Friday, 23 August 2013

Via Jacobi - An Update

First I wish to thank everyone who sent me their well wishes either through comments on the blog, Blogger contact form, direct email or phone call. Your support and encouragement has meant a lot to me in what has been a challenging time period. It has made a huge difference.

Here is something that I received from "my friends at Eckler" which was both appreciated and delicious!

My eye injury was a retinal tear with a partially detached retina...hence the need for immediate attention. I arrived late last Sunday and on Monday morning around 8:00 or so the surgical procedure was completed (thanks Heather for your coordination efforts!). 

In the space of a day or so I went from the most concentrated physically, and in some ways mentally, active time period in my life to the least active over the past week. In Geneva and Montreal I needed wheelchair support (man do you motor through security etc. quickly) to ensure no unnecessary pressure to the eye was applied. Since the surgical procedure, due to the insertion of a gas bubble in my eye to aid the healing process, I have had to lie on my right side for 45 minutes out of every hour for the past 5 days! No TV, no reading, minimal iPad usage. Torture!

I have to specifically thank my brother Marc who gave me an electronic book Louis L'Amour tale of the Wild West...15 hours of people murdering each other for gold and silver. This does not count the additional hours backtracking through the CD for many parts missed due to dozing off. I highly recommend this tale for someone in a semi comatose the end it almost became enjoyable trying to guess who would be killed off next. 

Prognosis for full recovery is very good...will have a better sense in a week or so. The best news was a statement from the physician...this has nothing to do with your backpacking has everything to do with age and nearsightedness. I have never been so happy to know that it's because I am old!

Dawn and I have talked about completing what has been started...Dawn first suggested it and is very supportive which I really appreciate. One possibility, assuming medical approval, is for me to return in late September and go as far as possible in France (over 1,100 kms) and then return in spring 2014 to complete what is left, including Spain.

I will just have to see what is possible and reasonable to do and take it from there...I will not force an early return if it doesn't feel right.

If in the end this becomes possible the original idea of doing it in one go will have changed however the adventure will still very much be there.

One positive is that I will have a chance to review what worked and what didn't (I.e blister protection) and adjust.

So hopefully at some point in the future my next blog entry will be something like:

Day 18 (xxx yy) - Nyons to Geneve

Great to be where were those darn route signs can I possibly be lost...what was that strange animal noise I just heard in the forest.....

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Via Jacobi (August 17, 2013) Day 17 - Allaman to Nyons - Camino Journey is over


My Camino adventure came to a sudden and abrupt end yesterday. Essentially I developed a serious eye problem which necessitates an immediate return to Canada to determine next steps.

Yes I am finding this extremely hard to accept at this moment however I have so much to be thankful for. The problem surfaced on the day leading to Nyons which was the last day prior to Geneva and the completion of the Via Jacobi...almost anywhere else on the planned 100 day route would have been more serious.

When I really noticed an issue the B&B owner drove me to a medical centre from which I contacted Global Medical Assistance a program offered through my prior employer Great-West Life. The folks there were incredible and contacted a specialist in Geneva and he was waiting for me after a train/taxi ride. Note I waited 3 minutes from the purchase of the train ticket to actual boarding.

The doctor at the Geneva University hospital was extremely competent and compassionate. He diagnosed the problem and it was clear that an immediate change in plans was necessary. He went so far as to say he was sorry to deliver the news that I could not phone was dead and he used his to talk further to Global Medical last 3 Canadian lapel pins were given to him.

Global Medical Assistance kept working and set up a flight for the next day to get me home.

Dawn (my spouse and best friend) was super supportive when I really needed it and Heather (Dawn's sister) was an immediate source of much needed information as she dealt with her professional colleagues.

Over the next few days I will be focusing on getting well physically and reflecting on the positives associated with a great 3 weeks in many get to walk over 400 kms. as I had the chance to do. What was not done was not meant to be. 

Thanks to all of you for your comments and support during my 17 days...much appreciated.

For my own purposes I am publishing below the Camino blog I was working on when I recognized I had to seek is unfinished and unedited...which seems right to me.



Day 17 (Aug 17) - Allaman to Nyons

Essentially an easy and relatively short 5:15 hour walk today...expect in the low 20kms. Weather again great and no pilgrims in sight either. Guy Marmet told me that I am only the fourth pilgrim that has stayed at his place this year...down for sure from last year.

