Tag Archives: Women

Writing from Mansilla de las Mulas – Day 17

A good story always ends up about the characters doesn’t it? Today I met a few! It started at breakfast. We wandered in and sat down. Stevie Wonder’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ was playing. An Irish guy started singing (serenading the cafe), a French guy joined him and within seconds the table of Sth Koreans were also a part of the chorus line! Eventually the Irish guy solo’ed with ‘I’m on the camino, I’ll be home in two weeks don’t forget me while I’m gone’! We are all singing and changing words to express how we feel it seems. I don’t do it in the cafe but my sister and those endless horizons are my audience.

Days on the Camino – 17

Kms – Today 27 kms.

Starting point today – Bercianos del Real Camino, Spain.

End of the day -Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 20

Total funds raised so far $6,240.00 ($60 away from 21 girls)! 

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

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

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

Today was dedicated to – One of my little people is on the couch today. He has a fever and is a little flat. Number three, the one with all the energy and smile that comes from deep inside. I thought about you today, about what a spirited boy you are. The one who hikes up the front in our family and leads the way (after me of course. ;)). It’s not long until our summer holidays and I was dreaming about our plans to surf the North Coast of Spain. You my little guy will be in your element little grommet. Not that you aren’t everyday my sweet little all rounder. I’m so glad you have the dad you do, I know he’s taking extra special care of you. xx

Accommodation – Our first Pensión, La Pensión de Blanca. (€20 each for a twin room). The owner is super friendly, the rooms are clean and the showers are hot! Pensión’s will become a new option for us.

Food highlight – Arriving at the breakfast village to find a cafe serving local food is always a green light for us to sit down! Bacon and eggs plus toast. We have learnt to order toast as it’s not always standard with a breakfast dish. Which would be great in normal life but we need full meals.

Also I do love the odd tapa with the odd glass of red (tinto) while we are waiting for the dinner service to start at 7pm ;) lucky we had a 2 hour siesta this afternoon.

In a word(s) – Right where I am.

The conversation with these guys went like this:

‘Americano’s?’

‘No, Australians’

Lots of hand movements and either Spainish or Italian chat that I think gestured Australia is far away.

‘Syd-ney (2000 olympics style), Melbourne, Canberra?’

‘Melbourne’

Loads more Spanish or Italian, definitely kind words and lots of smiles. We don’t think they were laughing at us.

And then a ‘Buen camino’

Beauty we all understand that!

Another round of ‘Buen Camino’s’ and we walked on.

We spent a bit of time walking behind this lot. This dog is having the most fun out of anyone I’ve seen on the camino. Yes Sue you’re right, dog heaven. It was like watching a happy child play!

This local in his sneakers was on his morning walk wishing everyone who walked past him a ‘Buen Camino’. Everyday these locals must say hola, buenos días and buen camino a hundred times as pilgrims and walkers pass through their towns. We have been so warmly treated along this camino.

My best hiking mate, my little sister. My perfectly matched travel friend. We even order the same food … every time! Twinnies. Some days we walk most of the day silently, sometimes we chatter, sometimes I sing to her, she tells me I’m turning into our mum, so I stop and each day we laugh. I need to take that daily laughter back to my life! How do you laugh so hard each day without the pain and the funny ‘Cliff Young’ shuffle thing we have going on after we stop and restart again? Maybe I’m more serious at home than I thought I was.

Calle Real! Royal Street. Currently on it.

‘I can treat any pain’ her backpack sign stated. I wondered how? I’m sure it was interesting but by the time I caught this walker I was 1km away from the destination. My feet only had eyes for the Pensión we had booked and my mind was focussed on the pasta I was going to inhale. Plus I had taken a ibuprofen an hour ago!

There are a lot of matchy matchy couples walking together. They’ve obviously planned this adventure together and geared up at the same shop. Many tell me they attended a presentation about the camino. If this is something you’re interested in I’d check your local outdoor gear shop. Maybe I’ll do one one day. Perhaps my sponsor Wildeness Wear might be keen to let share how awesome a camino is at their store to thank them for their support! I’d have to move home first though.

Ps their socks are the holy grail of hiking socks. I’m not paid to say that. They were excited to be a part of a hike for charity. I’m testing some of their gear and it’s awesome and I will only buy from them in the future – no blisters and ethically made.

My favourite by day – Women’s Cape to Cape Light Hiker

My favourite by night – Women’s Larapinta Hiker

On our very first pilgrim dinner someone said the Norwegians were the ‘super’ hikers. Obvs they hadn’t met any Australian chicks ha ha. No, not really, we can’t keep up with the Germans! They are the super hikers. Geared up in their technical gear and always with the guide book in their pocket (the hiking pants that convert to shorts). It you’re at a crossroad where there is a choice of routes you better hope there’s a German – they will know exactly which way to go.

The further down the trail we go the more bikes we see. They are awesomely considerate and we share the path as comrades, even with local riders. Initially I thought I’d cycle this as it could be done in 2 weeks … I’m so glad I’m hiking it. I think you’d need to be an experienced mountain biker to do this.

Casa Pablo – Pablo’s house.

We’ve been flanked by mountains to the right as we’ve walked another 60kms over past few days. Obviously this excites me being a mountain girl at heart. I do hike those hills like a mountain goat … even my star sign is a crab! Although I did grow up climbing mountains and I love the ocean equally.

Not a day goes by that I’m not in awe of this experience and this countryside, even the times in between when we’re hiking along the roadside. It’s a stunning part of Spain.

As an Australian I believe we grow up with a real connection to our land. Perhaps also because my childhood was spend on my Opa’s farm and living amongst National parks. I’ve chatted to other Aussies who feel this. Like many Aussies my background is European so I also feel connected to Europe.

When we lived in Ireland last year I felt a deep connection to that land which really surprised me. I haven’t had that anywhere else yet and as much as I appreciate this landscape, not here.

As we head further West we will enter mountainous region of NW Spain, the Galicia and Asturias with is history of Celtic Castro’s (village settlements) … I wonder if I will feel a connection there. I will know then if my ancestry comes from the continental celts and if not, perhaps it is from vikings?

Buen Camino lovely friends, those of you who read with your morning coffee enjoy! And thanks for all those kind messages.

Fran xx

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 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.

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