Don’t be put off!

“Well I’m never doing a Camino after reading your blog!”

“I don’t want to go any more. You were far too real on your blog.”img_8257

These two  comments have been haunting me since they were uttered soon after we got back! Did I really make it seem *that* bad? I didn’t mean to. Truly! And actually we mostly had a great time. And even the hard bits we’d do again.

Would I change anything? Yes, I’d take a fleece vest to wear when walking. If we’d been a little bit warmer in those long days in the rain we would have been much more comfortable. Wet is one thing. Wet and cold possibly coloured my writing (I’ll have to go back and have a look at what I said!)img_7030

I still wouldn’t take a bus – but you could! If that would be the difference between you trying a Camino and staying home, then you could take a bus – or a lot of busses for that matter.

I still wouldn’t opt out of the snoring dormitories. Even though I am quite the introvert, I do enjoy the evening shenanigans with fellow pilgrims. If I were to walk without kids in my care I might invest in ear plugs, but with kids I rest better if I know I’m aware of what’s going on with them (especially after a guy came into the big open room that was called the ladies’ shower – no cubicles, no curtains – not once, which would be accidental although the way he had to struggle with the locked door might have suggested something to him, but twice in about three minutes……but hang on, I’m meant to be allaying your fears, not adding to them!)img_8736


“You’re brave,” people have told me. I’m not. Especially when standing starkers in a shower! I do, however, know how to employ a loud voice. And the Camino is not a scary place.  In fact, people look after each other. I got a text about eight one evening asking if a particular Korean girl was staying with us. She had said she was going on to the next town and typically would have arrived long before. When she didn’t turn up people started talking and tracking her known movements. Before our conversations were complete she staggered in, having taken a long break in some shade mid-afternoon because it was too hot to walk….so you see, people look out for each other.

You’re brave to travel with all those kids. Firstly, remember four is not the daunting number to me that it might be to someone who is not used to caring for eight! Secondly, those kids are not babies. They look after all their own gear (or lose it, as the case may be, but it’s not my responsibility – except for money and passports). They do all their own washing. They cook dinner most nights while I do the work of blogging! No bravery required.img_8666

That said, I have spoken with someone who doesn’t like to travel and who finds it very stressful. Perhaps it is important to acknowledge we are all wired differently. I thrive on the challenges that come with travel, I enjoy the new sights and smells and sounds, I love new food and am stimulated by trying to communicate in a foreign tongue. These things are positives for me – they may not be for someone else, and for some people, to walk a Camino would require bravery. But if you *wanted* to (and not everyone will, of course), could I give you the confidence that you CAN do it?

If it’s the snakes that are bothering you, remember the only live ones we saw slithered *away* from us. All the photographed ones were dead.img_8229

The cows are quite docile if you don’t take an octogenarian grandfather who insists on chasing them!img_7796

The bedbugs. Fair enough, they’re a pain. But you could spray your silk sleeping bag liner with permethrin (we didn’t) or be That Annoying Pilgrim with a can of bug spray (sometimes we were).img_7845



Big Beauty At Our House 

 The little blankie – inspired by the wild flowers and wild weather of our Via de la Plata walk – has turned into a bigger blankie as I use up leftovers from the first Camino Blanket I made. Very Satisfying.

 Gobstopper matches the blanket – both in size and colour. Smallest Child thanks Eldest Sister  and Brother-in-law for such an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Birthday Present! Very Satisfying!

A Little Farther From Home

The next suburb over from ours where we can do most everything we need to that we can’t do in Glen Eden  (in no particular order – cheap supermarket, police station, mall,  The Warehouse,  hospital, movies) is blessed with art too……

 It’s such a pity the media has to focus on gang activity and murders and burglaries and truancy which give West Auckland a bad image – that is only part of the picture. The rest of it really is quite pretty. 



Even just a few weeks away from your natural habitat is enough to bring you back with newly-opened eyes. Every time I return to Auckland I am struck by the artwork that enhances our community. 


 (Couldn’t resist!! Yarn bombing a naked winter tree outside the library….some of my favourite things!)

 I’ve heard people speak very disparagingly of our local shops, but if you ask me, it looks OK!

The Beauty Felt Blurred.

Winter Road Trip IMG_9296

Quintessential Rural New ZealandIMG_9290

Where else would you get street names like that?IMG_9248

Marae after marae after marae and a pa thrown in too.IMG_9246

Destination Raglan WharfIMG_9249

And the surf beach. “Can we just sit in the car at this point?” one of my little female companions wondered aloud. Um, that would be a loud NO! The boys are at their Dangerous Boys’ Weekend – the least we can do is get out of the car and take a walk!IMG_9273

About that walking. It’s obvious, but it’s so different to driving. Today we saw all sorts of beautiful little scenes as we drove……rolling hills, babbling brooks (we presume they were babbling – you don’t hear them when you race past at 100km/hr), corrugated iron sculptures, a pheasant,  Maori artwork, a eucalyptus grove and stand of wind turbines that reminded us of Spain, dilapidated old wooden farmhouses, mossy green roads, letterboxes begging to be photographed…..but when you’re in a car you get a glimpse that doesn’t even feel long enough to make an impression and then it’s gone.
Reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “From A Railway Carriage”. I have always loved the rhythm of this poem, especially when read aloud, but today I appreciate it for the snatches of life that Stevenson saw and recorded, for the fact that he could add a little detail about some bits, but barely captured others. You may not go as far when you walk, but today I had the feeling you see more. In the car I felt hurried. We actually turned around and drove back to get some of the pictures above, but I didn’t feel like I had *looked* the same as when you approach something from a distance and somehow “get to know it” before taking a snap. These are glimpses that would be gone if they weren’t recorded, and might be forgotten anyway. They are images that I didn’t process I had seen until we were past them!

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

Lasting slightly longer, was the institution that is known as The Pokeno Icecream. It is a rare trip that takes us past Pokeno without the car stopping. Today was not one of those days!

IMG_9304 Distance: 346km (10-14 days walking!)

PS To those of you who like to read at breakfast-time, I’m sorry – tuck this away until tomorrow. It’s easier to write at night!

PPS No photo was taken from a moving vehicle. I pulled over and stopped before snapping!

Life Lesson

“If he’s going to hop out of his car and pee on the side of the road, you’d think he wouldn’t leave his indicators blinking to draw attention to himself!” So I thought – somewhat uncharitably, rather hypocritically for the author of a blog that is titled “CHARITY walking”. (What’s more, I was driving!) As we approached, the man turned and I realised my initial observation was inaccurate. As we passed, he leaned against the side of his car. I glanced up in the rear view mirror.

“What are you doing Mum?” one of the kids asked.

“I’m turning the car round, we’re going back to see if that man’s OK. He doesn’t look too good.”

I completed the circle, pulled up behind him and jumped out. He was still bent over, supporting himself against the car. Mucous was dripping from his mouth and nose into a great puddle at his feet. How do you show respect to someone who may feel humiliated that you’ve seen him in such a state?

“Are you OK? Do you need some help? Can I do something for you?” My questions seemed trivial, obvious, brainless. This older gentleman was clearly NOT OK.

“I’m fine,” he sputtered, an extra-long drool dripping from his chin. I can’t have looked convinced, because he went on, “I’m on medication for cancer. It makes me sick sometimes. This was one of those times. I’m better now.”

He turned away, unfolded a large white handkerchief and cleaned himself up. I waited.

“I’m sorry.” It sounded so hollow. “Are you sure you’re all right? You wouldn’t like me to ring someone?”

“No, really, it’s over now,” he insisted. Then he turned to face me and looked me straight in the eye. “Thanks for stopping. I really appreciate it.”

As we drove away I thought about how the slow pace of the last two months’ walking life was impacting our busy almost-running-late morning. One of the lessons of the Camino is to slow down. Now we had the opportunity  to put into practice our learning.

“Always take time to help people,” I urged the kids. “Never be too busy to stop and help. You never know, but even the Good Samaritan might have been busy.”