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Writing from Zariquiegui – Day 4

There’s a saying around here that says ‘whatever you need the Camino will provide’ and it does. Of course you have to ignore the DOMS in your legs, the old injuries that you WILL feel and the heat rash or whatever it is on your feet! Oh and you must be good with the squat … don’t worry a tree to hide behind or a path to scurry down will appear. Oh but how I’m loving all of it.

Days on the Camino – 4

Kms – kms today 30 kms. Total is around 85kms (all the maps are different). I’m still blister free but I have some weird kind of heat rash (I think) on my feet, not itchy or bothering me.

Starting point today – Larrosoaña, Spain.

End of the day – Zariquiegui, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,350.00 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’m dedicating to Martha, the super sweet young Danish girl we shared a room with last night. She was providing this past 24 hours … a meal for a fellow pilgrim who arrived late (remember Carol :)) and some expert pack adjustment that saved someone’s upper back a whole lot of wasted load bearing (mine 😉). She’s a special one and I just know this walk is going to make her one courageous and strong young women – even though she already is, she’s here alone hiking the Camino! She’ll know she can do anything after this.

Accommodation – The albergue San Andrés in Zariquiegui is another awesome hostel. It’s €11 per night (shared mixed dorms). The pilgrim meal was $11 with a choice of 3 courses, wine and served at whatever time you want to eat – that’s a first!

Food highlight – Ooh a hard one today … each meal featured the locally grown regional specialty of long peppers. Tonight’s pilgrim meal wins because … a. starving … and b. hiked my guts out today.

In a word(s) – aching and smiling equally, from the inside out – freaking love it.

Yesterday along that route we came across a man handing out brochures for an Albergue in Larrosoaña … guess where we stayed?! And it was the only place in that small town that was serving a meal and the company was excellent – the Camino provided!

At that hostel I heard a man telling his story of why he is on the Camino. There was a butterfly in it and there was an older man from across the seas telling him about synchronicity … I think I heard tears. I won’t share people’s full stories here, these are shared with pilgrims on the Camino. They’re personal and where they should stay. I do hope that man found some peace being provided with the idea of synchronicity.

We’ve now discovered these privately run albergue’s that cost €3 or so per night more than the municipal ones but have a slightly higher comfort level. We’ve also realised that hiking the extra 5 kms further along the route to stay in the small villages provides with accommodation you don’t need to leave once you stop.

The travel aspect of this trip is the walking. Those 7 or so hours I’m spending on my feet wandering through the Spanish towns and countryside. It’s such an unbelievably amazing experience to be breathing fresh air and never knowing what will unfold in that time. We plan the next destination the night before and that has worked well for us. It has provided us with the freedom to stay in today.

Today most of the day was spend walking alongside the river Arga and for the first time we hiked through a city. We laughed out loud when we realised at the traffic lights in Pamplona that as my sister stretched I was busy rehydrating from my water bladder … not standing still! The laughs with my sister have been flowing and that’s providing me with such a great feeling of fortune to be able to share this experience with her.

In the next few days we want to average about 27kms per day. We also know that we want to land, shower, wash our clothes and plonk ourselves down in the afternoons and then not move. It’s our MO. My sister reads, I write, offload my photos and catch up on my One Girl stuff. It’s providing the opportunity for a nice routine. It’s what I wanted to re-invigorate on the Camino – the non negotiable’s in my day.

A lot of socializing happens but I think I hike as I do life .. if it works like last night – great. But mostly I don’t always need it, my sister is similar. Just the same as once we hike beyond where a new friend wants to stop we say good bye and we’re careful not to try and commit to meet ups, the walk takes precedence. Meet ups will happen organically if they work. We’re walking our own walk and there’s a nice feeling of comfort in not compromising what you do and don’t need.

Currently we seem to be on par with the young Germans we started with … we’ll see if our stamina can keep up with those young guns!

Thoughts go through my head while I’m walking but not as many as I’d expect for 7 hours of it! It’s a day’s work. A day that brings, satisfaction, laughter, community and joy in its simplicity. I can’t put it into words yet but a Camino in its routines, space and community feels a lot like an approach to life?!

Writing from Larrasoaña – Day 3

Arriving, unpacking, showering, clothes washing, afternoons to write, ponder the day, share stories and relax, dinner, repack, breakfast, hiking … repeat! That about sums up my days so far on the Camino. Quite routined yet absolutely unpredictable.

Days on the Camino – 3

Kms – 28kms today = 57kms total (blister free).

Starting point today – Roncesvalles, Spain.