View from room

My breakfast was delicious...Gabriel last night was teasing Guy Marmet that the last place I stayed at had 4 kinds of jam in the blog picture. Guy you did an excellent job!


The better part of the morning walk was really pleasant as it alternated between lake side and vineyard walking. A few pictures...

Absolutely no dangerous animals today...believe they are gone...did see the following cat whom I thought had a different coat...99.95? sure it is not a leopard!

Not a leopard

 I was asked by someone if I could provide a mug here it is:

Mug shot August 17th

In the early late morning there was a stretch around Gland and into Pranyins that was less than inspiring. For the first time I had to walk a fair distance on what I considered a major is an example of a long walk...

A bit boring!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Via Jacobi (August 16, 2013) - Day 16 Lausanne to Allaman

Today was a super day for walking...6.5 hours worth or likely 25+ kms....more later.

Last night was spent in a dorm as mentioned in yesterday's blog. Surprise I was the first one in bed however the other three young guys came in some time after 10:00. What really impressed me is that they were very quiet and actually whispered between themselves...pretty impressive I thought!

I tried to return the favour this morning as I left the room at 5:45 as quietly as possible. Before leaving the hostel I left 50 Canadian lapel pins with a note to "help yourself". The hostel gives everyone a discount coupon for a breakfast at a bakery down the street.

Real Swiss hot chocolate!

I was bound and determined to find the Via Jacobi trail in Lausanne and I came with a few feet of doing so...entered a business 15 minutes before they were to open to ask...5 people there...5 Canadian lapel pins.

Some time during the day I added another pin for a lady's help. I have received a number of questions about how many/weight of the Canadian lapel pins. Before leaving I weighted them at just over 300 grams...I have about 250 left and am not sure how many I have handed out. What I have I plan on handing out before Le Puy en Velay as I have a re supply waiting for me! I know that taking the pins has added unnecessary weight and is not rational...however some might say this trip is not rational! For now I am having fun with it!

Today's walk followed the shoreline of Lake Leman and it was really quite something:

A typical Swiss experience?

A helicopter delivering a yacht on the lake

I kid you not I heard a helicopter overhead with a long cable holding a hatch. It went a ways onto the lake and then positioned the boat. Someone unhooked the cable and the helicopter left...yacht now on the lake!

A fine place on the lake!!

Park anywhere bike

  Cars parked on both sides of road in different directions   

While most of the walking was on paths along the lake or roads in the afternoon there was some nice forest walking as well

Sometime in the afternoon the trail starting going by some vineyards which I found really neat:

Again no dangerous animals seen (see below for unseen) however the swan population on Lake Leman was incredible...there were hundreds of these graceful birds...which didn't seem bothered by my walking by...

Sign to prove there are dangerous animals! Yes lizards...maybe not Komodo dragon size however likely dangerous non the less!

There is quite a history to the Chemin St. Jacques and it was inspiring to come across a plaque and sign of such...

I saw a sign somewhere which listed the 10 things you know you are Swiss of them was "when you grow up believing every cow has to have a bell". I realized today how much I miss the sound of the cowbells which in the early part of the walk was constantly in the background.

I arrived in late afternoon and am at Guy Marmet's B&B which means I have my own separate suite again overlooking a vineyard!

Guy invited me for a glass of wine with his friend Gabriel and we had an interesting chat for quite a while. It's fun to interact in this way...always learn something!

Had supper at he COOP shopping centre which is next door to what's the big deal Allaman has a population of 400 I understand! Apparently Swiss people from afar come to IKEA...why...inexpensive land and I suspect good economic breaks.

I am honestly concerned about my feet especially the very healthy blisters on both heals. My boots were broken in, are the right size, have very good socks with double liners (1,000 mile socks) and I have used a special cream daily. Still....the blisters come...

I went into a pharmacy and spoke to an expert...and walked out with a spray to ensure infections are prevented plus two kinds of of them Compeed which acts like a second skin. Feel good about this...

I also bought Vaseline which I have read on a Camino Forum is used by a number of walkers...why not try it!

Tomorrow a shorter day, assuming I stay on path like today, of 20 kms. to Nyons...and then to Geneva!

