Tag Archives: Camino

Monsoon June (31/365)

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After a few glorious days of sun and heat, it’s cooled right down again here as we head into Monsoon June. Rain, dipping temperatures, and really cool skies (check out those clouds!) are typical of this time of year. After a few weeks of this unpredictable weather, we head into forest fire season.

Last summer the fires were awful… thick smoke day after day and everyone on edge wondering if the flames were going to sweep through and engulf inhabited areas. Fort McMurray. Kelowna. The memories are still fresh.

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Forest Fire, by Mark Tobey, 1956

This year’s fire season is still in the future. For now, I’m going to enjoy the beauty of clouds…

Clouds and the Baths

Puffy clouds over the Baths, BVI

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Clouds over Canmore

Clouds over Ha Ling

Clouds over Ha Ling

Reflected Clouds - Policeman's Creek

Reflected Clouds – Policeman’s Creek, Canmore

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Caribbean Clouds

Spanish Clouds over the Camino

Spanish Clouds over the Camino

 

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More Spanish Clouds (Dawn)

 

More Clouds over Ha Ling

More Clouds over Ha Ling

Apparently, I have a thing for clouds… I found dozens and dozens of photos of clouds from pretty much everywhere I’ve been over the past dozen years.

Artists, too, find clouds irresistible.

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Cloud Study, E. Colin Williams (watercolour)

Dad has done his share of cloud-centric paintings.

 

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Sky Above Clouds III by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1963

As have many, many other painters…

 

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Birds in the Clouds by Georges Braque, 1960

 

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Seascape Study with Rain Clouds by John Constable, 1827

 

Which makes me think I need to join this cloudy party and start experimenting with some cloud-themed drawings/paintings/collages… Something. Heaven knows I have plenty of raw material to work with around here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y is for a Year (or so) of Travels (AtoZChallenge2018)

Yesterday I started my post with a clip from an old song… I’ll do the same today with this old chestnut, I Was Born Under a Wandering Star.

 

My mom was the one who used to sing this to me (in not quite as low a register as Lee Marvin does, mind you) every time I said I was yearning to hit the road and go travelling. I don’t know where that need to roam comes from, but for some of us, itchy feet have nothing to do with athlete’s foot.

 

The past year and a bit have been really good for finding myself in far-flung places. Strangely, though I lived there for many years, Vancouver Island has become a destination. Last year I had the pleasure of taking a couple of sailing trips with my daughter and her husband on their lovely sailboat, Easy Rider. 

 

 

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It was a little chilly lounging around on the foredeck in February… But that didn’t stop me from trying. That’s what those lovely survival suits are for, right? 

 

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Had a great road trip through the mountains in March and stopped (of course) at Grizzly Book and Serendipity Shop in Revelstoke where, it turned out, they were filming a Christmas movie (hence the Christmas decorations in March…)

 

 

After arriving back in Canmore (home, these days) I basically unpacked and re-packed and went off to Paris. But not before a late night ice climbing expedition:

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Our neighbourhood. For most of our stay we hung out in the 15th, a five minute stroll from this bridge. 

 

 

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From Paris, I took a quick trip to Montreal, Toronto and London as one of my books was nominated for a Silver Birch Award in Ontario. 

 

Then, back to Paris. Where, among other things, I ate frog legs.

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Eventually, we returned to the mountains, but only briefly, just long enough to climb a mountain or two.

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The weather was good on the coast and I was longing to get back on the water…

 

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I’m fastening on the ‘don’t lose the dog’ netting on the boat before we set off for a few days of puttering around in the Gulf Islands. I have no more photos of this trip because I dropped my brand new phone overboard as we approached Nanaimo Harbour! Note that the weather had improved dramatically so no survival suits were required. 

 

Once back in the mountains I played about with my replacement phone and enjoyed a bit more climbing

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before heading back to Europe.

