Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.

Cheryl

Celebrating Back in Brodick

We did it! On Day 5 we completed the Arran Coastal Way – all 105km according to the guidebook or 133km according to my FitBit!

We started our morning with … you guessed it! A full Scottish Breakfast again that was absolutely amazing. While eating we commiserated over how our feet were doing, and the weather and if we think it would improve at all. We were keen to finish this trail despite a hard, late finish the day before and most of us still with we gear.

So we made a plan to be out the door for 1015am and on our way – rain and blustery winds or not! We ran a little late cause of me, sorry gals. For some reason the outsides of my feet have developed some pretty impressive and very painful bruises (I think from all the bouldering where your feet are never flat and you push off from the outside of your boot). I had to do some first aid intervention if I was gonna get another 20km outta these dogs. Some foam backed moleskin and duct tape ought to do the trick!

We were out the door at 1045 …

We had stayed at the Burlington House which was just so cool. Shar and I were on the top floor where it was like an attic angled roof – I always wanted a room like that as a kid. We also had a heater in our bathroom so we could crank it up to dry our clothes and boots – a totally stinky hot box! Ick!

Our day started our on a pretty crazy, overgrown trail heading straight up out of town. The lady at the Burlington told Rosa and Cheryl that instead of backtracking a couple km to get back on the trail there is a sneaky-sneak straight up to the trail just down the road. Yahoo! We found it! At first a wide track (gravel road) then a cool wee trail that looked more like a creek bed than a path! At times we had to crouch hike the branches and bramble was so low We loved it!

From here we were on a minor road and had to guess a little at where to go next – assuming we continued with the coast to the right, we turned right. Well oopsy daisy! Sure felt like the right way. We even confirmed it with a fisherman! He told us to go up a wee road (massive, long, steep hill) and we would be back with the Way. Well we did that and ended up back where we had already been – hahaha sure let’s add a couple km to our day!

So, we asked another lady who drove by and she told us to head around and back down to the coast – yahoo we found the right way markers. Too bad we climbed a horrendous hill to find out! Looks like the driving lady knows a bit more about the inland paths than the fisher guy – weird?!

Ok back in action we spent the next couple of hours either rock beach walking or on boardwalks just above the beach. We could not believe the amount of work that went into building these amazing boardwalks. At the end of each there was a small sign that said how many meters to the next boardwalk- so you would know how long you had to suffer on the wet boulders before flat ground again. Brilliant!

The tide was still a little high so we had to walk a few steps in the ocean at one point to get around a headland. Cheryl went ahead to check out what was on the other side – making even soggier feet in the process but what a champ! She found our boardwalk on the other side, so we all followed! If your friends walked around a headland with ankle deep ocean, would you? Yup!

From here we soon found our way to Lamlash our mid way point and where we getting a hot lunch. This time we knew the tea house or a hotel would be open and we could not wait! All of us enjoyed a hot tea with Arran Gold (yummy, better than Bailey’s liquor) to warm up and some sandwiches with chips!

We also reconfirmed that yes we wanted to finish walking – even with basically ponds in our boots, and torrential rain and wind. We were gonna finish this thing! So we geared up and stepped outside to … no rain, no joke! The skies had stopped crying down on us and it was actually feeling like it might warm up a little. (insert the sound of the heavens singing).

We started with a 2km easy road walk which turned into gravel track right along the coast where we saw seals! Finally we saw all the seals the guidebook and locals were talking about! My photo below doesn’t do the seals justice – Rosa got some epic photos on her camera though!

From here we rounded a headland and had a couple of kms walking on the grassy knoll right beside the coast – sometimes precariously on the cliff edge in my scaredy-Cat opinion but no one else seemed to mind. Absolutely beautiful!

After this section if was some easy hill, fields and minor road walking into town. Stopping whenever we wanted in the sunshine for photos!

img_3278img_3311Wow, we made it! Strolled into town (and by that I mean hobbled haha) and took a photo back where we started 5 days ago – at the Arran Coastal Way marker. Wow!

We headed over to the Douglas Hotel across the street where we were presented with our completion certificates and felt some serious pride in our accomplishment! There may have been clapping and some fighting tears. A toast with some local lager and a cider on the sunny terrace completed our epic journey!

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Ladies! Wowza! Now shall we really celebrate by climbing a mountain, Goat Fell Mountain to be exact? I think so! Brande

Soggy in Whiting Bay

Well day 4 over and done! From Lagg to Whiting Bay in 16kms that felt more like double that!

