Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route (March 31, 2020) Day 5 - Pola de Allende to La Mesa

Overall a similar day to Day 4 in terms of weather...started walking at 5:15 am...beautiful out however by 7:00 it started to drizzle. No matter the birds were chirping and I saw a few squirrels running around...but no wild animals...skunks, coyotes, deer, racoons, sheep or cows. I felt quite safe,

Today I walked 25.6 kms...and to date have covered 124.3 kms and am once again camped out in the wild I am 7.4 kms past La Mesa my intended destination for the night.

We live on a busy bus route and it was really strange to notice that most buses were entirely empty or had one or two passengers only. This really brought home the impact of what everyone is dealing with...work at home or even worse not working at all due to temporary job loss.

I am really fortunate to be walking my Camino in these challenging times!

Two very interesting encounters took place today one communicating with a fellow involving appropriate social distancing and another one from afar with no verbal communication whatsoever. The latter one was a real surprise!

I have often met an interesting guy who runs regularly in the area...how do I describe him...likely in his early 60s with long long hair in braids... Clearly he has been a runner for many years and is very friendly often joking that he can't run the hills as he used to. Today as he was passing by he stopped, and at a fair distance well in excess of 2 meters...he asked if I had heard of the marathon runner in France who completed his marathon on his balcony?

I told him that this story had been my inspiration and went on to describe how I was walking the Camino Primitivo (310 kms) over a 13 day period. He laughed as did I when I said "why not?". Hope to see him again in the days ahead.

The second encounter was a non verbal one...the fellow with his dog and the orange ball mentioned in my post yesterday. I had previously indicated that it was a toss up as to who looked sillier...me walking as I do or him carrying his orange ball. Well today he clearly had decided that he was sillier than me...NO ORANGE BALL! He looked at me sheepishly and we both knew that I had won the tug of war on the silly question! Made my day!

I have been remiss so far in that I have not shared pictures on how scenic the Camino Primitivo has been. Yesterday and today I saw some really spectacular scenery on the Hospitales Route (NOTE for anyone who has walked the Camino Primitivo I am well aware that there are glaring inconsistencies with my story regarding the Hospitales route. It's ok there are a few exaggerations in my recounting of events) which I would like to share with you...please note a fellow pilgrim took a picture of me below.

Pretty sure that's me!
Hospitales Route
Hospitales Route

Today my favourite two pilgrims showed up however they clearly had decided that they were pooped walking and needed an alternative form of transportation...I almost jumped in there with them! 

My two favourite pilgrims...one of them did not appear to be too happy!

Now this red wagon brought back memories of a walk Dawn and I did along the Thames River in England with some good friends. One of them, Dennis (pictured) whined almost continuously as we walked an average of 10 kms a day, on flat terrain with small day packs. I offered to get him a Red Wagon then!

Now take a good look at what is one my all time favourite pictures...it perfectly captures Dennis at his finest...keep in mind this gentlemen has two university degrees, commanded at the highest levels the Navy in the Province of Manitoba and was Chief Executive Officer of a large construction firm for  many years...looks sure can be deceiving...however I digress from my Camino Primitivo blog...

Dennis...one of my favourite all time pictures!!!
Well tomorrow off to Grandas de Salime...a really short day however with very significant altitude gains/losses. Hopefully no overnight blisters...you never know I may breeze through Grandas de Salime and sleep on a mountainside somewhere!

Monday, 30 March 2020

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route (March 30, 2020) - Day 4 Tineo to Pola de Allende

Well a fairly low key day today as I walked 26.1 kms. The terrain contrary to the guide book I have read seemed surprisingly flat...either that or I am simply hallucinating as I walk. The published elevation gains for the day are 837 meters and elevation losses 959 meters...didn't feel it!

I woke up at 4:45 am and was out the door at 5:00 am...the weather was great for the first 2 hours and then it started to rain again...ugh!

At 8:45 am I left the Camino trail as two special pilgrims were about to join us for the day. Some pictures / video from a typical day.

Rearranging the apartment


Rearranging the apartment

Creative game playing


Decorating cookies


At 3:45 pm I was back out on the trail for a couple of hours to complete the day. To date I have covered 98.7 kms and overshot my intended stop Pola de Allande once again by 4.1 kms. Here is my park bench for the night!

Park bench for the night's sleep!

