Living the Dream -40. Walking

I have always been a fan of walking, in theory. In practice, less of a fan. There’s weather, traffic and other people. Largely therefore, I have gone through life seeing walking as a means to get from A to B. Much like a taxi, but slower.
I documented elsewhere, how I accidentally became a walker. Since then, I am a zealous convert. Most of the time, I am able to keep my walking habit within reasonable bounds, however, once a year, I spend a whole week walking, doing twenty miles or so a day.

Fitness

Thus far, I have completed three of these annual trips, a slightly slimmer man each time. Our first camino week involved the Pyrenees and on every ascent, I repeatedly wheezed that I was going to lose some weight. I did, mostly by turning my daily commute into ten miles walking a day. Recently however, I have changed my daily commute again, now to twenty seconds or so. As a result, some of those banished pounds have returned to my midriff.

The Plan

As I write, I’m five months from the next segment of the camino, with maybe twenty pounds to lose. The weather here is improving, so I will start my daily swimming routine soon. Spice is growing up, and so will enjoy a daily stroll beyond the confines of the garden and, and I am now a member of the Cyprus Rambling Club, which will get me out walking every second Sunday.

Dora

This weekend, I joined my first walk of the year, around a village called Dora. As I may have mentioned (once or twice), we have had a very wet winter, making for verdant views evocative of central Italy rather than Cyprus. I have never seen the island this green. Grudgingly, I’ll admit that the rain has done some good. I’ll still be glad to see the back of it though. The views were stunning and the weather kind. We were at altitude, had some hills to climb, and at eight miles, this was a perfect training walk for me. Talking to a fellow rambler, we marvelled at how the desire to walk takes us to places that we would not otherwise find. Here, less than half an hour from my house, were gorgeous views of valley and vineyards, as far as I could see. The only other people we met were a couple of goat herders, shepherding their flock across the path as we headed back to our start point.

Good Walking land

Benefits

Walking is good for you. Physically, mentally and dare I say it, spiritually. Get out there and do it. If it’s raining, put a coat on. You are, in fact, waterproof, you know.

Working Tools -15. Tripit

Tripit is another digital tool. Last week, I wrote about analogue tools, so this week, something truly digital. I travel a bit, and Tripit is now my goto tool for travel plans.

Camino de Santiago

The best way to demonstrate why I like it, is to provide an example. I am walking the Camino de Santiago, following the Via Francés, which runs from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, five hundred miles away. I am doing it in stages, a week a year, for five years. This year will be the fourth. We are starting in Léon and finishing in Triacastela, one hundred and ten tiring miles later.

There are many ways to walk the Camino, and my walking-buddy Stuart, (I know, it confuses everybody) and I have settled into a routine where we pre-book our overnights. We’re both creeping up on fifty years old and after our first camino decided that dormitories have had their day for us. We share a room in a cheap hotel. Now, we walk at an easier pace, and often enjoy a leisurely lunch, secure in the knowledge that we can roll into our chosen village at six pm, our bed secured.

Camino by Tripit!

The Process.

I sit down with the guide book to plan our next stage. First criterion is that both Stuart and I are very lucky in that our wives put up with us disappearing for a week each year to go walking, and we don’t want to push our luck. We stipulate that we will go for no more than eight days. Two days travel and six days walking.

Task 1.

International. Stuart starts from Dublin and this year, I start from Cyprus. We need to get to Léon to carry on from where we finished last year. I use RometoRio and Skyscanner to work this out. This year, we will be landing in Madrid, and taking a bus to Léon. Leaving, we will be getting a bus from our finish point to the town of Sarria, overnighting there, before getting a train to Santiago de Compostela, and a bus to the airport there. That worked out, I book my flights, and Stuart books his.

Task 2.

Stages. We are pretty comfortable at around eighteen miles a day. Less than fifteen feels too little and twenty plus feels a slog. Using the guidebook, I identify likely stop points, and then search accommodation options online. I tend to use booking.com. Twin beds, private bathroom and access to a laundry service or washing machine is essential. We carry everything that we need for the week on our backs, so the ability to wash and dry clothes is non-negotiable.

Task 3.

Finally, we get to Tripit. I go to my email, which is now full of booking confirmations from airlines and hotels. I forward all of these to Tripit. This is where the magic happens. In moments, all of the bookings are collated into an itinerary that is available to me online or on an app in my phone. Each booking is summarised on a master view, and I have the ability to drill into the detail. The reservation number, the cancellation terms, the payment status, everything. For example, in one of the bookings, this is listed under Notes:
“Notes. This room features views of the Santa Mariña Church. It comes with 2 single beds and a private bathroom.”

Advantages

Everything that I need is stored in the app and online. I can share the trip plans, so that everyone is in the picture. I am able to add notes and pictures to any item in the itinerary.  We are not pre-booking bus tickets, we will buy them on the ground, but I am able to save the schedules in the itinerary, both the buses that we plan to take and the fallback options, because, well, life happens. Stuart and I are both now looking at the route, reading blogs, seeking out sites to visit, churches to see, even restaurants, (we take lunch very seriously). All of this can be added to Tripit.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year, which will, this year, include my debut novel. Become a member.

The Camino

start-n-finish

Been a bit quiet here.

Mostly because I have been blogging here.

I’m off on a walk. In memory of the man in the collage above, Terry Anderson.

I’m not alone, I will be walking with friends. Laurent Gauduchau, Jean-Christophe Poussou and Stuart Smith. We all knew Terry through the Prague Barbarians Rugby Club. Last year, after a punch-up with cancer, Terry passed away at Our Lady’s Hospice in Blackrock, Dublin. If you have a pound or two spare, then I know those people would put it to incredibly good use. You can donate here.

Keen to show their support (or possibly to laugh at us) two more Prague Barbarians are coming to walk the first day with us. Franck Neel and Germain Gouranton.

The Camino, particularly the route that we are walking, the ‘Frances’, is a well-trodden route. We will be far from alone. The route is 500 miles give or take, and I intend to walk it all, but in stages.

This year, the four are starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and walking hard for six days, staying in hostels along the way. With luck, we may get as far as Logrono; a hundred miles. We may not. We shall see what we shall see.

I set off on Saturday, less than 48 hours from now. I’m flying to Bilbao, where I’ll meet Stuart, who is coming in from Dublin. We will then transfer to SJPDP where the French contingent await us.

As the day draws nearer, I’m nervous. I have the gear, I have done some training, but I have never tried to walk 100 miles before. Will the knees hold up? Will I hold up the others? Will we grate on each other’s nerves in hours?

Truth is, I don’t know.

Along with the nerves, comes anticipation. It is something that I have never done before. It is challenging. It is different.

That’s kind of cool.

Maybe I’ll write about it.

On camino, I’ll be updating www.stuartlennon.com and @frontrowcamino

 

A plan for a pilgrimage

caminopic

My last post, I talked about the Camino Francés. The more I thought about it, the more exciting it became. Should we start in Arles? Or Perpignan? Perhaps even Paris? Six weeks walking in France and Spain. What fun!

“Ah Stu”, said Stu “There is not a hope in hell that I am getting a leave pass for six weeks.”

Come to think of it, there was no chance that I would get a leave pass for six weeks either. There is a limit to the patience of the long-suffering Mrs L and abandoning her for six weeks “to go for a walk” would overreach that limit.

What was needed here was a plan.

Starting in St Jean Pied de Port (Basque country) would make for a 500 mile walk to Santiago, that is estimated to take 5 weeks or so. Might we manage a week a year – and finish up the route in 2020? Perhaps, even aim to finish around my 50th birthday in April?

Now, that’s a plan.

A friend told me of a movie, ‘The Way’. Directed by Emilio Estevez. Emilio was struggling for a lead, so he cast his Dad, Martin Sheen. Surely a bit of Hollywood would convince Mrs L that I had not taken leave of my senses? Certainly, I could alleviate any concerns about safety.

Within five minutes of the movie starting, Emilio’s character had wandered off the path and died. Oops.

Gliding over that slight hiccup, provisional approval was sought and obtained on both sides of the Irish Sea.

We have a plan.

We will fly into Bilbao, transfer to SJPDP and then walk ‘The Way’ for six days. On the seventh day, we will head back to Bilbao and return to the real world.

A wee walk

CaminoFrances

On October the 8th, I’m catching a plane to Bilbao in Northern Spain.

I love to travel, particularly to places where I can find good food and wine. This trip is a little different. I’m going for a walk. No. Really. I am.

I am walking with one of my oldest friends, conveniently named Stuart. There is a school of thought that Stuart and I are both results of some kind of botched cloning experiment. Close your eyes and it can be difficult to tell which of us is speaking.

As we both embark upon our mid-life crises, Stuart ventured “Shall we walk the camino?”.

“Absolutely. I’ll have one, if your having one.”

I fully expected to embark on an eccentric ritual method of drinking wine.

“No. Seriously. El Camino de Santiago. Have a think about it.”

I got googling.

The Camino is a pilgrimage. One that has been around for centuries. It is believed that the bodily remains of St James (an apostle) are interred at Santiago de Compostela, in north-western Spain. Pilgrims walk to Santiago by many different routes, but perhaps the most well-trodden is the Camino Francés – the French Way. The walk starts from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pays Basque region of France, crosses the Pyrenees and then meanders across Northern Spain to Santiago.

A tidy little walk of 500 miles or so.

Yes. 500 miles.

To date, my mid-life crisis had been evidenced by buying a two-seater sports car. Now I was agreeing to walk 500 miles (cue Scottish folk band).

I have thought about setting up a separate blog for the walk, but decided against it. I will post about it here. (Categorised as Camino)

What on earth have I got myself into?