There was a day in Paris…

 

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quick visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou…

 

… and then on to Madrid, where I met my daughter and Dad in Madrid…

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From there, a train to Sarria where we began a very slow walk 120 kms or so to Santiago de Compostella as part of our Great Camino Project. (If you haven’t already found it, check out @lastlegbook on Instagram for lots of photos of our journey).

 

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Santiago… that way… 

 

Because we were working on a book about the project, after our time was up in Spain, we jumped on a cruise ship in Barcelona and wrote 65,000 words or so… One of these days we will get the rest of the manuscript done and, with any luck, will eventually see a book. If you’d like to have a look at a few of the posts written along the way, here are a couple of links…

That Way!

The Kindness of Strangers

Once back at home in the mountains, I lost a bet and had to jump down Main Street wearing a pink bunny suit…

(and no… I didn’t… pass wind, that is… I did jump through town while singing the Happy song by William Pharrell… )

When all that was over, it was time to pack our bags again and head back to the coast for Christmas with family.

 

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The gang in Vancouver… 

 

You might think all that was more than enough packing and unpacking, but what did we get for Christmas? Yes!! Allegra and I received tickets to go on a cruise together! So off we went again to explore the Caribbean… but not before a little ice climbing…

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It’s kind of nice you don’t need seventeen layers crampons and ice axes to have fun on the beach… (this one in Jamaica).

 

And then, home again just in time for spring break and (this is getting a bit ridiculous) another trip to Paris!

 

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It was a wet spring in Paris – the Seine is threatening to overflow her banks… 

And finally, back home to the mountains for a bit more ice climbing…

IMG_2126.JPGYeah. It’s been quite the year, or so… I couldn’t have imagined all those many miles being logged had I tried to look ahead at the beginning of 2017. Who knows where this next year will take us?

Yikes!!

 

 

 

J is for Jumping Jehosephat! (AtoZChallenge2018)

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This morning I was hanging out in my jammies listening to Dolly Parton (what’s not to love about Jolene, Jolene, Please Don’t Take My Man, right Sheryl McFarlane?), wondering what on earth I was going to write about for the letter J when I started Jonesin’ for a blog post topic. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was feeling jittery when I considered jumping online and reaching out on social media to see if I might score a hit of inspiration. I typed up a Facebook post asking for help and hesitated before thinking, hell – Just do It!   (Thanks, Jenny…)

 

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Sorting through my myriad options proved to be a juicy task… The word juice reminded me of our recent journey to Spain where sipping freshly squeezed orange juice was one of the (many) joyous experiences along the Camino. 

 

Jesus! The response was overwhelming! Before I knew it I had a list a mile long and my dilemma had switched from being desperate for a single idea to a thousand possibilities jostling for position. How could I possibly do them all justice? At some point I said I would cut off the submissions and would use every word suggested in this blog post… a promise I soon realized was both foolish and optimistic. How to juxtapose juniper (something you’d likely catch a whiff of in June or July) with joggle? Joggle isn’t even a word, though it’s such a good suggestion (from writer Dayle Gaetz) that I couldn’t resist including it. As Dayle explained, it’s what happens when a jogger jiggles while underway…

 

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I like to include relevant images whenever possible, so though I was a bit short of photos of jellybeans, I did find this one of Fabio jumping from one boulder to another on a climbing journey a couple of years ago… I confess I experienced a surge of joy when he made it safely to the other side of the chasm. 

No longer in a jam, I found myself with options in not one, but two official languages (thanks, Dad).

 

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The Juggler by Marc Chagall, 1943 (Original title Le Jongleur)

 

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The original title of this horse head on a yellow background by Fernand Leger is “Tête de cheval sur fond jaune” (1953). Joli, n’est pas?

 

 

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And while we are on the artwork section of the blog post, how about this jester? The painting dates from 1442 and is called Portrait of the Ferrara Court Jester Gonella and is by Jean Fouquet. 

