Tag Archives: One Girl

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 Lorca – Day 5

As each new day unfolds on this walk across Spain it’s bringing a new landscape to my life. There are the physical ones I’m walking into, the mistakes we make that we will tweak tomorrow, the unbelievable swell of support from women around the globe who are right here walking with me and standing with me to support One Girl. And then there’s relationship with my sister – I missed her today as we wandered a little way apart. She’s my Robin or maybe I’m the Robin depending on who’s Batgirl at any given moment.

Days on the Camino – 5

Kms – 28 kms. Total is around 105.2kms!! Yes we’ve cracked the first 100! I’m still blister free. The heat rash thing from yesterday is clearing or it’s no worse. My feet are sore, naturally.

Starting point today – Zariquiegui, Spain.

End of the day – Lorca, Spain .

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,950.00. 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

A friend in Bendigo with a gracious heart, a kind spirit and a wise soul. My friend Selene whose heart is a little broken. Today was always going to be a walk for her and this morning we walked up the hill to these bronze statues representing the pilgrims of the Middle Ages. On which one has this engraved:

Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas which translates into English as where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars.

My friend who reads here will know the serendipitous nature of me walking into this moment on her day of being in my thoughts. It’s in the wind dear friend I hope it hugs you.

Accommodation – The albergue La Bodega del Camino in this medieval like village in Lorca is ticking all our boxes. A double room in this hostel is €20 per night! So rather than €9 each for a bunk we have a double room with doors that close (currently introverting in here – we all must be ok with knowing what we need right ;)). And now we have a new accom option when they arise – the private room amongst the dorms.

There is a bar and restaurant here with the option of the pilgrim meal or an a la carte menu. Also handy drying racks on the balcony and loads of them!

Personally we are quite enjoying longer walks, less breaks and arriving at the albergue’s in the early afternoon (we must have a meal/break between 15-20kms). The showers are empty, the beds are free and the afternoon becomes ours. That’s our Camino way.

Food highlight – Local peppers are no longer on the menu … but for lunch today was a massive bowl of spag bol was! After 28 odd kms and no lunch stop – I inhaled that!

In a word(s) – Blissfully tired and NOT getting off this double bed! A self catered €6 dinner is taking care of that, thanks sister.

It was a social trail today! Remember German Lucas from Orisson, day 1? Well as it turns out he wasn’t walking with his dad. He was just sitting with a guy who looked like his dad and they’d met on the Camino. He is on the left and man he sets a cracking pace! I hope my kids at 23 are independent enough to walk a Camino on their own. Lucas is meeting his mum further down the path to walk into Santiago with – how special!

And on the right is Mark he also German and excellent at identifying wild herbs. He was walking with Gunther in a past photo remember the gentleman pulling the trolley from day 2? We’d never spoken until today and I presumed Gunther was his dad, it turns out he isn’t! They had also met on the Camino. It seems I make a lot of presumptions.

We walked about 20kms with these guys and as they settled for a break in the town of Cirauqui. My sister and I were going to push on but first I had a brief chat with Miriam. A Dutchie who does a part of Camino each year. Each year for 10 of the last 14 – she started in Amsterdam. No, I’m not joking she started in Amsterdam 14 years ago. How’s that! And guess what else? She lived right near where I do now in The Netherlands! Coincidences of the nicest kind.

To exit the town of Cirauqui you walk under a Roman Arch and along a Roman road to exit. Off we marched the two of us, Batgirl and Robyn with our big grins. We made a BIG mistake here. We’d walked through the town – the one we planned to have lunch in and instead of going back under that Roman Arch to find food we walked on. We couldn’t be bothered turning around but we could be bothered to tackle the next 5.5 kms! Nuts. That was 22 kms without a stop other than a coffee in Puente la Reina, (home of the famous ‘Queens Bridge’ that was built to support the safe passage of medieval pilgrims) and our breaky of boiled eggs and fruit!

No surprises then that when we made it to Lorca after a good 27kms we dropped our packs – SPENT and done for the day!

But what a day it was – we walked into a new landscape where the vines and olive trees grow, where the thyme grows wild and along the way we passed through medieval villages, walked on Roman roads and crossed Romanesque bridges built for pilgrims of the past. And BOY did we laugh at our bodily woes, my sister and I.

