Sunday, 26 December 2010

Do you want more?

Hello there all. I have been busy writing but not put more here for several reasons. Firstly I need to know your thoughts on how the story has been progressing, afterall Its because of you there is a story.... Secondly I am not sure that if I put the whole story here it will ever get to become a published book !!!  The Camino has finished, over a month ago, and I have been trying to bring the story to a conclusion. I have been working on editing the book and sifting the material to see if it properly reflects the truths I learned to open up to. I would love to stay in Spain forever (well at least for some time) but I will have to go back to work at some point, to pay my way, until maybe I get the first book sold.. I haven't made my mind up about what or where I will be next, so if anyone has any suggestions, then shoot... I am willing to go anywhere and work at anything until I can get out of the ratrace for good... I may put up some more of the story soon, but in the meantime can I have some feedback ??? 

Have a Wonderful New year....

Love as always from Peaceful Warrior.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dodging Bullets

Just to let you have a sneak as to the title of the next chapter.


What can that be about ??? Tune in soon to read all about my next great adventure...


Sunday, 14 November 2010


I had been looking forward to arriving in Merida for several reasons. Firstly, to hopefully see, some very significant architecture from the Roman empire, and the Roman ruins. Also so that I might get a few days to catch up with the blog and rest my feet. Though in good shape, needing a rest was well on the cards.
The feeling returned throughout the day that I had missed something important about the ´Ömens`, over which Santiago had spoken some weeks ago. He had said to pay attention to them. Well Paying attention to, and becoming immersed in them was of course very different. What for example had the omen of the snake been about ? Obviously I kept a keen eye out on the ground as I walked, hoping not to surprise one and get a nasty bite !!! But I felt certain that the meaning was far more subtle thatn that with a more practical angle. What does a snake signify, was my first train of thought. Well, a snakes behaviour by nature is very secretive, quiet, hidden from view, no doubt to protect itself. From stories about ´original sin`, the snake features heavily in the assumption that a snake is somehow evil, and therefore untrustworthy. The Bible clearly defines the role of the snake as one of a malevolent and cunning creature, twisting truth ´til it is unrecognisable. But what if anything did this have to do with my feelings about its relevance in my journey ?

The walk was very relaxing, I soon caught up with a few of the group from the last evening, and walked for a while with Sacramento. A Spanish lady, widdowed, with time on her hands, like me, to follow her dreams. We talked at length about how our realities had become what we had once only dreamed of, some years ago. She had herself travelled extensively over the past few years, to places that had had an attraction to her, now that she had the time and the opportunity. I recounted my own euphoria, of only a week or so ago, when I realised that I was indeed living the life I was born to live. I had ´become`, or at least felt as though I had become, the ´World Adventurer` I had wanted to be. My other dream was to become a writer. Now, this is my reality !!! Obviously, I have yet to ´become` a published author of a book, but now I trust the Universe to grant me this reality too, if I live in harmony with my choices. Yes, of course I have had to make some sacrifices to achieve this begining of my journey towards that goal, But I feel on top of the world with my present reality...

Arriving at the gate to the city of Merida, a huge arched rail bridge, began the confusion of the way. Few clearly defined arrows, led to us getting lost for a while. We stopped for a refreshment and to ask the way, the Australian girl insisted on buying us all a drink, but I turned down the Amber nectar, in favour of the local Mahou. Paco the Ex-police officer found us our way to the Roman bridge crossing the river. It was a very long low bridge, I guessed that the Romans had realised the river levels didn´t change that much here.

We were looking for the Albergue named surprisingly, ´Pan caliente` (Hot bread). The name gave me the idea of a warm welcome, rewarding rest and solace from the journey, and some hot food in our bellies.
What we got however, was a locked door and no warm reception from our travels. Paco took charge as was his way, and rang the number scribbled on a note hanging from the door. He spoke to someone, who came staggering along to greet us fifteen minutes later. It was then that I knew why I had been thinking about the ´omens`. This guy, for whatever reason, oozed a very real and unfriendly aura. A snake in a mans body, his eyes furtive, his behaviour hidden and cunning. Now as I previously said, I try not to judge, only observe what I see and feel. Here was someone attempting to test me at this. From the very begining of his arrival, he had tried to lure us off to someplace to eat, well before we had even gotten into the Albergue and set ourselves to rest. He kept insisting that we go with him. Fortunatley a few of the group had also sensed this oddness, and like myself, resisted this coersive behaviour. Because we wouldn´t go with him, he tried to tell us that we had to leave our bags outside. What was this guy on about ? We are the pilgrims for whom this Albergue is open, are we not ?

Later I set off to see the Amphitheatre, and Roman theatre, a well known and very well preserved site. I have to say that I was really impressed by the Romans for their ingenuity and design styles. The feeling of sadness however, filled me as I sat observing the silence in the once cruel, bloody arena of death. Oh yes, you could almost hear the raised ghost voices of the baying crowds, as down below the blood curdling screams of slaves being torn apart limb from limb by the Lions, and Gladiators, were echoeing skyward........
History seemingly has taught us little about sparing one another cruelty, as I thought of our present world. How someone could enjoy the death of another human being, or animal, in such an environment was beyond my comprehension. But I left having enjoyed the experience to go back in time for a while. Seemingly Merida had been a point of great interest to the Romans in thier campaign to rule the world, as they once had. The historical significance lost on me, as I only felt the thread of death, coming from every place I walked. I thought of the odd feeling I had gotten whilst walking earlier. I had seen a stork, still whole but dead at the side of the main hyway. Now sitting here in the main plaza, infront of the townhall building, I spied another, very much alive in its nest on top of the facade. Funny, I had been told that they had all left on their winter migration to Africa, this one possibly had missed the boat.
The stork, a symbol I supposed of new life, new birth, the bringer of babies, was in contrast to my feeling of death in this place. Strange omens once more opening my eyes to things changing. And then, as before, so many times here on my present camino, a feeling arose, that I was waiting for a new connection.

That was the moment I looked up and a friendly face was smiling back at me. Tim was a young guy from down under, and I invited him to sit at the table I was sharing with Catherine the 72 year old German walker, and take a drink with us. Catherine had an arrangement to meet Hanns, her walking partner, so excused herself, wishing us a plesant evening.

"I was expecting you", I said.

"Were you ?" his reply.

"In a way, but Ill explain later, just glad you got here".

Like me Tim had followed an odd route to arrive on the Via de la Plata, and we shared stories about the way so far, in all its painful glory. He was also very encouraging about my book Idea, and it transpired that he was also attempting to write a book during his travel adventure. What an amazing coincidence. (Not) He told me that he had himself read a book written about the Camino, published by an Australian ex diplomat, that had figured heavily in his desire to come to walk across Spain. His job had been in the News paper business, and I realised that he would probably be a good source of ideas about publishing my own. If not directly, indirectly his experience would no doubt prove useful in my aims to become a published author. Also like me, like most of us who came to walk the Camino, he was dealing with the inner road to clarity. I sincerely hope that my encouragement and words, helped to open his heart and mind wider, to more wonderful paths yet to follow, of understanding and enlightenment, on the road to Santiago. I have to say a great big thanks to Tim, for his encouragement, and to ´My` Santiago, for his continued wisdom.
Then came John, the ´other` English pilgrim, who had just finished his Camino for this year here in Merida. He comes every year to do a part of the Via de la Plata, as his time allows. Together we went to eat at a place recommended by John, and spent a very pleasant evening recounting our tales of heroism and suffering, and the whole of life too.
Back at the hot bread Albergue, tensions were getting heated (No bread available) as some pilgrims (No names mentioned, You know who you are) were also feeling the negative vibe from the Hospitalero.

´Come on children, get into bed now, and cut out the talking`.


Staying here in Villafranca, was a lovely way to relax. There was not a typical Albergue here, a few hotels and a pension.One hostal, that had four beds per room, similar to the normal routine had space, and a kitchen, washing machine internet facility and great hot water showers. Everything and more a pilgrim could need. It was however one of the more pricey of venues to date but not absurdly high. During the afternoon out shopping, searching for somethings to make a meal back at the hostal, I met the Australian girl again. She like most of us had begun alone, but gotten caught up in the movement of walking in a group, where the people all seemed to follow a similar rhythm, and by nightfall all arrive to the same town. We joked about how she kept finding me turning up where she also happened to be !! I promise I was not stalking her !! Funny, I thought it was my aftershave that kept drawing her to me......

We returned to the hostal together with our provisions and the idea to put together a small meal, talking about how everyone today had seemed disjointed in their arrival times andd eating patterns, which had made it almost impossible to organise a group meal. A few of the group must have also had the same thought because all of a sudden there were lots of people with stuff to prepare, so we did almost have a group meal. Everyone shared waht we had and soon the wine was flowing and the beer uncapped. By sunset the small group, sharing our meagre provisions watched the sun setting, out on the open patio. Again this was a lovely trigger for my memories of eating with the Kings of Leon, and new pilgrims, so many times on the road to Santiago.

By the time I rose in the morning everyone had gone, set off on the long hike across the plains. Only Carl remained. He was a Dutchman, and for some reason seemed to have walked so many caminos, including parts of France, Germany, Rome, and even some of Morroco. Up to now he claimed to have walked some 2500km`s, and was presently walking like me, to Santiago. One thing was obvious, he liked walking !!! Unlike most of the other pilgrims he seemed happy to walk only in jeans and a teeshirt, I presently needed the feel of cool air around my legs, the days were very warm. After setting out finally we met in a bar opposite, for the constitutional coffee. He liked about three or four before he set off for the day, and I also sensed that he wanted a bit of solitude, so said I would possibly see him sometime later in the day. As I headed off, he shouted after me, " I`ll catch you up !"
I wondered if he was some kind of speeding bullet, my rhythm was quite strong at the moment. I did like to take a few breaks during the walk to appreciate the nature around me, whenever the mood took me. If the scenery was particularly breathtaking I would sit for a while to breath it all in.
I made sure I carried some provisions with me today, as apparently there was a national strike. In fact I had almost taken the day off in support, when the hostal owner told me about the huelga general. Apparently it was a national walkers strike.... Isobel later clarified that she had meant it was a national workers strike, her English pronunciation throwing me into some confussion.....