So far no blisters...slight strain in the back of the right knee which I will need to pay attention to over the coming days...could it be caused by the repetitive turning after walking 29 feet?

One oddity of walking this special Camino is seeing the same people day after day...for the 4th day in a row this guy walking his large dog holding a big orange ball passed by. Now he kind of gives me a quick sideways look however I can tell he is very embarrassed because of the ridiculous orange ball he lugs around. That's ok people are entitled to their quirky behaviour...meanwhile I have to get back to the walking...13 paces turn...13 paces turn...grass is wet at lower elevations so must stay at higher elevation i.e. the deck...i.e not quirky at all!

One of the many benefits of walking this alternate Camino Primitivo route is hearing from numerous people that I haven't heard from for quite a while. One example was an email from Carol & Leonard long time friends who are currently vacationing for 3 years in the Caribbean (Leonard is an Actuary and we all know they pretend to work!).

The title of Carol's email was English Channel 2020...turns out Leonard has been inspired...he has always wanted to swim the English Channel so he has decided to swim lengths in a backyard pool (see below). I understand Day 1 he swam 4 lengths of the pool...great start Leonard but be careful and don't overdo it! Copycat!

Leonard in pretend English Channel swim!

Now some of you will have noticed that the title of the emails you receive refers to 2018 Camino Portuguese...sorry I can't figure out how to change this! If only I was around System Architects again...I know a few of them read the blog and they could figure this out in milliseconds. These folks are incredibly smart...and can draw amazing pictures that no one can or would even want to understand! I won't name them...it's not fair...Cal/Greg.

Wild Animals

I suspect a few of you think I exaggerate the wild animals angle a bit...well take a quick read of this excerpt from a recent Narcity article!!!! Terrifying!

Wild Animals Are Roaming Toronto’s Streets While All The Humans Stay Home 

Deer, foxes and coyotes have all been seen wandering the streets.

Since Toronto has declared a state of emergency, streets have been quieter as many residents practice social distancing. Now that humans are staying home, it appears that wild animals are popping up on sidewalks and public spaces across the city. Some of Toronto's wild animal sightings have been happening in the middle of the day and on residential streets.

In the past weeks, social media users have been posting their pictures and videos online of coyotes walking around in broad daylight. Deer and fox sightings have also been recorded and shared online. 

Although seeing wild animals is nothing new in Toronto, it looks like the city's wildlife is getting used to humans staying indoors. One coyote was even spotted walking down the middle of a sidewalk. 


So tomorrow on to La Mesa...17.7 kms away.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route (March 29, 2020) - Day 3 Salas to Tineo

Well today was just one of those special Camino walking days...absolutely soaked to the bone. Everything was wet as it poured for about 4 out of my 5 hours walking...20 kms outside and a few more inside.

On days like this it one just has to slosh it out (note use of slosh it out and not grit it out) ...go for 29 ft. turn around...go 29 ft and simply repeat again and again. By my mathematical estimation (at one point in my life I was a 70% Actuary...then married an Actuary...2 daughters became Actuaries and  one of them married an Actuary) I walked 2,300 times back and forth. Now is that stubborn, stupid, ridiculous, pathetic or simply crazy...I don't know...it just had to be done.

Today I walked 21.4 kms totalling 72.6 kms over the 3 days on my special Camino Primitivo which means I am now 3.8 kms past Tineo...and once again sleeping outside.

A few pictures and a video from the day...the iPhone was basically in a puddle in the pocket of my Arcteryx rain jacket (more of this later).

My favourite pilgrims are back!
Cinnamon bun treat from my daughter!
Absolutely soaked!!!
A tough walking day!

Having walked 105 days and an estimated 3,000 kms over my 6 Camino routes I have had some pretty rough rain days. Two specific days that stand out for me were recorded in previous blog posts...today ranks in the top 3 rainy days for sure!

Day 87 (May 20) - Negreira to Olveiroa

Not much to be said today...absolutely soaked as we walked 34 kms over 6.5 hours. The day was split into sections...the first 3 hours it rained/poured continuously...the next 3 hours it rained lightly on and off with the sun making a brief appearance...the final 30 minutes it just poured!

Everything we own is wet...trying our best to dry out at the Casa Loncho in Olveiroa...last night booked a room for the three of us for 20€ each. At this point this was a golden decision!

Day 57 (Nov 4) Navarrenx to Urhad Mixe

Only one way to describe today...absolutely BRUTAL walking...30 kms in 7.5 hours of which 5+ hours were in rain. A good portion of the day was spent in a hard driving rain...the type where you feel like every part of you is going to...and eventually does get wet.

The camera was out away early and then placed in the pocket of my weatherproof GORETEX jacket. Yeah sure! At the time of this writing the camera is not working as the pockets of my coat were PUDDLES...not impressed and a hard lesson to learn. So far I have confirmed that the photo card is still OK...plugged in battery and we will see.

Now about my fancy Arteryx Goretex super duper infallible jacket...it is LEAKING! This has been frustrating me to no end up until a month or so ago when a posting on the Camino Forum mentioned that these jackets need to be washed and dried occasionally and treated with special water proofing products. How is one supposed to know this? One buys a waterproof jacket and assumes (at least in my case) that all is good...forever!

Well a number of weeks back I bought Granger's products to reseal my Arteryx jacket in preparation for my Camino Primitivo. When the trip was canceled I thought I had lots of time...until this morning! Oh well live and learn...or in my case learn and then forget.

Today there was absolutely no one out and about however there was one baffling incident. A blue van (did not catch licence plate!) parked just outside the end of the walking path on the street for a good 15 minutes with the engine idling and driver inside. It was raining steadily so I did not get a good look at the driver.

For a while I thought it might be someone from a local TV/Radio station coming to interview me...and I would become famous. No this did not happen he/she never left the van and simply don't know why they were there. What's so special about someone walking back and forth in pouring rain on a deck? Don't they know that's what it takes to complete a Camino in these troubled times?

On to tomorrow and Pola de Allende which is 23 kms away. Hope for sunny skies, beautiful mountain views and meeting pilgrims!

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route (March 28, 2020) - Day 2 Grado to Salas

Today I managed to get an early start and was on the Camino path by 5:40 am. Overall walked 24.6 kms so overshot Salas by a few kms as the plan was 22.1 kms. That’s ok as I found a nice outdoor bench to sleep on.

Unfortunately a frightening start to the day as within 5  minutes I spotted what I have been fearing all along...the fearsome raccoon on the street JUST BEHIND the shed. He/she slipped into the field and I was super aware that there is an opening in the fence behind the shed! What should I do? Run out on street and yell for help or just wait and watch? Decided on the latter and thankfully all was ok.

Using the telephoto lens on my iPhone I snapped this photo

As mentioned I am listening to Podcasts from various sources...the latest of which is Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History which I highly recommend.

Overall today was more of a routine day on the Camino Primitivo as the terrain was fairly flat with few significant areas of elevation gain.

Elevation gains on Camino Primitivo

When walking at higher elevations (on deck) one can see the side street and the many people who walk down to the ravine trails. Interestingly I have seen the same family of four on both days...yesterday they just looked...today they stared a bit longer probably wondering “what is that guy doing walking back and forth?” I think I need a sign or something for passers by.

You never know people might feel sorry for me and leave cookies, chips or maybe chocolate!

Late yesterday my favourite pilgrim (Dawn) joined me in the late afternoon for an period of an hour or so practicing as my oldest daughter Lise has called “Social Distancing at it’s finest”

Around 9:30 or so it started to rain and the wind came up quickly which is what Camino walking is all about...no question about packing it in so I kept going.

Around 10:00 or so my favourite pilgrims came outside to keep me company...very thoughtful of Elodie and Rose along with Steven. Here is a short video of their Camino walk!

Basically that’s a wrap for today...feet are sore...no blisters however and wondering about some soreness which I suspect could develop into something later. We shall see however I am at km 51.2 and slowly making my way to Santiago de Compostela.

Tomorrow a shorter day at 19.8 kms to Tineo.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route (March 27, 2020) - Day 1 Oviedo to Grado

The adventure starts! The anticipation of the first day walking a Camino route is always super high...and today was no exception.

The plan was to walk 25.8 kms to Grado however I overshot a bit and went 26.6 kms. Luckily enough I was able to find suitable accommodation however now see that this could become an issue as this Camino progresses. Hopefully I will not have to sleep on a park bench somewhere.

I left my overnight accommodation at 6:14 am and arrived at my starting point, approximately 10 meters away, just before 6:15 am.

3C with little wind so perfect walking conditions. 

Spectacular morning scenery!
Spectacular morning scenery!

