Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Tuesday pm.
All back in Pamplona at Sarasatta ´guest house´ doing the normal things that pilgrims do in the afternoon. We all had a good walk today (about 22km) in cool misty weather with some sun at the end. For Durban readers it was a bit like walking in Kloof Gorge on a misty Kloof day. The temperature when we got here was about 13 degrees. Durban Liz, the plan to get nut brown is not working! The forest walking was beautiful and I think that Barbara is having such a special time as she says she really enjoys forest walking - a feature of the last 2 days. We are planning on having dinner in the main square tonight and have all probably sorted out something for breakfast tomorrow morning as we are on our own for that - breakfast not included here.

Tuesday morning

ok - Tuesday morning, and we are all up and getting ready to leave our refugio in Zubiri. After a lovely supper, 10 of us returned to our dorm like room with bunk beds to settle down for the night. BUT .... between the nearby clock that chimes twice on the hour, just in case you didn´t get the number the first time, and also chimes on the half hour, and the snoring and purring, perpetrators to remain anaonymous, we had an intereting night! but - its another walking day so we have to get up, take care of blisters or potential blisters, pack our packs and get the day on the road. We are waiting for 7am breakfast here - wonder what we´ll get? Everybody in good spirits though and lots of chirping this morning. We have an easier walk day climbing wise from the look of the route profile, but just over 20km again I think on the way to Pamplona.
will write later again .....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday - Zubiri

Hello All
Have just had our first walking day. 23 km, from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. Tough route - had a hill like the one on the 50 walk at Umhlali, and we dropped about 300m in altitude over the last third into Zubiri. But Rayna and I are fine. Carole and Kim from Jo´burg had already booked in, so after chaecking into our modern refugio, we showered and washed our clothes, hoping that they would dry quickly in the nice sun. It was cool and a little wet this morning when we left, prompting many changs into and out of our rain suits. But luckily the rain that Sil kept ´promising´held off and it was a rather pleasant day to walk in. We had agreed last night to walk when you wanted to, at the pace you wanted to, so the 15 amawalker pilgrims will arrive in dribs and drabs here in Zubiri. Some sent back packs ahead with transport, others will carry their bags, so mixed styles.
For info - the pilgrim meal last night in Roncesvalles (9 euros) consisted of pasta in a tomato based sauce with sausage bits (LOTS of pasta), and bead, then trout and chips (salad and potato tart thing for those who don´t do meat) and a yoghurt for pudding , with a bottle of read wine between 4 people. We will do a pilgrim meal again tonight where we are staying.
Rayna and I met a Romanian pilgrim, who is an air traffic controller back home, who had thought about coming to SA a few years back to work - we walked some way with him. He then went off as he was hoping to do about 40 km to Pamplona today, but found him in Zubiri at a pub (we went looking for a drink and lunch as the albergue was still closed - only opened at 13h00) nursing a very sore knee. Had a beer with him on his recommendation - and it was rather good, although I´m still not convinced that beer is something I could get used to. Rayna says the beer was good.
Anyway .... all for now. Safe and settled in Zubiri waiting for all teh group members to arrive.
Kathy >Pilgrim

Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Time to don the ALTUS rain coats. 