 

Feeling pretty joyeux at this point (I mean, look at all those Js!!!!), I took a break to julienne some root vegetables for dinner and then joined a couple of ice climbers for a quick chat at a local watering hole (I had to retrieve an ice screw that had inadvertently made its way into someone else’s gear bag). After a bit of verbal jousting about whose ice tools are superior, I decided to leave the guys to their dessert and head for home, but not before seeing a few photos from what looks to have been a great day of skiing not far from here. It’s hard not to be jealous when you see such glorious images of the kinds of places you can only get to with a Jeep, some time in hand, and a decent pair of skis.

This post could have been a Jeremiad (look that one up, I had to), in which I complained bitterly about the paucity of worthy words beginning with J. Instead, no joking, I was about as far out of this world with joy as Jupiter (sorry, had to reuse joy and tossing Jupiter in definitely feels a tad awkward…).  Maybe after a cup of jasmine tea I’ll be able to come up with a better final paragraph. On the other hand, I may find myself distracted by the Jets (of Winnipeg fame) who are playing their hearts out on their way (we can only hope) to the Stanley Cup!! Maybe I shouldn’t write that here… it might jinx the team…

 

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Donkeys or Jackasses? You decide… (Franz Marc, 1911)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex With Strangers (the play by Laura Eason)

 

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At the moment I’m flipping back and forth between working on the Camino manuscript and learning my lines… OMG, there are a lot of lines! And, OMG, the Camino book is turning out to be a long one!

In a most unexpected plot twist, I seem to have been cast as the female lead in Laura Eason’s smart, timely and, yes – sexy play, Sex With Strangers being produced here in Canmore by Theatre Canmore (@theatrecanmore on Instagram). 

I can’t decide which emotion is strongest at the moment – delight, excitement, disbelief, or sheer terror!

Here’s how it all came about… Last week Pine Tree Players (a local theatre group here in Canmore) hosted an acting workshop. It was free, all day long with the amazing Valerie Campbell and included a free lunch! I had been wanting to get back into community theatre so I signed up thinking that would be a good way to ease back into acting (something I’ve always loved) and meet some local people who aren’t necessarily involved in the climbing world.

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Well, one of the other attendees was Maxine Bennett, an actor, director and generally cool person. Maxine, turns out, was in the middle of holding auditions for Sex With Strangers, a show she is directing, and suggested some of us come and try out. So, what the heck, right? I figured I was a bit on the old side for the role but that it would be good for me to go through the audition process. And, given the next set of auditions was on Monday (the workshop on Saturday) I hardly had time to chicken out.

I bought a copy of the play online and LOVED it. It’s a full-length play for two actors – one man, one woman – and the female lead is a deliciously complicated role. And, weirdly enough, Olivia in the play is a writer, struggling with issues all writers deal with at some point. Some of her lines I have actually said in my real life! The play is also about the juggling act we all deal with as we navigate the public demands of the online world and the private demands of what should be private. Though, what is ever truly private these days? Laura Eason does a terrific job of exploring the generation gap that exists between digital natives and those of us who are… not so much.

Of course, given the title, you know this is going to be a bit on the racy side… and, when I googled the sizzle reels from some of the other productions (Sex With Strangers is currently one of the most frequently produced plays in North America) they were, yeah… sizzly. Pretty much every scene in the script ends with something like this, “They kiss passionately. Clothes come off. Sex is imminent.”

Gulp.

I have never played a role where, um… intimacy is so central to the storyline, but it all makes a lot of sense in context (i.e. it’s not gratuitous…) and, of course, there’s always a certain amount of danger involved with intimacy and the vulnerability that goes along with it – particularly when one doesn’t know one’s partner as well as one perhaps should. Which gives rise to some wonderful dark twists and turns as the play goes to places one doesn’t expect in the opening scenes.

It’s been a nail-biter of a week waiting to see who would be cast.

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Max Landi will be playing Ethan in Theatre Canmore’s production of Sex With Strangers

I’m delighted to introduce you to Max Landi, who will play the role of Ethan… I can’t wait to get going with rehearsals and will post some updates here. Right now, though, the full reality of how many lines I have to learn has kicked in! A LOT!! Between the kissing, there are, like, a million lines of dialogue and, you know, I’m not working with a sharp-as-a-tack 20-something brain any more! So, there’s a challenge!