We started our morning with another yummy full Scottish breakfast and some time checking in with our families and catching up on social media in the cute little sun room of the hotel. The forecast was calling for heavy rains and wind and we were looking to put it off as long as possible. Sitting in our little sun room we watched the rain deluge down sideways for a good hour. Ick! But we had some time to kill anyway so why not hope the rain would rain itself out!

This morning’s walk includes bouldering around Brenan Head which is only passable at a lower tide. The guide book says to arrive at the headland at high tide, take a break, and then go around when the tide is passable and we are confident it’s going out. If not confident then to backtrack to the escape root up to the cliff top and take the road.

High tide was forecasted for 1:06pm and we had 4-5km to walk to get to Brenan Head which included a lot of sand, boulder and bog walking – beautiful for sure, but can take some time to cross. So we left the hotel around 1030am and made our way to the headland. We made awesome time after leaving the hotel – likely because it was pouring rain and all you can do is put you hood on, keep your head down and walk. Good conversation and photo montages are a little tough in the blistering rain along the ocean. But we were lucky the rain only lasted about an hour or so – just long enough to soak a few of the crew to the under clothes.

We arrived at Brenan Head just after noon so got comfy on the boulders below an awesome waterfall just outside Black Cave (the biggest coastal cave on the walk – massive) and enjoyed our lunch while watching the tide come to high and then go out so we could time our crossing. Well as we sat there it got windier and windier, the waves higher and higher – soon crashing against the rocks! A beautiful sight to see but not as you are waiting for the sea to go out so you can keep moving. We committed to waiting for high tide at 1:06pm and picked a tide pool to watch as our indicator that the tide was going out.

Bundled up in all the clothing we had in our packs – for me this included a short sleep, 2 long sleeves, a fleece, my shell and a toque – we enjoyed the waves, had some good conversations and waited. Every once in a while the sun would peek out and brighten our cold, happy but impatient spirits. At 230pm the water was not visibly retreating, the waves were getting worse by far and there was no way to pass Brenan Head – our gut instinct to not attempt the crossing due to the conditions were later confirmed when we found out all ferry crossings to/from the island were cancelled due to bad seas. Bad sea, bad! A weather warning was issued after we left our hotel in Lagg – missed it! So back to the Escape Route we went … we hadn’t seen the markers for this on our way through so Rosa and I double timed it to see if we could find these while Cheryl and Shar got a few things sorted and followed behind. We found it! Not sure how we missed the marker on the way through the first time. I was a bit ‘grumpy’ about having to take the escape route because we had waited so long for the stubborn tide and the Brenan Head crossing just seemed like the cool coastal thing to do. But the escape route ended up being great – up a steep incline to get the thighs burning, across some fields so we got to walk along with some sheep, and then easy road walking with amazing views of the Prada Island lighthouse! After 4km on the road we had a decision to make – walk another 8km into Whiting Bay our home for the night on roads OR walk 12km through woodland on the actual Arran Coastal Way.

By now the rain was looming again, the wind had picked up big time and it was 430pm – we had lots of time but there is always the concern that you won’t get a meal in the next town if you arrive too late. So Shar chatted with the Burlington Hotel where we were staying and confirmed we could order till 830pm.

So we had just under 4hrs to make 12km, we could get a hot meal at the end, and the path was largely through the woodland which I love – decision made, let’s keep on keeping on! About mid way the storm hit! Big style! Soaking, sideways, heavy, bouncing back up off the ground, rain quickly turning us from chilled hikers to soggy sloggers! Hoods on, heads down, we made our way. Even in the rain it was really pretty! Until we got to town and then it was just rain, rain, rain – running down the streets and overflowing drains kind of rain.

By the time we arrived at our Burlington Hotel for the night it was just before 8pm and we were literally dripping – I had to actually ring out my socks! The hotel lady didn’t care one bit and led us to our rooms and had the chef on standby for food. We toasted the end of a crazy, soggy day at dinner and all of us were keen for a good sleep and a chance for our clothes and boots to dry! Brande

Hobbling in Blackwaterfoot

Day 2 on the Arran Coastal Way proved to be another doozy. A beautiful doozy that has left all of us with a bit of a hobble or a limb tonight- tight muscles, dogs barking, sun burns, and blisters seems to be the order of the body today for our crew.

The day started amazing! We stayed at the Butt Lodge (not a typo) which had the cutest rooms, comfy beds and was so quiet. Except for the temperature of the rooms (too warm) it was a perfect stay. Oh and we had the pleasure of a full Scottish breakfast!