Walking Path

The walking path is not as varied as other Camino routes I have previously done and some might say the scenery is not as spectacular or varied. Let me show you...

My Camino Walking path!
My Camino Walking path!

So I am walking in the back yard and on the deck of my daughter’s and son in law’s house. Dawn and I live in a super nice basement “granny/grandpa” suite.

From one end of the deck to the other is 13 steps, the yard 12 steps deep and 10 steps across. Now there are many varied ways to accumulate steps. 1) back and forth on the deck 2) rectangle in the yard turning right 3) rectangle in the yard turning left. More complex variations are 4) walking towards the shed and then crisscrossing through the middle and still walking the rectangle. This can be done from the left or right side.

Finally, and much more scary, is actually going behind the shed...and taking your chances with dangerous animals!

So hopefully this gives you an appreciation for the challenges faced in completing this Camino...it takes a certain amount of perseverance however today’s walk only took 6.5 hours or so!

Dangerous Animals

Past Caminos have had their share of dangerous animal encounters. So far I have been fortunate...

If you look carefully you will see squirrels
Squirrels...missed taking a picture of the robin!

I am somewhat concerned though...take a look at the picture with the hole at the bottom of the fence!

Notice the hole! Raccoons, rats, deer etc etc could easily slip through this hole...I will have to be very vigilant!
I did not meet many pilgrims today...a bit lonely however I listened to numerous podcasts and waved to the occasional passerby on the street. 

While I did not meet many pilgrims the ones I did meet were super nice and special!
Special pilgrim friends!

And they (Rose & Elodie) decided I needed a bit more variability to my walking i.e. switchback type walking!

So day one complete...feet a little sore...tomorrow a 22.1 km day to Salas!

Friday, 27 March 2020

Camino Primitivo Alternate Route 2020 - A Creative Route

Well never say never! In 2018 I walked/hobbled the Camino Portuguese with Paulo my good friend from Brazil. It was, as some of you know, not my finest hour as I developed egg sized blisters on both feet on day 2 out of Lisbon. Finally on day 4 I had to say enough...took the train to Porto and recovered for a number of days before setting out for a two week hobble to Santiago de Compostela.

Seriously I thought that was it...and then Paulo sent me a WhatsApp message a year or so ago..."Hey let's do 2 weeks in 2020!" I thought why would he ask me after what I put him through in 2018? Then I thought "why not"...so the planning started.

The Plan

Walk the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela starting May 10th, 2020 for two weeks. Here is a brief description of the Camino Primitivo.

The Camino Primitivo, or Original Way, treks through Galicia from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino Primitivo route is considered to be the very first of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago.

It is one of the most beautiful, challenging, and rewarding routes on the Camino de Santiago. It crosses a mountain range at 1100m above sea level. Here, you will witness spectacular views of the Embalse de Salime, the River Navia and of course the towering surrounding mountains.


The Challenge

COVID - 19! Paulo and I were hoping that Spain would not be impacted however we both knew that was very unlikely. On Feb 25th Spain had 2 confirmed cases...Mar 27th 56,188 cases and 4,089 deaths as per the WHO. By the second week in March we had cancelled our Camino and a week later the WHO had declared a pandemic.

While clearly there was no choice but to cancel it was still deeply disappointing...at 63 years old how many chances does one have going forward?

Then Dawn and I determined that we needed to be cautious and self isolate ourselves for a two week period starting March 26th. That meant no more long walks trying to maintain 6 ft distancing for that period.

Now I felt really out of sorts...no Camino, not even walking in the city! Ugh!

Then I came across two interesting articles...

An article stating that a 32 year old restaurant worker, ran the length of a marathon (26.2 miles) on his 23 foot balcony while in self isolation.

An article where Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, who has spent considerable time in the Space Station comment on self isolation.

“I think the real thing to do is just look at the reality of where you are and the opportunities that you have and the way you can still be productive and interact and be mentally stimulated and just go with that. Stop worrying that it’s different, and instead go with the reality of the new set of rules that you’re living under”

Hmm...my mind really went into overdrive on what might be possible! A crazy idea formed and I got really pumped...why not walk my Camino a different way?

Hopefully, if this App holds up, I will report back shortly on day 1. Oviedo to Grado - 25.8 Kms was the original plan...in Northern Spain...hmmm...it’s possible but has to be slightly different than originally planned.