During the morning walking, I seemed to catch, and overtake all the pilgrims from the previous evenings  accomodations. My bag the heaviest it had been for a long time, yet my pace somehow the fastest I had ever walked. Not that my particular desire had been to walk in a hurry, but I was like the TGV, cruising across the caminos of Extremadura. Carl later told me that he had intended to catch me up, but could only find a cloud of dust whipped up as I screamed through the heart of the Sierra Grande. I arrived early afternoon in Torremejia, surprisingly full of energy after such a speedy walk, covering some 30 plus km`s in record times. Only the Older German couple had arrived ahead of me, they would set out at dawn.
This facility like so many others was very plush, Apparently the former residence of some Marquessa of the region. As you expect it carried some of the character of the old days, and lots of pilgrimage symbols, as well as many of the luxuries of modern living. Thanks to good old European funding we pilgrims were able to wallow in luxury for hardly anything.

Whether because of the strike or just a local lack of interest, there were no restaurants open this evening. The huge band of pilgrims had to make do, with a few tapas and bocadillos in cafe Casa Blanca. But despite such meagre choices, everyone found something to eat, and we soon retired to the Ritz for our well earnt rest.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


The previous day having been spent in the cybercafe typing, had left me with a headache. They only had artificial lighting in the room and it had the affect of bluring my vision. I spent the morning partly typing, partly listening to Klaus, who was such a lovely guy. He had plenty to talk about, I got the feeling that like me, he needed this chance to share his thoughts, with someone who knew what the experiences were that he had had, and could possibly share some enlightenment as to their meanings. (I have no idea why he was asking me.) we seemed to talk a lot about relationships, particularly, ones that had begun on the Camino. We had both had this experience. One or both of us had followed one or more relationships since our beginings of camino experience. I had to reflect somewhat, as my own thoughts returned to last spring. So many great adventures, and so many new camino friends. The love shared between some of those aquaintances as ever alive, sharing messages of support and friendship, even a camino reunion last autumn in Bavaria, with three of the four ´Kings of Leon`. And without doubt, these relationships were what the camino became all about. I wrote some poems during that camino, as a way of remembering the experiences, and my responses to them. (blog still active) As you can read, some of the people I had met feature heavily in my own camino, and they became ímmortalised in literature, beacause of their part in changing my view of the world in which we all live. I really hope I have done these wondeful people an honour, by this memorial.....

Klaus had discovered, by chance, a very odd set of scenarios he needed to work through, and one of his ´Camino loves` had helped in this endeavour immensly. But largely, this was what was holding him back. He found that his thoughts had not yielded a totally fruitful harvest. I hope that I was able to shead some light on the burden he carried, over choices he had made then, despite two people having been involved. We swapped contact details, as Klaus was readying to leave, I was going to miss him. But of course I have my own rhythm, and he had his camino to walk. I am sure we will remain friends, people like Klaus are hard to come by. Hugs and best wishes declared, I set off back to the grind of typing, Klaus set sail on the oceans of change, towards Santiago, ahead of me.

Staying the extra night in Zafra had been a good choice, a wonderful rest for me. Of course here were new pilgrims coming to the Albergue, and as ever they were a varied bunch of people. Too many to name, but surely some of the people to become important in my camino from here onwards. The present camino for me, I hoped would take in a wider view than before. Not only did I want pilgrims to be the ones I met, but local people too, people who witnessed this passing of strange folk through their cities and towns. I wanted to know what it meant to them to be hosts to such travellers. I had the pleasure to meet, and spend time chatting with, a young courting couple, who noticed me as a pilgrim and began asking lots of questions. Antonio and Maria Jose made a lovely couple. He an open minded young Spanish guy, she a talented, pretty young Spanish woman. I have to say that talking with them, reminded me about what my camino should show. Not just about the love and kindness of people trecking across the countryside, but the way in which for centuries the local populations have lived with the passage of wierd folk, who cover huge distances daily on foot. Antonio and Maria Jose, to me, were the epitomy of the openness of this nation. They showed me a care and friendship, that is lost in so many european cities, towards immigrants, or people passing through. I was asked so many things, and hope that I was able to be clear and relevant to the interest showed, hopefully setting seeds of consideration to the young people of Zafra. Maria Jose, who could read English reasonably well asked if she could have my Blog address. It was both my pleasure and wish to them both that they one day might follow their own camino, to find out first hand what this camino was about, and the joy to be found following the ´Way`.

Surprisingly, as I had been one of the last to rise, I seemed to one of the first to actually leave the Albergue. This was another of the five star accomodations provided by the Junta de Extremadura. The day was cool, but temperatures were likely to rise, by mid morning. strangely the track seemed to head off almost towards the sun, which at this time of the morning signified an Easterly direction. I began a climb into the hills outside of Zafra, and soon tuning more Northward, I felt happier. As I was passing through the next village, Los Santos de Maimona, I met up with a pilgrim who, as yet I had not had the pleasure of meeting. Peggy all the way from South America, was a young  and vibrant pilgrim, who drew me to her peacefulness immediately. We walked together for a few hours before finding ourselves in a small town, and stopping for refreshments. I remarked on how her name didn´t sem to be typically from her region of the world. She explained that some time during the 1960`s there had been a beauty queen from her country, named Peggy Cock. Her farther had been very enamoured with this pagent winner, and thus named his daughter in that memory. I had thought to myself at the time, surely Peggy Cock had not been as lovely as the pilgrim Peggy. Funny how some people choose the names of their children. Walking with Peggy was another of those fabulous experiences as we shared stories, talking a lot about following peaceful routes in life. Oddly enough my friend had left her job recently, as things did not seem to hold the same value to her anymore. A familiar story to me also. Taking some time out of her ´normal` life, to rest her body and her mind, had been what she had decided to do, though walking the kind of distances she wanted to do, would hardly give her body much rest. I sensed a bouyancy about her, desperate to share her passions. When we arrived in Villa franco de los barros, I deceided to stay, Peggy wanted to go on, as she had a plan to cover a lot of road before she stopped for the night. We had our drink together, and then hugged our goodbyes. Despite the blisters that we all get in the begining, she still wanted to move on, it was only early afternoon. She said that she didn´t expect to meet again on this camino, as her rhythm was strong, strangely I felt that we would definately see one another again. The pain would get her for sure, no-one can keep that pace up, I knew from my own trials. I wished her well despite this knowledge, and she set off along the road. Having been the victim on several occaisions of my own stupidity, I knew that despite the will of the mind, the body, untrained could not take this kind of punishment. It needed time to immunise itself to this type of regular activity, before setting huge challenges.
I set myself up, under a tree in the town square, in the shade, just besides the church. I was ready for siesta, and also found this to be a great way to soak up the energy and mood of  towns and villages I passed. Incredibly easy to feel their rhythm this way, even with my eyes closed. In fact, possibly because of this !!


Without a guide book I rely on either other pilgrims, local people or the hospitaleros of the Albergues to find out all about the following days walk. It makes for interesting travel, though I do recomend a guide book, for those of you who are not able to go where the wind blows. I had an idea that I was in for a 20km walk to Zafra. Being a Sunday, things were closed, no-one working except a few local farmers. Antonio my host popped in to the house, busy looking for some tools he needed, he was preparing for a festival next week. He was surprised to see that I was still at the house, but happy as ever to wish me the complimentary ´buen Camino`. I finally got my bag packed and headed across the square, to have my breakfast with Matea. She was smiling bright and so chatty, as a grandmother should be, with time to spare she kept me entertained until I was ready to leave. She told me that she had seen other pilgrims pass through already this morning, so I might get to see some new faces.

The way was reletively easy for a change, now my feet were healing faster, and I even considered going back to Arcos to finish that part to Sevilla. But no, I will leave that for the end of my Camino, when I will be walking stronger. I had other reasons I wanted to go South again aswell. Some strange Magic had been working since the begining and I felt that it might be where my destiny lay. Here and there I was begining to see the first of the vines that grew here in Extremadura. Such changes over so few days, the terrain much more level here. After a couple of hours, I spied an odd sight, well rare. Another pilgrim, Wahey !! It took me about   45 minutes to catch them up, but chatting again was such a good thing. Elisabeth, a French walker, was very happy to oblige me, with an hour or so of her time. Later I sensed that she needed some privacy, so excused myself and left her to some solitude, and her blisters were holding her back too. I forged ahead through the railtrack cemetry and into Zafra alone. I had previously seen one other pilgrim ahead on the road in the distance, possibly the older gentleman that Matea had told me about. It was bit of a new experience for me, so used to seeing so many pilgrims on the Camino Frances, being spoilt for choice so to speak..

Upon arrival  into Zafra, a lovely large town, I found that the Albergue here had opening times, so sat relaxing, whilst I waited for the end of the siesta period. When 5pm finally arrived, I was greeted by a young lady, pleased to see her second pilgrim of the day. Tabitha spoke a little English, though she was very shy to use it. Seemingly though, I had misunderstood the sign, which was for another building entirely, she had been open all the time, I had just needed to ring the bell..... Durghhh... Still it was a beautiful Albergue, one of the nicest, such luxury for us poor pilgrims. I soon set off to discover the town, and explore the architectural delights.