If you are local in the Bow Valley, tickets will go on sale in January, but mark your calendars if you think you might be interested in catching a show. Dates are February 2, 3, 4 in Canmore (at Artsplace) and an additional performance (or two?) in Banff the following weekend. Check the Theatre Canmore website for details or follow Theatre Canmore on Facebook. Hopefully, I won’t get too snowed under here and will remember to update the blog and let you know how things are going…

 

Portrait of a Pilgrim

The Plan

We are on our way back to North America after having spent about five weeks in Spain, most of that walking the last 120 kilometres or so of the Camino de Santiago. What was the point of all that, you might ask? Why did we feel the need to drag ourselves, and in the end, a wheelchair, across a chunk of northern Spain? It would be great if I could say something glib like, “Because it was there” or “Because we like to go on vacations with a bit of a twist” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For one thing, we can’t really afford to just jet off and wander around the Spanish countryside for weeks on end. Usually, we either need to find a way to keep working on the road (Internet access makes this possible, though it can also create huge logistical challenges when connectivity is not quite as good as we need it to be). Even better is when we can find a way to tie a project to a travel destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing a destination travel article about a place we want to go (or, happen to be going anyway). Sometimes it’s using a destination or activity that takes place in a distant place (climbing, for example) in a book. Taking copious notes, reference photos, or conducting interviews to gather information is a way to write some of the travel costs off as long as the material is used somewhere down the road.

Digital nomad at work in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere.

In the case of this trip along the Camino Frances, though, the intention all along was to write a book about the trip and to find a way to integrate art (Dad’a art in particular). Not only is Dad’s work integrated into the written project, he is also beavering away on a series of works exploring the idea of creating a portrait of a pilgrim to be presented in an exhibition of work.

At the end of a long day of walking, Dad works on a drawing of the Castillo de Pambre

One of the the good things about being a writer or an artist is that all of life becomes a potential source of inspiration. That’s also one of the tough aspects of this type of job. There isn’t really a way to shut life off, close the office door and go home. Everything is raw material and holds the potential of the next great bit of writing or amazing painting. For someone in the arts, each day could be the one where our desire to create something worthwhile is realized. Just the act of living life becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, full of challenges and roadblocks to overcome on the way to coming up with something decent.

When we set off on the road to Santiago we knew we wanted to create something (visual art on Dad’s part, written work from me and Dani), but beyond that we weren’t exactly sure what our story would be. After all, we had plans, but plans never exactly correspond with reality.

The good news is that post trip we have plenty of raw material for a book and Dad is well on his way to creating some very cool pieces unlike anything he has ever done before. The walking together, the conversations in the evenings, the time spent looking at art, watching Dad create art, listening to conversations among other pilgrims, reading about the act of pilgrimage, visiting museums – all that input, that raw material provided a massive amount of information, stimulation, and inspiration. The creative wheels aren’t just turning, they are spinning fast.

We knew that part of the challenge after a trip is coming back and being thrown into real life distractions, so we decided to spend a couple of weeks together after we finished walking to Santiago in order to focus on the project. The process has been as challenging as anything we faced on the journey.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Some of our conversations have been predictable – like comparing notes about various high (and low) points of the trip, but we’ve also talked about mortality, what inspires us, surprises like how much we all liked the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s ode to nature and God in Barcelona, and what makes a great portrait. We’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions about the nature of pilgrimage and what a real pilgrim looks like. We sought out images of pilgrims in art and now, as we begin to write (and Dad continues to work with pen and ink and wax crayon and tempera paint sticks and watercolours) what is emerging is a story about our pilgrimage, but also a meditation on what it means to be a pilgrim – in words and images.

We collected dozens of pilgrim-related images on our trip… this one from the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago.

