United Arab Emirates · 45 Days · 49 Moments · September 2016

Paul Maher

Mer & Clive's Camino 2016


Made it to the German war tunnels today and it was absolutely fascinating. The Germans occupied Jersey for 5 years from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War and built a lot of forts as well as an underground hospital using largely Russian and Spanish labour. The story of the occupation is so interesting including why England decided to peacefully surrender the Channel Islands to the Germans which probably saved them from being bombed and destroyed but would have been very hard on those who continued to live here while the Germans had control. Finished the day with a visit to the break wall at Catherine Bay and dinner with some of Clive's old mates which was great.

2 days ago

Decided we needed to do a walk today (not like we haven't walked far enough already!). So we started with breakfast with some more of Clive's relatives (there's a few!) and then headed to Grosnez Castle where we were able to walk along the coastline to Greve de Lecq and return. 12.5kms in total with some stunning scenery and views of Guernsey, Sark and the French coastline. We offered to take Bev & Tim's 13 year old Jack Russell - Lily with us who led the way. It was a beautiful walk and good to get moving again without our packs. Finished the day watching the sun set and a couple of beers at the Smugglers Inn then a home cooked lamb roast. Does it get any better!!

3 days ago

Another great day exploring the sights of Jersey. The island has a lot of history and is littered with Norman style forts built to defend it from numerous French invasions over the centuries. I think we've now managed to visit most of the better known hotels in Jersey for either lunch or a quick beer!! We also spent sometime today catching up with a couple more of Clive's relatives and fit in a walk around the local water supply dam. Visited a museum today where they are currently working on dismantling a 1 tonne block of Celtic and Roman coins and jewellery found buried in a local farm - very interesting. Hoping to see the German war tunnels tomorrow.

4 days ago

Had another great day in Jersey touring the sites with Clive, Mel, Kiloran and Bev (a few with sore heads from yesterday's "lunch")! Everywhere you go in Jersey the scenery is just stunning and we continue to be so lucky with the weather. The roads in Jersey are very narrow with stone walls either side and there are so many roads and laneways that it would be very easy to get lost but fortunately things haven't changed much so Clive's had no trouble remembering his way around. Looking forward to seeing some more of the sights tomorrow.

5 days ago

Had a great day in Jersey today starting with a walk this morning to pick up the car we'd left in town last night. We followed the old railway line which is a track built during the German occupation that runs from east to west on the island. The weather continues to be on our side. Finished the day with lunch in town with most of Clive's relatives that still live in Jersey. Another great day and more to come...

6 days ago

Made it to Jersey after an interesting night's "sleep" in the airport at Gatwick - opposite Hampton - by Hilton (not quite so flash though). Busy day today in Jersey with showers, clothes washing, new jeans and shirt, hair cuts and beard trims. Looked like bush rangers when we arrived here but I think we're now looking respectable!! Jersey is an absolutely stunning place with so much history and is similar in some respects to rural Spain with lots of stone walls, narrow lanes and stone buildings. Had a beautiful Italian dinner with Clive's cousin Beverley and her husband Tim as well as Mel and Kiloran who also arrived here today. Pretty tired after our "short stroll" so looking forward to s good nights sleep.

7 days ago

Not a lot to post today as it was travelling day starting with the bus from Finisterre to Santiago (our last three days in reverse by motorised transport). Still getting used to the idea of no extended walking! We did walk back into Santiago from the bus station though and chanced upon s few more of our extended Camino family who had arrived while we were at the coast. Had a look through the cathedral and pilgrim museum, some lunch and a hunt for jeans (but they're all slim fit is Spain and wouldn't fit over our calves!). Then it was time to get the bus to the airport and our flight to Gatwick for an overnighter at the airport before our flight to Jersey in the morning. So ends our Spanish adventure and begins our Jersey chapter.