I had a feeling that I needed to wait for some reason, so found a bench in the park I had passed through earlier, watching the world go bye. Sure enough, after a few minutes had passed, a lone pilgrim passed behind me, missing the arrows, few as they were, clearly unsure as to where he needed to be. Lucky for him, I knew where the Albergue was, and he happily accepted my help to guide him there, via the short route. Klaus, a German pilgrim, of a similar age to myself, was a breath of fresh air. We soon found that we had so much in common and could share a humorous tone. Once he had checked in we set off to find somewhere we could both eat, and spent the whole evening sharing our tales of the Camino our journeys so far, and laughing ´til our sides ached. It was so good to laugh like this, a release of pent up frustrations with aching limbs and tired feet. Klaus had started his camino in Sevilla, but had also walked the other Camino, though earlier this year, and like me was keen to do another. He had returned a week or so ago and set out to reach Santiago before the bad weather was due. I had no idea what he meant by this, the climates had been good to me so far. We also found much to talk about our individual missions, and I soon realised we were of a similar creed with regards following the way of a peaceful warrior. Back finally at the Albergue, with two minutes to spare ahead of the curfew, we both were happy to get into bed and sleep off the effects of so much merriment (wine) with our meal.
Trying to get into the top bunk when you are pissed is not a clever thing to do, nor let it be said, quiet !!
Fortunately the other pilgrims were already asleep soundly.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


As is my custom now, I set off a little later this morning, but not on the Camino. Not yet at least. I planned to get a morning of typing in, at the local cyber cafe. The internet at the Albergue being painfully slow, and the library computers were broken. They are supposed to be getting them fixed, sometime before next year !!!
The cyber cafe was not very expensive but you do have to put up with the Spanish kids jostling you whilst they played their internet games, and making a huge racket. So headphones on, and a mamouth 3 hour typing shedule ahead. At about 2.30 pm, happy with the progress of my story, I left Fuente de cantos on a huge 6 km hike, to Calzadilla de los Barros. I had heard that there was a hostel there, on the main road passing the town. Sometimes strange things happen when you make plans. Often they happen even if you don`t make any !!!
The walk was easy for a change, no great pains or pressure to arrive or keep the pace going. I had by now realised it was Saturday, the amount of kids in the Internet cafe, meaning there was no school. I passed into the village during siesta time and out the other side, in the direction of the hostal. Hostal los Rodriguez was closed but boy was I happy to arrive there and find a nice shady terrace. By the look of the place, they were not going to be open for business today or in the near future. There was some work being done inside, by the look of the interior. So what now ? I was close to the bus stop. I could go back to Fuente, or forward to Zafra. This would depend also on whether a bus was running today, and when. I set a couple of plastic terrace chairs opposite each other, sat down and had a little prayer with the Universe before taking a snooze.
Soon, a car pulled up infront and the owner got out. That is the owner of the hostal. I asked him if there was any chance of me staying over, if I could have a bed for the night. No, was the simple answer ! He didn`t seem keen to talk, or entertain my questions. Ok I get it. You`re closed for reformations and don`t want or need my money or to give me any assitance whatsoever. Fine !! Fair enough !!
I set off back to the heart of the village, surely there would be someone nice here.
Something about the way the road to the left of the church seemed brighter, left me feeling this the way to go. Sure enough, as I walked alongside the church, as I had suspected, a lady called out to me from her window. Now I am not accustomed to being called out to from strange women, but the tone of the woman was kind and sincere. It became apparent that she was the person I needed to see to get the keys to the youth hostel/Albergue. She was the person sent by the universe to assist me. Thankyou universe..
Matea, a lovely grandmotherly lady, soon whisked me into her home and said that she would happily house me here if I prefered. Of course I prefered.... We agreed a contribution, and she began showing me around the place. Soon her husband returned and I was introduced to Antonio. It appeared that they ran the local bar in the centre of the village, behind the village hall. Antonio was also a very welcoming gentleman. we sat together for a while watching old western movies and later a bullfight, being televised from a local town. Oh yeah the bull got the first Matador, right in the leg, and he had to leave for the hospital once he had killed the bull. Shame !!!
Various grandchildren and cousins, popped in whilst Antonio and I snoozed on the couch. Soon Matea informed me that she needed to return to work, the bar opened at 7pm. I showered and set off to find the bar, where she was setting a place for me to eat. It was a delightful meal, too filling infact, I couldn`t manage a desert.
Back in my room, (they had just given me the keys to their house) I found the night passed quickly. The room was cool, like a tomb, with no windows. I noticed the depth of the walls was almost one and a half meteres thick. I thought that I was in a bank vault. I soon fell asleep, dreaming of finding true love, living my dream to be a writer and of reaching Santiago de compostela. Oh and helping to change the world !!!!!

Sunday, 17 October 2010


I woke to find the room was a mess, my bag turned out, stuff everywhere. I had been unable to unpack with any orderliness, as I had been feeling so poorly. Of course after yesterdays early exit, I had no intention of repeating the same, and I was running out of fresh underwear ! But the queasiness was not yet over, so I hung quietly in my descision to leave in a hurry. The brandy had helped, considerably. If I was sick, at least I couldn`t remember it ! The walk, a mamoth 20km`s was enough to scare me, but only because of my fragility. The previous week or so ago, I had been doing crippling 40km hikes. Oh yes, I do remember well that stupidity. Finally at around 9 am, I had fought to rise, pack and consider a coffee.

The Puerta del Sol, over which I had watched the sun setting last evening, was now in full swing, a huge local bar with patios full of people. I dared to to take coffee and orange juice, though the combination seemed somehow wrong, this morning. I mingled for a while, watching with keen interest the proffessionalism of the two bar staff. They seemed to intuit what the customers wanted. I saw no-one waiting for anything more than a brief moment. Smiling and cordial, they set the atmosphere for a relaxed breakfast, though no food passed my lips. I really hated being sick, especially with 20 km`s to walk.

Once out on the road, I soon found a rhythm even if it was slow. Fleece on, to avoid the chill, though the skies were relatively clear and the temperatures climbing. I twas a particularly lovely stretch along the riverside, between walls and fences of different forms. A s I mounted one of the early hills, I could see the town of Fuente de Cantos, out on the horizon. It looked so big, and so far away. I remember looking down over the city of Burgos, in a similar way last May. And, thinking as now, ´Yeah, I`ll do that in a couple of hours`. It took me, more like four. This terrain though hilly, did have a very open plan aspect. I rested on the hill for a while, realising that no-one, except me, cared if I stayed or walked, and so I stayed. Watching nature and letting my eyes and ears, readjust to her secret messages, the bugs and birds telling me strange things. An incredible feeling it is, not to have to go anywhere, or ring anyone. I walked on later and came to a river, that had quite a wide aspect in places, particularly where we needed to cross. There was not much in the way of crossing points for people (who wished to keep their feet dry) the cattle obviously didn`t have a worry over this. So I set my pack down, and set about rectifying this problem. Of course the pilgrims who passed this way ahead of me, had not found it to be a problem, no-one was camped out here awaiting my rescue. Even so, I had decided to try to construct something pilgrim friendly, for those to follow, so they could enjoy quick passage across the river.

I had a thought. The Camino is very much like this, about learning to build bridges. Between people, and nations. Whilst of course I realised a large percentage of pilgrims had some kind of religious viewpoint, mainly Catholic, the rest of us came for the wonderful peace and unity being laid down between peoples, who often found it difficult to communicate with one language. Being able to speak a relative amount of Spanish, gave me an advantage, but seemingly, everyone, even people from afar afield as Japan and Korea, found a way to get understood, despite few words of Spanish. Of course English, my native tongue, was the second most spoken language on the camino, but at times even that couldn`t beat, good old fashioned hand gestures.

I have made known before, just what I would wish for the world of ´Mankind`.  That the leaders, of the first world, come on the Camino frances, so they can themselves feel the spirit of unity and brotherhood seen here. We can do with much more feeling of brotherhood in our world at this time. So many attempts have been made. It has been such a long time since Bandaid, and still we haven`t brought about a workable solution to the poverty of the biggest part of the planet. All credit to Sir Bob Geldhof, Sir Bono, and Midge Ure and all the associated artist who helped in that venture, bringing shame of  the  situation to the worlds attention. Bad form, from the leaders of the world and the finacial institutions for not doing everything within their powers to put an end, once and for all to poverty. We don`t have to believe their words, when they say its not possible to end poverty, we know it is ! The planet, (Mother nature) produces enough food for more than the population now alive, and that is if we all ate like greedy people. The only real problem is, that we don`t share that food with each other. WHY ? So some big fat boss can have more of the huge profits, when keeping the prices artificially high. And then there is the tradgedy, that we would rather destroy this food, than give it away. Diabolical logic and reason, from a society that says we are civil. Shame on all of us  who support such unfairness!!!

But with my bridge (stepping stones) built, I felt as though I had begun my quest to do something positve in the world. I set off, pleased with my ingenuity. After another hour or so I passed a newly built villa, called ´Villa Camino de Santiago`. It looked like it should have been an Albergue, there was apool and lots of comfortable outdoor seating areas, in which to relax. It was locked of course, so not open for business, if in fact it was an accomodation and not just a lovely home. There were two signs at the gate, mounted on the wall. One pointed backwards towards Sevilla, at 114 km`s. The other, the less attractive one, pointed towards Santiago de Compostela at 889 km`s, still to go. A thoughtful touch !!! And a reminder of course, of just what a long way it was ´til the destination.

I hadn`t seen a soul all day, and finally a tandem bicycle arrived just as I was approaching one of the many reserve gates. The lady on the rear of the bike, opened the gate to pass through, and I closed it behind us. Teamwork. I recognised immediately that they were not from the locality, but from somewhere in the U.S.A. The couple, Scott and his wife Barbara, were from Massachusetts. They were taking in the scenery, planning to do the journey over about a month. I enjoyed the chance to chat with someone in my own language, even if our meeting was brief. We swapped blog addresses, and said our goodbyes, I watched them cycle away.
As they sey of, I thought that they had made an error, they went on the track to the right. But they were already a long way off, so pointless shouting them. The cubes, with green tiles went to the left. I set off in that direction noticint the footprints of many others ahead of me. Soon I noticed that there were no longer any yellow arrows along this route. OOPS ! But sure enough the prints of pilgrims were on the track. What ? I knew that I was possibly the last person to have left Monestario this morning, so not expecting anyone to be following me today, so assumed that these were the prints of the spanish group and the Austrian girl. Eventually I concluded that an error had been made, so I cut diagonally across country to where I imagined I should have been by now. I found a gate in the corner of the reserve, and the familiar yellow arrows. Phew !!!
Saved, I breathed a sigh of relief. Later that evening, whilst eating in a restaurant with the Spanish group, they admitted that they had also made the same error, though they had gone all the way back to the previous signs, and added about 5 km`s to their day. I said to them, " No wonder that I got lost, I was following your footprints in the sand" !!!

