Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good and...

I haven't been blogging the last few days because I've been staying more interesting places than the hostels and pilgrim refuges. First, after the big walk to Markina, I went on about 6km further to stay at a monstery. It was fantastic - only six other pilgrims. Even though it was a longer day I also managed to have more time for reflection and journalling and managed to attend vespers (sung night time prayers) with the monks and a couple of other pilgrims.

I've met a couple of good travelling companions, both speak English and one speaks Spanish, which has come in handy. The three of us joined up the afternoon after the monstery in Gernika (Basque spelling), the town in Picasso's famous Guernica (Castillian spelling) and had every intention of going on to another town or staying wherver we could get shelter and maybe even clean water. Instead we encountered the most incredible hospitality I've ever heard about. We were offered the garage floor of a local man who gave us a lift to the family farm in the back of his van. When we got there, we met the rest opf the family, went for a swim in their pool, were given beer and put on a load of laundry. Though we brought dinner with s, they cooked for us anyway and we had a couple of nightcaps. As if this wasn't amazing enough we were offered a lift to Bilbao this morning and were greeted with this sunrise vista:

Then, this morning, things went a little differently. When we got to Bilbao we found that the small refuge was closed. Permanently, but the new business had failed to take down the old sign. Then, when we went in to town, there was a general strike with accompanying protests. So, though I could go to the pharmacy to get more blister gear, I couldn't post more stuff ahead to lighten my load nor get the other new supplies I needed. Frustrated with both occurences, our group split up and the other two headed to our next stop while I tried to find what I could on my list. Another permanent closure, an incompetent and incomprehensible store clerk and now, here I am. More or less give up on rejoining the other two, and having wasted a day I worked so hard to get ahead on. Oh well, that's life, and that's the camino.

Blister pics

Warning, they're gory.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spelling mistakes

Yes, I know my writing is horrific on the blog. Posts are typed in a hurry, often tapped out on an iPhone. I apologise and hope you understand. Anyone still offended is invited to contribute to better tapping by buying me an iPad.

Zarautz - Deba

Another 22km down, and I'm grateful for the advice about blisters - probably pharmacy supplies are my greatest expense so far as Compeeds aren't cheap. I think it's just a matter of wearing my feet in and hardening them up. Thankfully, I've a good opporuntity for that tomorrow: the trek to Markina is fairly remote, with no food or house for the last 15km and no water for the last 9km. And it's steep.

As I'll cotinue to do for the rest of the camino, I kept silent today until lunch. Then, with good timing I joined up with a couple of other pilgrims just after I started walking again after lunch. I really enjoy having the quiet time to myself in the morning, and get a lot of thinking done, but it was surprising how encouraging it was in the afternoon as we climbed another 300m, to have people to talk to. The time, the distance and the incline all diminish.

Now, off to the beach.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Donostia - Zarautz

An easier day today, which was good. Someone in out dorm last night, sleeping in the bunk next to mee created a massive racket at midnight and 5am. Ah, this trip is making me long for the simple things- like uninterrupted sleep! Lucky I don't know where he was from: I would be forever prejudiced against that country. Unless it was Australia.

I had amazing hospitality again today- a hotel offers a special meals for pilgrims, so k hot a bottle of wine and a three course meal for €10!

Another swim in the ocean, and also more blisters; I see a pattern emerging here...

[Zarautz, old town, where I sat at a closed pub writing this post]

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, June 25, 2010


Donostia is probably the nicest city or town I've seen in Spain so far, not that I've seen much of it. It has three main beaches, and, for all that locals don't wear to the beach, they should start wearing tevas (like me) or aquashoes of some kind: there are more rocks than sand. Yes, I went for a swim.

Still, they've kept a lot of nice old buildings and lots of green space. Their new blocks don't look slummish, but well set out with good pedestrian scale and common areas. Also, the bike paths are excellent. The shops and bars are a bit pricey, though. All in all, this town wouldn't be out of place on the French riviera.

I got to see more of it than I'm expecting to see of other towns as I had some chores to do: going to the pharmacy and post office, both to do something about the blisters.

Now, if only I wasn't aching all over, but especially on my knees, feet and shoulders, I thinknid enjoy it even more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Irun - Donostia

Well, the first day of walking is over. I waqs expecting a nice easy introduction, but certainly was disappointed. I walked over 30km today, and the worst parts were always whenever I couldn´t find something.

I´ve just got back from a 'shopping' trip to refill my blister supplies (lucky I can't upload photos here!) and lighten my load by 3kg by sending things to myself at my destination, Santiago. Important things, like books and my thermos mug. Desperate times...

