Tag Archives: Mountains

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 Los Arcos – Day 6

I’ve been watching how people use their arms as they walk. Some have their hands in their pockets, some hold tightly to the straps on their packs and some swing their arms freely. I’m trying to swing my arms … when I let go of holding my pack and let my arms go there’s a nice rhythm. A rhythm that’s in tune with my legs, the landscape, the moment. I wonder if what we’re doing with our arms when we walk relates to how we do life? Gripping tightly, hiding or swinging freely and confidently – with purpose.

Days on the Camino – 6

Kms – 30 kms. Total is around 145.2kms!! I’m still blister free thankfully. The heat rash thing on feet is back … hot, long day.

Starting point today – Lorca, Spain.

End of the day – Los Arcos, 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

Kimmy, a pilgrim and friend. Someone I met on Instagram, a fellow hiker. The first person to ensure that one girl received an education and the one who showed me I could actually do this! Sometimes it takes one person to inspire us, to propel us forward beyond our doubts. Your support very early on did that Kimmy! And look where we are … on a camino with nearly 20 girls in school next year. Buen Camino friend – you’ll find your way to Santiago. xx

Accommodation – This albergue Casa Alberti in the town of Los Arcos I’m unsure of. I’ll put the name in tomorrow when we leave. It’s a bed for the night (€10) and there are only 6 of us here in a 12 person room so bonus. It doesn’t look like there are snorers, we’ve been super lucky with that. For the first time I’ve pulled the bug sheet out. Purposely bought from Travel Safe (with a discount) on account of my allergies to bites and because of its light weight. I haven’t felt the need to get it out before tonight. This place doesn’t feel loved and I just read a review from two weeks ago that mentioned bites. I wish I’d checked that earlier.

Food highlight – Ordering a local speciality and not knowing what would come out! It was an omelette with chorizo on a baguette, delish … but massive. The owner wrapped half for us to take on the road. I love that no one has taken advantage of us. It would be easy to provide crappy service because pilgrims are not returning customers … we stay one night, eat one meal, buy one coffee and we walk.

In a word(s) – Wondering how life after 30kms a day will feel.

There’s a lot of time to notice what’s happening when you walk the camino. A lot of rhythmic walking where thoughts roll in and out as opposed to round and round. People of all ages, nationalities and all with their own purpose.

The paths were quieter today. The flow of pilgrims seems to have spread out. My sister and I walked together and alone for parts. Up until lunch time we only passed four or so.

There are a few pilgrims we’ve been crossing paths with and today many appeared through the day either along the path or in the town we landed in. It’s the organic flow that happens on the camino dictated by timing, there’s probably something spiritual in that. Maybe the camino is starting to weave it’s magic on me.

Those cracker American brothers from day 3 are in town tonight making us laugh! As are our German friends the yin and yang – the pace setter and the gentle one who smells the flowers.

Earlier in the camino I chatted with a man, I’ll call him Will. Will had 20kgs on his back. His sleeping bag weighed seven of those kilos. He was puffing up the hill and he was wondering what he could do without in his pack. I remember thinking we will all learn to be lighter on this camino. We will all lose something that weighs us down and holds us back.

It’s part of the challenge. A camino is spectacularly beautiful as I’m sure you can see by the photos :) and the people are collectively the BEST people. But it’s challenging.

Physically we all have different capacities but we all push harder each day, comfort zones are pushed … I’m writing in a bottom bunk, next to a snorer zipped in a net because I’m in a dodgy hostel tonight! Because that’s how I’m doing my camino, light in my backpack and without plans and bookings but needing to be disciplined with writing. Will, he came to be less disciplined with work! Yes the camino will challenge you but it will also reward you. One doesn’t come without the other does it?

Today brought mountains to climb, fields of green and yellow, castles on hilltops, butterflies and birdsong, a wine fountain (yes, an actual wine fountain) ancient towns, deliciously simple food and people; kind, funny and gentle people. It’s not hard to swing your arms as you walk.

Buen Camino,

Fran x

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.

Life is like a Mountain Range. Peaks, Ridges, Testy Ascents and Descents, A Pass and the Joy of the Plateaus and Valleys.

My husband once said to me that it doesn’t matter that we get older, or, that a year passes as long as we can look back and see that it mattered. Life doesn’t have to be about achieving and accumulating big notable things…just that it mattered, to you, however that looks.

Just like a Mountain range, each year also has different topography. We can count on peaks, valleys, ridges, tricky climbing, plateaus and a pass. How we take the pass depends on how we wander through the year.

We can take a direct route and feel satisfied (if we’re lucky) but most of us come up against some hard ascents or descents (sometimes we’ve been there before and we didn’t quite make it or learn from it that time, we’re not always ready). If we give the time required to make those ascents and descents we will often be rewarded with peaks, a beautiful valley or a summit. The beautiful moment of a summit is important to acknowledge and worthy of celebration, of course, but, it is brief in the scheme of a year and a mountain.

We can count on with certainty that we will always need to begin walking again. We can never live in the peaks or on the summit. I’d never sleep if I was always chasing a summit or the high peaks. I do like excitement though so I’ll take the everyday peaks, some bigger than others but all meaningful if I notice them. Growth and a sustainable everyday life doesn’t happen at the top, it’s on the path towards those higher peaks and summits…that is where the real beauty is. It’s where contentment lives.

‘Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.’ – James Joyce

Of course we need to work, go to school and support our lives but we can do that with passion if we live passionate lives. To FEEL passion is to know what matters to us and to prioritise it. To dance around the lounge room, hike in the forest, swim in the ocean, cook with love, write words, grow things, meet interesting people, love people, make things, draw things, have deep conversations and to feel connected with life, with yourself. It is to have a beautiful romance with life. That’s the kind of passion that matters to me. To value it above all and to let go of what is extraneous.

I write this final blog post for the year from the plateau of a beautiful mountain in a country that ironically has no mountains. I’m sitting here for the moment as I pass through another year. I feel satisfied with all the discomfort I’ve explored, the passion I’ve given into, the summit of arriving at a destination, of starting again, the incredible achievements, the mistakes I’ve made (some repeated and finally learnt), the peaks from all the good people in my life, the conversations I’ve had, of nature doing its thing and the intensely wonderful experiences that I’ve encountered along my path this year.

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. ~ W. B. Yeats.

There’s a lot of talk about self care around the place but the greatest act of self care I think we can give ourselves is simply the space to be. In that space we are reminded of how to give to what we know is right, to feel all the feelings, to love truly – with time and presence. To put our soul ahead of our ego. To know when enough is enough, from how we use our time, to who we give it too, in taking only what we need and to contribute honestly.

As we draw closer to Christmas the the noise should soften. It’s a season to take the breaths we need. To appreciate each other and to go inward as we begin our transition into the new year and consider how we want it to look. The time to put it out there, to open up our path and to give ourselves the space to notice which way the river is flowing. That way we can ask ourselves the question ‘is the river flowing in the right direction’? It’s from there we can go forward.

I wish you all a beautiful Christmas and look forward to climbing mountains and swimming in the river of life with you all in 2018.

F x

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P.S. Sometimes I go on a you tube song journey. I load a favourite (usually Bernard Fanning) and then I let the playlist play out. At the end of my post these were playing. I haven’t heard them for ages but I don’t mind a trip down memory lane.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

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

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.

If you want to be part of the change. You can donate here if you’re inclined.

Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors:>