If you don’t know what a full Scottish breakfast is let me tell you! 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, potato scone, fried mushrooms, and toast. Most of the time it also comes with Black Pudding. Ours did not but it would have been epic if it did. So yummy!

After breakfast we packed up and heading out the door. Leaving our big bags for Contours Walking Company to carry forward for us, and just taking our daytime backpack.

At 930am we were on the road. We kicked off the day with a visit to the Lochranza Castle built in the 13th century. Robert the Bruce stopped here on his way from Ireland when he returned to claim the throne. Today, it is just some really impressive ruins – in really gold shape!

From there, we started out on the path. This included a short distance on the road around the headland and a steep, long uphill to take us to a fern filled, undulating path on the cliff above the beach.

A few sections of the trail where beyond my ‘fear of heights’ comfort zone – just a foot wide if that with what would be a hard drop off of it wasn’t for the ferns growing out of the hill to give you illusion of solid ground. You can’t fool me. I took the lead and powered through it! I find when spooked on a trail just ‘doing it’ gets me through it!

Following our up on the cliff walk, we then came down a very steep hill to the village of Catacol where we got to step over our first ladder stile.

These are basically two ladders leaned against each other over a fence. They are used to keep the sheep in the pasture but give us humans an easy way up and over without the pain of a gate. Seems sheep don’t know how to climb ladders. I wonder about that!

The village of Catacol is famous for the row of 12 white houses that face the sea. Each has a different shaped window design so the wives of fisherman who lived there could signal their husbands by placing an oil lamp on the sill.

From Catacol we did a bit more road walking (about 4-5km) before making our way back onto the beach for some Coastal hiking. This is such a beautiful way to see the coast but it’s hard work keeping your balance and purchase on the rocks. Worth the work though for the amazing views! Well the view from the road is awesome too but the is just something fun about hiking on the road vs on a path or the beach!

We soon left the beach to walk into Pirnmill where we were excited to have a warm lunch and a pint at the Lighthouse Cafe. I could already taste my cheese and tomato toastie and a cold pint of Tenants lager.

Well hopes dashed, there was a homemade sign on the door announcing it was closed for today and tomorrow. Boo! Well when life serves you lemons you make lemonade.

There was a small village store next to it where we grabbed some Tuc crackers, Island of Arran Brie, a lemon loaf, some candy and bought a can of Tenants. We then grabbed a picnic table and popped all our pack snacks and new purchases into a pretty epic family style lunch.

After our picnic, we had a few more kms of road walking before getting back on the beach. The road walking while flat surfaced and easy is tough on the body and the mind.

There is no shoulder at all so you are have to be hyper vigilant for cars, walk single file (so no chatting), and the hot black tar with the sun makes for warm and very sore feet. We were glad to get back onto more natural surfaces!

Along our travels we came across 2 seaside graveyards. Wow they were pretty old. The stone fence around the outside always falling down in places and all the graves were covered in lichen. I think the oldest grave stone we could read was for a poor soul who died in 1812. What an amazing final resting place.

By mid afternoon we were no longer beach walking but rather rock balancing and hopping – these amazing lava formations stretched for kms of the coast with a few random grassy or beach breaks. The surfaces were very rough making for sticky walking allowing us to easily walk up and over and across, picking the route we wanted so long as the ocean stayed on our right we were heading in the right direction.

From here the path turned into a very grassy headland with lots of vegetation- mostly some type of tall fern and thistles. At some points we were pushing through shoulder high ferns on the path hoping spiders and tics were in residence on another part of the island today.

Totally worth the vegetation foraging as we got a glimpse of a golden eagle above the cliffs and found some cool caves!

Our beach walking wrapped up around 430pm and a quick look at the map and some math confirmed we still had 8km of road walking left before our day was done. None of us were keen to be back on the road.

Rallying our selves for the next 1.5hrs of a silent, windy, hot, sore slog we tried to think of just how lucky we are to be here and that the road was right beside the sandy beach so we could seal watch while walking! The idea of a spot of tea and a fresh scone at the Machrie Tea Room and Golf Club (our day’s destination) was also a big incentive. Sure glad we didn’t know then it was closed – nooooo! Sad face!

Instead we called our Greannan B&B lady who was picking us up to drive us to the accomodation in Blackwaterfoot as it was far off  today’s walking route. She was lovely and had lots of say about the island so raised our spirits some. Oh and what she couldn’t raise, the beautiful B&B did! A bed has never looked so comfortable!