Dad is also exploring juxtapositions of self portraits with ancient depictions of pilgrims. He’s playing with stylistic twists and bold colour, taking fresh inspiration from time spent in the presence of Gaudi’s work, Picasso’s ever-evolving approaches to art and portraiture, and the many, many pilgrims we have seen in carvings, sculptures, murals, painted, drawn, and etched into stone.

We have been privy to Dad’s creative process in ways that have never been possible before now – living in close quarters for so long there is no way to avoid seeing how he comes up with ideas, starts sketching, restarts, scribbles, and polishes. At the same time, Dani and I have been clicking away on our keyboards.

The artist goes shopping – finding art supplies was easy in Barcelona.

I’ve been working on recreating our journey, integrating notes about art and history found along the way. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to share the conversations Dad and I have had over the past six weeks or so that we’ve been travelling together. Dani is digging deeper into the many moments that make up a pilgrim’s journey, writing a series of reflections and information essays that take the reader behind the scenes on subjects as varied as bedbugs and courier systems. The more we write and draw and talk and question, the more we discover to explore, describe, question and discuss.

Leaving Sarria…

“Is that where we are going?” Dad asks, pointing up.

“Unfortunately,” I answer.

“Oh my God. I haven’t trained for this.”

At one point we all worried that we wouldn’t have anything to say about our trip, that our three creative wells would simultaneously run dry. In fact, the opposite is happening. We all have found so much to explore I’m thinking our bigger task will not be thinking of what to include but what we will need to eventually trim out.

No fears about not having enough reference material!

Dutch Power!

Dani and I were trucking along today and about the 6 kilometre mark after leaving our hostel in Salceda a couple of Dutch guys slowed down and insisted in taking a turn in pushing Dad. For a couple of kilometres they stuck with us, chatting away and helping us on all but the steepest of downhills.

Then, it was better for us to hook up our patented “D-brake” system, with Dani behind and connected to the wheelchair with the laundry line and me hanging on to the handles of the chair. As soon as we hit level ground again, though, the fellow from the Netherlands (I can’t believe that throughout the entire time we spent together nobody mentioned names!!!) took over again and kept pushing.

We made excellent time and found out about a documentary film called “I’ll Push You” https://youtu.be/W7gKD3q0-V0 about two friends, one in a wheelchair, who do the CAmino together. Turns out one of the Dutch brothers is a Camino-phile. This trip along the French Way is his fourth, his seventh Camino in total. In 2013 he happened to see the guys on their wheelchair trip, stopped and took a photo. Then, recently, he saw their documentary film and (I think) watched it with his brother. And, when the brothers saw us, they immediately wanted to stop and help.

It was pretty cool to hear their stories and share a bit of the journey with them. One of the things we have really missed in our journey so far was the camaraderie so many pilgrims speak of. Our Camino family has been limited to the three of us as moved so much slower than everyone else. Now, though, people don’t pass us nearly so quickly and when they do, it doesn’t throw them off schedule too much to walk with us for a short while and have a chat.

After a couple of kilometres it was time for us to stop for lunch, which was lovely in the warmth of a late autumn afternoon.

The Dutch brothersa continued on their way and then Dani, Dad and I finished up the day here in O Pedrouzo. As soon as I get somewhere where I can stream video, I’ll have to watch “I’ll Push You.” From the trailer, though, it makes our little jaunt look pretty cruisy!

The Kindness of Strangers

Albergue Camino Das Ocas

The common cold. A few days of feeling crummy, a runny nose, being irritated with the inconvenience of a cough. But really, it’s not that big a deal. Until you are past 80 and a cold is no longer a small thing to shrug off. A few days ago Dad started sniffling. Then the cough started. And now, several days in, this bug is hitting him hard. The past couple of days have been really tough going, so we had several conversations about what to do next. Send Dad ahead in a cab? Take an extra rest day and try to make time up later? Some combination of cab and walking where Dad went as far as he could and then we called a cab? That sounds reasonable, except a lot of the route is not on a road and given our limited Spanish, it could be tricky to describe which cow field near which hill we had chosen as a potential pickup point in the event Dad needed to be rescued en route.