9 days ago

Day 33 and our last day walking started very wet as our luck with the weather finally ran out but after a soggy morning the afternoon cleared just as we arrived in Finisterre and we were able to take our shoes off and walk the last 2kms along the beach - can't believe our luck!!! We had an early pilgrims dinner so that we had time to walk the last 3kms with our Camino buddies Frank from Germany and Susanne from Denmark to the 0.00 marker at the lighthouse at the end of the world and watch the sunset over the ocean and the full moon rise - couldn't have scripted it better.....Total walked - 912.1kms from one side of Spain to the other - a really amazing experience. On the bus back to Santiago this morning - first time on motorised transport for more than a month - feels a bit odd but is certainly better on the feet.

10 days ago

Day 32 and the journey to Finisterre continued today with a wet start but fortunately it cleared by lunch and our luck with the weather continued. Hard to believe that after 885kms tomorrow will be our last day walking the Camino. I think it's going to take us some time to adjust after the daily routine we've developed but we're looking forward to reaching the coast and seeing the end of the world!!

11 October 2016

Day 31 and boots back on today to start our three day bonus walk to Finisterre. Had a nice dinner last night with our Camino buddies Denise, Shirley and Bruce. Shirley confessed last night that she's 76 (and just walked 820kms to Santiago - what a fantastic effort!). We managed to knock over 34kms today with a bit of drizzle in the afternoon but were in the alburgue before the real rain set in. Hoping to be in Finisterre on Thursday for the real finish to our walk and to jump off the end of the earth into the ocean - could be a bit chilly but needs to be done. The walk today was quite relaxed and really enjoyable after the bustle of Santiago. Only the real die hards appear to walk on to Finisterre so we're relishing being part of the elite group and looking forward to continuing the journey tomorrow.

10 October 2016

It was rest day today - hooray! We got up early though to get to the front of the queue for our Compostela (certificate) and then spent the rest of the day greeting fellow pilgrims, going to the pilgrim mass and organising our flights to Jersey for Friday. Off to Finisterre tomorrow. Can't wait to get walking again - how weird is that!

9 October 2016

Day 30 big day today as we threw Rule 1 out the window and pushed 37kms to get to Santiago!!!! It was too tempting when we could smell the finish line so we decided to push on and claim the prize a day earlier than planned. Nearly missed the finish line and had to ask directions from a local Spanish girl - when in doubt ask. I'm not sure what we expected of the finish but I think the journey was more important. 820kms completed which is quite an achievement so we think we might reward ourselves tonight with a big dinner (not the pilgrim menu) and a day off tomorrow - whoo hoo!! Plan to to sit in the cathedral square tomorrow and welcome our other Camino family as they arrive to acknowledge their efforts which will be nice. Not sure how the feet will respond to the day off tomorrow - but can't wait to see!

8 October 2016

Day 29 and we're successfully within striking distance of Santiago with just 34kms to go! Had another early start with the head torches today followed by a misty morning but it eventually cleared to another cracker day. Saw a lot of tourists on the trail today (they seem to do short sections between being picked up and dropped off by buses). Ran into our Korean mate Ro at breakfast and then a couple more times during the day. We first met him in St Jean Pied de Port at breakfast on Day 1. He very kindly gave each of us a hand made Korean drink coaster this afternoon as a momento of the walk and we reciprocated with a Berowra stubby holder - not sure if he knew what to do with it as his English is limited and our Korean is non existent!!!

7 October 2016

Day 28 today and we pushed our maximum distance rule to 31.2kms in order to get to within 2 days walking of Santiago so we now have the option of arriving there Sunday afternoon or walking just short on Sunday so that we can walk in Santiago early on Monday. Started the day walking through a fairly heavy mist but this soon burnt off to another beautiful day of walking through green rural areas sprinkled with a number of small villages. Walked past and through a lot of eucalyptus forests today which we understand have been planted to improve some areas of poor soil. We stopped in the larger town of Palas de Rei but again chose to walk on to stop in a smaller town 6kms further on. Getting close to Santiago now with just over 60kms remaining! There's forecasts for rain from next Tuesday so we could get a wet tail on our way to Finisterre...