End of the day – Larrosoaña, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,295.00 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 Ian! We met some 15 years or so ago sitting in the immigration office in The Netherlands. We can have years without contact but always when our paths and cities collide we eat and we laugh. He has been so supportive of this trek, providing hours of PR work and life support (as required ;)). Since moving to The Netherlands he has been one of my closest confidants and biggest believers even though he lives in France. I love you my dear friend.

Accommodation – The albergue San Nicolás in Larrasoaña is a family run pilgrim hostel. It’s €12 per night, we added a pilgrim dinner here for €11 for the 3 courses. The rooms are female only which is nice.

Food highlight – It definitely wasn’t the breakfast – toasted baguettes that were so toasted I’d call them croutons! We stopped for a lunch break in Zubiri after the first 20kms – a tuna and olive empanada pie highlight hands down👌🏼👌🏼.

In a word(s) – settling in.

The Roncesvalles albergue runs like a well oiled machine. Not quite out of the mountains it sits at an altitude of 950m and is populated by 30 inhabitants! With the help of the Dutch friends of the camino who volunteer at this old monetary, pilgrims are orderly organised in from 2 and out by 8. Wake up music plays through the 200 room dorm speakers at 6.30am.

This morning we tried the pre-ordered breakfast. We had a long day of hiking ahead. We ordered it simply because of the ‘habit’ of sitting down to breakfast while on a holiday and because it was available. Note to future pilgrims walk a little on your way and you’ll find a better cafe and supermarket.

We soon realised that on the Camino sitting down to breakfast is a quick affair. Walking is what we get up to do, however you do you camino. While I carry my pack some opt to forward theirs on with transport to their next accommodation and this gentleman opts for a trolley for his bigger pack! I prefer to carry mine so we can decide on the day or during the walk where we will stop, but I have a time luxury, a strong(ish) back and my age helps.

I also like the idea that it feels like a day’s work! Good old fashioned hard work. Moving my body beyond its comfort zone and making it stronger. There was a time when we all would have moved and carried heavy things. That’s what I’m telling myself ;)

There was a lot of one foot in front of the other today and the ever present friendliness on the trail. I think walking your own pace is important and your own way … but sometimes when you meet someone who’s pace matches and the conversation is good and it works it’s awesome.

I think we’re beginning to build our Camino family. Tonight we caught up with the sprightly one (Carol) and said goodbye as we plan to go further tomorrow. It struck me over dinner as I spoke with Manuel (7th Camino) with his Spanish and my non Spanish how completely surreal this environment is. You know how kids love school camp? I think this is like that and as adults we’ve forgotten how fun school camp was!!

While the routine of how we start and finish the day each step, each climb, each corner brings something new. As we trekked away the snow topped mountains and through the rolling hills of the Navarra region we met the spring. We walked through farms, towns, plains, across rivers as we followed the Camino arrows into the realization that these days with their uniqueness will form something spectacular.

We’re going to try something new tomorrow. We’re opting for an early start with fruit (from the supermarket) to snack as we walk … we’ll stop for coffee at the first town.

The simplicity living with what you need in a pack and this minimal routine provides an ease to make these tweaks. The tweaks that improve the flow of the day, days that lead to weeks, weeks that will form the month – the walk. Each of us here will tweak different things but we will all arrive home tweaked for the better – how could we not.

Buen Camino

Fran x

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.

How to be accountable? What to write? Either be living your best life or get bored.

It’s something we all struggle with from time to time us bloggie types.

It’s not all this blogger struggles with. There’s discipline, routine and self doubt! Gosh it’s a wonder I ever get a blog post written.

Today my friend Annette of I give you the words wrote piece that I loved reading. On her way to 50 she’s writing a post a day. That’s a post a day till I hit the Camino. My friend Rory also wrote about the difference a year makes when you find some motivation.

I’m no stranger to how different one year to the next can look. I used to have a house full of stuff, I lived on a different continent, I’d never taken a serious photo, I owned a car, I’d never been on a public forum or had a social media account, never written anything other than essays at uni and all that was just a few years ago!

This year I’ve struggled a bit with motivating myself. I don’t have anything to declutter, my garden isn’t growing, my kitchen isn’t productive, there isn’t a scoby or a kaffir grain, heck there isn’t even a sour dough starter on my bench. Settling after long term travel, planting roots in a new country has had its challenges. I’m not good at writing about negatives so where is my fodder for inspiration? I’m not doing a great deal of little interesting things with my time (there was a difficult situation that sucked a bit, no a lot of my energy but that’s for another story).

Perhaps I’ve taken slow living too far, it certainly feels a little slow around these parts, can that be a thing? Yes, I’ve walked a load and I have this super exciting Camino for One Girl coming up but how many training hikes do you want to read about? We are all more than one dimension. You know I can’t do instructional posts. Shoes on, open door, walk. See really not my thing!