By the time I found the Albergue, I was feeling less sick and nauseous. I needed a rest though, and this accomodation was one of the best I`ve seen so far, ever. It was super luxury for pilgrims. Like being at a 5 star hotel. set in the grounds of some old monastery the old buildings had been rejuvenated  to a very high standard, and helped travellers such as myself to unwind from the stresses of walking, getting lost and the heat.
So the day ended with my health being restored, and my determination to build more bridges, over the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Having spent an extra day in El real de la Jara, meant that I could spend the whole day typing my story on to the blog, both morning and evening. How I suffer to bring you all news...!!
The town has a fantastic facility for the local people and it is also accesible to us pilgrims, all absolutely free !!
Hard to find, but if you ask a local young person, you`ll soon find it. Set behind the local DIA supermarket, on the way out of town to the west. It is a fully equiped Information and Technology suite provided for the community by their local council. A young guy by the name of Ricardo, was ultra helpful with my needs to use the terminals in the afternoon. I had to wait a little bit of time, ´til the local kids had done their facebook stuff. But well, fairs fair, it is their IT suite ! I managed typing with slow hands to get up a few of the chapters. I just hope it has been worth it. Are you still reading or have you fallen asleep yet ?
The trouble with "Live" stories, is that they have to reflect, (as far as possible) the actual timeframe of the journey. Where is my secretary when I need her ? Painting her nails , no doubt !!!!

My day began early for a change. I was the first pilgrim to leave, on the 20km hike. ( Wow, Breaking records too ) Ahead of the Spanish pilgrims, who were walking with Karin the Austrian girl. I even beat out the door, the two French women with who´m I had slept the night. Madeleine and Marianne teachers of Spanish who were doing just part of the Camino, who were up early, still had not gotten ready by the time I fled the Albergue. It was dark as I stepped out into the street, and I quickly realised that it would be the first day I would need a coat. Now a little rain doesn`t put me off, but the weather reports had forecast that almost the whole of Spain was to recieve its fair share of inclement weather today. A light drizzle at the begining, heavier later. I had to come back into the Albergue to retrieve my coat from the neatly packed rucksack, and that was when I noticed my book, ´this one`, on the table just inside the door. Damn, I must have left it their since last night when I had been catching up the story so far before bed. I must have gotten distracted.
What luck !!!
"What a pity", I hear you all saying.......!!!!

Well, here we are, the Universe yet again looking out for me.

Leaving the village, passing the Medi-evil castle was quite a spooky feeling. Then after another km or so there was a second, smaller and partly delapidated castle to my right. It was still dark, but daylight was just peeking into the world, a backlight to the ruins. I acted out, a scene from the ´Highlander` movie, where Sean Connery gets his head cut off by the Kurgan. Well I had to do something, there were noises all around me and I could hardly see anything. I considered using the strobe torch, but fought the fear bravely !
Anyway, why did an old castle have a satelite dish on its walls ? Ok. yeah, thats just some plants growing from the walls.
Something loud, very loud, suddenly moved, just behind the wall I was passing. I thought it was a wolf, or a bandit. Thankfully it was neither, and being still dark, my shorts didn`t reveal my shame !!!
What was I doing ? Previously I had been pontificating about the joys of walking alone for the benefit of great experience. But now I was begining to doubt the wisdom of that rhetoric.
Very soon, within two kilometres, I was out of Andalucia, and into, Extremadura. The road here was noticably flatter. A recently laid track, gave no problems to walking as the darkness finally lifted, and a beautiful wet morning emerged.
So what does a pilgrim do, when there is no-one to talk to, and the noises of the night creatures has not yet ceased ?
PRAY !!!
Oh yes, believe you me, I began praying !! And singing !!
The two things combined, soon had me out of my shell and fearless once more. And of course, there are things to be thankful for. My new niece, Grace. A recent addition to the family, what a cute smiley baby...
She had been born with a seemingly common, and treatable, hip placement condition. She will have to wear a velcro brace to keep her hips in the sockets as they mature. (It could be as short as two months or as long as eight months, before the brace can be removed ) Of course not a life threatening condition, thankfully, I spent some time remembering her cute face, and her tiny fingers, wrapped around my own sausage fingers. Was I getting broody ? I prayed that little Grace, would grow up healthy, able to enjoy all that life had to offer, as I, and the freedom to make her choices.
For the last few years, I had finally realised, that I could have choices. Or that the choice to do or not do, was actually mine to make. Why had it taken me so long, to figure it out ? Possibly my Asbergic nature, possibly stubbornness. I had religiously followed the laws and directions passed down to me, without ever really asking why I followed them. Why do I do, what I do ? What makes me tick ? How do I fit into this crazy puzzle of this topsy turvy world ? How do I make a difference ? And how, do I make my life count for something ?
Here walking the Camino, I had been getting a subtle clue, both last year on the Camino Frances, and now on my present Camino.
Relationships, sharing, and being true to myself !!!!

I know that in the past I have let myself down terribly, and often. Being an abuser, a thief, and a selfish man. But here and now, taking other, observably better choices, I was being born again. Free of the hypocrysy, from my former existence, times were not always easy, but they were far more rewarding.

As Gandhi once said, " Be the change you wish to see in the world."
What a great, yet simple truth.

John Lennon wrote, " IMAGINE, all the people, living for today."

Mohamed the prophet said, " The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self."

Jesus, the best known historical figure of all time, is reported to have said, " No greater laws are there than these two. Love god with your whole soul, mind and vital force, and love your neighbour as yourself."

So whatever religion or faith, ideology we were born into, we, YES WE, are the pioneers of its continued truth.

I was trying to create a song, out into the universe also, which would not only convey my personal view of how to change things, starting with myself, but also to win the heart of one special lady. And so I passed the few early hours of the way, until the Autostop motorway services. I had walked I guessed around about two hours, so possibly half the way to Monestario. I needed a toilet break and a refreshment. Following from here onward, was very much more as I remembered the other Camino, with tracks alongside the main roads, and often using roads left redundant because of the new hyways. It was raining harder now and I struggled  to keep focused into the distance. The smell of the Eucalytus trees reminded me of Gallicia in the northwest corner of Spain.
Following up, what I later realised was the hill climb into Monestaio, I gained a new pilgrim companion. A small white dog with a patch over one eye ( not an actual eye patch, like captain Hook). A Jack Russel type of dog, that made no threatening moves, but loved the fuss as I rubbed him behind the ears. I don`t know where he came from, but he was as welcome as anyone to accompany me for a while. He carried one of his front legs off the floor, unless he was sprinting, it appeared that one of his toes was broken. He seemed happy to both trot alongside me and also to sprint into the distance checking the way for me. Oh and he came back for plenty of tickling behind the ears. He was certainly living up to his creed, mans best friend.
"What´s your name little fella ?"  I asked.
He looked at me with a curious eye, his head cocked to one side.
"Emilio," was his reply, though his lips never moved. Then he trotted off ahead, and I wondered what had just happened.
Soon I spied a man, at a small Cortijo, he had began throwing rocks at my friend. I asked him what was the matter ? I could see he felt pretty stupid, as he asked if the dog was mine.  I explained that my friend was accompanying me along the road to Santiago, but was a free agent and could go where he pleased. He was amiable and not at all threatening, he had been a great companion. The man said that he thought that the dog would attack his goats. I was stunned by the lack of real understanding of some people. The farmer, a true simple man, of course was looking out for his goats and other animals. But the dog had not even raised an angry voice against the flock, nor approached them. The dog was scared to pass the man now, and stood on the track watching me as I climbed the hill. He observed me for a long time `til I finally waved him goodbye, passing the crest of the hill.
"Goodbye little friend," I called down to him.
I had notions of Santiago, and the pay attention to the omens comment from some days ago. The words continually running through my head. What was the omen here ?
Strangely, over quite a few months, I have not had any dreams. But here on the Camino I have been having some very vivid and lucid dreams, without any explanation. I could wake remembering great detail. yet understanding precious little. A gun, a betrayal, a reunion with an old relationship. What could it all mean ?
When I finally arrived at the Hostal, no Albergue available here, I was tired cold and wet, and seriously in need of a bath. I have to apologise here, to the very patient man running the hostel for not kicking me up the street. My manner was a little odd and I tried to be polite, but my diction was confused and disjointed, using all the wrong words to explain myself. He still showed me to a lovely room.
I woke later to the sound of more pilgrims arriving at the hostel. I had obviously been very tired, but was now feeling very strange indeed. I felt sick, possibly the rain had given me a chill, walking with only my coat over my wet tee shirt. Possibly the meal from the previous evening, hurriedly prepared at the Albergue. But I was feeling decidedly groggy. I needed some fresh air, but slowly. I was very cold even inside my sleeping bag. I dressed and set off in the direction of a local supermarket that I had passed on the way into Monestario. I needed some brandy to warm and settle my stomach. On my return, I sat in the plaza opposite the hostel, trying to get a bearing on what I should do. Bring it up or try to let the feeling just leave in due course. Finally I returned to the room, the clean, fresh air not recovering me suitably.