6 October 2016

Day 27 and we had a sleep in this morning as we only needed to walk 27kms up and over the hill to Portomarin. The weather started out cloudy but soon burnt off to yet another sparkling day. The route became a lot busier and more touristy after Sarria which is where a lot of pilgrims commence in order to complete the minimum 115kms required in order to get a certificate or Compostela. It is a bit of a shame because it tends to become a little more like a tourist event than a pilgrimage however there is a special connection between those of us that have made the long journey from St Jean Pied de Port. We met up with Grace's mum Denise and her walking buddy Shirley at the 104km to go mark today which was great and are planning to have dinner with them tonight. We also passed the 100km to go sign today so now have less than 100kms to go to Santiago. Still planning to walk to Finisterre though which will be an extra 90kms but I'm sure we'll be happy to get out of the big city again.

5 October 2016

Day 26 and some absolutely stunning scenery today as we made our way down the mountain towards Sarria. It all started with a beautiful sunrise followed by valley upon valley filled with mist - even up to midday! Very Celtic landscape with small green fields surrounded by dry stone walls. The weather continues to shine for us and with an early start and both of us feeling pretty good we pushed on for another 30km day to put us in a perfect position to hit Santiago around 10 October which will then give us the time we need to walk on to Finisterre and be back in Santiago for the Friday Pilgrims Mass. We've only about 110kms to go to Santiago and almost 700kms walked to date!

4 October 2016

Day 25 and a bit of a hard haul today up the mountains. Probably the hardest walking so far but we've managed to stick to our rule on keeping it under 30kms - just! The scenery was spectacular and the weather continues to be kind to us however we've now entered Galicia and the clouds are starting to roll in so we'll see what tomorrow brings. We ran into our mate Bruce from the USA again today and he stopped when we did at Hospital de la Condensa for the night. The landscape has changed considerably now we're on the western side of the mountains with rolling hills of green. We reckon we've less than 150kms to go to Santiago so it's almost in our sights.

2 October 2016

Day 24 and we had to put our new Camino Rule No. 1 to the test in walking just over 30kms for the day however we got off to any early start at 6:30am and with reasonably flat walking had almost 15kms done by 10:00am. Almost missed the main sights in Ponferrada last night including the local castle as the town had a lot of narrow streets (most with graffiti) and we literally stumbled on the castle and main square by chance. The second half of our day contained a fair bit of up and down hills through local vineyards and orchards. Some of the locals were out harvesting the 2016 vintage and we even came across a squirrel! Happy to have made to the local alburgue by 2:30pm which is Municipal run and has single beds - a treat after all the bunk beds we've had so far. Weather remains on our side but we are approaching a region known as Galicia which is renowned for rain so fingers crossed. BTW the dark shot is of a storks nest on top of a power pole!
Day 23 and we were up early to walk the 2kms to the iron cross in the hope of a memorable sunrise but unfortunately the clouds rolled in and the sun was nowhere to be seen at the top of the mountain so we paid our respects to the pile of pebbles representing all the pilgrims sins left behind (it was a big pile!) and continued for most of the day downhill through the alpine landscape. It was very cold this morning but we'd rugged up and were prepared. Managed a good 27kms today to reach Ponferrada which puts us just short of 210kms from Santiago so the excitement of reaching our ultimate goal is starting to build. Staying the night in the flashiest alburgue we've managed to find so far - six to a room with an ensuite bathroom! Time for a beer...

1 October 2016

Day 22 and we made another early start today to try and get ourselves within striking distance of the iron cross (1550m high - the highest point on the Camino). Weather just continues to amaze us and we walked through a stunning dawn and up the mountains through some beautiful little alpine villages. It was pretty cool this morning and the temperature has noticeably dropped as we've risen in altitude. Had a large group pass us on horseback today which was different. The last part of the track was very narrow and stoney but we've managed to get ourselves booked in to the alburgue by 2:00pm for a well deserved ale. Can't believe the value here at 17 Euro for a bed, three course meal and bottle of vino tinto! Looking forward to reaching the iron cross in the morning and depositing our rocks we've carried all the way from Berowra (at least our packs will be 100g lighter)!