No time for resting! It was almost 7pm and we still had to walk … hobble, shuffle, wrangle … the 1km down to the Kinloch Hotel for some supper before they stopped serving meals. Our B&B lady was so sweet and called to book us a table to we wouldn’t miss out on getting some eats! We cheered our amazing but tough day and commiserated on our hate for road walking over cold pints!

What an awesome day and fantastic evening meal – now let’s back to our home for the night to tend to the blisters, muscle pain and sun burns!

Brande

Happy in Brodick

We said goodbye to the west coast of Canada at noon on Mon July 23 and have been saying  hello to Scotland since 9am on Tuesday July 24. Wow, that was quick. Just three flights for me and two for my fellow travellers, a Harry Potter movie, a few games of Yahtzee, a fresh lobster roll, a face mask treatment on the plane or two, a bus and we arrived safe and excited to be in Glasgow!

We caught the Glasgow Airport Express (20pounds for 4 of us) to Glasgow Central Train Station (about a 15min journey) so we could hit Buchanan Street. This is a long, cobbled stoneshopping street or district with lots of clothes shops, Tesco (grocery store), Boots (drug stores) and Poundland (dollar store). A great place for the newly arrived tourist to grab a  iPhone charger that works in the plugs here, an international SIM card so I can gave a data plan for safety .. and blogging reasons, etc.

While out and about in Glasgow, we stopped at the Willow Tea Room – a Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired cafe – for scones and Loren sausage morning rolls, fresh tea and strong coffee. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a famous Scottish architect and artist who draws these beautiful roses! During breakfast my amazing crew had birthday cards for me and eeeeeek a Polaroid camera! No joke!

Yup that little lime green guy is mine! This is going to make scrapbooking this trip even more fun – oh my goodness I cannot wait! That’s the first pic I took so I could remember how crazy happy I am! Wow, what a present! You even have to  wave the Polaroid around darter it slides out until the film does its magic show up thing. So fun!

We did a bit more looking about in Glasgow, grabbing a few wee things we thought we might not be able to get on the small Island of Arran and then made our way back to the Glasgow Central Station to grab a train out to Adrosson Harbour and then onto the ferry to Brodick on the Island.

Of course we snapped a few pics on the way … including one of a Tim Horton’s right in central Glasgow. Who knew!?

The ticket for both train and ferry was about 12 pounds total, that is pretty awesome considering we spent almost a full hour on each. We bought them right from the ticket office at ScotRail with no problem at all and during the summer months he trains sets out every hour. We were on the train for 12:19pm and then the ferry by 2pm. So easy.

Once in Brodick we quickly got acquainted with this very small village, found the best photo spot, sized up all the local pubs (all 3 haha) and found quick directions to our home for the evening.

We are staying at a little B&B / self catering apartments place called The Broomage. The family that runs it is lovely and live on the top third floor, while the rest of us have the run of the main and second floor. A little sad we don’t get a full Scottish Breakfast our first morning of our hike but no one should complain about yummy fruit, toast and cereal when you aren’t the one making it. Love that!

We dropped our heavy packs, chatted with the owner couple a little bit, and then headed into town (snicker, snicker that’s about a half a block away and about that big) for something to eat – we were famished.

Yahoo at the Fiddler’s Roof we found haggis and Arran Island cheese toasties and Cullen Skink soup – two delicious, very Scottish meals. Haggis is well um sort of peppery meatloaf (we will leave it at that) and Cullen Skink is a fish, cream, potato soup. Oh and some local Scottish ale too. Mmmm

We had a great supper pouring over the maps, guide book and information about the towns we would visit in the days to come. Many of us yawning and ready to go grab groceries then get back and sort out our backpacks  for the next day! But not before Cheryl gifted the bar a sweet, crisp, pretty 5dollar bill for their brick wall of money. They had loads of other kinds of money up there but  Canadian – well that just had to be remedied! Go Canada Go!

Ok back at our home, we got to packing. Sorting out what would be in our day packs (rain gear, fleece, chow for lunch and snacks, first aid kit, sun screen, hat, sneakers if wearing boots or vice versa, lip chap, camera, map, compass, etc) and what would go in our carry forward packs. Contours Walking Company will be picking up our carry forward packs in the morning and they will be there waiting at our next evenings home.