On this day we also clocked over the first 100 kms of hiking and another two girls will receive an education thanks to some more unbelievable family generosity. The global community of global women continue to fill my inbox with heartfelt messages of support, hope and kindness … the Camino is providing or is it life that is providing???

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Today a new blogger started following me and she just started a blog (with this quote). I don’t know her, I don’t think I do … but I like that she’s started a journey. That’s where it all begins …

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 Roncesvalles – Day 2

My first pilgrim meal. My first night in a dorm since … actually I don’t even remember. A sunrise reminiscent of those East Cork mornings and a day of mountain magic!

Days on the Camino – 2

Kms – 17.1 kms = total 25.1 (blister free).

Starting point today – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

End of the day – Roncesvalles, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,255.00 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 husband in The Netherlands! This kind of hike with 4 school age kids is not possible without some selfless support. I am where I am because that incredible man is a dream nurturer.

Accommodation – The refuge in Roncesvalles is an old monastery. It’s €8 per night, we added breakfast €5 the one with fruit added and €10 for the 3 course pilgrim dinner. Two bunks per cubicle – I’m on the top bunk tonight ;).

Food highlight – Oh this is a hard one! The 3 course pilgrim meal last night was pretty fine – but the breaky . A bowl of coffee and two pieces of leftover baguettes from dinner toasted with jam.

In a word(s) – Bursting with amazement.

My first pilgrim meal was a three course family feeling affair in this French auberge at Orrison. At around 6 pm the tables were pulled together to form long shared dining tables … hogwarts or Henry the VIII style. I’d have to come out of the shadows and my corner table for this one. Time to join the pilgrim community ;).

After a deliciously simple 3 course dinner of soup, roast pork, beans, veggies and rice pudding we had to follow a ‘pilgrim tradition’. We had to introduce ourselves, our nationality and our purpose for walking. I actually ended up finding this more enjoyable than fearing it. Standing up in front of 30 strangers talking about myself is pretty nerve racking for me.

There are sisters walking, solo walkers, repeat walkers, mother and daughters walking, many ‘transitioners’! That’s a thing – people moving from work life to part time or retirement life.

There was also 23 year old Lucas who has just finished studying and is doing a Camino before he starts his work life. I think he’s going to be well equipped. Do you want to know something really cool? He’s doing it with his dad who having just finished his work life is seeing walking to see what’s next!

Sleeping was fine for those of you who cringed at yesterday’s post … happy to report there were no snorers in our dorm :) we got lucky. Not everyone was, the lovely British mother and daughters team shared stories of snoring woe over breakfast. They’ve checked into the hotel here tonight. If they’re lucky they’ll meet the Brilliantly inspiring Canadian lady I met the first night (the sprightly one, remember her?). She is staying there tonight I recall.

There are plenty of different ways to do a Camino friends! Plenty of ways to mix it up. I must admit I didn’t sleep the whole night, I think that will take time to ease into. Or maybe some longer hiking days.

We awoke to that sunrise I stopped overnight for! What a treat. You know it’s going to be a cracker of a day when you wake to a sunset like this … and it was. Choosing the Napoleon route to walk into Roncesvalles was the right choice for us. We hiked in sun, alongside snow, under the trees on all kinds of trails, surrounded by magnificent wonder as far as the eyes could see.

There was a point up on the mountain where we stopped for a break when Sally from the UK and Melinda from Canada approached me. At last night’s pilgrim dinner where they heard about my One Girl walk and they wanted to be a part of the change! They donated to my fundraiser and we talked girls education. I walk with spring (the season) but can I tell you this absolutely overwhelmed me. I had not expected this.

In a day many things can happen. On this day on the Camino in the vast beauty of this Pyrenean mountain leg, the hiking built strength, the community build hope, the space built the courage to be and the time with my sister built joy. Not to removed from the good things in normal life hey?!

Speaking of good things I thought I’d detox from coffee but it’s quite a simple pleasure on a Camino and in life … so I’m keeping it! Although when and how I’m drinking them is different – less habit more pleasure like.

Buen Camino from Roncesvalles.

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.