My walk today was eventful in other ways - as I had been praying, God has brought me into contact with other Christians. I recieved some lovely hospitality from some Christians who live in intentional community (shared money, work) and also a French couple I met at the albergue (pilgrim's hostel) yesterday are also going to Taize when I am.

Well, that's it for now, these are shared computers and I also have to send an email to my wife, who must be home by now!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Now in Irún

I'm at the starting point for my walk, Irún, less than 2km from the border with France (maybe I'll walk there too). As well as drafting blog posts and reading while on the train here from Barcelona, I also paid attention to my changing surrounds: greener, but warmer.

In other words, I'll be getting wet before too long.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


"People don't take trips, trips take people." - John Steinbeck.

It's obvious almost to the point of being cliched, but true. Some of the best parts of our trip were the ones not in the itinerary: jogging through the early morning mists and crowds of geese in the Englischer Garten in Munich; the BBQ at the guest house in Ostereinen (the village on the lake outside Füssen, the town on the border with Austria); driving part of the Tour de France - possibly the steepest, windiest part; having to follow some locals to a guest house on the Rhone because the roads were to small to be in our map; and last night, walking through the medieval streets of Barcelona's gothic quarter to have a busker playing Bach mournfully on a bandeneon.

Yes, where trips take us is often better than where we take trips.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Barca v. Bayern

So, though I've said a lit about how good Bayern (Bavaria) is, I really must be careful not to ssy too little about Barcelona too.

Apart from the proliferation of British turistas (and the occasional Aussie, too), Barca is really quite livable as a city. I love 'bicing', their residents' bike scheme; their metro; the fact that Miro, Gaudi, Picasso and Dalí all get their own museums; the winding streets of the gothic quarter and the closeness of so many natural highlights.

Barca is a beauty, but still, I'm happy to be on my way, back to towns and villages as I walk across Spain. I've enjoyed the luxury and culture, but now it's time for relaxation and nature.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Don't get too excited just yet... The problem I have with getting photos onto the blog is this: if I take them on the camera, I have to go to an Internet café to upload them then do a blog post, and not all Internet cafés read SD cards either. However, if I take them with my iPhone they're not such great resolution. (A future solution might be an iPad with camera adapter; I can't believe how many times I've thought an iPad would be the perfect travelling device...) Anyhow, here's a picture I managed to get on the Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Munich:

Another reason to love Germany: Furbies are banned in flights.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

Saying goodbye

This morning I saw Anita off. She's now on her way to London for a night then home.

I went back to the room to finish packing, and though I had been in it myself before, now it was so empty.
So, already the holiday is over. It was fantastic ful of ups and downs, relaxation and fun amid the occasional stress. Now I start making my way to Irun to start walking. Who knows when or how, or where I´ll stay tonight -- this doesn´t matter as much as that I'll be staying on my own for some time now.

I'm looking forward to meeting new friends, and kepping in touch with old ones, but moreover, to seeing Anita again... not soon enough.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ghana v Australia

Go Aussie, go!

There's (almost) nothing quite like being in Europe at World Cup time (except maybe being in the host city). Last night supporters of both Algeria and England went up and down our Rambla honking horns, cheering and carrying on, keeping us awake. So, now when we're heading out for lunch (at 2:30 pm) I'm also looking for a horn to honk when we win.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

I'm thinking of retiring to Bavaria

SERIOUSLY. At fifty. Or forty if possible.

Here's why:
• you can ride almost anywhere by bicycle, and everywhere else by motorbike.
• or, if you're in a hurry, catch a train, or if you're in Munich, a subway.
• the alps are an hour away from the city by train or motorbike (a little more by bicycle).
• in the alps there is not only great hiking, but great swimming, great mountain and road biking. Great rock climbing and snow-shoeing and skiing and other winter sports too (of course!) - if you have the gear...
• there are bieregartens everywhere (from Munich to the alps);
• that serve cheap beer;
• that tastes great;
• any time of day.
• Audis, BMWs and VWs are cheap.

Possible downsides include:
• the amount of men wearing leather pants.
• watching world cup.
• too much sausage and bread and beer, not enough fresh fruit and veg.
• it's right next door to France (and Switzerland).
• winter is too cold.
• it's so far from Australia.

Don't worry, I love my job and my family and friends far too much to stay in Europe. But don't be surprised if I can't stop thinking about when I'm heading back next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

City and country

Last night and the night before we spent in France. Rural France. In fact, apart from Munich, all of our holiday has been in the country. And even then, most of that time we spent on day trips out of the city. Also, Munich is unbelievably bike-friendly, which is so unlike any Australian city and the other European ones we've seen.

This time in the country is not what I'd imagined or planned; Europe being so full of culture and history, and me wanting to see it... So it wasn't just a surprise that we spent so much time in parks, gardens, on winding roads and in hamlets and only a little in churches, and none (yet) in museums, it was also a surprise that I liked it.