By now, just 7pm Glasgow time, the flights and the time change are getting to us. A couple of the crew turned in while Shar and I went to the beach for a few sunset pics, some blog time and journaling.

Shar and I wrapped up the evening with some tea and biscuits while we reviewed tomorrow’s route and looked ahead to the highlights of the days to follow.

Now that’s us off to bed – we have a 27km day tomorrow up island to Lochranza! Time for some Z’s!

Brande

Portuguese Camino now in Portugal

We are officially, for real, finally, super excited to now be in Portugal! We walked from Villadesuso to A Guarda and then we hopped a ferry to Caminha, the port city of Portugal.

We arrived yesterday after a 20km walk on mostly amazing trails or forest tracks along the coast line. Only a few kms on the highway path overall, an awesome change from the day prior. Here are some highlights:

We powered through the day in hours – likely because of our lazy, more than one coffee, amazing breakfast that was included in our hotel room cost the night prior.

We have been at this ‘walking / pilgrimage’ thing now for a while and 20km is peanuts to these legs and feet! So much so our pilgrimage spirt animal the snail may now just be an ironic mascot. Nonetheless, he was out cheering us on big time yesterday!

We hit A Guarda in about 3hours. Once there, we decided to head straight for the ferry port to meet our water taxi when he arrived in a couple hours. We were sure there was a pub or cafe at the port and we had pre-made some yummy cheese sandwiches (mine where cheese and jam) for our lunch. While walking though town we snapped a few pics of the good stuff. The first pic below is their public library – wow!

Our plan to go to Caminha, Portugal on a Monday was rather not well timed. Turns out the only day the ferry between A Guarda in Spain and Caminha in Portugal does NOT run is Mondays. Come on! What are the chances!

So the night prior I had posted a plea on a Camino de Santiago form I belong to on Facebook called Camigas. Basically women helping other women plan, pack, walk, and reminisce about their pilgrimages. Within minutes of posting ‘help’, I had a host of replies from these awesome ladies. One even had a picture of a poster from an Albergue that advertised who you could call if the ferry was not running to get a water taxi of sorts.

So I called some guy named Mario in Caminha who had a boat and arranged for a 4pm pick up by his brother, in a red boat, from the dock A Guarda where the ferry usually is. I think I did anyway. He spoke Portuguese. I have learned only the most basic Portuguese which does not include arranging nautical transport to another country. We both spoke only some Spanish. Disaster! Well turns out the plan with Mario was doomed from the get go – Portugal is an hour earlier than we were in Spain. Oops, who knew! So did we arrange for his 4pm or my 4pm?

Down at the dock hoping for the best and that Mario would show up – especially after we came across three other pilgrims who also didn’t know the ferry does not run on Monday’s and needed to cross and invited them with us and Mario’s brother. A troop of cyclists (pedal bike) from a tourist group showed up. A whole host of them, like 25-30 bikes. Turns out they rented the ferry to cross and we could join them if the ferry people agreed. What!? Yahoo!

So we boarded the ferry with the tour group and paid just 1 Euro to cross each. Mario’s brother was charging us 5 Euros each. We were not the only ones to hitch a ride either – the other three pilgrim’s did and a few cars drove on as well. Hilarious! How do you even go about renting a ferry in the first place!? One of the phrases you hear a lot on the Camino is ‘the Camino provides’ … it sure does!

I called Mario once onboard and let him know (I think) that we don’t need him, don’t need boat, have boat, but thank you. Hopefully he got the message and didn’t come across for us. I had talked to the women who works at the bar by the ferry station and she knew Mario. She would have seen us board and maybe called him too. What a place!

Good bye Spain, we had fun:

Hello Portugal, so excited to meet you:

Once docked and we had walked the few short blocks into the old city center we were in love with Portugal! The houses were that classic European style all close together with amazing doors and instead of paint, most homes were tiled on the outside. Amazing. We went crazy photographing the houses, the tile, the doors!

We settled into our new home for the night Arca Nova, did some laundry (you do this a lot when you only have a few items each) and then ventured the town for the evening! We enjoyed those sandwiches we had made for lunch for dinner instead.

We now say goodbye to Arca Nova and Caminha and make our way the 28km to Viana de Costelo.

Buen Camino!
Brande

We See the Sea in Cee

Yesterday, Lana and I were back at it – moving along the Camino by our own two (well four) tired but happy to be on the trail feet.