Future Pilgrims

Once again I have a great host in Guy Marmet and a equally comfortable sleeping location. Cost is 50 Swiss francs with breakfast...highly recommended.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Via Jacobi (August 15, 2013) - Day 15 Vucherens to Lausanne

Well all turned out right again...another late day wander...

First supper last night with Carine, Luc and Till was a real treat. I ate as a member of the family...corn on the cob, salad from the garden, various cheeses, potatoes, bread and ham. The highlight was dessert where Will (maybe 10) had worked for 3 hours or so (including cleanup he stressed) making fancy cupcakes. I wish I had taken a picture...they had green icing with a few pieces of fruit for decoration...he was justly proud.

Conversation about various things flowed freely...turns out Luc teaches mathematics at a teachers college...he was impressed when I mentioned the Actuarial connection in our family!

One topic of conversation were the many convents and monasteries that I had passed over the past number of guessed it most are very sparsely populated these days.

Early morning view from house

Breakfast - fruit pie was delicious

Officially today was about 21 kms which should have taken at most 5 hours....I walked for 7.5 hours! I expect a good part of the overage is simply due to how they measure distances i.e. the start of Lausanne is likely close to 1.5 to 2 hours from where I presently am...the city goes on forever!

Walking was easy again in terms of minimal elevation gains and perfect weather...mid 20's by day's end.

A lot of a road walking today which makes it easy to follow the trail however can be hard on the feet after a while.

Road walking

More road walking
Going down steps in forest!

Across boards with metal grid to eliminate slipping

Forest road

As far as dangerous animal encounters...boring day

This fellow could be challenging

Canadian lapel pin giveaway....only two at separate times when some needed advice was given.

Interesting construction - concrete on metal with grass

Arrived on the outskirts of Lausanne just after 1:00 thinking I would be at my accommodation no later than 2:00. I was impressed with signage and was having no problem and then...signs and/or my ability to follow them disappeared.

The Via Jacobi simply went I started using Google maps and working my way to the Lausanne Backpackers Guest House where I am staying for the night.

Now balancing a mini iPad (bright sunlight is not kind when looking at the screen!) in one hand, two trekking poles in the other and ensuring one is not doing something stupid with cars all around is a challenge. Well at least it is of me!

I was not a happy camper to say the least however slowly things started to fall into place in that I found a bank (needed a few Swiss francs to sleep tonight), set up a tentative Skype date with Jeanne my daughter, found my way to the Guest House and asked two different people how to get back on the Via Jacobi tomorrow (Info centre and lady at front desk here).

We will see tomorrow morning how successful these directions a big city such as Lausanne the Via Jacobi is not that well known.

Best part of the day...I had a really good Skype date with my daughter Jeanne who is back in Japan after two weeks volunteering at a school in Nepal. She flew over Everest! The picture and sound quality was by far the best of the 5 Skype sessions I have had since starting the walk. Jeanne and I agreed that walking through a country was worth around 5 new countries therefore I have now visited 23 countries to Jeanne's measly 21!

I was told by a few people that the Lausanne Cathedral is not to be missed...built in 1275 or so it is reputed to be the finest Gothic church edifice in Europe. The best part is I took the subway!


The Protestant cathedral was really beautiful however in stark contrast to the ornate Catholic cathedral in Einselden.

Now resting comfortably in the common meeting room...have tried my best to remedy the left heel blister situation however I expect this will be a little unpleasant tomorrow. 

Allaman is my next stop...supposedly 25 kms away.

Future Pilgrims

Lausanne Backpackers Guest House is very highly rated by TripAdvisor and has a great location by the train station. I am in a two bunk bed room...hopefully the two fellows there aren't snorers...perhaps there will a fourth! 

Unfortunately the old's a top bunk!

Everything seems very clean...received a free transportation in Lausanne card and a discount at a bakery for breakfast.

Total cost, with bedding is 38 Swiss francs, excluding breakfast...cannot be beaten in a large city.  I rate it highly.

Via Jacobi (August 14, 2013) - Day 14 Billens to Vucherens

Overall an easy day of walking today...although I did turn what should have been a 4:30 hour day of 20 kms into closer to a 6 hour walking day...more later.

Wasn't thinking rationally first thing this morning...hey it's a short day...why not backtrack 2 kms into Romont and have another look around. Then I why not finish earlier and rest! I must be getting wiser in my old age...chose the latter.

