Saturday, December 12, 2015

Contact details

As i do not visit this blog as much as i used, If would like to contact me with any questions then please use my e mail address which is

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Adventures

Its been a while since i have written on this blog, It has not been forgotten and neither has the Camino, Only last week i went to a American Pilgrims meeting of the Raleigh chapter, I am not yet a member but after 2 meeting i will be soon, The last 2 meetings have been in REI in Cary, Well worth attending if you have been on a Camino or would like to know more about the experience, Very nice people, I think about the Camino all the time still and hope that one day not too far away i will return but...
I have a new adventure that i am now training for, I am going to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in OCT 2016, Its something that has been on my mind for many years, I have a new blog where you can find out more and hopefully follow me during the climb, It may sound a ways off but time seems to fly, Once again i will raising funds for the Cancer Research Institute, Please go to to my new blog here


Monday, August 18, 2014

Post Camino reflections

Its been a couple of months since finishing my first Camino, The time has flown and a couple of pounds have found their way back around my waistline, When i was walking the Camino and especially towards the end people would sit around and ask if you would do the walk again, At the time i said no, At least not the Camino Frances, Not because i did not enjoy the walk, I did immensely, At the time i thought that it was too busy, Not every day as some where very quiet people wise but many days it was very busy and the Aubergue's would get crowded, A couple of weeks after i had come home and got back into the swing of normal life the Camino started to come into my thoughts more and more, Even into my dreams, Early days back home it was always talked about as people would visit and party's were thrown, But as time has progressed i think about it more and more and memories are coming back of certain days,people and places, I have started to walk again and today i covered 10 miles and was very pleased at how easy it was, Its still hot and humid in NC where i live and i look forward to cooler days, I still read the Camino forums and the other day i re ordered the Camino guide book as i had stupidly left my tatty old copy in Santiago, Yes the Camino bug is still alive and kicking, I took 6 months out in 2000 and my wife and i traveled around the world photographing Tiger, Elephant, Rhino and Orangutan amongst other things and places, We still talk about it 14 years after and long to do it again, I think it may be the same with the Camino, I cant put my finger on quite what it is, The people, The places, The food and drink or really a mix of all the above, The Camino is unique and a very special experience, I am glad and proud that i did it and hope that one day i have the opportunity to experience it again


Monday, June 30, 2014

Camino preparation/Training

Whilst i did meet one or 2 (young) people on the Camino that had done little or no training i do believe that for the average person a good deal of training will pay off in getting you fit and making the journey easier and more pleasurable, I first decided that i would walk the Camino De Santiago in September 2012 and would actually do the walk in April 2014, That gave me ample time to prepare physically and mentally and also test my gear thoroughly, I was somewhat of a couch potato before but have always enjoyed a challenge and soon loved to get out early and start walking, My first walk was a 4 miler and after that i walked 6 mile circuits 3-4 times a week, After a month or so i increased this to 8 and 10 mile walks, I averaged 30+ miles a week for many months and increased this in the winter of 2013 where i would walk 40+ miles a week with the longest walk at 18 miles and the longest week at 60+ miles, I dropped nearly 15 lb  in weight from my original weight and was 10 lb down when i actually started the walk, I gained some weight in the month before i left as i had some arthritis in my big toe and had to rest it, My theory was that the more weight i lost the easier it would be carrying a backpack, i.e if the backpack was 20lb and i lost 20lb it would no difference, I live in North Carolina and where i live its as flat as Belgium, I tried to find as many hills as i could but nothing will prepare you for the first days climb over the Pyrenees, I do not think that you can over train if you live in flat country, I walked over 100 miles a week when on the Camino and yet my longest week training was only 60 miles, Your body soon adjusts when on the Camino but training will certainly help, I trained in all conditions from very hot (80) to very cold (-5) and also in rain to test all of my gear and make adjustments as needed, The more time you take fine tuning your gear the better your Camino will be, I met many people blistered on the first day and i can tell you from experience that walking on blisters for days is not fun, Walk in the footwear that you will use on the Camino and carry your backpack whilst training with a similar weight to what you expect to carry, If you do blister in training at least it will give you a chance to learn how to deal with it and learn why you blistered, Time will always be an issue unless you are retired, I would walk 10 miles in a little over 3 hours, On the Camino you will be walking 6-8 hours so try to do longer slower walks on the weekends, Start at 6.30-7am and walk until 1.30-2pm taking plenty of breaks for snacks and always make sure that you drink a lot of water, This will be an average day on the Camino, Well it was for me and in that time i would cover around 30km, Most people on the Camino had a longer schedule than i had, If you walk from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago which is around 500miles divide the distance by the days you have and work on that allowing rest days and if you want to carry on to Finisterre then allow an extra 60 miles, I felt great fitness wise from the getgo, Sure the first day or two are tough but the journey is very doable for anybody at most ages if you allow enough time and get some fitness training in