Lunch in St Jean

Lunch in st jean

29 May - St Jean Pied de Port

 We were collected by Caroline and another driver in two vehicles. One went straight to St Jean while ours went to the airport to collect Janet and another passenger. This pilgrim had started in St Jean and walked to Santiago and was coming back to St Jean to collect her bags which she had left at the B+B in St Jean. Poor thing was limping and using a stick - she,d hurt her knee going down the steep hill to El Acebo two weeks earlier. We chatted on the way and discovered that we knew each other through the Forum. She is Carole aka Crazy Woman from Brisbane and I had given her some advice about arriving late in St Jean and where to stay.
The road through the Pyreneess twists and turns and a few us started feeling nauseous so Caroline stopped in a lay-bye so that we could get some fresh air.
We had a lovely time in St Jean where we met Tim who had reserved our table at a restaurant. After lunch we went to the Pilgrim office to get our credencials stamped. Tim invited us to his lovely B&B Errecaldia, a wonderful place to stay if it is your first night in St Jean and you have Jet-lag or need to get over a long journey. A good place to stay is www.errecaldia.com  contact Tim at   tim@errecaldia.com
It was very hot and we we all bought ice cold water for the return trip to Roncesvalles.
We checked into the la posada and had a drink outside. Eugenie and I visited the new albergue which is quite impressive. It sleeps 170 pilgrims - 2 bunk beds in a cubicle - stainless steel kitchen, vending machines with food to heat in the microwaves, cold drinks, sweets etc.  There is a new hotel in the old monastery where I slept in crowded dormitories in 2002.  It is called the Hotel Roncesvalles and looks very smart!
We had our credencials stamped and on the way back to the Inn saw Linda sitting outside the Casa Sabina. She had walked for 11 hours from St Jean.
 We had a great pilgrim menu - pasta, trout and chips or patata tortilla and salad, yoghurt, wine and bread for 9 euro.

 After dinner we had a group briefing and finally got to bed at about 11pm. We have decided to send some stuff on to the next albergue. I have a large gift packet with presents for people along the way and Pam and I have both got large folders with paperwork to send ahead as well. Buenas noches for now.

Sunday, May 29, 2011



Pamplona to St Jean

The amaWalkers tour starts today with a trip to St Jean for lunch. We've had a great time in Pamplona and the weather has been kind to us - cool in the morning, warm by mid-day and hot in the afternoon.
We all went our own way - I met Isa at the bus station at 10am and spent the day with her. Isa and I worked together as hospitaleras at San Roque albergue in Corcubion (on the route to Finisterre) in 2009 and have lkept in touch all this time.  Isa can't speak English and my Spanish is rudimentary so we used Spanglish, hand signals and a dictionary to converse. We found two outdoor shops in Calle Mayor that sell the Altus raincoats for 35 euro - and another around the corner that sells them for 39 euro.
Most of the group met in the square for dinner and then we had an early night.
The pension Sarasate is spotlessly clean, has comfortable beds, wifi, tv, and ensuite bathrooms - 45 euro dble and 35 single.
We are now sitting in the sun in the park waiting for others to come down so that we can go to breakfast then we'll walk down to the bus station where Express Bouricott will collect us to take us to St Jean.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Hi all you beautiful people out there. We arrived in Pamplona and settled in well. We flew in from Cape Town and Turkey and Johannesburg and Durban. So far 8 of the group and Syl and myself. Today we spend in Pamplona and tomorrow we head for St jean Pied de Port with Caroline's Express Bouricott for lunch then we get taken to Roncesvalles where we will sleep and start our walk from Roncesvalles on Monday. Wow wow wow. As some of you know I have major packing issues with product and stuff , well yesterday was determined to get rid of stuff so sat for 3 hours with Syl, packing and unpacking and letting go certain crazy product and yes yes yes. I did it. Now weighing my pack at 7. 3 kgs. Unbelivable!
Love pammi

Friday, May 27, 2011

ARrived safely

The amawalkers arrived safely this morning and have settled into the Pension. A it was great to see pilgrims arriving in the Plaza and seeing the Camino signs on the buildings. We are all meeting at 6pm to visit the town and find dinner. Free day tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy to be Tourogrinos!!

First posted on amawalker.blogspot.com

Having walked long Camino routes in 2002 , 2004, 2007 and 2009 (with a long Via Francigena trek to Rome in 2006)  I think I've earned my stripes as a 'real' pilgrim.  I've had horrible blisters, black toe nails, aching back, bursitis, worn out shoes, gypo tummy and a funny summer tan.  And, I've tried to encourage hundreds of others to have the same experience!  I've organised Regional St James Feast Days since 2003, annual practical pilgrim workshops for hundreds of wanna-be peregrinos since 2004.  I've trained 26 South African pilgrims to be hospitaleros and they are serving on the various Caminos right now.
I've queued day after day with all the other 'real' pilgrims for a bed, for the loo, a shower and a wash tub to wash my clothes. I've slept on the floor on numerous occasions and have eaten frugal meals and gone to bed hungry.
Like any 'real' pilgrim, I've slept in up-market, college-dorm-like pilgrim hostels, and in basic shelters with no beds, no electricity, running water or toilets.  I've worked as a hospitalera in a 20 bed pilgrim albergue, scrubbing floors, showers, and loos and cooking meals for pilgrims every night.   Over the years I have evovled as a pilgrim.

