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. 

 

Local


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.”

Home

 We’ve been home a week. 

 We no longer need to go to bed at 7pm.
We are reading every day.

We still go walking.

 It is just as cold as many of the days we started out in Spain. Which is to say it is freezing. There will not, however, be heatwaves in the high thirties!But there are blue skies and water underfoot.

We are still climbing hills.

 We are still fascinated by shadows (and loving being with friends).

 We are loving having Daddy around. 

 We are still seeing sunrises (but at 7:30 instead of 5:30!!)

 We are eating Santiago tart….

 (….and olives and cheeses and pimientos and membrillo and thick hot chocolate with family and friends)

And we are grateful.

28 June: Madrid to Paris

 Sleep in.

Pack bags.
Breakfast.

Supermarket trip.

Stagger to train station. Last hot walk!

Airport. Food and clothes that need washing checked through to Auckland.

Homeward bound.

By the way, we didn’t buy frozen chicken at the supermarket! But there is a story behind the picture. We wanted to take cheese home, and in order to keep it cool we like to freeze a bottle of water. Problem: not enough time in Madrid for it to freeze. Solution: ask friend to do it for us ahead of time. Problem: he/we forgot about it last night. Solution: we bought a plastic cocoa container, emptied it, refilled it with chunks of ice and some chilled water, and super taped it…….then hoofed it to the supermarket. While Tessa hid our freezer pack under the chicken we disappeared to choose cheese! Having  picked out chunks to fill our scavenged polystyrene box, we bought ourselves an extra hour by asking if our cheeses could be put in the cooler while we completed our shopping (olives, chocolate drink mix, salted sunflower seeds – the kids have picked up the Spanish addiction! – snacks for our Chinese layover, lunch, dinner). This sounds a simple enough request, but it led to all kinds of misunderstandings about wanting to buy meat and leaving it on the shelf for four hours and  in the end the very helpful fish counter man found someone who spoke English!  She took me straight to the walk-in cooler and our box chilled out there while we bought and packed everything else. Eventually we had to rescue the cocoa container and were delighted to discover it was solid!! We were less than delighted two hours later to find the box getting soggy at one corner, but we just popped it in another scavenged bag, taped it up, checked it through and are hoping for the best!

27 June: Santiago to Madrid

After churros with Giuliano we said our final Camino farewell.
Then we started for home….on foot 

 …by bus….

 ….by plane….

 ….by train…..

 34 degrees in Madrid. YAY. We realised this Camino will be remembered as a wet and cold one (a quarter of the walking days were wet, most days started between 7 and 12 degrees which is nippy enough for gloves) with a handful of uncomfortably hot days thrown in. The time The Guys spent with us was the most settled weather and we were pleased for them! 

 We spent a rich hour in the Prado. I only had to send one huffing sighing have-you-seen-enough-yet-mum child to stand by a pillar so I could enjoy without the background performance! 
 Heading to the hostel….Madrid is such a grand city.

 We threw together a salad and our old friend Alberto from the Camino Primitivo, who lives just around the corner, brought tabouli and tortilla de patatas that he had made. With a celebratory Santiago tart, it made a great last dinner.
Last night in a dormitory. But we can feel we are getting closer to home – there are sheets on the bunks!

26 June: Santiago with 101 others

When we booked in to the albergue and said we wanted to stay four nights there was a problem with the last night. A school group from Seviila  – 80 kids and 21 teachers/leaders – had booked the whole place. The Hospitalero decided we might be good for the group and contacted their leader to see if an exception could be made. Not only did they allow us to stay, but they invited us to join them for dinner and to take part in their activities. The boys played football and the girls made friends.


When it was time for dinner – not a moment before 9pm! – we all paraded up to a local mall with an Italian buffet. The buffet was at least twenty meters long and that didn’t include the dessert bar or drinks station (which the kids were surprised to see included beer and wine on tap!) We could have lingered here and enjoyed the food immensely, but none of us got to eat much because we were all being plied with so many questions.

 

I did my own questioning too of a couple of the leaders and was highly impressed at this trip they had organised. I have watched other school groups bounce along the Camino in their own little bubble almost oblivious to the experience apart from taking selfies to post on social media. These groups have also tended to be loud and inconsiderate of other pilgrims. (Harsh, but true). This group was so different. The leaders were very organised – kids were allocated to dormitories and even the showers were numbered and a roster for who could use which shower was taped to the wall. It might sound excessive, but it meant they functioned like a well-oiled machine.

A lot of thought had gone in to making this experience more than “just a tourist trip”. There were three primary goals, and not goals you would necessarily usually associate with a group of mainly 15-16 year olds. Reflection, silence and sharing. Every day the students were required to keep a diary. Some prompts were given for those who needed ideas. Each evening the group would gather together and some of the students would share their observations from the day. We arrived back at the albergue at 11pm and there was no talk of it being too late to do the discussion ( which we were invited to and attended, but understood hardly anything!!)

After the kids’ reflections there was a half hour lecture about the Camino delivered by a local priest who talked about the Camino being a metaphor for life. They also had creative activities to participate in – taking photographs on a particular theme and a group art workshop.As far as the silence goal went, no-one was allowed to use music devices while walking. The teachers really wanted the kids to hear birdsong, streams trickling, wind whistling. Then they went one step further. One morning they set out in silence. Absolute complete silence. Both of these initiatives were initially unpopular with most of the kids, but became favourite experiences for some of them. So much so that they were telling us all about it!

Sharing manifested itself in a number of ways. Obviously sharing dorms and bathrooms. But also this was a group not from one school, but three schools collaborating together.  Sharing reflections in the evenings. Additionally there were sharing-focused activities. Each student had to interview a Spanish pilgrim and non-Spanish-speaking pilgrim. They were provided with questions – what is your name? Where are you from? Where did you walk from? Why are you walking? What advice can you give about the Camino? About life? The teachers were particularly interested in encouraging cross-generational sharing and were delighted at how well this worked. I imagine the kids may have been less delighted at having to write up the results of their interviews! But such is school I suppose when proof of engagement in a task is required.

It was interesting to me to reflect that our own pilgrimage achieved all the same aims, just in a more informal organic way. And it was great to see that even a large group could have a similar experience, packed into just five days of walking (plus a few days gof visiting historical monuments to bring alive some of their history).

The Spanish kids were awed that we (and especially Ella-Rose ) had walked from Sevilla – they thought it was a long way on the bus! They were amazed that we had walked for seven weeks and were not suffering – I explained the first week is the hardest, then it gets easier and they only got hard walking!! Interestingly, a lot of them are now keen to walk another Camino and some were going home to ask their parents if they could walk as a family! Some of them have fathers who walk frequently, but never take the kids – that might be about to change!!