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Showing posts from October, 2012

How Did the Gear Stack Up?

Before we left, I published a list of our camino gear . Now that we've returned I want to comment on how well it all did its job, and the answer is, by and large, very well indeed. There are a couple of changes I will make before the next time though, and yes, there will be a next time. 1 Osprey Talon 44 pack, with hydration bladder, pack liner and pack cover This pack is brilliant. With its soft structure and plethora of overly long adjusting straps it is not the prettiest pack in the world but it is light, comfortable and robust enough for the Camino Santiago. I carried about 7 kg, which would have just qualified as carry on luggage had I not been carrying a large folding knife. Next time, I will buy the knife in Spain and mail it home to myself at the end. For checking them into an aircraft hold, I fitted the pack covers to the packs backwards - that is, over the straps - and tied them with a length of rope. It kept the straps safe from jamming in the automatic luggage syst


I didn't take a lot of photos on the Camino; as often as not, taking snaps just didn't seem appropriate, but some of the ones I did take I am now putting into my Camino posts. Actually, the pictures are a mix of mine and Clemency's. For those interested in that sort of thing, the camera I used was a Nikon Coolpix P7100 . It is an excellent camera, though very prone to water damage. Clemency began the trip using a tiny Samsung point 'n' shoot, but after a very short while put it in the bottom of her pack and used her cellphone, an HTC One V . Her results were pretty impressive. You can check our photos out by looking at the older posts, below. I hope to finish posting pictures in the next few days. And in the meantime, here are a few others: A view from the city wall, Astorga Complicated overbridge specifically for the Camino, just before Astorga local bodies take the Camino and its infrastructure and also care of pilgrims very seriously. It is, after a

You can take the bishop out of the Camino but...

We had an easier than expected flight back. Clemency sat in a wheelchair which meant we went straight to the front of the queue when boarding or going through customs, and there was always some pleasant person who knew where they were going to push her around the miles of airport corridors. We arrived home late on Thursday afternoon, and on Sunday had a pretty full day. In the morning we went to Oamaru for the 150th anniversary of St. Luke's parish, and in the evening to the cathedral so that I could dedicate the wonderful stained glass window donated to the cathedral and to the city by the Cullington family. The window is a truly magnificent piece, crafted by local artist Peter MacKenzie from Stella Cullington's ideas. Kiri Te Kanawa was the model for St. Cecilia who frames the right hand side of the window and modesty forbids me from telling you who was the model for St. Paul who stands on the left. Apart from rushing around the countryside and blessing windows and so fo

Coming Home

I'm in Kuala Lumpur, waiting for a plane to Auckland. I have texts and emails from the home, and pictures from my children waiting in Whatsapp, but none of the life I will pick up again tomorrow seems, as yet, quite real. I have been astonished at how completely the Camino Santiago de Compostela had taken over my mental processes. There is another sense that the Camino is a spiritual exercise; that is, for the entire time one is walking the Camino, one lives in the now. Every day a pilgrim lives with a long term overall goal, that of reaching Santiago but until the last couple of hours on the last day that is just some vague future possibility that you hope will one day arrive, like retirement or Christmas. Every day there is a smaller goal: that of reaching the town you have designated as the next night's resting place, but that will inevitably happen, probably around 2 o'clock and can't be hurried, so that is never much in mind either. Instead of the immediate


The trick to seeing Santiago Cathedral is to get there early. It opens at 7.00 am every morning, though it is the back doors that are open, not the big front ones. We got there around 8.15 and basically spent the morning there. The first thing for me to do was to visit the crypt and pray before the bones of St. James. I´m not entirely sure why, as readers of previous posts will know, but somehow, for me the Camino was not complete until I had done this. There in a small cellar, down a flight of steps was a silver casket containing James´ mortal remains. A young woman prayed before them and then pushed several copies of her CV through the grill to lie before the coffin. Unemployment is high in Spain, and I guess both her faith and her intention were obvious, and I found the sight intensely moving. I knelt there and remembered several things. A parish priest who, at the end of his pilgrims blessing had asked us to pray for his parish when we got to Santiago. Then a farmer tending

The Last Day

   Track on the last day I spy with my little eye, something beginning with... Waiting on the Cathedral steps... encountering angels... The final walk into Santiago was, in many ways anticlimactic. From Arca I walked in the dark along the soft earth of a path through an oak forest and began a gentle climb. By the time the sun rose the towns were becoming frequent and had taken on a particular character, that of subsidiary settlements to a large city. Around 11.00 I passed the Santiago city limits but still had 11 km to go before I hit the big smoke. Soon it was kilometre after kilometre of senda path following a straight two lane tarmac road, then an amazingly ugly sculpture on the top of Mt. Gozo, then the suburbs. I crossed motorways, walked past and through shopping centres, waited at pedestrian crossings, dodged cars on roundabouts. And without much warning, after an hour or so of suburban trudging there were the towers of the cathedral looming on my left

Why Pilgrimage?

A few people asked me before I left New Zealand how I intended to continue my spiritual practice while walking. The answer which I have arrived at over these past couple of weeks is that the Camino IS my spiritual practice. I go to mass but don´t take the sacrament. I pray daily and when I can manage, use the Jesus Prayer as I walk, but these are secondary. I repeat: the Camino IS my practice. Now I suppose I have to explain what I mean by that, and I am writing this after four hour´s walk through some very beautiful Spanish countryside and after a Spanish beer. Spain serves the largest beers in the world: ¿ will that be a bucket or a rather unmanly half bucket sir ? and today´s was the coldest in the world, I kid you not; the foam froze to the side of the glass between the bar and my table. A day or two ago I became very annoyed at some English graffiti. An adolescent hand had written on a wall, "Go home tourism "pilgrims" ". A crude picture pointed out that t


Yesterday wasn´t a great day. Clemency felt so much better that she decided to walk on, and even to carry a pack. So, we set out early from Palas du Rei and walked slowly out of town intending to stop at the first cafe for breakfast. The trouble was, we moved just a little bit too slowly and by the time we got the requisite 2 km down the road the cafe was overwhelmed by pilgrims and had put out the Sorry Full signs. So we walked on to the next one, which didn´t turn up until around 11:00. All our carefully worked out rules of hydration and nourishment were torpedoed and we paid for it. Clemency, with an amazing show of courage, walked for about 10 km before she had to sit down on a farmer´s stone wall at about 11.30 and ask a passing Spaniard to phone her a taxi. The taxi indicated it would be there at mid day, and we decided she would take the packs in back seat comfort to the next town, Melide, while I walked on. Clemency was in considerable discomfort, but I was not far behind

Palas de Rei

The Camino has a way of working things out for you. When we were trying to figure out what to do for the next few days, we met two South Africans, Shirley and Lara. A mother and daughter they had been walking for a few days and Shirley was not able to continue. So it was decided Clemency and Shirley would catch the bus to the next town and Lara and I would walk together. It worked out pretty well. Clemency made it to Portomarin with a minimum of trouble and I walked 36 km through soft forest paths, up a couple of gentle hills and through any number of delightful country villages. For most of the way I had the company of a lovely young woman who shared with me some of the reasons she is walking the Path of Miracles. The sun shone, the route was gentle and the scenery as pleasant as any we had encountered. Just after sunrise, just out of Samos About 11.00 am Lara and I passed through Sarria and past the best equipped Camino shop I had ever seen. There was every conceivable type o