And so it was. Chatting with god all day, via song and prayer, I had the feeling that I was still awaiting an answer. So I decided the only option, was to give it one more try, using the big white telephone in the bathroom!!! Using my toothbrush to dial the number, soon got me my amswer.
And the brandy was a great way of recovering !!!!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


As Herman and I set off from Almadena, a coffee, juice and a few pieces of toast in our bellies, we quickly found a good pace for the walk. Whilst I totally recomend spending at least some time each day walking the Camino alone, I have realised this is not what I am ultimately made for. Complete solitude is of no great value to me as far as I can tell. I love people. You will meet some pilgrims, who clearly don`t want to walk or get involved with anyone, and whilst it seems a little odd to me as an observer, I totally respect their wishes. Fortunately the majority of us want, even need the company of others. Herman, like myself is a very sociable person who very much enjoys sharing his tales with others. Tales of the Camino and anecdotes from life in general. So when he began a story about  a new mattress his wife had bought, I listened with keen interest. Well I nearly wet myself laughing !!!!
There seems to be a word in his language that sounds similar to the word for a mattress, which is why he is in trouble when he gets home.
Still, all stereotypes aside, at least his grandfather didn`t bomb our chippy !!!

It turns out that his granfather was Russian, so the soviet connection meaning that he wasn`t responsible. He went on to tell me an all too familiar war story about his aunt. She had apparently been shot and killed by the French army whilst trying to take some potatoes from a German train that had been abandoned. I say all too familiar, because I am sure we all know at least one story about someone killed over a turf war. This was one of my true hopes from the Camino, that people of all nations, could experience and find a way to live with one another. I, for example, had been invited by the Kings of Leon to share with them a lovely yet inexpensive meal, whilst walking the Camino Frances. People who`s backgrounds, could have ment a continued hatred and divide, were pulling together. Being as one brotherhood, sharing love, not seeking a divisive continuance of hatred. I had met many Japonese pilgrims who were happy to walk with people from the United States and other nations despite the events of imeanse injustice some 60 years ago, meted out against their people by the Americans. It was great to see that people of all nations were infact seeking ways to live together peacefully. I`ll make a note to mention it to the Pope, if I see him in Santiago. I mean, he should be able to pull a few strings in the upper eschalons of society.
There were still a lot of pigs to be seen, almost free range. Meaning that they were able to roam freely in huge reserves, where us pilgrims had to cross cattlegrids. There were many pigletts and lambs on this farm we crossed, an occaisional dog keeping an eye on us too.
We passed a memorial to a Senor Salvador Salvador, who it seemed had spent a great effort to keep this part of the Camino marked with arrows and way markers, for us pilgrims who travelled without any guide books. Well done Senor, I say. Never enough arrows...
As we entered the village of El Real de la Jara, the Albergue was the first building on our left. I supposed it was here, so that our snoring did´`t keep the village awake all night. But with a field of goats and several cockerals opposite, we pilgrims were drowned out well and truley. The French couple dutifully directed us to the town hall building where we had to find the tourist office. It was they that gave the stamp and keys to the rooms in the Albergue. A small twist on the regularly occuring theme of  self service accomodation. I had been looking out for the nearst petrol station.....
Fortunately we had been able to leave our bags in the entrance hall, as other pilgrims were already there. If you were the first you would have had to carry your pack all the way to the town centre and back again, a distance of some 2 km`s. The Albergue was very characterful. It seemed to have been a storage facility, a bodega perhaps, with curved ceilings and very low adjoining doorways. Four beds per room three rooms only. The headroom was difficult passing doorways, and they seemed to put the light switches inside the darkened rooms, rather than on the approach to them. Ouch !!!!!
If you have ever walked long distances, especially in the hot sun, you will know that a shower is the highlight of your arrival. Boy did I jump ! The water was so powerful and, uh oh !!! What water ???? Standing naked, I was laughing at my good fortune, a few drips landing on my cheeks. Or were they tears ??
The local council it seemed, were laying new water pipes in this street. Jose and Paco had dug their power chisel through the mains pipe, some time during our arrival. (#*@+s) After Siesta I hoped upon Fransisco to get it fixed. ( God bless that man, he did finally get it back on ) When I did finally get my shower, the water was so hot it took my skin off !!! That`ll teach me for complaining. Us pilgrims seem to spend half the day, looking at the treasures of the Universe for free, and the other half moaning. Too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft. Not enough bars open, too many kilometres between rest stops, not enough arrows. Tut tut, the life of a pilgrim was tough ! ( Some pilgrims, I observed, spent more like 95 % of their day moaning. Why did they bother coming ?)
Fed, watered, showered, Herman and I shared a beer and some snacks in the late evening, just before bed. This was to be the last supper. I have my own rhythm, and a following of you who need to know what I am up to, so would be staying over another day here.


We had been invited to spend a while in the home of Greta, a German lady who was married to a Spaniard and resident of this little village. She had prepared us a breakfast of such glorious delights, and also offered to escort us, in her car, to a point further along the Camino, where the Tarmac finished and the track set off into the Oak forest. The problem was, that Herman was not too keen to walk the 16km`s along the tarmac hyway. When we saw the road, I could hardly blame him. It was like a rollercoaster, the whole way. I was also only planning to walk about 20km`s myself which would have left me somewhere in the middle of the forest with no accomodation. After Arcos I was not intending to overdo the milage, so this option seemed to fit my idea of sound thinking. With about 15km`s to walk I felt happy that I would be avoiding more pain and suffering, than was needed, on the way to Almaden de la Plata. Though I hate missing parts of the Camino, there are days when sense has to overcome the desire not to cheat. It made perfect sense and besides, I always walk throughout the towns and villages during the afternoons, which adds a lot of extra km`s over a few weeks.
Penance served, we surely enjoyed the new and challenging terrains. Lots more hills and gates to negotiate. We soon found ourselves passing the ranger station for the forestry commission. A while later we got our first sight of pork, there were pigs everywhere. Iberican black pigs to be precise. A delicacy of the area, and farmed in such large herds, we seemed to be tripping over them with almost every step.
A few more kilometres into the forest and we passed a grand house. Set in the forest with lush greenery and trees of many varieties, the Hacienda was a veritable oasis. I began hoping that this was our Albergue. No such luck. A huge pig was guarding the gate, so that no-one could enter. As we continued onwards it seemed as though we had gained some pilgrims, the pigs were following us along the route.
After a couple of hours we eventually mounted the peak of the high sierras, with awesome views of the way we had come, and a sweet and precious panorama of the town below us, just down the hill. Herman and I took some time to enjoy the respite from climbing, with eagles above us and the sun setting in the distance, bringing evening with it. On the way down the hill we joked about putting a loo roll holder on a tree, with a sign saying, "two sheets per pilgrim, 10 cents" and an arrow pointing into the bushes.
As we came to an iron cross, mounted upon a small hillock, I noticed that it was surrounded by a fenced area, filled with livestock with curly horns.
"Hey look, they are the holy goats !"  I joked.
As you can tell, walking long distances in the sun, can have odd effects on your behaviour and humour.
We soon reached the village and found the Albergue to be set in the northwest edge of the village. A note pinned to the door, informed us that we would have to find a woman in a neighbouring street who kept the keys to the accomodation. Again, the place was lovely, and hot showers revived us, though as we left to eat still only four pilgrims had arrived. We ate at Casa de Conchi which was really pleasant, and had our first taste of the local pork dishes. When we finally arrived back at the Albergue, we were surprised to find the place almost full of cyclists, camped out everywhere.
The evenings were cooler now, since only a few days ago when I had been in the south of Spain, but my tiredness soon kicked in, and I was away with the fairies. Not even a dozen or so Spanish cyclists could keep my eyes open. Sweet dreams of Andalucia and black pig pilgrims....

Monday, 4 October 2010


Peaceful Warrior x

Road to Castill Blanco de los Arroyos.

As per normal, tired and unincouraged by the late arrival of the day, I arose at about 8am to find that the bar had been open for some time, serving breakfast to the nation. A coffee and orange juice went down well, and Herman was himself just rousing. It seemed a good timing, that left us free to walk together the day ahead. Only 17km`s to cover, so we should be able to do it in about three and a half hours. The day was welcomely overcast, and we set off together glad that we would not have to walk in temperatures back in the 30`s. The way we found easily, well marked, in keeping with Camino tradition. And we soon were off the tarmac roads, finding our way through wondefully lush olive groves.
Herman, due to a back injury and possibly his age, was suffering from a condition, that his doctor had told him meant he shouldn`t carry a heavy backpack. To this end he had designed and built a trolley that carried his pack and other items, via a harness, worn over the shoulders. He told me that he had seen something similar on the market, for about 500 euros. So he had put his skills to work and bought items and made the trolley himself, with lightweight and inexpensive parts, easily found in hardware shops. The actual connection from harness to trolley was simply two seatbelt clips. It looked a little odd, but he assured me it was comfortable and only felt like carrying about 5 kilos across his shoulders. The wheels seemed to cope with pretty well any surface, even the rougher terrains, and he had no problems keeping a rhythm to match my own. I partly envied Herman, because of the way my load had seemed to become increasingly heavier, during the trip thusfar. I was fighting the desire to throw it all away and walk only with the clothes on my back. But I kept telling myself that at some point I was going to need the coat, fleece and spare socks.
Since my previous Camino, where I regularly carried 15 kg on a daily basis, I had been able to be more strict with myself. Though the present load with water was approaching around 11 kg`s. I had taken good advice and reduced the weight of the essential items, such as sleeping bag, coat and drinking pouch, and changes of clothes. This new bag, properly designed and manufactured by Berghaus was almost 2kg`s lighter than the previous one. This was very good news, however I knew I still had to be strict with myself, else the pack would soon fill up, with items better left at home. In some ways, this gleening of nessecities was a Cathartic experience. I began to realise just what I could do without. Everything else seemed to find greater worth on my way to new horizons. I am sure that pilgrims of old carried far less than I am, but then again their hygene was not very high on the agenda, not what we now expect as civil.
The scenery was as ever breathtaking. We managed a fairly good pace for a guy with a trolley and an overweight Englishman. By mid day we arrived to some steeper climbs and were constantly being met by downhill mountainbikers. They seemed used to, suddenly meeting pilgrims coming in the other direction, and fortunately no incidents occured. The rains from an earlier storm had torn great rivulets into some parts of the track. Steadily Herman managed to negotiate them all, as too the cyclists rushing by. Oddly enough we also met local people walking towards us, we assumed they were visiting some of the many Cortijos that we were passing.
Herman and I found great humour in discussing all of the light topics for conversation, based on the normal stereotypical nationalistic ideologies. Topics such as, the holocaust, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Herman had spent the biggest part of his life in the German army, as an Engineering, Chief Officer. Working for the joint Nato forces in many destinations and opperations. He therefore had lots of very interesting and varied stories to share with me. This is of course another of the great reasons to walk the Camino, it brings a wonderful variety of opportunities to us. The chance to spend time with people from not only different backgrounds, nations and cultures, but people with great stories to tell. For me, a great source of understanding has come from open and frank discussions with people, that I would not have the chance to meet in  my ordinary day to day life.
I found Herman to be both well educated and an inquirer of knowledge. We managed to pass away the rest of the afternoon, talking about everything from religion to women. Which happens to be my favorite subject. (The latter not the former)
He told me a story about a, ´friend` of his who had said, he wanted to come on the Camino and pay a woman, preferably young fit and healthy, to carry his rucksack all the way to Santiago..... and walk ten paces infront all day.....
Of course neither of us saw the fairness of such an idea. I mean, women are not our slaves are they?
I wonder though, if the idea might catch on !!!!!