Without the ugly suburban sprawl that Australia does as well as America, the villages though only 10 or 15 minutes ride or walk apart (and most people don't drive) each have their own character, maintained by the open spaces or forest between them.

The cities we went through might not have the sprawl but they still have the suburbs in some ways. On the one hand, aspiration drives conspicuous consumption and on the other, marginalisation is marked by a lack not only of consumption but colour. In the cities it seems, there is only luxury or poverty, glamour or dullness. Particularly striking were the bland (always only ever grey) apartment blocks that looked like they were made by communists.

Add to this the difference between city and country hospitality, and I think I'm a convert to rural life.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 14, 2010

Basel and beyond

Well, after a lively and lovely, but longer than expected stop in upper Bavaria on the mountain border, we're now in Basel about to leave for Lyon. The trains are great, giving me a chance to read, but if we run out of time might switch to cars. Switzerland is far too expensive, so bring on Spain!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 10, 2010


After Auschwitz (in today's Poland), perhaps Dachau is the best known remnant of the Third Reich. Today Anita and I planned to spend a couple of hours there, but instead spent a lot more than that.

Later I plan to post more on Dachau and Germany's conflicted past. But for now, it suffices to point out that I saw the cell of Pastor Martin Niemoller; he who greeted the Nazi rise to power because of it's compatibility with conservative values, yet had the courage to oppose it after seeing it at work. He even went on to become an early advocate of rapprpoachment with the communist east of Europe.

I made a point of seeing all of the religious memorials at Dachau -- Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. I was glad to see the the this latter memorial was very ecumenical -- very human, in many senses, without intending disrespect to the others -- and was also the one with people present. (To be fair, there is a convent behind the camp in this overwhelmingly Catholic state of Bavaria.)

It is true, so true; nothing could be truer -- "never again". Some things -- sadly, including the relative silence of Christians in the Third Reich -- must never be forgotten. Ever.

Too busy

Yes, travelling is hard work that takes up most of the day -- at least if done properly.

I've spent a lot of the time on the DB (deutschebahn = railway) but also some time on boats and buses in order to hike, swim, chat, eat and drink, and see otherwise inaccesible sights. I hope you're impressed with all of that (especially the swimming in lakes filled with ice-melt) because I am too. But (at least) just as impressive is the cheap beer served by the half-litre or litre. Sure, being at the top of Germany's highest mountain, purest lake, and most popular tourist destinations are great experiences, but evenryone needs a chance to relax every now and then. And biergartens are just that for me.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Austrian accident

No, don´t worry, nothng bad has happened to either me or Anita. Rather, we ended up in Austria by accident.

We set out early this morning from München (Munich) hoping to go see Dachau concentration camp, but all museums across Germany are closed on Mondays, so we tried to change our trip to Berchtesgarten and Kehlsteinhaus (-eagle´s Nest - Hitler´s retreat seen at the end of Band of Brothers), but there were problems with the Salzburg railway line getting there. So, instead we ended up taking a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, then a cogwheel train and cable car to Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

But because of the Schengen treaty, we crossed the border into Austria on the other side of the peak without even knowing it, looking for a restaurant for lunch. We found our restaurant and I thought it fitting to have Wiener Schnitzel for lunch. Now, hopefuly we go back down the correct side of the mountain into Germany, and not into Austria or Italy or Switzerland which can also be seen from here.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Leavin' on a jet plane

In just over twelve hours time Anita and I will fly out of Brisbane International Airport.
I'm extremely excited to finally be packed and that I could be disciplined enough to only take one book in my cabin luggage – though it is a collection of essays.
A number of things didn't get done, but I'm confident life in Brisbane will go on just fine without me.

Please use the tools from either Facebook or Google to follow my blog - seeing your display picture will encourage me to keep up to date. Also, I had tried to send a group email with my new contact details while I'm away, but that wasn't so successful. So have a look at my new email address in the top right-hand corner and consider dropping me a line or making a comment on one of my posts if you want to keep in touch during June, July or August.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Saying good-bye

Last Sunday I said my farewells at Arana. I'm sure I'll be back, I even know when, and that I need to have certain things ready to share when I do return. But nonetheless, for this journey it was an important step for the congregations to say good-bye to me and for me to say good-bye to them; to say explicitly and honestly "I won't see you for twelve weeks, and I'll miss you."

Contrast this with the typically postmodern sense of rootlessness that avoids having to commit to anything: no RSVPs, no good-byes, no intentional absence and almost no intentional presence.

Community means – among other things – having to say good-bye when you go. It also means that when you return, there will be people waiting to hear your stories and see your pictures.