France

End of the day – St Jean Pied de Port

Number of girls in Africa educated – 14

Total funds raised so far $4,395.00 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 – From tomorrow I’ll be dedicating each leg to someone who has or becomes a part of this journey.

Accommodation – Bed and breakfast €30 pn – traditional basque house.

Food highlight – Home-made preserved from the family ‘cave’ duck spread on French baguettes. Apéro – The French good life!

In a word(s) – Bursting with good feels

A lot of people ask about how my children feel about my adventure. They’ve sent me off adventure ready adorned with flowers from the garden, lovingly plaited wrist bands, hugs and kisses and a ‘have a good time mum’! They think I’m off to do a One Girl hike.

One Girl is a part of our family and a mum who hikes is their ‘norm’ so I like to think they feel proud. I’m proud of my mum for working hard, standing for what mattered to her and achieving her dreams.

After checking into our B&B we (my sister and I) made our way to the official pilgrim’s office to have our credential’s signed. It’s official!

The pilgrim’s office was more exciting than I anticipated. We were given a map to Roncesvalles and a list of all the towns on the way and what facilities they offered. Handy for planning food stops, cash withdrawals etc. I wanted to hug that gentleman who stamped my passport! Being on the cusp of an epic adventure is bloody euphoric.

It’s happening – it hit me there in that moment. I get to hike everyday through France to Spain and across an entire country meeting fellow hikers and travel types. I will be amongst landscapes and history my two great passions. I am lucky.

This medieval village and ancient capital of the Basque-Nevarre region is one of those delightfully charming European experiences. It serves a melting pot of nationalities and today it seemed mostly the walking types. Over dinner we chatted with an Irish couple and a Canadian lady who are here with their own stories and Camino dream.

Of course my story isn’t only about the hike it’s about One Girl. A few of my dearest have begun sharing my adventure on their SM feeds and my husband (man of few words) wrote the most beautiful call to support on his page too. I thought I could cruise now that I’d exceeded my goal of $3,000 – but where’s the challenge in that?!

In honour of this new wave of support I can’t help but want to stand a little taller for One Girl. So … I’ve come up with a new goal. It’s a 769km walk so how about $10 a km? That’s just 2 coffees right. It’s also scholarships for 25 girls, less than the average class size.

YEP! I’m dreaming larger – I’m already halfway there to $7,690 and I’m only at day one of his Camino. So spread the word – ask around see if anyone’s keen to give up a coffee or two.

Buen Camino friends I’m heading into the Pyrenees tomorrow.

F xx

Day minus 5 until Mi Camino to Santiago De Compostella. Some basics.

A few of you have asked for updates along the way and a map to visualise the route (Jolanda/Lisa/April this is for you with your morning coffee x). I will try to update daily here and a photo on my IG account if  like me hiking/travel photos and stories are your jam. It’s quite something that so many of you want to join this trek in spirit. I hope this inspires many of you to take your own camino one day ;). And if armchair travel is one of your favourite things then this is for you (dad x).

Days on the Camino – 0 (5 or so days away)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Still in The Netherlands

End of the day – As above

Accommodation – Home

Food – Getting ready to detox from winter comfort eating and maybe coffee ???

In a word – Ready

Buen Camino – You will see this in my messages with fellow pilgrims. It’s Spanish translation is ‘Good Path’ and is shared between pilgrims to express kind wishes, good luck and happy travelling.

Ultreya – A Spanish word that comes from the Latin meaning ‘onward’ and is also shared between pilgrims. Its meaning is a bit deeper – to go further, beyond.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 12

Total funds raised so far $3,620.00 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 – I’m giving this one to … each stage I will dedicate to someone who has been or has become a part of this journey.

Above is an image of the route I’ll be taking for those of you who asked and some stats I’ll be updating. My pack is packed (7.3kgs). I won’t post a ‘what I packed’ list until after … then I’ll know what I got right and what I got wrong! On that – it’ll be breathable hikey gear mostly from my mates at Wilderness Wear. Oh, one question: What do you think of a packing light summer dress? One for when we are having a day out in one of those awful Spanish towns … you know the ones awful-ly quaint. Or should I just stick it out and be a merino clad hiker type.

