Great day, good company, and steak!…

Re-stocked and a little rested, away we drove from Walpole to Northcliffe on Anzac Day to rejoin the track… Past the blackened forests and into the sanctuary of Roundtu-it Eco caravan park with western grey kangaroos, 28′s (parrots), bronzed winged pigeons, alpacas, rabbits and importantly, no mice and a glorious hot shower. Marilyn cooked a very nice (vegetarian even!) Mexican meal for dinner to boot! Up early to see the roo’s get some ‘skippy feed’ we soon set off for campsite Schafer in the North escorted, no less, by Sam the resident dog to where the trail picked up. Beautiful day, lots of sunshine, greener pastures, cattle, emus in the distance, black cockatoos, another set of unidentifiable animal prints and a footwear swap for Walter (unbelievably he’s now hiking in those toe shoes!!). Only a 12 or so km day saw us into camp early for lunch at 1pm, and we waited for wally’s mate Chris from Perth to join us for dinner with steak and bourbon (Dahl for me tonight…)! Of course Walter predicted his arrival time within 4 mins. He will sleep the night after kindly moving the caravan to Pemberton and hiking 5kms in to meet us. I couldn’t resist a swim in the chilly dam then starting a fire with embers to warm up again. The sun still shines, the birds are chirping. It’s a beautiful day… El, your guest blogger.

A Bed Beneath the Griffins

I turned the key in the great iron gates and looked up into the stone arches. Griffins looked back at me, and ladies’ faces, and leaves, delicately carved. A ruined 15th century monastery in the heart of Old Castile. Overgrown, ruined, Gothic as hell.And I have the keys! I spent the whole day at the little albergue at Monasterio de San Anton, cleaning windows and pulling weeds and planting flowers and herbs. I brought along a borrowed generator and an industrial vacuum cleaner. Everything worked, but I am not sure I made a noticeable difference.It’s a jungle in there. A ruin. It took a couple of hundred years to get into this state. What do I think I’m going to achieve in a few hours?The little pilgrim shelter, built against the far wall of the former church, opens on the first of May, staffed with volunteer hosts who stepped up when I put out the call. I’m doing this under the aegis of FICS, the International Federation of the Camino de Santiago — I wrote about them in December, when we announced our Manifesto to the world. Taking on this scruffy, no-hot-water, no-electricity place is one of our fundamentals. We want to keep the trail simple and stripped-down, running on faith and charity and lentils, and this place is iconic, it embodies so much of the history of the Camino. It was a Christian monastic center, a place where people came for shelter and counsel and most of all, healing.And not every modern pilgrim longs for a swimming pool and a four-course meal at the end of the day’s march. Some of them want starlight and a fire, salad, a little music maybe… only 12 pilgrim beds. And griffins in the arches overhead.Today the beds are what grabbed my attention, more than the spider webs or God-knows what brown things were left last Fall to molder through the winter in the trash bins. I fired-up the little generator and switched on the vacuum and swept each mattress, both sides. The mattresses are at least 15 years old — One was dated 1999. They are bowed, stained, drawn- and bled- and dripped-on, torn all along the edges and worn on the corners.We like to think the pilgrims who stay at San Anton don’t care about these details, but I know I care. I just spent several days walking on the Camino de Madrid. I slept in a couple of places similar to San Anton, and the mattresses were shot. Even after 27 kilometers and three glasses of tinto, sleep was achy, itchy, and awful.San Anton needs a lot of things — a good water source, maybe a solar panel or two, and a landscape designer  (a talented gardener could make San Anton into a paradise). All would do a world of good without impinging on the fundamental scruffiness that makes the place unique.But what San Anton needs right here, right now, is 15 new mattresses.Good mattresses, 80 x 120 cm., heavy duty ones, run about 130 euro apiece, delivered. So you, kind reader, can finance a mattress, so San Anton this year can offer a good sleep along with a good rest. If we move fast, we can get them installed before the big pilgrim waves arrive in late May.The dollar and the pound are strong, you know. You can probably afford it.     I will put the names of each donor in the little window-slot inside the arch where the camino passes through, where monks once left food for late arrivals, and where pilgrims now leave prayer requests and notes of thanksgiving.A nice lady in South Africa already sent me the money for the first one.You can donate by using the PayPal button on the right. It’s not tax-deductible, but your reward will be the blessings of hundreds of sweetly sweeping pilgrims. And your name will lie beneath the stony smiles of  ladies, leaves, and griffins, with the camino itself a couple of steps away.So romantic. And practical, too. not San Anton, but much like it. Even the sky is the same!

April 25, 2015 at 10:25AM

From the Frankland River it was only a skip and a jump (of 16.1km…) to the caravan which we were to meet at Walpole. The caravan park was at Coalmine Beach just before it. We walked past the Giant Tingle tree with a deck around it to protect its roots from trampling tourists. Decades ago people parked their car inside for photos… All sorts of strange mushrooms are now growing on the track too. At the last view point where we had lunch only 5km from the end a friendly Canberra couple offered to take our packs down and I had to give it some serous thought before coming to my senses :) Our caravan had not quite made it yet when we arrived, but arrived soon after. Mike the manager at the Coalmine Beach caravan park was very sympathetic to our cause and gave us a favorable rate and a huge space for the caravan where we didn’t have to unhook it from the car (we like that!). Town was not far away, and we walked the 3-4kms along the Bib track to the local pub for a beer and a meal. Sure enough we meet the managers of the competing campground in town :) – also very nice people. When we left the pub we were told the police were on the lookout for us and would pick us up if they saw us walking home along the dark highway. A ute with a friendly couple beat them to it. A comfy sleep in the caravan and Eleanor showed array in her MSR tent as per usual :), laundry today and a relocation to Northcliffe.More on FacebookClick here to see where we are!Click to donate to Cystic Fibrosis to show your support!

Tingle trees and Giant campground

After an eventful night with mice we headed off at 8am for our 18km hike away from the coast. But let’s talk mice…We noticed a curious mouse sizing up the situation within minutes of arriving at the Rames Head hut. Even saw two mice scurrying from my backpack pocket duting briad daylight. Fantastic views over the ocean incidentally. Before bed we hung up our bags on the steel rods in the ceiling and put most our food in the plastic containers provided. We went to bed and I felt mice running over me (at least three times over my head). At midnight after Marilyn had been watching half a dozen mice do acrobats hanging off the hanging backpacks and hanging food bags I got up to take preventative action. A frog was sitting guard next to my bed (they live around the rainwater tank). A pee, a muesli bar and a salami stick with my midnight antibiotic gave me the idea to squash the hanging food bags into the plastic containers and throw the mice a bribe. A good size of mountain bread seemed to feed the resident  rodents  and they didn’t bother us for the rest of the night.Anyways, we headed off. On Conspicuous Beach, the last beach for today we met Russell and his folks fishing the surf. We watched him land a salmon and he offered it to us. A 4kg fish was not viable for us and he released it. But we did get three fillets from his last fish to take with us! Soon we headed up and up and up and the landscape changed from black boys and heath to flowering red gums and in the end Tingle and Karri trees. We headed up a big hill and arrived at the Giants campsite (read hut and tent spots).Kerry and Terry hiking in the opposite direction also arrived and we had a pleasant afternoon at the hut. The fish was cooked and mixed in with Lamb Fetecini making it an interesting and nutritious dinner for tonight. We are about to eat :)


Today we were banking on cappuccino in a cafe at the commercial Giants Treetop walk, where they have built large walkways in the tree canopies of the Tingle forest. So after breakfast in the Giants hut with Kerry and Terry we headed off for the half hour walk to the cafe. Turned out the café was a coffee machine and the iced coffee came from the same fridge as the soft drinks etc. Delicious none the less! Marilyn and Eleanor did the tree walk while I used a scant phone signal to call Ree at home. The internet didn’t even sent my important email nor post my blogs :( that’ll have to wait till we get proper reception again.Lovely walk along an undulating terrain, lunch in a brook, walked along Brainy Cutoff road and down to Frankland River. Crossed the river at a closed bridge and technically followed the river to the Frankland River hut. There we met veteran E2Ex4+ Kim from Perth. He’s just out on a wander, roughly heading towards Denmark but in no particular hurry.Eleanor attempted a river wash, I discovered my tentative dates on the schedule are terribly out as I forgot to add a day to the schedule for rest days… See how say Pemberton arrival date for instance is the same as the rest day… Will have to revise that SOON, as soon as I get internet and time.Anyways, tomorrow we will find the caravan in Walpole and restock! The next day we will drive past the closed/burned and burning (apparently control burns) sections. Photos will appear on Facebook when we have internet access.

Staying camino ready

Once we return from a camino there is always that period where we just don’t want to do anything other than rest. A little recovery is fine and well earned, but as the days slip by it is all too easy to shift more into city life and lose the conditioning that you worked so hard to acquire. Yes, a trip or two to the gym helps and there are always neighborhood walks that get you out of the house and back on your feet. All these are things that have become more or less routine. However, as we are blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest with an abundance of nearby hiking trails it seems a shame not to make use of them.On our last pilgrimage we met a Basque fellow who exemplifies this kind of commitment to local hiking trails. He walks almost every day along one trail or another just to be out and enjoying the beautiful countryside. I thought this is something that I should also do. We live nearby the Columbia River Gorge which is replete with trails both on the Washington and Oregon side of the river. There is plenty of opportunity for elevation gain (strengthen those legs), and grin spreading vistas. So I have resolved to do more training in the nearby mountains and enjoy the view as well. One thing I have discovered is that there are numerous hiking trail websites that list all the details of hikes in the Gorge. Armed with a senior discount access pass (one time 20 USD charge) I now have lifetime free entry into all federally managed lands. So now I have no excuses for not “hitting the trail.” A popular hike on the Washington side is Dog Mountain. This a short (7 miles roundtrip), but steep climb that reminded me of the Hospitales route on the Camino Primitivo. This is a perfect camino training hike.Near the summit looking westward at the Columbia RiverAnother less strenuous but still a great day hike is the hike up along Eagle Creek to the High Bridge Falls. There are many options with regard to trails in the Gorge as several trails interconnect so one can add more distance or elevation as time, strength and desire permit. More to come…Mind your step

Gear Failure and Miracles

The French Canadians woke up in their tent outside, Greg woke up in his tent set up inside the hut, and Marilyn woke up in her Hammock with fly screen. I woke up with all the flying insects in the world around me.  Tonight Eleanor may bring me a fly screen hat to cover me at bight.First thing I wrestled with my sleeping bag zipper which has lately been playing up a bit. Mountain Hardware is a great brand, I shouldn’t have trouble with that!We got on our way, were Farewelled by the  roos and headed into the snake infested dunes. The snakes all seem to pose no threat to us. Great way to get rid of fobias! They are so fast you can hardly take photos if them. One baby copperhead to frightened to move we captured in a photo. Lots of ups and downs and a fierce sun shining down upon us. As we were advised about this time of year, it can get hot!When we reached Quarram Beach I had just finished my Kamelpak. Still had a bottle of water for our lunchtime soup, but I had forgotten to refill it this morning. Right there as we entered the beach a friendly Fishing couple topped me up with rainwater they had plumbed into their 4WD. Great rescue!Then my sole suddenly separated from my boot. Quality Merrel light hikers with well under 1000kms on them over two years…. again most unlikely event. I tried tying my shoe with rope to prevent more sole separating we still had 15kms or more to go today. At least we are heading for the caravan today!!We got to the rowboats across the inlet, and were surprised at how big and heavy they were. We had to lift them from the boat house into the water and row about 100m across the inlet. We had heard it was a tiny crossing you could wade across, but I was glad we had the rowboats! As we were going against the usual direction of hikers we decided we didn’t need to do a boat juggle ti leave enough boats on each side. We left 4 on the side people were coning from next and two where we came from. As we are slow and knew no one was walking behind us from the logbooks and huts we were confident this was a good thing to do. In all reality we should have each taken a rowboat as we exceeded the maximum safe load by a small margin. There was no wind or waves and we wore the  life jackets provided…From the other side we had a relatively quick walk into Peaceful Bay. Snake variety changed from copperheads to tigers, and we saw one suspected red bellied black snake.Just before the campsite I received a message from Eleanor to say she made it, and we found her and caravan without any trouble. No phone reception to speak of here, except the occasional one minute flash of signal…Great seeing Eleanor! We had assumed she got here before 9am and expected she’d walk along the track or beach to find us during the day…  but she had missed her flight in Perth due to  there being different terminals…. Two other women were stranded in the same fashion and somehow they all managed to find a car to give them a 6hr lift to Albany! From there she hitched on to Denmark to pick up the van and just got there before us. A miracle I think! We had a fantastic meal at the Peaceful Bay Campsite, complete with hone caught fish and Vegie burgers.Tomorrow we hike on with Eleanor in tow!PS Eleanor didn’t get around to getting me a fly screen hat :) I’ll get one tomorrow from the camp shop!