Monday, June 16, 2014

Camino Gear before and after

Its been a couple of weeks since i finished my walk and i have been reflecting on the gear that i took and if i was ever to do a Camino again how and if i would change things, Firstly i started at the end of April, If you are walking at any other time of year this would change as you need more in winter and different gear in summer, So for the Spring and Autumn walker here is what i took.

BACKPACK-Osprey 50ltr Atmos
This was one of the stars of my gear, It was very comfortable and did not let me down in any way, 50 Ltr is the largest i would recommend, The bigger the bag the more you are likely to carry, Osprey is probably the most used bag on the Camino and rightly so, One thing i would have liked would have been able to pack my sleeping bag in the base without taking everything out, Osprey do make bags like this, They have a new lightweight bag called the Exos and in a 48 ltr its over a pound lighter than my bag, 1 pound may not sound a lot but it is, This would be my choice if i were to do another Camino, I did see people with much smaller bags, Most had bags hanging off of them as there was not enough room inside, I like the 50 ltr size as i could get my boots in with all the other gear (just)
One thing of note was that a lot of backpacks come with a rain cover built in, Mine did not so i used a REI backpack rain cover and it worked great
To keep my backpack nice and clean when it went into the hold in the plane i used an Osprey backpack duffel bag, I shipped this forward ( see below)

I took 2 750ml bottle (uninsulated) and had these in each side of the backpack, I had Camelback extension tubes fitted to the bottles so i did not need to remove the bottle to drink or better still i did not need to take the backpack off to drink, You can never drink too much water so these tubes were a bonus and a talking point-Highly recommended

JACKET-Eddie Bauer Rainier
This was kindly donated for the walk by Eddie Bauer and was their top of the range jacket at over $300, Lightweight and made of a goretex/breathable material it ticked all of the boxes, I mentioned before that when i first received it it leaked badly and i had to reproof it, That solved the wet issue, I was very lucky with the weather and only used it a handful of times before one of the front packet zips broke, This was a big failure as water could get straight in, I had only used the pocket for ventilation so was shocked that a jacket that expensive would fail, I did manage to get the zip back together but its a big failure, What you need is a very lightweight waterproof jacket, Goretex or not, when its raining hard you will get condensation inside, Something like the Marmot precip would fit the bill and be cheaper, Just make sure the jacket has armpit zips for ventilation and you are good to go, Forget any jacket with a liner, Keep it as light as possible, Mine stayed in my backpack most of the journey so most of the time you will be carrying it (hopefully)

TROUSERS-Eddie Bauer convertible pants
Good and bad here but mainly very good, I took 2 pairs, Both had their buttons fall off in the first week, I found one button the other was gone, I sewed the button on with just a small piece of cotton and yet that stayed on the whole trip, This is clearly a machining fault, I would recommend the trousers as they are very light and dry very quickly, I even stopped putting my rain pants on at the end as after 10 minutes after the rain had stopped the trousers would be dry, I took 2 different colour trousers, If i were to do the trip again i would take 2 pairs of the same colour and just take 1 set of lower legs to save some weight so basically i pair of trousers and i shorts but with the ability of having 2 pairs of trousers
These i really like from the first time i wore them, Very nicely made and worked well, Not baggy but easy to put one with boots fitted, A zip at the bottom to help , Just a nice product, You will get some condensation from sweating but not much, You can buy over trousers with full length zips and you can zip down from the top to help with air flow (Northface do these) either way i would recommend these, Lightweight and work well

TOPS (base)-REI and Salomon
My favorite tops were Salomon long sleeve tops, They have a perforated look, Feel great, wash great and are very comfortable, Not cheap but i managed to find them at Dicks sporting goods for $14 in the sale, I bought 2 but only took 1, This was a mistake and 2 would have been perfect, I highly recommend these, I also took a tee shirt from REI, I love the material and again it was comfortable and washed great, They also do the same in long sleeve-recommended, I did take a 3rd top which was a tee shirt from Under Armour, very good but i would have liked to have 2 long sleeve tops and i tee shirt from the others above