I’m not yet feeling settled in my days, in this new life and I haven’t found my groove. I am very happy and appreciate to be here of course but I need to work on that feeling home feeling. There is an upside to feeling unsettled! Boredom has served it’s purpose and here I am lining up my ducks, finding somewhere to land. Calling myself to action.

What Annette reminded me was that it matters that I write. It matters to me. I don’t need to produce anything … I don’t have to write a book and blogging will never pay me but I do have to show up. Here. Yes, I need to continue showing up here. Playing around, following what makes me curious, changing up what doesn’t work, allowing my writing about life to evolve in whatever direction the wind is blowing me at the time.

Rory reminded me to give myself permission that it’s ok to want something more. All my kids are at school now and I admit I do want something more. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I need more … the days are long on my own. I have the space to create something. I don’t think this bloggie place will provide that opportunity. But it will provide the place to write myself into an opportunity and a more grounded daily life.

A blog or a journal is a place to lay it out. To slowly grow something through words. Something you ask. What something? In my experience a direction, a flow, a community, an investment in one’s self. Taking the time to examine and share takes guts … guts makes you stronger and from there things happen. Then the right people start turning up.

For me blogging can be a place where thinking out loud and documenting creates the foundations for something grand. A grand adventure in everyday life. A journey of sorts. An exploration from what’s in here to what’s out there. The impetus to get stuff off the ground or out of my head and into my life.

Ok Annette I’m with you. Let me combine my love of travel, nature, adventure, history, the simple life and photography with some non-exhaustive writing. Something good for me and if reflective words are your thing, also for you lot. And Rory, you’re damn right. One year is a long time. I have a year till 1-4-2019 and I want to make something and to be somewhere else professionally.

Poetry. I’m going to write us some poetry. Not to become a poet but to find my way forward.

In my life I’ve written 3 poems (the third one today, it’s published below). It’s been on my mind to dabble in it. My dad has an unexplored talent and there’s an Aunt also – they are both wanderers too. I have a suspicion that wandering, observing and reflecting lend themselves to poetry writing.

Where do I start? Who should I read? Can a rebel take on something with rules? Any blogs I should follow? Let’s see shall we.

Today’s poem, titled Daffodil was inspired by my morning walk as we mini break this Easter in London. London in Spring is spectacularly refreshing. The photos in this post all come from this morning’s wander. I even shared it on my IG because I’m not going to be afraid of putting myself in the ring. If we don’t try, nothing will ever change right? Going live keeps me accountable – now to find the discipline and routine …. something for me to play with during the long days of substitute teaching perhaps?

Did you know the Daffodil comes from the genus Narcissus. A word from Greek mythology. Narcissus quite taken with his own image leant into a pool to take a closer look at his reflection. He fell in, drowned and turned into a flower. Poor Narcissus. I also coincidentally read The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) this week speaking of tragic stories of narcissistic young men.

Eeek, I don’t want too stare to hard at my reflection … or think too long about my reflecting – I don’t want to drown. Yes, something positive must be the fruit of reflection.

It was the Romans who brought the daffodil to England. And now this delightful flower, humble in its needs is the joyous sign of the impending spring.

So here is my poem for the week. The first installment of my non-exhaustive writing challenge:

Daffodil.

Gently arriving to restore the poetry of spring to our days.

A prelude to the promise of long days and warmth from the sun’s rays.

Inviting the end to the harshness of winter’s final haze.

Magnificent daffodil inspiring more than a lingering gaze.

~ Frances Antonia.

It was a whimsy idea. It’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting … like an ALIVE version of me.

After some time looking inwards with some heavy feels … it’s time for outwards, where promise (whimsy) lives. There’s only one way to get to whimsy-land and that is to step into action – the motion that that moves life forward.

I took this picture in a small village Benagéber on our way into Valencia, Spain whilst travelling last year. It was the backdrop to where our camper was parked for the night. (All the photos in this post are from that overnight stopover.)

The image struck me as the perfect analogy of where I was sitting in life. The Yin and Yang. Looking up and looking down. The beauty of the poppy blossoming because it is loved from both extremes, the earth below and the sun above. A symbol of being grounded yet free to dream.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the contrast that draws me back to this photo and this pivotal moment of my travels. I keep coming back to it as I try to figure out why a few things in my life that seem and are more complicated than they should be.

At the moment I took this shot my thoughts were about finding a way to tame (moderate) the nature I was born with. This nature that sees me leap into adventure, change and of starting new things. The nature that makes it hard for me to sit in the middle. The nature that makes it hard for me to write and live in stories that have passed because I’m generally already moving forward. The same nature where emotion and heart drives me and as a result can see me focus my attention in an all or nothing way.