As we arrived into the village I had to laugh. It seems that to access the Albergue here, you have to go to the local petrol station, where you get the stamp for the Credencia and the code to a padlock on the front door of the accomadation. I had never dreamt that Repsol would be the spiritual guardians of the Pilgrims hostels..
The accomodation was very nice and reasonably tidy, though the shower head was cracked. It did help me to give the bathroom a quick clean in the process of me showering.
We soon met up at the bar across the road, and ate like kings. With our fingers, throwing the bones over our shoulders.........
Suddenly, whilst in the middle of dessert course, another of the pilgrims came over with bad news, that the ´control` had arrived. I thought that we had done something wrong, before realising that at some of the hostels and Albergues, the local authorities needed to keep strict records of visitors to their establishments. After we returned to the bar to pay and have a night cap, it was again time for bed. Herman and I had somehow been invited to a breakfast at the home of a German lady that also welcomed pilgrims. For this reason neither of us had any intentions in getting up super early.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Leaving Sevilla (Cont)

Being unable to finish the first chapter of my book, ´til around  2pm, I began my first day, passing by the Cathedral at around 3pm, on my way out of the city. Not a good plan, I hasten to add, but I finally arrived in Guillena at about 9pm. The sun had not been very kind, but rather refreshingly, the local people had been, as they helped a late walking pilgrim out of the city away from Sevilla, in the direction of Santiago. The lights were burning all about the village, as I walked through the darkening evening, along dusty tracks, to Guillena. You have to walk along a rather scary path along side the river, which is falling away year by year, with the rains, and possibly high water levels. Fortunately the sign which had warned of 1metre depths, must have been relative to an earlier season. I crossed the river into the town as night finally closed in around me, and four local gentleman, were very pleased to direct me in the direction of the local sports stadium. I was sure they didn´t expect me to do some track events at this time, especially after such a long walk..... The Albergue shared the entrance to the facility. Suprisingly, the Albergues seem to run on a rather odd self service system for the most part here in Andalucia. It took me a while to understand what the people in the bar were telling me. They hold the keys and the Albergue is free, so you need to open the door then bring the keys back to them. I was tired and exhausted, more than their lack of explanation. It seems that the accomodation is provided by the local council and maintained by them. But as its free, the pilgrims need to try to clean it themselves. The facility was pretty good though. I spied for the first time on the Camino, pilgrims, seated at an outside table. Their warm friendly and knowing smiles reasurred me, I had once again met the real bretheren of the ´Camino`. A French couple, and a German, a veteran walker.
The food was excelent in the bar, I forgoed the shower, not wanting to miss out on a decent meal. I needn`t have worried at all, as the bar stayed open ´til late, the wee small hours infact, as was testified to, by revellers from the local village, whilst the few pilgrims here, tried to sleep. I had a brief conversation with Herman, the German, who had already done both the Camino Frances, and the Portugese Camino, from Porto to Santiago. He was a very jolly and kindly man, with a huge capacity to accomodate all the pilgrims, with his linguistic skills. We had a very envigourating chat, but then both needed to get some sleep. I was finally doing, what I had come here to do. Walk the Via de la Plata, and enjoy the people I would meet on the way to Santiago.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Leaving Sevilla

After again resting my feet in Sevilla, meeting with Qt had been a wonderful reunion. I sensed a difference in her that I suspected was not good for our Camino future together. But, being a patient soul I let her show me around the city she had come to know these past few days, for once becoming the leader of discovery. I have to say I really ejoyed the city I had never known, and there was plenty of things to see, experiences to have. The tapas bar on Via de la Constitution for example, was a real pleasure for both of us. Also during my time here, I was able to get the first of my postings on the blog, and the story underway. My Idea to have a live blog/story finally coming to life. Unfortunately for me, Qt has decided to change the direction of her travels at this time, in search of experience, less painfull on her feet, I suppose. This has robbed me, cruely, of my Typist. I was hoping that with her superior technical experience and fast secretarial skills, I would be able to get my story, as "LIVE" at a faster rate. Seemingly you readers will have to be more patient, as I can type about 18 words per minute, and what with Internet availability on the Camino, I will either have to walk slower, or learn to type faster.... It has been possible, and of course always is, to do less Camino per day and be able to write more regularly. This may not be possible everyday for various reasons, bet well hey.... this is the story which is writting itself, so I have no control over what it choses !!!

Good luck QT, on what you decide to do henceforth ....
And thankyou for sharing with me, ´til now, the ´Camino pequeno Andaluz`.

In my experience of life so far, it is more than evident that for good experiences to exist, then bad ones, must be their opposite. (As a concept, how can light be light, without the absense of light? We call this darkness.) I try not to be negative, seeing normally, good coming from bad on lots of occasions. In relation to the camino from Sevilla however, I have to make myself known on several points of dissappointment. I will be brief, as in the main the overall experience has been a wonderfully enlightening one.
Having walked previously from St Jean pied du port in France, on the camino Frances, I was overwhelmed by the attention to detail of the information and help available to the naive or uninformed. Whilst I admit myself here I did little in the way of preparation, in the gathering of information as to routes and distances from Sevilla onwards to santiago, I have found that little help or clear information is available by the usual routes. You cannot for example, get a credencial from the Cathedral. You have to go to a hotel, the Hotel Don Simon, in a street close to the Cathedral. You then have to be available, at the convenience of the priest to get a sello (Camino stamp) in your Credencial. Which is between 10am and 2pm.
The staff at the various points around the cathedral are rather uninformed, or clueless about what the Camino de Santiago actually is. (My personal experience) Based upon have a reasonable grip on their Langauge. and an attention to try to reason out with them I could not hang around ´til the following day for the stamp.
And of course, Gods house is not free to visit for pilgrims, apparently he needs your cash to install better security systems, in case you fancy taking something away with you, in your already heavy backpack !!!!
Even the tourist information offices are poor at helping with any directions as to how and from where you find, and follow the Camino out of Sevilla. And to add, the people of Sevilla who live and work here, seem to have no idea either where to find the Camino markings.

I am aware that to this end, many well informed guides have been created to assist you with these difficulties. Without one, like me, you will have to rely on some serious common sense and determination to find your way out of the city to the first markers. I found my first yellow arrow at Camas, several kilometres from Sevilla, and even then they were a little hard to find until Santiponce.


Am about to start the story from Sevilla onwards and may return to the days of the story missed out here at a later stage, so am leaving a space to fill the story in if It fits better here in terms of the flow of the journey.

Peaceful Warrior x


Peaceful Warrior.

Rest, of the way.

I was happy that Qt had gone on ahead, no way would she have wanted what I had done, nor deserved such personal cruelty. It was hardly an act of love or mercy that had made me forge ahead undaunted. It was heer bloody mindedness ! I knew that I would have to rest here at least a couple of days, as I had severly overdone my determination to reach Arcos. Better if I had stayed at the venta on the terrace, than to have put myself through this hell of injury. But this is no-doubt what Heinsight is for, I suppose !!
Qt had been bought some flowers, by a Spanish gentleman, I heard. (The wonders of sms communications, again unavailable to pilgrims of old) I hoped for flowers on my coffin, as I dreamed of a comfy end in hospital, nurses tending to my wounds. Then came the sound of gunfire !!!!!!
I was rudely awoken on my bench, dreaming of death, to the sound of the irrigation around the park coming into action. A hidden timer setting off the water jets that oscilated, spraying the grass and trees. I quickly realised that I had been spared the coverage of the spray, but only by inches. But I was really beyond caring at this point. It was still dark, early in the morning, and my feet were still on fire with pain and discomfort. I shifted about and eventually the world dissappeared once more, returning with the sunrise and a smell of autumn blossoms, floating on the breeze.
I had walked in the region of 45km´s on my fourth day of walking my ´Camino Pequeno Andaluz`, and here I was stupidly beaten, for the time being.... The comments I made before, about the spirit of man, is somewhat inadequate. I now realise that we, ´Mankind`, are the stupidest of all the animal kingdom. We actually choose to do ourselves detremental harm, even though it is well within our powers to do nothing but good. We use horrible force, over stupid idealism, to force ourselves to do the cruelest and most inhumane service to ourselves and our kind. And we use the reasons of progress or challenge to cover it up. What we are is really a mix of prudent and pathogenic............
The two days of rest have proved a great help to my pain, yet I fear more lessons in stupidity to follow henceforth. I have made a descicion to go to Sevilla tomorrow to both see how Qt is doing, and to postpone my investigation of this personal route. Using my sensible head, the continuation will still take at least 4 days, to walk. I will return to complete this stretch at the end of my Camino, God willing..