In 2002 my backpack weighed over 12 kg. I sent 3kg on to Santiago after three days walking and struggled on with a 9kg pack. I swore never to carry such a heavy load again. In 2004 my pack weighed 7kg and I still got bursitis swellings on my collar bones and aching feet at night.

By 2006 (on the Via Francigena) I managed to get the pack down to 6kg. By 2007 it was down to 5kg and that's where it stays. No luxuries, no perfumes, no day-night creams, just 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 3 panties, bras and socks. Everything lightweight, wash 'n wear.

Now, in 2011, I'll be doing a completely different Camino, as a touro-grino! Tourogrinos are those people you see walking with little daypacks while their large pack is transported from one place to the next. I'll be sending ahead a nifty little 20 litre Sea-to-Summit pack that will carry all the paperwork, guide books etc needed for a group of 15 pilgrims. 

Tourogrinos can't stay in traditional albergues because they have their backpacks transported.  They have to stay in small hotels, inns, casas, pensions and private albergues.
They book these ahead of time which means that they don't have to scramble for accommodation, especially in the height of the summer crowds. They sleep in a bedroom (instead of a dormitory) in a bed (instead of a bunk), with sheets, blankets and pillows (instead of a sleeping bag). They have a bath or shower en suite (most of the time).
Even though I know that I might still have horrible blisters, black toe nails, aching back, bursitis, worn out shoes, gypo tummy and a funny summer tan, I  am really looking forward to this new Camino experience. I'm looking forward to sleeping in late and having a leisurely breakfast.
I'm looking forward to ambling along the paths, stopping for tea, taking time over lunch, maybe enjoying a siesta under a tree if it is a hot day; having time to wait for a church or museum to open or doing a detour off the Camino path - all because I know that there is a bed waiting for me at the end of the day.  I might even send my pack ahead on some sections. Whoopee! I'll be able to pack a few extras this time! Shampoo AND soap instead of an all-in-one body, hair and clothes wash. I might pack a little number for evening meals!  Wow - imagine that!! Its going to be a very different Camino experience for me.
I anticipate a few disapproving looks and maybe even a few disparaging comments from the first-timer, pilgrim fundamentalist! But, hey - I think I can live with those!
Most of all, on this Camino I'm looking forward to walking with a wonderful group of like-minded people who are all just as excited about this Camino as I am. We are going to take our time, share good food and wine, go on a few side trips - lunch at a typical Basque restaurant in St Jean, visit the castle at Clavijo, Las Medulas World Heritage site and watch the sun go down over the Atlantic at Finsiterre snacking on a basket of Galician Regional pinchos and wine - what a pleasure!!  I can't wait! 

Testing sending a post via email

I'd like to send short updates via email and maybe even my cell phone.  Testing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're in the final countdown

Hi All!

I just looked at my little 8 cm in diameter globe and decided that we are traveling about the same distance to get to Madrid. Then I looked up the actual numbers: 8535 km from Seattle and 8407 km from Johannesburg. That's pretty darn close.

For some last minute thoughts and suggestions on learning Spanish, see the discussion on the Camino Forum: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/el-camino-frances/topic10258.html

Last year when the Icelandic volcano started erupting, I immediately changed my ticket so as to avoid northern Europe. The news yesterday and today is that the ash from this particular volcano consists of larger particles which do not stay airborne so long.

