Monday, 24 June 2013

Destinations, Dates and Distances

As we get closer and closer each day to our departure I thought I would share where will be and how far we will be walking on our adventure.

This post is also the first one I have done using Blogger on my iPad. It is sort of experimental, just seeing what capabilities the iPad has compared to the Mac as this is the device I will be using on the road.

At this stage text is looking easy so I will just post the text and fiddle with the rest at edit.



July 7 Arrive in Leon by train from Madrid
July 8 Leon to Villar de Mazarife 22km
July 9 Villar de Mazarife to Hosptal de Orbigo 17km
July 10 Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga 14km
July 11 Astorga to Rabanal del Camino 19km
July12 Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca 24km
July 13 Molinaseca to Ponferrada 8km
July 14 Rest Day in Ponferrada 0km


July 15 Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo 23km
July 16 Villafranca del Bierzo to La Portela de Valcarce 15km
July 17 La Portela de Valcarce to O'Cebreiro 13km
July 18 O'Cebreiro to Triacastela 21km
July 19 Triacastella to Sarria 21km
July 20 Rest Day in Sarria 0km


July 21 Sarria to Portomarin 23km
July 22 Portomarin to Palas de Rei 23km
July 23 Palas de Rei to Melide 15km
July 24 Melide to Arzua 13km
July 25 Arzua to Amenal 23km
July 26 Amenal to Santiago de Compostela 14km
July 27 Rest Day in Santiago de Compostela 0km
July 28 Depart Santiago de Compostela by Train

Buen Camino Peregrinos

Saturday, 22 June 2013

I Will Not Say Do Not Weep

I'm a Tolkien fan.  I have been a Tolkien fan for many years.  My Year 8 English teacher gave me a copy of 'The Hobbit' to read and thus began a lifelong love affair with the writings of JRR Tolkien.  I now have quite a substantial collection of books and memorabilia.  It has always been a literary obsession for me, I love reading Tolkien's work.  I am a hoarder though so I have everything from a cigarette lighter from 'The Eagle and Child' where Tolkien used to drink, right through to a limited edition replica of Anduril, Aragorn's sword from the LOTR movies.

Books, books and more books.  I have hundreds of them, I have all sorts of stuff that people started to give me when the LOTR movies came out as well, that was when it became really tricky to be Tolkien collector.  You had to be discerning on just what to procure, you could easily spend your time loading up your collection with, well rubbish.  And of course now 'The Hobbit' is becoming its own marketing phenomenon with the release of those movies happening right now.

You might think that the title of this post is a bit weird.  It is in fact a line from right near the end of the Lord of the Rings.  In a moment of final farewell, when there is genuine sadness and friends are being forever sundered Gandalf says to the assembled group, 'I will not say 'do not weep', for not all tears are an evil.'  I'm not suggesting for a moment that people will be sad to see us go off on our wonderful trek  across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, or indeed miss us so desperately, however there is some sadness in leaving home, family and friends for a long time.

The thought is worth pondering I reckon.  Imagine what it must have been like a thousand years ago when people left to take the pilgrim road to Santiago.  Their families would have no idea whether or not they would see them again.  The journey was dangerous, the road was long, communication was virtually non-existant.  There would have been real tears.  But not all tears are an evil, sometimes even now I get a bit teary when I think of just what a remarkable thing it is to take my children on such an amazing adventure, I mist up when I consider that for the immediate future I have the great pleasure of just 'being' with my little family, my wife and kids.  A sentimentalist perhaps.

And then the planets align.

Last night when we had friends around for a BBQ to watch the British and Irish Lions play the Wallabies we were given a little going away card.

Not all who wander are lost.  Another cracking line from JRRT.  And what a beautiful image.  There is real joy for me in that moment, there is real depth in the idea of wandering with intent, of being present in nature and just soaking up something really special.

The idea of going on a pilgrimage, of walking the Camino, of strolling through the Spanish countryside is truly breathtaking.  The sense of stillness, of awe that I get looking at the gent in that image above sits with me now as we make our final preparations to fly out to Spain in less than 10 days.  Oh its hectic right now, but I think we are moving towards something wonderful.

I'll conclude today with some extended text from the very last pages of The Lord of the Rings.  I have just read it again and it is beautiful, it speaks of a journey over the seas, through the mist to the undying lands.  Heaven perhaps.