Saturday, 25 September 2010

From Hell to Heaven and back. (Cont)

What were the omens I was looking out for, as I travelled on, having recently met Santiago ? Were not these, just quite simply local girls, with a staid and boring life, themselves keen for news of adventures beyond their towns ? One of the three, seemed a little more attentive, as eventually other customers did arrive, leaving me free to stop thinking about being eaten. Sandra was without doubt, an Andalucian senorita of great beauty. Slim elegant and with eyes a man could get lost into. Her slighlty older companion Deborah, clearly the boss, soon had Sandra running around cleaning and serving, whilst she attended to the decorations behind the bar. Luisa, equally sweet, but much more shy, busied herself cleaning the terrace, sated I imagined for now, with tales of my journey.
As wonderful a relaxation as it was for me to stay here, awash with dreams of dancing the night away in Sandras arms, I knew that the road was calling. I said my goodbyes, and left the waystop, a new spring in my step, which kept me going for some distance, before the tiredness came again. And out there on the way to Arcos de la Frontera, where Hell had become a passage to Heaven, I found myself on the slippery slope down once more, the fires being stoked for my soul. Leaving at 7.30pm to walk another 20km´s was without doubt, one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I found another refreshment stop at a Venta along the road, a couple of cold Cokes to perk up my energy and I was off again, aware that nightfall was fast approaching. Here the road passed under another hyway, between San Jose del Valle and Jerez de la Frontera. I wished I was on my way to either, by public transport. The road ahead was so straight I could see at least the first 5km´s in the distance. As I reached the point on the hill I had previously spied some time ago, the darkness was finally taking over. I was walking on unlit hyways, where cars were passing ferociously fast, not expecting to see anything pedestrian, except the odd rat or snake... I have a head torch, so found it out amongst my stuff, finally giving in to not being able to see in the dark. I also enjoyed briefly the opportunity to remove my hot boots. Walking for so long on sun heated roads, was both tiresome and increasing the risk of stress injury. The torch worked well, it has a strobe function, so as to preserve the battery, and appear more observable. When I put my boots back on, I could hardly stand. I was tottering about like a penguin. I knew that my blisters were coming up, but could do nothing about it here, the pain more of a dull ache in the soles of my feet. With nowhere to go but the road ahead, or the kerbside, where snakes do their rattling around during the wee small hours, I forged on. Arcos was definately closer, one more hour I guessed. Apart from the sheer beauty of the walks across Andalucia, which was lost on me now in the dark, my other past time had been the arithmatic. The working out of speeds, distances, and road left, from road covered, computing in my head constantly. A throwback to being Asbergic, I guessed.......
I reached Junta de los Rios at about 11pm. All evidence, due to my calculations were, that I should be in Arcos by now. The Spanish authorities, must have altered all of the road signs recently, because apparently Arcos was still some 6km´s away !!!! Either a huge conspiracy was underway or I was walking far slower that I had expected to be.  I had made fairly good progress this morning, and had been almost sprinting in comparison, after seeing angels. Yet here I was with a choice. It´s great to have choice ! Find a hostel here, or go on. The lights were friendly, burning bright in a Venta on the main road, and I was about to give it up for the day, when I heard someone mention ´Pilgrims`, and the ´Camino de Santiago`.
In the front garden of a house, a family were taking the night air, and chatting, surprised to see me passing no doubt. I replied instantly with a greeting and spent a few minutes in conversation responding to their enquiries. Some sort of foolish pride must have gripped me, as I continued on along the road and out of the peaceful village. After another few, slow kilometres, when the barking of dogs had died down, I suddenly felt a most excruciating pain, below the toes on my left foot. JESUS CHRIST ! I thought that I had stepped on a nail, as the pain tore straight through me. I cried out in the wilderness, the open darkness carrying my scream, but to no-one hear except the roadkill. I paused for a minute maybe two, knowing it had only been a blister exploding, yet unsure if I could go on anymore. But I was somewhere, possibly half way between Junta and Arcos. I knew that if I stopped for more than a few brief minutes I would not be able to go on, so adopted a way of scrunching my toes up, to lesten the obvoius discomfort. My right foot seemed in surprisingly good shape comparatively, yet the knee on this leg was suffering more than the left. I swear that if you could have seen me, I would have made an amusing sight. Hobbling along like a penguin through the night, my torch flashing repeatedly in tandem with my movements.
At about 1am I finally had to sit down, having beaten several summits, each out doing the previous, overlooking the town of Arcos, about 1km away. By now I was hardly able to worry about snake attacks, over the severe cramps and the blisters. I still had some water, the preparations well suited to the jouney. The town shone like a jewel in the night, across the valley between us. I realised gratefully, that I would not, (if I ever moved on from here) have to go down all the way into the valley to enter the town, a high connection visible to my left. At about 1.30am I finally reached the destination of my days walk, almost on all fours. I had forgotten the idea of accomodation at this point, choosing the nearer Mirador (Lookout point) to the right of the entrance to this town. The benches looked soft enough to this weary pilgrim. I was too hot to care about getting cold during the rest of the night. I realised that this last push, had taken about  30 minutes to cover what I would normally have done in less than 10 minutes.
My feet gave way as I lay me down to sleep, and dreams came thick and fast, I had reached Arcos !

From Hell to Heaven and back.

Qt had decided that she still could´t walk properly and didn´t want to kill herself by walking 40km´s to Arcos de la Frontera. What a killjoy !! My main aim was the next big place to stop, to break the journey to Sevilla into bite sized pieces. (You will henceforth realise, just how stupid I am, about the size of pieces I can bite) The only real respite from 40km´s is a town some 10km´s away, Paterna de Rivera. And following that, at about 33km is the town of Junta de los Rios.
As you may know if you have ever walked, just how important it is, not only to know where you are going, but also how to get there. To this aim I climbed the ramparts of the old city castle with Qt last night, to avail myself of the direction and roads to walk out of the small town of Medina Sidonia. The views were amazing (See my title picture) and the winds were strong and powerful. I spied Arcos via Paterna away into the distance. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that dear Qt was leaving by bus again, and would need escorting to the bus station. I say unfortunately, because this totally altered my bearings as to the first road to chose. Once she was safely on her way to Jerez de la Frontera, I waved the town goodbye walking briskly down the hill into the new day. I thought I could spy the faraway town and began following the route out of Medina. In the distance I could see a dusty track that stretched as far as I could see, towards my journeys end. After some 5km´s  I happened upon a sign, that informed me that any further progress would be a trespass of private property. Oh my word, was I distressed !!! Fortunately a friendly farmer was in his car driving towards me. (The safety, still on his shotgun.....) He advised me of my error, informing me that I was also on my way to Jerez across country. Apart from the fact that in these parts of Spain the land is not free to walk across, I was still way off course. Back in the days Santiago walked his flocks across Andalucia, there had been no fences, but in my time, they were everywhere. I am now aware that the law permits shooting in these free range areas, so be warned if you stray like me. It could be damaging to your health !!!
In my charming way, I asked the farmer for a lift, to take me back to the town where he was headed, so as not to have to walk the distance before I rejoined my journey. He was a very kindly man, taking me all the way back to the town some 5km´s away and dropping me off on the road I needed to take, out of Medina. I was a little dissappointed at myself, my spirits a little lower to say the least. I still had 40km to go... The time was around 10.30am and I had wasted a good couple of hours in a mis-pursuit of my goal. I tried to remain impassive about it, but knew that a hard day had just got even harder. On the way to Paterna, I soon realised just how the route was unsympathetic and inconsiderate to walking. It was pretty inconsiderate to traffic aswell, the road becoming so narrow in places, it´s a wonder how vehicles can pass one another without incident. The drop off into the verges is often very steep. During the journey I did get to see a wind turbine being constructed.

These huge pieces of apparatus, a worthy energy source in such windy terrains. For me though, both fighting the narrow road and the wind trying to blow me into the fields, was very tiring. Much tougher that I wanted to give it credit for. On the long climb uphill into Paterna, I prayed constantly for my salvation from both lorries and the wind. And magically the snakes were invisible too, except for the skin of a whopper, as I entered the village.
I nearly gave up the Camino then, seriously. But the spirit of man is strong, as too my desire to complete my journey and realise my dreams. If I had known then just what a high, and a low I would go through over the next few hours, I would have quit from the low... I guess the high saved me....

I took shelter in the main plaza of the village, and ate and drank to restore my depleted energies, having already done about 15km of a 10 km journey. I needed sleep too, so took my siesta in the shade ´til about 4.30 pm, all the time wrestling with a desire to quit for the day. I am so glad that I didn´t, but so sad that I pushed so hard to find my destiny.

The road from Paterna de Rivera was narrow again at first, but signs advertising the widening were a welcome reward. For the next 10km I had a wide berth from everything, except the fears about snakes ! A few lorry drivers pipped their horns, but more in a, I know what you are doing kind of a way. They seemed keen to wave, possibly former pilgrims. I did however get covered in fine white dust, from the new unpaved road surface, and the wind pushing at my back. I swear, that on a few occasions my feet left the floor for a few centimetres. The road just stretched unkindly ahead, the town of Arcos visible, but a long way off yet. Because I had set off from Paterna, I knew that I would have to walk another 20 something kilometres before I would find another rest point. The timing was bad too. So late in the afternoon and only about 20km covered by 6.30pm. As I was about to give up hope of salvation, I spied a sign for a Venta, at 300metres. A veritable oasis in the distance, as the road road curved to the left. Spurred on, I arrived shortly to Venta Cantarero 2.
Hyperbole aside for a moment, I entered the Venta relieved and rejoicing, for a chance to be refreshed. And simply, was met at the counter by 3 angels. Ok. Ok. I hear what you are saying !  A man in his mid life, finding an oasis hosted by three, gorgeous young women, of course he saw angels.......!
Well in truth I am not aware of any particular crisis in my life at this point, though being single does have it´s negative aspects. But I am living my life, one day at a time, and believing in miracles, as this surely was. There were no vehicles parked outside, and yet I had seen plenty of vehicles pass me out on the hyway, so I presumed it was just one of those pauses in their otherwise busy day. Though, the way they all gatherd around me at the bar, intently listening and asking questions about my travels, I couldn´t help feeling that their day had been a triffle slow or boring up ´til this point. Oh yes, and the feeling that at any moment, they would turn into vampires and devour me, as I had seen in the Tarantino film, ´dusk ´til Dawn`, some years ago!!!!!!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Roadkill (Cont)

Eventually I moved on down the cobbled track, towards another Santiago. For much of the morning my troubles were the questions still that had no answers. Was he really Santiago ? Had I met the King of Salem ? What was the omen of the snake about ? Where was Fatima ? Andy why in heavens name, was I not seeing angels if I was on my way into a coma ?
How had he known I was travelling and how had he known of my search for love ?