TOPS (Mid)-Eddie Bauer
I took 1 Eddie Bauer lightweight fleece and it was great, washed well and dried quick, Very comfortable, I also took an Eddie Bauer microtherm vest which i love and are great for early morning walks, I have a Microtherm jacket and wished i had taken this instead for early morning walks and mainly for the evenings, Either one i would recommend and they are super light and well made and look great, I did have many people comment on the look/style of the Eddie Bauer gear

This is the biggy and everybody will see things differently, I took a pair of Salomon mid height goretex boots, I loved these boots BUT and its a big but, Goretex footwear will cook your feet!! I walked over 250 miles before my first blister so they are not that bad but when the weather gets warm-not hot just warm your feet will cook, Unless you want to keep stopping and letting your feet cool off  DO NOT TAKE GORETEX, Breathable is the name and although goretex is marketed as breathable and waterproof there has to be a compromise, I would take a hiking shoe not a boot, 99% of people i met with boots had blister problems, A good quality hiking shoe will easily be carried in your pack, I would recommend a pair of hiking shoes and a good thick soled training shoe which needs to allow airflow around your feet, You will use the trainer most of the trip, You could take goretex and only use them when it rains but use the trainer type shoe the rest of the way especially on the meseta, I met a 70+ year old Danish woman who was on her 5th Camino, She had a pair of Keen sandals and had a pair of trainer/tennis type shoes with a thick spongy sole, She had never had one blister on any walk and she walked 30km a day!! Keens sandals and sandals in general were very popular and those people did not get blisters (use with socks) The keens were good as they are closed toes and stop getting stones in, There will be nothing like footwear to cause an discussion with walkers, This is my personal opinion based on experience, I mentioned before that my boots had custom inserts and i would still recommend these for any type of long distance walking

GLOVES-Under Armour
Some mornings were  cold with a small amount of frost, I took lightweight Under Armour gloves and these were great, To save weight you could just use a pair of socks

SOCKS-Smartwool and Wrightsocks
I took 3 pairs of Smartwool ultra light hiking socks and 1 pair of the Wrightsocks which was a double layer sock and both worked well and i would recommend either

These are lovely in both feel and wear, Sweat is always a problem and i did suffer from a chaffed botty on a few occasions as did others, Either way these are very expensive underwear but worth the money in my opinion-recommended

HAT-Under Armour Peak Cap
I took a cap as i use glasses and a peak helps keep rain off of your face and glasses, By the time i got to Burgos it was apparent that also needed something to protect my ears as they were getting sunburned so i purchased a cheap wide brimmed hat, If i were to do it again i would take a wide brimmed waterproof hat like this

I had read that as you are always walking West i.e away from the sun that you did not need sunglasses, Well that is only partly true, Alot of the trail is very light in color and you get a lot of reflected light, I did not take sunglasses but would have liked some most of the time, I did always wear my normal glasses and these give UV protection-I would recommend taking eye protection of some type

Love them or like them, Take them or not take them, There are a lot of opinions, Mine would be to take them, There are some very steep accents and descents, Mine save me from falling a few times and when i had a bad knee and leg they certainly helped greatly, I would recommend either a pair of walking poles or a walking stick, Mine were Carbon so very light, Along the Meseta area i just used one, Remember of you do not use them you will carry them and its all weight, You do need to spend a fortune but the more expensive ones are lighter

I took a great sleeping bag from sierra designs, It was a 30 deg -1, Lightweight and well made, It was a mummy type but had lots of room, Problem was it was way too hot, The zip was always open and most nights the bag was completely open, If was to do another i would take an REI 55 degree travel sack , The problem was that the Germans, French, Spanish and Italians do not like to have a window open and become somewhat vocal if you even try to open one, Try sleeping in a room with 96 other people without any ventilation and see how hot it gets

I carried ALL of my toiletries in an Eddie Bauer Travex Expedition Hanging Kit bag, I was unsure of this but now would take it again, Its amazing how much gear this holds, Very well made and designed, I had this on my bed at night and could grab it in the morning and go into the bathroom it had everything i needed to get ready, I had my toothpaste and toothbrush, towel, meds, Moleskin(thick) and bandaids,shampoo,vaseline and soap, This is a great product-Recommended

Another great product, Simple and effective, I took one and left it in an Aubergue and then realised just how much i liked it, I purchased another (Camino Design) along the way and used it everyday

Sleeping in a room with a lot of people is not easy, Lots of snorers and farters (I count myself in for both) so i took earplugs, It soon become apparent that these were not for me, Uncomfortable and kept falling out, I had taken my iphone and used this every night to listen to music with earbuds, I would fall asleep to low volume music and awake during the night, turn the music off and go straight back to sleep. I only used the iphone for music, If i did another Camino i would take a lighter weight ipod or similar

I took a head torch and a very small torch, I used neither at all at any time, I could always use the light on my iphone if needed, Torches are a pain the butt, People get up very early and flash them all over the room, Very inconsiderate and if you were not on pilgrimage you would probably punch them!! Know where the bathroom is, grab all you gear and go in there QUIETLY so as not to piss people off, i sent my torches forward (see below)

I took both and never used them, Alot of people kept a diary, I took a lot of pictures and did a daily blog, Its up to you what you want to do (its all weight)

Great camera with lovely quality images, Bigger than most would want although there were people with bigger, The camera did 95% of what i wanted it to do , I would recommend it for those who want good quality photos in a smallish package, Also look at the Sony RX100 for quality photos in a pocketable camera, Most people seemed to use their phones, its a personal thing, Just remember that alot of the shooting will be in dark churches etc, a small compact camera will give better images than a phone although they have improved a lot,
I carried my camera in a Thinktank mirrorless 10 bag fixed to the waist belt of the backpack, Great quality bag with a great raincover, Think tank means quality, Not cheap but probably the best on the market
I also had a Peak Design Camera Clip attached to the shoulder strap on the backpack, See my blog for a review, I had my camera attached to this everyday for 10 days before it failed, I had clipped and unclipped my camera to it hundreds of times and love the product, The camera clip is held  on by 2 threaded bars with nylon/plastic caps, One of the caps came off and its game over, To me its a design flaw on an excellent product, The caps should be metal/aluminum or similar or even a one piece bolt, I would also like to see one without a quick release, On a trip like this i do not want somebody to be able to easily take it off and steal it, A great product with flaws

This is a luxury item and adds weight, Most people can use their smart phones for facebook/skype etc, I wanted to be able to see and download my images, Write a blog, Check e mails and skype, I took an Asus T100 convertible laptop/tablet, Worked great and was a joy to use, Weighed over 2 lbs and thats a lot, As i said a luxury item and would recommend a smart phone or very small tablet for most people

What with the camera,phone and laptop i needed to carry a power adapter, I got one from Brookstones which had 2 usb ports, This was taken/stolen after a few days, One thing you will see in the bigger towns and cities are Chinese stores, These sell EVRYTHING and are incredibly cheap, If you need anything from power adapters to shampoo/deodorant go here first, I paid 9 euros for a under arm deodorant in a farmacia, In the Chinses store they were 1,50 euro's. I paid 5 euro's for a world wide power adapter

I took a tiny Leatherman multi tool, This was one of my prize possessions, I used it daily especially when i had blisters, I cannot recommend this product enough

I took a large S carabiner asi had about the bed bugs and thought that i would use it to hang the backpack off of the ground-never used it, My backpack and sleeping bag were sprayed with Permethrin incase there were bed bugs, I did not have any issues or did i hear of anybody else having bed bug issues

Along the way i purchased Ibuprofen 600mg to help with swelling and pain, These were known as Santiago candy as everybody was taking them, Use carefully, max 3 daily i normally took 1 or 2 after food, Work great
Knee brace, Lots of people suffered with bad knees through the long steep descents especially down to Roncevalles, Zubiri and after the Crux de Ferro-Get from Farmacia be careful as i was asked for 45 euros in one and got one for 12 euros in another
Ankle Brace/compression sock-Again lots of people wore these me included, 4 euros from a farmacia, Work as a sock liner to prevent blisters as well

The Camino is mostly well marked but its nice to have an idea of topography and distance between towns etc, I like most others used the Brierley guide and would recommend it

That's pretty much everything i carried or would carry, I think everybody on the first Camino carried to much, I know i did, There is a rough guide that says 10-15% of body weight for you back pack and most people only mention the 10% part, I heard of a small young Japanese girl carrying a 60lb pack!! Mine started around 27lb and i trimmed it to around 24lb, Remember i had over 6lb in camera and laptop equipment, I would say that you should aim to carry no more than 20lb including water, Remember that when your backpack id strapped around your waist that the weight will be transferred to your legs,knees and feet, Any weight that you can save will make life easier and more enjoyable for you