My route – The Camino Frances is also know as The Way of St James and begins in the French town of St Jean Pied de Port and weaves its way across to the northwest of Spain through rugged mountains, vineyards, medieval villages and vast open meadows to its end point, Santiago de Compostela. Stories of this legendary camino pilgrimage route date back to the 8th century. It is the most popular route with the best supported infrastructure into this medieval town where the remains of St James the apostle are reputedly entombed.

There are 8 main pilgrimage routes leading into Santiago de Compostela and the number of pilgrims who receive the Compostela is growing.  There has been a 15,000% increase over the past 30 years!

Here are some 2017 stats*

  • Women 49%
  • Men 51%
  • Walkers 93%
  • Cyclists 7%
  • The 30 – 60 age group makes up 55% of pilgrims, 28% are under 30 and 17% are over 60
  • 44.01% are Spanish
  • 60.04% of pilgrims walk the Camino Francés (the one I am walking)

*Statistics, including monthly breakdowns, can be found at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

Year Number of pilgrims
1987 2,095
1997 25,179
2007 114,026
2017 301,036 (summer is apparently CRAY-CRAY)

Traditionally, pilgrims took the route for religious reasons and now as writer Leslie Gilmour says ‘modern Pilgrimages seem to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in life, a time to think, and for some, a challenge.’

My journey started as that of a modern pilgrim the challenge, the adventure, a way to share travel combined with humility, the chance to be a voice for what matters and to show my kids that standing for something is important. While it is still ALL that I also feel that their is a spiritual aspect of the journey and time to go a little deeper waiting for me on the trail.

The scallop shell is iconically and anciently associated with the camino and there are many myths and legends as to why this is so. You can read more here. The shell is often painted on signs with a yellow arrow and leads the way towards Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims attached their shell to their cloaks or hats and still today modern pilgrims attach shells to their packs. My husband painted a shell on a journal for me which is how I will be honouring this ancient tradition.

My credencial (Pilgrim Record) is packed! It was easily purchased online from the pilgrim office here in The Netherlands. Along my walk this passport will be stamped in the towns I stop in overnight. Once I arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago and my credencial is authenticated I will receive my  Compostela (a certificate written in Latin confirming the completion of the pilgrimage) . Walkers need to have walked at least the last 100kms into Santiago. So I’ll be good if I walk my 769kms ;).

The only book I will be taking is John Brierley’s Pilgrim’s guide book. Whoever wants to do it after me – I’ll send it to you (keastjrI’m thinking you ;)). I don’t plan to carry other books or a kindle. I’m travelling light, in both kgs and distraction. I want to be open to the experience and use this time to practice a bit of discipline and write my own daily words (if the day allows).

As you see I am quite into honouring tradition so I will be packing a small stone to leave at the cross Cruce de Ferro. This large Iron Cross is located between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín  where it is tradition to throw a stone. This stone is brought from the pilgrim’s place of origin and it’s thrown with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey. There are of course myths and legends in regards to this tradition and you can read more here

I expect my walk to take around 30 days and each day the distance will be around 20-30 kms, some longer, some shorter. If a rest day is needed I will take it. My sister will also be on the trail. What a special experience to be able to share with her.

Mostly I expect my accommodation to be ‘refugios’, low-cost / no-cost pilgrim-style accommodations that often serve pilgrim meals. I do plan every now and then to opt for a guest house.  My food will hopefully be as seasonal, from scratch and local as available. The whole adventure is an exercise in minimalist and sustainable travel, while of course fundraising to make a difference.

I am ready!

Please let me know if there is another stat or daily tidbit you would find interesting if you’re following along! While I write mostly for myself I hope to create a meaningful record here for future pilgrims or to look back on from my armchair.

Feel free to subscribe via email (top right of the website) or bookmark if you prefer a weekly catch up.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx