Past Challenges,  Santiago 2018

Into Spain

Dear Humphrey

Yes I know it is a while since I last wrote but I got locked out of the system and needed a new password. Thankfully Chrissy Lloyd Owen was there to help, as always.

Mum tells me the last letter was too long. I did not know you would be sharing them with her but having looked again I think she was right.

It is early morning and I have sneeked down from the dormitory which I am sharing with a large snoring Pole and his mother and aunt. He made them go far too far yesterday and the mother crawled in about 8 pm and was very unhappy. The albergue is superb and we are being so well looked after.

Covering a longish period in short, it has been a ‘camino’ of two very contrasting halves. I have moved from the flat featureless (apart from the forest pines) monotonous landscape (bit like walking round Thetford Chase for six days) which is Les Landes to the foothills and higher ground of the Pyrenees. Also in five weeks in France I met less than five fellow travellers. But since joining the main Pilgrim route in Ostabat-Asme I have met and seen many from all parts of the globe. In this refuge we have the Poles, a Dutchman, German, Chinese, Belgian, Jo from Japan and another Brit.

As for the weather I suppose I have been lucky. Very cloudy and usually threatening rain but without it happening. Having said that the thunderstorms when they hit are not that much fun. They say the chances of winning the lottery are the same as those of being struck by lightning. If so I will be betting on the lottery more often! But it has been a good walking temperature.

I am now 5 miles short of Pamplona. The walk over the top of the Pyrenees on the day before yesterday was very unpleasant. It started by meeting up with a Kiwi trying to find his way out of St Jean P de P being misled by a bunch of Basque walkers. Matt is a pro rugby player and as you can imagine very fit. He stayed with me for a while but then literally ran up to find food. His coach had instructed him to put on 10 kgs! Not easy on the Camino! As we trekked higher the rain got more persistent and very cold. I rescued a young Welsh girl who was close to hypothermia ( another Pilgrim apparently succumbed and had to be taken down) . I walked for a while with Jean a French engineer from Grenoble, I encountered two lovely and very brave ladies from Mexico who were a little surprised by the conditions. Eventually we all descended on the huge converted monastery at Roncesvalles. Very different  to my last visit when the refuge was huge but chaotic. Now it is run very well by a team of Dutch volunteers and someone has spent a lot of money as it housed hundreds of us very comfortably. All of them mostly new arrivals sharing their stories of their journey over the top.

This reminds me of one of my stays in one guest house in France. You may recall that a day or two before I had been housed in a converted garden shed. On this occasion my ‘land lady’ showed me on arrival into an untidy garage and when I started to enquire as to where I was to sleep, she laughed and said that this was where I had to put my boots.

As for the ‘cause’, and thanks to Anna Kasket and my wonderful family, we have succeeded on generating huge interest in social media and among friends and in particular on the petition asking the Government to produce a strategy for unpaid carers.

An Action Plan was published this week but it is not thought this does the trick. So please if you will sign the petition.

As for the fund raising , we are half way to the target. Thank you so much to all those who have generously donated. I am hoping there are lots more out there who are waiting to see if I finish!

Thank you all for your wonderful messages of support. They have propelled me through the mud in England, the Landes in France and now over the Pyrenees. Onwards!

Enough! This letter is already getting too long.

With love from your friend and master.

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