'Yes,' said Gandalf; 'for it will be better to ride back three together than one alone.  Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth.  Go in peace!  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.'
Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up , and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost.  And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water.  And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.'

Buen Camino Peregrinos

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Buenos dias peregrinos,

My darling wife told me this morning that it is five weeks to the day that we catch a train from Madrid to Leon in Spain to begin our Camino de Santiago.  Tomorrow, it will be five weeks to the day that we walk our first stage from Leon to Villar de Mazarife.  We have to get to Spain first.

5 weeks!

It's been longer than that since I posted my last blog.

The reality is that we have been pretty much busy with the day to day ordinariness of life and busyness of work over the past month or so.  Since our epic and wet week camping in the Sunshine Coast hinterland we have continued to do walks of varying lengths, Monica has been much more faithful with that discipline than myself though, I must confess.

However I can happily report two things that have happened this week that have assisted me in re-focusing my attention to the impending pilgrimage.

First of all, unexpectedly, we received in the mail this week our credencial or Pilgrim's Passports.  The company that are assisting us, Camino Ways, have forwarded us the documents that we will have stamped at each day as a record of where we stayed along the Camino.  These will be presented at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, so that we can be issued with our Compostela, or certificate of pilgrimage.  You will see in the image below that they are shiney and new, ready to receive our names, details and the various stamps from the many places we are staying.  I wonder how they will look in two months time when we have completed this epic trip.

The second exciting thing that has happened this week is that I have also received a huge map that I ordered to be displayed at our college.  I ordered the map from the website, Camino Down Under.  They have some really good resources for Australians considering this epic adventure.  Along with the map I also ordered an all weather map book and handy guide book that will assist us in our final weeks of preparation for the walk.  There is lots of good stuff in it about what to take and how to prepare for the journey.  It is particularly helpful because it is written by an Australian, the context therefore works quite well, much of what comes out of Europe assumes better access perhaps to things European.

To conclude today's blog I thought I would include the text from my fortnightly principal's blurb that I wrote for our college newsletter this week.  It refers to the above mentioned map.  Enjoy.

Short Steps For Old Man Altmann

There is an old saying that I am sure we are all very aware of.  The longest journey begins with the first step.  My favourite version of the same is the, the longest journey begins with the shortest step.  There is a nice poetic balance in that line between longest and shortest.

As you probably know by now my wife, kids and I are off on a holiday of a lifetime next term, walking in Spain and then travelling around Europe.  It is so exciting and so close at the moment, I can almost taste the tapas and sip the sangria!  And of course even though we fly out in just a few short weeks our journey has already begun, it began well over a year ago when I first approached the College Council with my idea for a sabbatical exploration of The Way of St James.  Upon approval of that leave, and connected long service leave, our family started to go on short walks, look up maps of Europe, dig out our old backpacking gear, talk to travel agents and so on.  Short steps, but we were on our way.

I procured a large wall map of the north of Spain last week that I intend to hang in the front office of our Admin building.  It is enormous, it is specially designed to show the Camino Santiago, the Way of St James.  I’m hoping it serves as a short step towards an imminent trip to Spain for our future senior students, a tantalizing image of what lays ahead, a seed planter getting our families connected to the idea that this might be a pretty remarkable thing to do.  There is a beautiful quote on the bottom of the poster that reads, Para llegor a Santiago como un juven - empieza el Camino como un viejo.  In english that translates to To arrive in Santiago like a young person, begin the Camino like an old man.

I enjoyed that quote because in Europe I am an old man.  My name ‘Altmann’ is german for old man, alt mann.  For me it works on a number of other levels though.  The first is the physical, if you want to walk a long way and finish well, don’t go too hard too early.  First steps should be short steps. 

Secondly, and more profoundly, I think there is a spiritual element in there as well.  In Matthew 18: 3 Jesus said, ‘Unless you change and become like little children you will never inherit the kingdom of Heaven.’  As intelligent, modern, scientific, western, 3rd world adults we want proof, we demand to know how it works and what powers it.  But there are some things in life that we just need to accept simply, graciously and faithfully.  

Often a life changing experience helps us get that perspective, a chronic illness, changes in our financial situation, injury of a loved one, a 300 kilometre walk across a foreign country.  We need to cast off our old man ways, our hubris and our self reliance and simply finish the walk like a child, faithfully accepting things as they come along and relying on a God of love to provide that which we need to get through.

It really is the shortest step.

Buen Camino