Also I want to take a minute and thank all of you who have made comments on the blog site, sent Blogger form contact comments or sent direct emails. I really enjoy receiving these and look forward to Lise did you really have to send me 8 emails each with a one line question? (Je t'aime). 

I have been asked a few times about how to make comments. Two ways...use the Comment link at the bottom of each blog and submit and everyone reading the blog can see your comment or if you prefer use the Blogger contact form at the bottom of the Blog page in which case only I receive the comment.

Swiss signs

A few Swiss signs I noticed today...Switzerland is a very clean may need the French dictionary to interpret.

Sometime this morning I came through a village (most have no posted names) and there was a fork in the road with no signs. A very elderly gentlemen who was trying to weed said "par la". I thanked him and gave him a Canadian lapel pin. He looked at it and "pourquoi ca"... "Why that". I told him it was a small thanks but I could tell he was unimpressed.

I left chuckling to myself for a few minutes as I could almost hear "what am I going to do which this...I'm 94 years old!" Perhaps he chucked it...but he is right at some point we have to stop accumulating stuff (Pauline!)

As I neared Moudon around 11:00 I decided to take it easy for an hour and had lunch

How can you not like this place?

Honestly had not had chocolate for a while

I stopped in at a church and had a look inside...beautiful stained glass

Before leaving Moudon I finally got to take a picture of what I consider to be the best job in the world...would gladly do this job in my retirement! You just putz around all day, deliver mail and say hi to people!

Post office delivery vehicle

A few other pictures from today

Sign says that's the Via Jacobi - have faith

Behind fence - good

A tall fellow

Finally around 1:00 I was approaching my destination for the day Vucherans...instructions I had were to find the sign as I entered the village and follow to Carine Bunzli's home.

I saw a man hole cover which said Vucherans water supply so I had to be close....yeah right!

For some time I had that feeling that I wasn't quite on the Via Jacobi despite the occasional walking path sign. Just after the man hole cover there was a fork in the the right a few the left heading back toward where I came from was a path sign with a yellow arrow.

I decided to go ahead and crossed the highway into a small town...wrong...wasn't the right town. I backtracked and went back to the path sign with the yellow arrow and followed this bush trail for 5 minutes or so and decided if I kept going I would end up where I started the day...not good.

Meanwhile no one around to ask!

So I decided the right way was to go ahead and stay on this side of the highway...and there was a Vucherans sign! I was there...wrong! Another fork in the road and I took the left side as there were a number of houses...10 minutes or more later I was in a farmer's field....however luckily some folks were enjoying drinks in a back yard.

"Excuser moi"...they all started talking at once and eventually one of them took charge and explained I should have taken the right hand fork in the road and descend past the church and then this and that...I was thankful and handed out 7 Canadian lapel pins. The fellow had been in Canada last week! They seemed pleased with the small gift except one lady who said " je n'ai pas besoin de ├ža" I again left chuckling.

I moved past the church and all was looking good however another fork and I went left...walked for a while (found the Via Jacobi signs confirming I had not been on the trail) until I got to another farmers field. A young guy was working the field...with a big machine...doing I don't know what. I explained my problem and sure enough I had taken the wrong a Canadian lapel pin and off I went.

Finally I saw the Famille Bunzli sign!!!

Famille Bunzli B&B

Not without further fiddling around I came to the following and was home of the night after coming to Vucherans the back door way on the fifth try after an hour and a half! I don't think I would have done well in medieval times planning an attack on a village.

My room

The Bunzli family Carine, twin boys (maybe 10 or so) and her husband just returned from Sherbrooke Quebec where they exchanged houses with a Canadian family! How many people have been to Canada?

Four Canadian lapel pins nevertheless...shortly I will be having dinner here...expect with family however I never know this for sure.

Tomorrow another short day to Lausanne...a major Swiss city. My feet which of course have not been happy felt better today...two days ago I found that my heel had a double blister ( a new one under an old one). Once I figured that out it was much easier to help the situation.

Future Pilgrims

Had a very warm reception and the room and facilities are just right...Demi pension is 50 Swiss francs so the price is right. I'm quite sure this is a high recommendation as well. Bunzli family B&B in Vucherans...just follow the signs!!!