Yesterday we visited a local hospital – nothing to do with the cold, but rather to get Dad a blood test. He takes blood thinners (post heart valve, he needs to keep things flowing smoothly) and he was due. While we were waiting to be seen, I noticed a couple of wheelchairs standing around in the waiting room and that made me think that perhaps we might be able to find one somewhere we could use to complete the journey.

We decided to see how last night was going to go and then make a decision this morning. At three in the morning I woke up to Dad’s coughing. Awful – persistent and grim-sounding. It didn’t sound like any walking was going to be on the cards. That’s when I really began to fret about where we were possibly going to find a wheelchair. It’s the weekend and Azura is not exactly a metropolis, though it is definitely bigger than many of the teeny one-farm villages we’ve stayed in. I wondered about the hospital and if, with my limited Spanish and Google translate I might be able to convince the to lend us a wheelchair. Then again, given how hard it had been to explain that we needed a common blood test, that seemed unlikely.

We had seen a couple of physiotherapy offices and I thought perhaps they might be able to help. Dani, too, tossed and turned all night and by morning, she was also formulating plans. Over breakfast we hatched a plot… Or first stop was to visit the helpful tourist info centre. The lovely woman on duty there did, indeed, offer suggestions – but because it was Saturday, they involved taking a bus to Santiago about 42 kms away. And, we were told, it was going to be tricky to find anyone open before Monday.

Back at the coffee shop where we had left Dad nursing a cafe con leche, we had a go at Google. We found a website called Accessible Spain Travel accessiblespaintravel.com with a phone number. I called and explained our situation and the very helpful guy at the other end said that he would see what he could find out for us.

Not long after, he texted that everything was closed that might be useful in Arzúa but that he had managed to reach Jose Manuel in Santiago who could meet us at his shop as long as we could get there before 11 am. Though the shop was shut, he was willing to come and meet us and fix us up with a wheelchair. Alas, there was no way to get to Santiago by bus in time, so we sprinted back to the Info Center to find out where we might be able to get a taxi.

Once we figured out where the cabs were, we grabbed Dad and all leaped into the taxi with Pepin, our driver, who not only took us to Santiago, but then waited patiently in the street with Dad while Dani and I waited for Jose Manuel to arrive, let us in in and give us a wheelchair. That process was crazy – no forms to fill out, Jose didn’t even ask for my name – would only take 30 Euros for ten days rental, and wished us well.

Meanwhile, the taxi driver then drove us all the way back to Arzua but then took less than half of what should have been the metered fare.

We were ravenous by the time we got back, so we had lunch and then set off. We experimented with all sorts of travelling variations – Dad pushing the wheelchair for a bit (which was ok on flat terrain and as long as the distances were short), Dani pushing, me pushing. Hills were an adventure. The going in places was steep and not exactly smooth. It took both of us pushing (Dani pushing the wheelchair and me pushing Dani) to get up some of the rough spots. Likewise, going down, it took two of us to slow things down – one of us leaning back against the handles and one pulling back on one of the walking poles we had attached to the back of the wheelchair.

By the time we finished our not-quite 5 kms, we were all bagged! A whole new set of muscles hurts! However, we made it!!! And it looks like we will get all the way to Santiago in one piece, as long as we keep going, don’t rush, and no further afflictions decide to sneak up on us.

One of the delights of the day was the contact we had with locals all along the way. A farmer (83) who walked with us for a bit after turning his cows out to pasture, a number of pilgrims who stopped to cheer us on (and take photos), the hostel-keeper who provided a great ground-floor, fully wheelchair accessible room for us, and a full-time pilgrim travelling with his donkey (worthy of a blog post all his own…)

Despite the physical challenges today (and, earlier, the stress of not knowing how on earth we were going to magically produce a wheelchair), today turned out to be a good day, in large part because of all the small kindnesses shown to us along the way.