As the sun rose hotly, the heat from the day rose to greet me like a wave. Fortunately the Levanter was cutting its way across the hills and open plains, feeding the wind turbines, and cooling my brow now and then. According to my map, there was little in the way of villages out here and nothing remotely on my route, except the small villages either side of the main hyway. To reach any of them, I would have to take another detour of at least 5km. All along the route, I kept finding layed out before me, the remains of the roadkill, that had probably stepped out during the night-time hours. I was surprised, and not nessecarily in a good way, to see just how many snakes there were out here. Some of them very fat and very long. Or they had been ! Tie that in with both the passing of a headstone the previous day ( a young motorcyclist killed ) on a very straight hyway, and the experience with Santiago this morning, and I was one nervous bunny. Of course plenty of cars and lorries passed me by. Some hooted their horns, possibly because they too, were former pilgrims or knew about them. Others, possibly nothing better to do than scare the Shit out of an already jumpy, walker.
As a precaution, I had been to the tourist offices, and the casa de Cultura in Vejer, to inquire as to the refreshment stops along the way to Medina. One, the tourist office, had no idea, and coudn´t wait to get a leaflet into my hands and me, out of the door. I was sure that it wasn´t approaching siesta. The girl in the casa de Cultura, seemed equally unhelpful, but assured me that there was a watering hole on the way to Medina. At about the four hour mark I needed to rest so chose a farm gateway entrance, free of obstructions, and snakes ! After about half an hour I knew I´d better move or cease up, so set off once more. Almost an hour later, I actually found the rest area, spoken of, at 20km, 10km to go ´til Medina Sidonia. Well, as you can imagine, I have to apologise to the girl in the casa de Cultura (who isn´t a lying bitch....) about the existence of the venta.

Tres Arcos was a welcome venue, and I have to add, excellent eating stop. The salad and fish were amazing. They didn´t even mind me taking off my odorous footwear for the duration of my visit. Finally fed and watered, I set off to meet Qt in the village which seemed close enough to spit at, yet took another two hours to reach.
The last few kilometres were very hard and I considered a taxi more than once, even a passing car would have possibly been flagged down for a lift. But in the absense of traffic I soldiered on, eventually realising how Santiago had known I was travelling. DURGH !!!! The back pack !!!! The walking poles !! But this did not explain the odd dialogue between us, nor the omen of the snake, which kept one eye on the kerb grass all day.

If you have ever travelled so far on foot, each step you will know, is very precious, yet very cruely spent. As I arrived at the end of my days walk, into the Plaza, where I saw Qt waiting quietly, tears filled my eyes with gratitude and love. Such heightened emotions are common on ´the way`. Fortunately for me, I had been able to listen to rousing music this past two hours. These wonders of technology not open to pilgrims of old. I have to say that normally, I don´t agree with spoiling the experience with too much outside influence. Though of course the Pelegrinos of times gone by, did not have Goretex and lightweight fabric for their loads. Neither, it has to be said, did they have all the other trappings of a modern pilgrimage at hand. They slept neath the stars and ate very simple, self prepared meals each day. They stopped when they wanted, and didn´t have to make it to the nearest safety stop or nice comfy Albergue. Unless this was a sign of my delerium, I may well be on my way to discovering the hardships, encountered by pilgrims from the past 17 centuries or so.

Qt was so pleased to see me too, and we soon discovered how lovely it was to have company once more.


Peaceful Warrior. 

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Setting off alone is quite a tough descision.. I have done it plenty of times before, on the road to Santiago, when I left the northern towns of Spàin, doing the 'Camino Frances'. Somehow this was very much more daunting. Having Qt for support had been a wonderful joy. Part of me of course was keen to set off and get back into my own rhythm. Another part of me feared the openness of the 30km walk I planned to complete this day. If we would have been on the normal camino route, then the towns and facilities would be closer and better catered for. This was however a very sparsly walked route, I was aware that some other people had walked from Tarifa before, by now hearing snippets of information pertaining to this. After two days of not walking, Qt's feet having needed time to heal, I was ready for the off, yet nervous, the ominous open clear skies, raining down yet more sunshine. Qt had made her descision to go on ahead by bus to Medina Sedonia, later that morning. I didn't blame her, after all she had not come on the Camino to begin her walk with huge open tracts of land, offering niether shelter nor refreshments. I agreed to see her later in the next hilltop town, knowing all too well it was going to be one hell of a tough walk for me. As straightforward as you could possibly hope for with a final climb inot the village, as had been my experience on arriving into Vejer. I had been very impressed by the small provincial town, set up high on the hill overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and the villages of Barbate and Zahara de los Atunes. Cadiz was clearly visible farther to the north, huge cranes in the marina obvious clues.
The atmosphere of this town had been very conducive towards my writing of the story so far, though of course I am only the mere scribe. But the story wanted to be written and so a tranquil setting like this was the perfect place. I hope that at some point in the future I might find myself back in Tres Mares, to complete and put all the finishing touches to the book, this place being paradise on earth. The Plaza de España in the older part of the town being one of the most lovely settings I have encountered, had become home to some of the writing hours thusfar.

So up at dawn, despite it being somewhat later at this time of the year, and off to see the new roads of Andalucia. A big sleepy hug from Qt to wish me luck, and I was away. Of course because we were travelling by different methods today, I utilized the fact that she was going by coach, and left her with my clothes to be washed, with the idea she might find a launderette and do some washing. Well at the very least I would gain the relief of this few extra kilos, for the journey, however, needing to carry extra water soon had the pack weight back to what it had been previously. I had no real idea of, if and where the opportunity to replenish supplies would come. But of course drinking it would eventually lessen the weight some. On other caminos, the information is well documented as to where all of the refilling points for water are, but as this is an uncommon route, nothing should be left to chance.

Talk about strange coincidences. I had recently given Qt, "The Alchemist", by Paulo Coelho. One of my most favourite novels about journeys and adventures. And here as I left the small town, I met with a man, who directed me towards a little known track out of the town. The path was only passable on foot and led down the hillside, cutting shorter the route via the access roads. it was a dusty old track at first, becoming a centuries old cobbled cart track, winding down the valley side.

In the book, "the Alchemist", a boy called Santiago, a shepherd in the Andalucian mountains, sets off in search of treasure, that he had dreamt of on several occasions. His simple life, suddenly becomes full of choices. And following his heart he sets off from Tarifa, to see the pyramids of Egypt. This was very much in my mind as I arrived in Tarifa myself some days ago. Though my adventure, one that I would be sharing in part with Qt, was to be setting off in completely the other direction, I none the less smiled at the significance it held for me.

As I left the smiling man, I met leaving the village, I had to remark how out of place he had seemed. His voice was tainted with and echo of the East, his Spanish as good, only as my own. But the twinkle in his eyes reminded me of the King of Salem. I pondered this briefly as I walked briskly away, convincing myself only of my furtive imagination. But as I rounded the bend at the bottom of the paved road, I turned, I couldn't get the feeling out of my mind. Sure enough the man had vanished. Even the bench upon which he had sat was gone. A gust of wind ruffled my hair, yet no trees showed similar air disturbance. If I had been asleep before, then I was wide awake now, and ready for anything. I sometimes lie to myself as well, and so when I heard the tinkling of bells, I assumed that it had all been a silly dream. Here was I walking to Santiago de Compostela, in the north west corner of Spain, some 1200km away, and already I was losing the plot.......

Along the track came a herd of goats, or they could have been sheep. I'm no great expert on livestock you should know ! Some black ones and little kids made up the collage. And blending into the midst of the small flock came the shepherd. A lean, medium height, older gentleman, with a huge wide eyed smile. I wanted to greet him with some witty comments, based on my previous rhetoric, but fought against such foolishness.

"Good morning young man".  He greeted.

"I see you are off on your journey too".  Came the follow up.

I was about to reply, when he added.

"Pay attention to the omens".

We stood only metres apart, sheep or goats milling around us everywhere, as I became temporarily speechless. In his eyes, I could realise a lifetime of his own travels to foreign shores and searches for treasure. I dared to believe that I was infact, face to face with one of my greatest heros. It seemed as though time had stood still, the sun moved nowhere and the song of the birds had ceased also. I was awash with a strange feeling of peace and tranquility. The man before me, the boy I knew from fables, kept his gaze upon me.
All of a sudden, the flock scattered, the silence was released and a snake was crossing the track just ahead of us. We smiled as the serpent slithered away, affraid of the goats no doubt.

"Santiago, I presume ?"  Was my opener.

"Ah, you have heard of me then ? Well friend, go in peace and follow your dreams. And remember, where your heart is, your treasure will be also".

He said, waving me goodbye, as he set off up the track, not waiting for more conversation.

"Wait".  I called after him.  "What about Fatima ?"

He turned, still smiling broadly. Rubbing his chin with a pensive thought begging to take over.

"What about her ?"   He responded.

"Well, did you return from your travels and marry her ?"  I quizzed.

"Friend. Curiosity killed the cat. Ask only of the universe, what is really important to you. Fatima is, as Fatima is. You will meet your own Fatima, when you stop really searching and open your eyes to the life you were born to live".

His eyes widened with the beginings of a laugh.

"Look only for answers to the important things of life, then you will have your rewards".

And with a wave of his hand, he was gone and I was dismissed.

For a moment I was unable to move, riveted to the spot. The sound of his goats' bells, following him up the trail and away. Was I in a dream. Had I really met with, "The" Santiago, now an old man, still tending his flocks as carefully as ever ?