We walked from Oliveroa to Cee. A go of 19kms or 30,465 Fitbit steps in a little less than 4hours. We had the pleasure (tongue in cheek) of either mist, rain or just plain old sogginess all day. It was our first day on the Camino where we had to wear waterproofs for the full walk. We have been at this Camino thing now for a couple weeks so that’s not too bad! No complaints.

We were up this morning at our usual time of about 7am with the rest of the hostel crew in our room of 12 near full bunk beds.

I was feeling more rested than the days prior thanks to my headphones that play literally the sound of a big electric fan running on repeat. White noise magic! Lana was a little less rested. A pilgrim in the bunk next to us was sawing logs like no one’s business. I turned up my white noise volume and Lana tuned him out – snoring not the problem. Turns out another pilgrim could not tune out the snoring and proceeded to snap loudly or clap from across the room trying to get the snorer to wake. But instead of waking the snorer actually just woke everyone else up. Not sure where they read that the snap/clap technique was a thing – cause it sure was not. You can tune out a consistent snore but not someone snapping and clapping loudly in small room at midnight. Too funny (well it is now, it was not late last night).

Any who, we were up and ready for our soggy day by 8 or so and enjoying breakfast (coffee, toast and bananas) in the cafe of our albergue. By 920 we had done our good morning social media stuff and we hit the trail. See ya later Casa Loncho of Oliveroa.

Boots on, packs covered, and waterproof jackets on we set out. We had pre-made some sandwiches for lunch but it looked like the sogginess of the day was going to prevent the vision of a picnic we had in mind. We threw them in my pack anyway of course and hoped for the best!

We were quickly out of our village and walking on a forest gravel road of sorts – up, down, across and up another river valley. The rain prevented much of a view and the fog hid the row of massive wind turbines that dot the ridge of the hills.

At the 4 or 5km mark we walked through the last couple of villages we would see before starting a barren stretch of approximately 12kms into Cee.

At one of these villages we learned about the ferocious Vakner said to haunt the woods we would be walking through – that’s great to know!? Where is my bear/Vakner spray? Do you act big with a Vakner like you would with a cougar? Or make loud noise and back away like a Bear? There was no Vakner tips in the guidebook.

With no reason to delay (besides being mangled by a Vakner) we got right to the barren stretch – it was foggy, humid, raining or misting (similar to a Scottish like mist) the whole time. We had our hoods up which makes it really difficult to have a conversation. So we just got up business!

While I couldn’t have my camera (aka iPhone) out much due to the rain, I was able to snap a few pics. The landscape was just awesome even in the rain. I can’t imagine how great it would look on a sunny day!

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Before long we were at the ‘distinct decent’ section that was described in our guide book. A long, big toe punishing hill that when over means you are in Cee.

Lana and I did an assortment of jogging, switchback, long stride and short stride hiking techniques to get down the hill while keeping our toes intact. Lana felt the jogging was her best bet and would often be 20-30 feet in front of me jogging almost out of sight in the thick fog. If she didn’t have her lime green cover on her backpack I am not sure I would have seen her at all. Seems the Vakner does not like jogging, so we not only got down the hill in great time and we also kept the beast at bay. Win, win!

All of a sudden we saw a road, some houses m, and if you squinted hard enough you could also see the sea in the distance. We had made it to Cee on the Sea!

We found our humble new home, Albergue Tequeron at the beginning of town and just a couple blocks from the harbour and a bunch of great cafes and checked in. The hostel lady greeted us with tea and cookies! Perfect after such a soggy day!

We were finally in a dry place. So decided to have that pre-made sandwich picnic we had planned for a sunny afternoon instead in our rain roof hostel terrace!

After that there wasn’t too much to do besides hang our stuff to dry, shower of the muddy mess that was on our legs (clearly kicked up by our amazing speed and agility on the muddy trail) and check our Cee from under the hoods of our rain jackets!

Well that ended up being a sit in a great pub and journaling, playing Camino-grams (a travelling version of Scrabble / Bananagrams of sorts that I made with paper and stamps before leaving home – too keep the weight down) and seeing what is happening in the world on iPad and iPhone. We love evenings like this!

We are up and at it again this morning with a walk to what is called Mile 0 of the Camino in Finisterre about 20km away. The forecast is 30% rain and 97% humidity… aka soggy but smiling!

Buen Camino!
Brande

Camino Numero 2 Begins

Yesterday we started our second Camino!

Now that we have our pilgrim’s certificate for the Camino Frances into Santiago – what better way to celebrate than doing another Camino out of Santiago.

So we started the Camino Finisterre / Muxia with our first day walking from the Santiago Cathedral to Negreria about 22km away yesterday. This Camino will finish on the coast instead of a cathedral. It is much shorter at just 116km or about 5 days walking than the Camino Frances which must be 100km by foot but can be as much as 800km (we did 235km).

Full disclosure – we look super tired in this photo! We had an awful sleep. Our fellow hostel peeps were up at all hours and the sound from the plaza outside was loud well into the night too – many people were done their Camino’s and on they way home the next day, so there were in full celebration mode. Very few are as outlandish (like less than 10%) as us and decide to keep on keeping on out to the coast another 100+km.

We stopped for breaky before even leaving Santiago and I will admit I didn’t stop at one cafe con leche yesterday morning. I had to have 2 right out of the gate … to get out of the gate! We also enjoyed some eggs and bacon which were especially tasty now that we had a secret stash of pepper in my back pack. Spaniards use salt only, maybe paprika it seems. Pepper is hard to find and when we did find it, it became a worthy enough item for carrying in my pack everyday!

After breakfast around 11am we started the Camino, here are some sights from our walk out of Santiago and before our afternoon break ….

The pre-break morning ended with a 2.8km climb up and out of one village and into another on first gravel or forest track then asphalt road. We did a little experiment to see how we would come out of from such a hill with a little pre and post hill selfie photo shoot. In the following order check out our pre-hill selfie, pics of the hill which does not do justice to just how steep this sucker really was, and post-hill selfie.

Why yes that post-hill selfie includes a vino blanco! After a hill like that we deserved a break and stopped in at a cafe called Poncho in the village of Transmonte. A wee, totally cute little cafe just 8km from our destination!

After a great rest of wine and chocolate (we read in a guidebook you should eat high energy food like chocolate on breaks – we take the guide books very seriously!), we headed out to finish our day and spend the evening in Negreria. I transition from socks to compressions again for this last stage. Helps the feet and looks quite fashionable!

Our final 8km into our town for the night was a great walk. We passed through a small village Ponte Maceira with a medieval bridge that was very cool.

We saw a few other interesting sights as we completed our walk for the day.

We arrived our next home Alcerin Albergue at around 400 ready for a nice evening of journaling, wine and pizza!

Off to Oliveroa now, just 33km away!

Brande

More and More

Well there you have it – another day on the Camino complete here in Spain.

An easy stroll (as per the guidebook) from Portomarin to Palais de Rei in just 24.6km (39,984 FitBit steps) in about 5hrs.

Leaving the hostel at 8am after a beyond big and humid and horrible sleep – we began the day with an amazing eggs and bacon breakfast complimented with a much needed coffee.

The hostel was great, don’t get me wrong – the humid hell of the room was sort of out their control. Thee was a dog and a rooster up the street making a racket all night and one of our other 6 roomies shut the window turning the place into a sauna within an hour. Yuck. The hostel owner was a riot – quite the busy body with his introductions to the house rules, demonstrations of everything including how the plug-ins work, and his need to have us add the dates to all the stamps in our pilgrim’s credential before he would stamp it for us! Any other day this would have humoured us – as it was we were standing sweating with heavy packs on in the sauna hostel and he needed to get on with it lol

Our hostel:

Our breakfast:

At about 845am, the boots hit the trail with a number of small villages dotting the route ahead. This means you don’t have to carry much water and food is easy to find so you don’t need to carry much of that either – yahoo less to carry, is less weight in the pack, is happy feet!

The trail in the morning was a long uphill then quite a bit of time in the cold, cold wind at a higher elevation. By the look of the sky and bite of the wind, I was sure it was going to rain, but the Yahoo Weather App was right again – no rain. Yahoo!

Beyond the cold, the trail was not too exciting. Sadly, it was a lot of walking beside the main highway and among the crowds of pilgrims.

We have for sure noticed a couple things in the last 2 days as we near ‘the end’ in Santiago … there are more and more pilgrims and more and more garbage on the trail and more and more pilgrim graffiti. I am not impressed with any of this of course but it is the Way, not my Way so I keep on walking and try not to judge those around me for dropping their KitKat wrappers or writing ‘see you in Santiago, Bill’ on Camino way markers. Hmmm

Trail highlights of the morning:

By afternoon the clouds had blown over but the pilgrim crowds were still pretty thick – it was far and few between that there was a gap in the trickle of other walkers. Neat to notice more people walking to Santiago with their dogs, and a few full out long distance runners to Santiago too.