I’ve spent a bit of time inwards lately, reflecting. Which is a space I spend a bit of time in. The problem is I’ve been getting stuck on a few things. Do you know that feeling? When whatever it is you’re thinking about seems to go in a circle and you find yourself repeating the same story. The broken record. Slowly you start to bore yourself and probably others with it? And you don’t get much done.

This morning a friend wrote to me and in her message she talked about her grandparents. How the highlight of their day seems to be their stories of nostalgia.

It struck me that my stories of nostalgia are the ones where I’m looking outward, looking for what I can do from where I am and where whimsy is the order of the day. The times when I move and step into action with nothing but a dream or a spark of curiosity. Where the people I’m surrounded with are also in a forward motion (or looking for it).

I’m a crab so I’ll pull up my shell when the pressure builds or there is drama or conflict encroaching into my environment. I can’t compartmentalise emotions that easily, so I retreat. (Don’t try calling me in this phase, I probably won’t answer the phone – please don’t take it personally.) I think getting lost inwards is an important part of figuring out where I need to take a step in and when to take a step back or if it’s time to step out. It’s also an important place to peel back the layers we don’t need and to remind ourselves of what’s important but it’s not productive to hide for too long. There is an inward phase use by date and my current one is up – the broken record story was my BIG hint and I haven’t packed my pack!

A few little stories this week have reminded me to step out of the boring story I was playing over and over and step into a more whimsy one. The kind of story that is responding to kindness, trust, honesty and those good vibrations that come from the place and people that are lined up with my values.

Sharing your vulnerability and self with others. This week two other mums who are also navigating settling into a new country told me they cried because they also feel the lack of confidence that comes with starting from scratch (again). How much easier is it to make a new plan when someone understands you, when you’ve shared your deep secret? When you don’t feel so alone. Sometimes we are flying and sometimes we’re floating and sometimes we are sinking. It really is important to listen and share – you never know who needs a life vest.

Paying close attention: I had a few farming related conversations this week. It appeared I was yearning to wear gumboots and get some dirt under my fingernails. I think a few people were in my orbit last week for the simple reason that I needed reminding of that! Thank you FARMHERS. A little research and I’ve uncovered an organic farm a close cycle from home. Tomorrow I have an appointment to meet the farmer who welcomes volunteers on his farm.

New perspectives: This is one of the joys for me about moving into a new community (it is also equally one of the hard things). Eventually the time comes and you meet new people who feel like long lost friends. Last week we had dinner with some new friends and how refreshing are new perspectives and new ideas about life? It’s easy not to step out, it’s much easier keeping your world relatively homogenous to your own but gosh it’s reinvigorating to get some new thoughts on the table. To enter into a new friendship and get to know someone is quite uplifting.

Acknowledging something special: This morning a spontaneous unplanned conversation happened. A conversation with someone who had read my blog and sat with me to share a moment and talk about it. Genuinely and kindly … and for the first time I didn’t cringe that my words are out there in my immediate face to face world. For those of you who have been around a while you’ll know that this is growth! In fact, I put them out there gently (courageously) last week via a link in my email signature. Writing words connects us with good people and in my case it is the often one of the ways that brings kindness and unexpected connection to my day.Truth.

The One Girl Camino is my new story in motion. It was a whimsy idea. It came about after the crab shell went up because I was disillusioned with how travel is sometimes shared online and some deep consideration and questioning about what I wanted to contribute. Calling BS on what isn’t right, finding a voice and giving a shit about stuff that matters is also a thick thread I want to continue weaving into this one life of mine. This project is a new direction for me; it’s crazy, extreme, adventurous, scary, exciting and basically all the things that make me feel like an ALIVE version of me.

Today the poppy photo has a new meaning for me. Perhaps I was wrong the first time. Maybe my challenge is not to moderate myself … but to trust a little more in the wildness of my extremes and where they land me. It is that wildness that creates the nostalgic moments in my life. To live in an evolving story – that’s important to me. Did you know my nickname as a kid was ‘poppy’? Dolly in dutch, there’s some nostalgia.

Everyday stories no matter how tiny the moment are part of the biggest adventure story of all. The one where we weave in all those  moments of meaning into our life. The sweet interactions between feeling and noticing and action and moving forward. The moments that provide the people, paths, choices and chapters for our novel. The fodder for what in the future will be our very own library of nostalgia. No doubt this will be one of the things I’ll be musing over as I walk the camino looking outward at the wonder of Green Spain.

Thank you Brydie for being the muse for my words today ;).

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

Do you want to hike for one girl too? Join us here on the women who hike team.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship