After Thoughts

 IMAG1978The Camino is like a good book that we want to read over and over again, each time finding new meanings and surprising connections in the story, never getting tired of it even though we know more or less what the next page brings. Or maybe we do forget the story but remember it was a good one and want to be seduced again by the freedom away from all attachments.

Some say the Camino is a drug, an addiction that somehow gets us up at 5am, start walking in the dark or fog or rain whatever the day brings, stop at the furthest inn that our legs can take us, rest for the night and start all over again the next day.

Walking forward to the villages in the distance, arriving, passing through, moving on. Every day is like walking into a postcard scenery in picturesque countryside.

Sometimes we were so deep in thought that we forget to look back – to the landscape we were part of a moment ago, the people and places we’ve left behind, and at the most beautiful sunrises in the world.

Our part of the Camino is over for Irene and I this year but our friends are still walking towards Santiago. Our thoughts are with them every stage of the way.

Buen Camino Amigos! Don’t forget to look back at the sunrise each day.

Joan Yap

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Your own Camino

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A Dutch lady told me at the start of the Camino that I can only lose weight after the 6th day. That wasn’t what I had hoped for. It’s been 11 days now and weight loss is the last thing on my mind.

We met a Korean man who walks barefoot, an English lady who has been walking for over 80 days and no intention to stop, 2 young Belgium girls who choose the Camino instead of a beach vacation, a family who cycled with their toddler and preschooler, and many more amazingly interesting people.

Everyone has their own reasons. It’s our own Camino we are walking. We meet people along the way, some walk with us part of the way, we may meet again at the end of the day, we eat together, share sleeping quarters, and the next morning they may leave us, but we still have to move on, keep walking forward until we reach our own destinations.

Buen Camino!

Joan Yap

The Spanish Way

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Hundreds of pilgrims from all walks of life, of different ages stayed the night at Roncesvalles to start the Camino. 

It’s surprisingly well organized and pilgrims are openly welcomed every where we go.

We met a Portuguese pilgrim who walked various routes every year for the past 15 years. He walked with us, first lighting up the path in the dark foggy morning and encouraging us all day such that we cover over 30km, a personal record for both of us.

At an unplanned stop in a small church albergue in Zabaldica, we were greeted by a friendly community of volunteers who clean and feed us without asking for any payment. Everything is voluntary, including donations.

The highlight of the stay here is ringing the church bell and every pilgrim is encouraged to do so to announce our arrival.

At the end of the night, we pray together for safe and purposeful journey onward.

Joan Yap

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Back to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port

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Tony wasn’t joking when he pointed to the mountain range after I bought the scallop that I’ll be crossing those heights. That was two weeks ago when we driving to Berdot after lunch at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Yesterday I passed the pilgrim gate tired but proud to have done the walk with Irene. Tourists were looking and smiling and wishing the pilgrims who have arrived or leaving. 

Only then after seven days did I realize how special the Camino is. It has not been easy all the way but strangely I never thought of giving up, just pushing on so I can keep up with Irene.

The walk in Basque was tough with endless climbing, soggy tracks, parts with no signs for long distances, threatening weather, and a wrongly marked map to add to the fun. 

Its a test of physical, mental and spiritual endurance. Fortunately Irene and I worked well together even though we’ve only known each other for a 15 days.

Tony has been a great help, pushing, encouraging, guiding, checking, advising us all the way.

So Tony, this is for you. Without your idea about this walk, I would not have come so far.

Today we will start walking the Spanish way. Stay with us. 

Joan Yap

Bon Camino

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St Blaise where we stayed last night

It’s been 5 days since Tony dropped Irene and I in Lourdes by the Rosary Basilica to embark on our walk to Spain. 

There’s so much to share but the pilgrim walk can be best described only when you experience it yourself.

Today we feel really great the weather is fair. So we pushed ourselves to go beyond the planned destination and covered the extra miles for tomorrow. It may rain so we won’t have to walk cold and wet for too long.

France is such a beautiful country. People are friendly and gracious along the way. It helps that Irene speaks fluent French but even with my limited vocabulary, strangers will wish us “Bon Camino” to encourage us on.

Seems that we’re the first Singaporeans to pass through the many villages and the handful doing the Camino de Santiago. So if you come across our names and possibly a Singapore flag in the pilgrim book, remember we were here first.

Joan Yap

GR 78 to Camino de Santiago

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Since picking up the scallop shell and credential from the picturesque town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port last Saturday and (foolhardily) committing to the walk with Irene, it’s been many moments of anxiety for me.

This is not a Sunday walk in the park but a 312 km journey over two weeks across the Pyrenees from France to Spain. Can’t believe I’ve enlisted myself for this.

Walk

Its a challenge no doubt and I’ll miss the comforts of home but it’s one of the things I’ve not done for a long time – pushing the limits whatever they are. And all I planned for since leaving Singapore was to have a relaxing holiday in France. Instead this is what will be attempted …..

  1. Jul 27 ~ LOURDES to ASSON (6h ; 25km)
  2. Jul 28 ~ ASSON to ARUDY (6h ; 21km)
  3. Jul 29~ ARUDY to OLORON (5h 30m ; 21km)
  4. Jul 30 ~ OLORON to L’HOPITAL ST BLAISE (5h 45m; 18 km)
  5. Jul 31 ~ L’HOPITAL ST BLAISSE to MAULEON (5h 15m; 15km)
  6. Aug 1 ~ MAULEON to ST JUST IBARRE (5h; 24km)
  7. Aug 2 ~ ST JUST IBARRE to ST-JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT (5h 35m; 24km)
  8. Aug 3 ~ ST-JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT to RONCESVALLES, Spain (4h; 25km)
  9. Aug 4 ~ RONCESVALLES to LARRASOANA (7h; 27km)
  10. Aug 5 ~ LARRASOANA to PAMPLONA CIZUR MENOR (4h; 21km)
  11. Aug 6 ~ PAMPLONA to PUENTE LA REINA (6h 30m; 19km)
  12. Aug 7 ~ PUENTE LA REINA to LIZARRA/ESTELLA (5h 30m; 22km)
  13. Aug 8 ~ LIZARRA/ESTELLA to LOS ARCOS (6h; 22km)
  14. Aug 9 ~ LOS ARCOS to LOGRONO (6h 30m; 28km)

That’s the plan but we could stop at any point or continue for a few more days or weeks if we’re crazy enough. The good thing is at the end of our journey we can look forward to Tony who will bring us back to Berdot in whatever state or condition we may be, in a little pampered style.

Tony

Ok-lah. Let’s do it !

Joan Yap

Way of St James

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Today I went for a 15-km trail trial on a pilgrim route before I embark on a 12-day walk with Irene on Sunday.

The Way of St James is one of the most important Christine pilgrimages known as El Camino de Santiago in Spain and Camino Frances in France depending on the location of the routes taken.

Pilgrimages dated back to medieval times but modern day routes take walkers through UNESCO sites, quaint villages and off-beaten tracks not for the average tourist.

It was pleasant most of the day. We hiked up and down hills, stopped for lunch by a lake and at our last mile, the sky poured, flashed and roared. Finally reached our destination at the church drenched, waited for refreshments hosted by the local mayor and then invited to a performance by the village choir.

IMAG0952 So tired now. Got to pack tomorrow and get mentally prepared for the 150-km walk from France to Spain.

Joan Yap