30 September 2016

Day 21 and we were up and walking early today as it we needed to put in a little over 30kms to get to Astorga. From here we'll start our steady climb to the iron cross. Weather was perfect again today - can't believe our luck so far (probably just put the mocha on us even commenting). Feet are starting to cope with the constant walking but Clive and I tend to take it in turns with having good and bad days which means there's one of us to spur the other on. We've completed over 550kms to date so are certainly honing in on Santiago. Three weeks of walking completed to date and still meeting new and different people everyday.

28 September 2016

Day 20 and we've managed a shorter day of 23kms today as the next town is a further 10kms on and we didn't want to push the foot recovery program. Our perfect weather continues - how lucky are we! Still quite flat with large areas of wheat and corn closer to the towns. Didn't start walking until 8:30am this morning after trying out a few of the bars in Leon last night.
Day 19 and we managed to put in another solid 26kms today to bring our total to just shy of 500kms to date. Beautiful walking weather again today with the temperature in the low 20's. We're now in the big city of Leon where we decided to pull up despite our normal philosophy of walking through the big cities. The cathedral here is apparently worth a look and the whole city feel is very Parisian with lots of bars and diners and street stalls. Planning to do the tapas thing tonight where you order a small beer which comes with a free tapas plate then you move to the next bar and do the same so by the end of the night you've had all sorts of different tapas meals - and several beers!! Should start walking through some more interesting scenery tomorrow as we start to move closer to Santiago.

26 September 2016

Day 18 and another long haul between towns again today after a beautiful sunset last night. Hopefully that's the last of the meseta behind us. We walked the longest remaining section of Roman built road in Spain today with almost 18kms from town to town and only two towns to visit on our way today. Weather was perfect for walking though so for only the second time so far on our tour (and the second time only in the last 3 days) we put in the ear plugs and took in some music and a bit of Conversation Hour to fill in the time while walking our 26kms for the day. Decided to stay at a private alburgue tonight as a bit of a treat. Hopefully won't have to wedge the toilet door closed with our foot tonight or get changed in the communal bathroom area! And all for just an additional 2 Euro - you can't believe how cheap it is to travel in Spain.
Day 17 and we set out this morning well rested and with our feet rejuvenated after yesterday's swim and restrap. Walked through quite a few towns today with a lot of houses built from some sort of rammed earth and straw as there's obviously a lack of stone and timber locally for building. Still very rural and a reasonable amount of walking beside the roadways but the weather was cool and great for walking. Met a girl from Coffs Harbour in a cafe whilst we were having breakfast who happened to know the Tunney's in Berowra as she went to school with one of the daughters - as they say it's only 6 degrees of separation! Managed almost 29kms today with no real dramas and planning to take the alternative route via another old Roman road tomorrow to get away from the freeway.

24 September 2016

Day 16 and after seeing a guitarist last night playing his custom built nineteen string guitar followed by mass in the local cathedral we woke this morning to take on a flat and uninterrupted 18km stretch of Roman built roadway from Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza where we opted to pull up stumps for the day and do some pedicure work on our suffering feet. Bonus as the alburgue we found has a swimming pool and bar - does it get any better! So time for some well earned rest and recreation (it is Sunday after all).
Day 15 and not a lot to report today as we left early and walked most of the day through fields clocking up almost 37kms. Probably a bit much after our marathon the other day so we've agreed to try to stick to 20 - 25kms a day from now on. Walked over a huge canal and lock system in Fromista which is used for irrigation. We're lucky to get beds at an alburgue run by nuns in Carrio de los Condes as the first two alburgues we visited were full - completo. Seems to be becoming the norm.

23 September 2016

Day 14 and we didn't get out of bed till 7:30am after yesterday's effort so decided to make it an easy day and had breakfast at the alburgue before heading out of Hontanas and down the valley to Castrojeriz where we found a huge church (church of Our Lady of the Apple - Manzano) built in the 1400's. It looked to be abandoned but was in fact set up as a Museum and was absolutely amazing inside. Walked a further 10kms before deciding to pull up stumps for the day at Itero de la Vega for a total of over 63kms in the last two days. Happy to have an afternoon to relax and organise our gear.