I mentioned above that i carried to much and shipped some gear forward to Santiago, You can do this by joining the Camino De Santiago forum (Highly recommended) and sending your excess gear to Ivar who runs the forum and lives in Santiago, He has a storage area in the town and for a small fee will keep your gear for weeks, You will get a conformation e mail when he receives your gear, I sent mine from Pamplona and he received it the next day, Details here

You will see from the above that i use a lot of Eddie Bauer gear, Apart from the free jacket i have no affiliation with them, Its just good gear, I rate it alongside The Northface but cheaper and when they have their sales the clothing etc is a bargain (i only buy in the sales) Their are a lot of excellent outdoor clothing companies, Just go into an REI if you live in the states and you can get pretty much everything from every manufacturer,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Santiago-The end of the road

All Camino's and there are many different routes end at Santiago De Compostela, Its where St James the Apostle's remains are said to be buried in the Cathedral, It should be the jewel in the crown so i was somewhat taken back when i entered the Cathedral only to see it was in dire need of renovation, The Cathedrals at both Leon and Burgos are fully restored, Santiago on the other hand had flakey ceilings and plants growing out of the walls, The outside of the Cathedral is just about to have renovation started and one of the towers was already covered and i do not think it will be long before the whole of the front is covered, Its a great shame as photographically is worthless, I was even more disappointed as the most impressive part of the Cathedral for me at least was the Portico Da Gloria which was covered in scaffolding and difficult to see properly, I have no idea how long the renovations will take but i would think it could be years rather than months,
Santiago is very touristy compared to the rest of the Camino with hundreds of gift shops selling anything from cheap tourist trinkets to expensive silver, Most were the former, The streets around the Cathedral are narrow and busy, The 'old' town is very nice and well worth a weekend to explore, Competition is fierce so prices are competitive, I stayed in the Azabache hostel twice and they allow more than one night which is great, 14 and 16 euro beds and being 1 minute from the Cathedral make it an excellent place to be, I did have a couple of nights luxury when my Camino had finished and stayed at the Hotel Rua Villar, Another perfectly placed hotel right opposite where everybody gets their compostela at the end of their Camino, I met many people that i had walked with whilst looking from the bar, Not cheap but well worth the money,
12 mid day and every Pilgrim will go for the Pilgrims mass in the Cathedral, With luck the huge incense burner or Botafumeiro will swing, I have been told that it does not swing every time (it should) but both masses that i attended it was used and you can hear the excitement rise when the monks in the burgundy velvet outfits arrive to swing it, It turns the mass into a show and everybody applauds after,
When i arrived in Santiago the first time i was alone, It was pouring with rain and the only people in the many square were beggars of which the are many or somewhat 'dodgy' looking individuals of which there are a few, If i did it again i would try and arrive early on a Sunday morning, The place is very busy and it has that 'buzz' that was not there when i arrived, The busiest mass is also unsurprisingly on a Sunday.
There are a few tours and one that i took was the Cathedral roof tour, Well worth the 12 euro's for the views alone, I do not like heights but soon acclimatised,

Yours truly in the afternoon after my arrival, The rain finished and the people arrived
 St James in the center top
 Renovations have started
 Enter the Cathedral from the side doors whilst renovations are being done
 Probably the most ornate alter along the way
 The Tomb of St James
Cathedral details

  Portico Da Gloria
 Just down the road you can get another compostela from a monk in this church

 The beautiful Parador hotel in the main square
 The Camino to Finisterra starts here
 Glad to say that these arrived safe and sound after carrying them for nearly 600 miles

 Monks prepare to swing the incense burner
Botafumeiro-The worlds largest incense burner
 Did i say it was touristy?
 Pilgrims queue for their compostela's (wait until after 6pm and you will have a 10-15min wait)
 Some waited over 2.5 hours
 People arriving on horseback
Morning mass with the low sun coming through the windows
Huge festival figures on the balcony during the roof top tour
 Great views from the roof

 Up on the roof
 Delish Santiago cake
My first impressions of Santiago were not that great but given better weather and more people and the place really grew on me, Very touristy with some cafe culture thrown in, Lots of Pilgrims finishing their journeys and way too many beggars, The Cathedral will be spectacular when its finished and would certainly be worth a return journey just to see it but that is way in the future

My next blog will cover what i took and how i would change it if i ever did another Camino