Some highlight from the afternoon:

At about km 17 or so, a cafe con leche was in order and some proactive foot love. The dust of the path was getting my sweaty feet gritty, so some glide was needed before grit turned to rub which turns to blister. A switch over from running socks to compression socks also helped keep the dogs from barking too loud.

Oh and I met a friend too! Yesterday it was a wee kitty and today … a chicken.

Before resuming the path, a traffic jam had to clear up .so I took my time (waiting for the crowd/herd to clear and the patties to dry a little on the road before I was the one to step in it) ….

By 3pm we were toasting another awesome day from a sunny pub in the village square of Palas de Rei, listening to church bells, and making decisions about what to have for dinner.

Our evening ended with a bit of excitement – we were getting ready to tuck into bed when our hostel last night (Albergue Castro) advised we were given the wrong beds. So in pajamas, we packed our gear and moved down a few floors. To a much smaller room actually which I love! Only 4 beds not 6 as we had been in, which means only 3 potential people to keep me up snoring all night instead of 5. On the Camino these are the little things you celebrate!

At least we got beds at Albergue Castro, our original booking at Albergue San Marcos was a bust. They were very rude about me not calling to confirm the day before and basically kicked me out saying ‘goodby, good bye’ when I tried to check in. Some nice lady heard this and said they paid for 6 beds but now only need 4 and we could have the other 2. The San Marcos meanie said no and some other things I couldn’t translate and again said to me ‘good bye’ (a word she clearly knows in English as she uses it a lot). Well in Camino fashion this means we were not meant to stay there, so we found the place we should – Albergue Castro, and we had a great sleeps. Thanks very much San Marcos grumpy lady.

Ok off to Arzua – just a quick 29km away in 24C clears skies and thank goodness humidly below 50%. We will check in later.

Beun Camino!
Brande

Taxi, Train, Walk

Yesterday Lana and I got back to walking the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) after a couple of amazing sight seeing days.

We were up before the crack of dawn (not joking, it was still dark outside) for a 5am train from Leon to Sarria where we would resume our pilgrimage. The train ride was 4hrs but in our first class seats where you could near totally recline, were provided with water, sleep masks, blankets and ear plugs we were only awake for about an hour of it. If only our flights to France and home from Portugal would be so comfortable!!

Arriving in Sarria we adjusted our packs, I transitioned from flip flops to sneakers (lots of asphalt roads in our walk today) and then we made our way to the Monastery of Magdalena about a km away. Here we were leaving a duffel bag of our heavy stuff like toiletries for transport to the albergue we stayed in last night in Porto Marin.

Why? No joke, Lana’s feet are in a bad way. She is a blister bandaid (compeed) advert! We are pulling all the stops to get her to a place where she can walk and enjoy it and that means diff shoes, less weight, compression socks, you name it. When every single step hurts, everyday is absolutely no fun. Usually Lana and I are total geeks together with jokes and antics – and sore feet make that really tough to be. So we are getting things sorted! We have weeks left to walk and we will be laughing till we cry again soon!

Well there was a wee mess up with the transport company. After a few telephone conversations in my less than adequate Spanish – we finally had the bag picked up at 11am. Instead of 930am as planned. Almost a couple of hours later than we wanted but hey we both had packs pounds lighter than before and we were ready for an awesome day and our first, much delayed cafe con leche in 3.7km in the next village of Balderado.

After that first coffee – we were spiced right up and getting silly already!

The day continued with walk and walk and walk on really easy paths and only some uphill but some lengthy downhill that timers the big toes ringing. It was over 30 degrees and we were roasting but loving it.

Much of what we walked though in the morning at least was farm land, and in this heat well it smells worse than you can imagine – we had a ready solution.

We pulled into a baby cafe about half way through the day for the yummiest sandwiches and the biggest coffee we have had yet! Oh and we met a new friend, wee gato. He very much loved the meat on our sandwiches.

The afternoon was well full of walking – imagine that. At about 22km we arrived in PortoMarin, a very small village organised around the main square and church (pretty standard for Europe).

We toasted the end of a great day, and enjoyed the local traditional fare – some Galicia broth soup (leeks, chick peas and potatoes) followed by some pulpos (octopus) and potatoes for the main course. Then some local desserts a flan (like our creme caramel) and a Santiago tart (chewy, thin cake). It was interesting and actually quite tasty but I don’t think I need to order it again.

Off to Palais de Rei this morning!

Beun Camino
Brande