22 September 2016

Day 13 and what a day! We literally walked a marathon today - not by choice. Started early in order to get into Burgos and take in the sites. Managed to get our laundry done while having breakfast and then continued walking to the older part of Burgos and the cathedral. Absolutely took your breathe away - I've never seen such an ornate building and the size of it can hardly be described. We left our American mate Bruce on the steps of the cathedral as his feet have been giving him hell so he'd decided to take some timeout to recover (which was probably just as well as it turned out)! We kicked on planning to do the remaining 19kms to Hornillas del Camino however our domestic duties and site seeing found us with no room at the inn. Slight problem but nothing a quick beer and phone ahead to the next town couldn't fix (albeit an additional 11km walk at 5:00pm). But we soldiered on and were more than pleased to arrive at our hostel about 6:45pm for a well earned ale. What a day!!

20 September 2016

Day 12 and we made an early start again to what turned out to be a perfect day for walking. Had to put 12kms in before breakfast today where we rang ahead and booked a room for the night anticipating a long day which was just as well because when we got here the hotel is now full. Some hard walking today as the track was quite stoney in parts which is hell on the blisters! We've pulled up just short of the big city of Burgos where we might need to get some farmacia supplies tomorrow. Hoping that one more day of walking should see us past the "pain" stage and into the "contemplative" stage. Hard to believe we've been walking for almost two weeks now - and we've only got about three weeks to go!
Day 11 and not a lot of variety in the scenery today although we did pass a church built in 1019AD. Put a pretty big day in today with over 30kms despite the continuing niggle from the blisters. Bruce the American from Louisiana joined us for the day as he's trying to average about 25kms a day to get him to Santiago in his limited timeframe. Unfortunately most of the walking today was beside the freeway so was a little bit a case of head down and keep walking but it has set us up well to go over the mountain range in the morning and plenty of downhill then for the rest of tomorrow.

19 September 2016

Day 10 and a bit of a slog today not helped when the inn was full and we had to walk an additional 2kms out of town to find a bed - but it was well worth the walk! Beautiful weather this morning so some stunning photos of the sky. Hoping that Day 11 will see some improvement in the feet department but as INXS say "just keep walking". Looking forward to a steak for dinner tonight. Getting pretty arty with our photos.

18 September 2016

Day 9 and after our foot surgery last night we've managed another 24kms to bring our total to 210kms. Wet start to the day but at least the wind had eased off. Walked most of the day through rural areas with vineyards and hay farms. Very red soil which is apparently the best for growing red wine grapes. Certainly in our tastings so far we can agree with that assessment! The red wine offered as part of the pilgrim menus each night has been fantastic and all included with a three course meal for about 10 Euro typically. Spain is very cheap particularly for food and wine. Looks like we're going to need to do some more surgery tonight but hopefully our feet are starting to toughen up.

17 September 2016

Day 8 and a bit of a hard slog today with wind and rain tempering the conditions so it took a bit of effort to push on. Decided not to go on after lunch today as we're in need of a bit of a rest after the effort of the last 8 days. The feet are starting to show signs of the 187kms walked so far with some running repairs needed along the way. We were given some sage advice from one of the owners of the alburgue we're staying at tonight (Matt from Canberra) - "toughen up"! Looks like we need a refreshing ale to pep us up and lift the spirits....

16 September 2016

Day 7 and we've excelled ourselves with a 32km effort today. Fairly easy walking though with a wide fire trail type track winding through vineyards, olive groves and hay farms. Had breakfast in a beautiful square in Los Arcos after the first 12kms and then pushed on. Had to strap the beginning of a blister after breakfast this morning - what do expect after 150kms of continuous walking! At least we're in better shape than Eli from Ireland who we helped strap up last night with the biggest blisters I've ever seen - Dr Cilve & Dr Paul (the Aussie surgeons) to the rescue! He managed the 32kms today (ran the last 5kms) so we must have done a pretty good job. Stopped up tonight in Viana with 163kms completed so far. Managed to get here just before the rain which was good.