Nos vemos muy temprano,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Very Useful Items to Bring

One consequence of packing light is that almost every night you are washing a few clothing items by hand. It's great to have a circular, flat sink stopper. That way you can wash clothes in any sink. Also, sometimes your socks are not dry by the morning. I found extremely useful the clips for stacks of papers too thick for a paper clip. I had a couple of these clipped to my pack. You use these to hang socks or whatever to dry while you are walking. Walking the Camino tends to cure you of any shyness you might have about which items of clothing you might have hanging from your pack!

See you May 29. Have a safe journey from South Africa!


Monday, May 9, 2011

amaWalker Janet

To My Dear South African Friends:
We are about to embark on an amazing journey together.  We have
awesome (currently the most over-used word in the American lexicon,
but sometimes it just works) leaders in Syl and Pamela.
I imagine a few of you may be nervous as your departure day
approaches.  As I'm packing my pack today, I want to share some
details that might be helpful.  Most of these things I learned last
year from the Camino Forum
http://www.caminodesantiago.me/.  But I want to share a couple of
things I think may be of some help.
Foot Care:  This is an issue for everyone.  It's not a question of
whether or not you will get blisters (most likely you will); but of
how you care for them and keep them from becoming disabling.  I
recommend the following:
1. Bring Compeed.  It may have another name there.  But you apply
these to areas of your feet that are just starting to bother you, that
is, BEFORE you actually have a blister.
2. Bring a friction-reducing substance.  It's called Glide here.
3. Plan to wear a liner sock underneath your regular sock: that way
the friction occurs primarily between the two pairs of socks, and not
primarily between your skin and the sock.
My morning routine on the Camino last year was: apply Compeed to my
hot spots.  Grease up my feet with Glide,including in between my toes.
 Put on liner socks, regular socks and hiking shoes.
Walking Sticks:  Be sure to bring a pair, not just one.  As your
technique improves, you'll be using these to descend with ease parts
of the Camino which otherwise would be tricky and/or hard on your
knees.  Does anyone else have middle aged knees and/or is carrying a
few (many) extra kilos of weight?
Extra weight on a downhill section is really hard on the knees.  The
walking sticks relieve some of the force borne by your knees, because
each stick hits the ground just before your opposite foot does.
You'll love having them!
Syl may have additions or corrections or translations into what is
locally understood and available.  More later.
Your new American friend, Janet

Monday, May 2, 2011

The benefits of walking as a group

One advantage of being with a group is that you can share costs to do things most pilgrims can't afford to do on their own.

Express Bouricott is going to collect us from Pamplona and take us to St Jean for lunch! Caroline is even booking us into a little restaurant that serves typical Basque food. Then she'll take us all back over the mountain to Roncesvalles where we'll start our walk the next day.

In Logrono, I have hired a minibus to take us to the castle at Clavijo for a couple of hours. This is where legend claims that St james was first seen on his white horse fighting for the Christians in 841.

La Posada Roncesvalles
 I have also hired a taxi to take us from Villafrance del Bierzo to Sarria where we sill start the last stage of our walk. I've arranged for the taxi to take us to O Cebreiro on the way where we will have an hour for morning tea.
 From Ponferrada a mini bus will take us to the Las Meduals World Heritage site for a morning - something I've wanted to do on previous trips but didn't have the time or the money to do on my own.

Castle walls Clavijo
 On our first night in Santiago we will be collected at 8:30pm and taken to Fistera to watch the sunset (praying for a clear night) with a hamper of tapas and wines to celebrate the end of our walk. Sunset is at 10:17pm so we won't get back to Santiago until after mid-night.

We are booked to do a nocturnal walking tour of Santiago on the Friday night which includes a visit to the cloisters of the Parador and a Queimada at mid-night. You have to have 15 people to do these tours.

Marker O Cebreiro
 I have never seen midnight on the Camino so I'm really looking forward to these different experiences!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

can't wait for the 26th when i fly off to spain...only 25 more sleeps. then we'll all be meeting one another and off we go from roncevalles on 29th....we in for a great experience no doubt. wooohooo, love, pam

amaWalkersCamino 2011

This is a blog about a group of 15 amaWalkers in the Camino Frances from 29th May to 18th June.