15 September 2016

Day 6 and we took our time today stopping and taking in some of the sites. Started the day on a Roman built road and bridge which was fascinating. Couldn't get out of Estella quick enough as its a fairly big touristy town - huge gothic cathedral. Almost missed the turn-off to the Fuerte de Vino (wine fountain) but doubled back just in time to taste the Bodega red wine on offer! Staying the night in the small town of Villamayor de Mujardi and we're lucky to get beds for the night as there's not many to go around and quite a lot of pilgrims have been forced to walk another 11kms to the next town (on top of the 25kms already walked)! Starting to get into a pretty good groove now.

14 September 2016

Day 5 and up with the sun again this morning to make our way over the pass and down to Puente La Reina. It was slow going down the hill as the path is very steep and made up of loose gravel which is easy to slip on. Had lunch in Puente La Reina and then pushed on another 7kms (28 kms for the day) to Cirauqui where it's Town Festival Week! We could hear the music from about 1.5kms away. Bit tired today as it was quite hot again so looking forward to a shower and a beer.

13 September 2016

Day 4 - Made an early start today to try and get some kms up before the predicted rain which didn't catch us until Pamplona. Decided against stopping here as it's quite a large city so we pushed on another 5kms to Cizur Menor which is a small town to the west. Did manage to grab some tapas and a beer in Pamplona though!

12 September 2016

Day 3 today and another early start to beat the heat as we headed off from Roncesvalles to Larrasoana - 28kms. Got some good kms in early fortunately as the day got very hot after about midday. Walked mostly through the rural areas past farms before going up and over a small range. Have probably parted from our friends of the past two days - Brett & David from LA, Barbara the Kiwi, Kathy from Canada, Denise from London and Danielle & Flavia from Brazil as we're all starting to get into our own pace and rhythm. Rain forecast for tomorrow.

11 September 2016

Day 2 and an early start to beat the heat as we walk over the top of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. Spectacular scenery with plenty of sheep on the road. Early morning temperature was perfect for walking so we managed the 18kms before midday. Thought about walking on a little further but there's limited accommodation in the next couple of towns.

10 September 2016

Day 1 of the Camino and we were sent on our 'Way' by Marie from our alburgue in St Jean Pied de Port where we slept the night with our new best friends from Holland, Switzerland, Texas, Korea and New Zealand. Very hard slog today uphill but fortunately we'd pre-booked our bed at Orissa (to delay the pain!). Just relaxing now after a shower with a beer and taking in the view. Starting to get in the groove.

9 September 2016

On the TGV fast train making our way from Paris to St Jean Pied de Port after catching the metro in the early hours this morning. Should be there by about 4:30 this afternoon and then we'll start the real walking up the Pyrenees tomorrow!

8 September 2016

Perfect weather in Paris today for our self organised walking tour of the city highlights. I think we've walked about 25kms in total and ticked most of the boxes. Some absolutely spectacular architecture everywhere you look. Great way to take in the city. Fast train to St Jean tomorrow and then the real walking commences!

7 September 2016

Safely in Paris and first things first - a beer!! Managed the train and metro without too many dramas and are walking to our digs but couldn't resist stopping for a smoothie. Very warm here so everyone is out and about.

6 September 2016

Fabulous dinner last night with Kiloran & Kinloch after a hot and humid stroll through the city. Beautiful place if only for the heat! Starting to get into holiday mode. Off to Paris this afternoon.
Safely in Dubai and had a swim this afternoon in the heat at Kiloran's. Off for dinner at the Irish Pub (in Dubai!). Very hot and dusty here. Visibility is pretty poor but an amazing skyline.

6 September 2016

At the airport and waiting for our 6:00am flight to Dubai. Surprisingly busy here considering the time. Forecast for Dubai is a cool 42 degrees! Glad I packed my swimmers - only 75g. Let the adventure begin....