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Monday 27 August

Well here we go again, how fast the summer has gone. Its been a mad week of getting organised for the Camino walk. But now the time is close and the excitement is building. Getting the kit together has been fairly simple as we had most of it from previous trips. This trip is one to carry very few possessions, just the bare essentials.

Packing list


Tent, Sleeping bag, good quality Bedroll, blow up Pillows,Lighter, Tea tree oil , Needle and thread, large Safety pins, Notepad, Phrase book. Camino guide book. Eating set , Water bottles, Zip lock bag, Black plastic sack, Money pouch, Rain capes, Walking poles, Power bars, lightweight quick drying towels, a plastic bowl, water container and hairbrush for Molly.


Nail scissors and file, compeed,toe parer, insect repellant and bite ointment, moisturising cream, hand a and foot cream, Arnica muscle rub, massage oil. Antihistamine , optrex , vitamin B12.


Two pairs of shorts, Pair of long trousers, Sweatshirt, two tee shirts, 3 pairs double lined socks.


As this walk will be about 1000km good footwear is essential, well run in, Water proof and lightweight.


Gps, camera and solar backpack battery charger.

Care is needed not to bring too much we need to keep the back pack weight down to about 10 kg...if possible.


A big undertaking

Some of our friends say, what! are you crazy ? or why would you want to do that , especially when we say about bringing Molly and a tent. Most who walk it stay in the various types of hostels along the way. The walk is known as the way of Saint James or El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is based on an ancient pagan walk to Finnisterra (the end of the earth) west of Santiago. There are several routes to choose from we plan to walk the Camino Francis probably the most walked route. Normally this route is very busy but it should be a bit quieter in September.

We are bringing the van on this trip as we are lucky enough to have some friends in Carrcasonne, Southern france who have place to leave it. This will speed up our travel time and give us some flexibility after to walk to wind down..

The walk is something both of us have wanted to do now for a while, it is a very big undertaking, but we will take it one step at a time. For us it is not a question of completing the walk, but enjoying each step, by observing the fauna and flora, and the people . As we live a fairly simple existence anyway the lack of so called luxurys won't be a problem. More of a concern to us at the moment is where will we be able to camp at night . It appears wild camping in Spain is not encouraged. Also getting the food supply right for the interstage journeys, most of which are between 20 and 30kms.Vegetarianism in Spain is not very common. So we may have to go with the flow. So our reasons for the walk will emerge as we go along.

Anyway tonight time for a few tunes in Teach Murray in Gurteen, probably the last for a few weeks, I can already feel the hunger building. Think I will bring a box along for after the walk.

Tuesday 28 August

SO we are all packed, Rucksacks weighed in at 10 kgs, may not sound much but on a mountain climb it may be a different story.

Its full moon tonight the perfect time to start the journey and so a nice long soak in the moonlight with a glass of red.....

By the light of the silvery moon

The magic Moonlight

Wednesday 29th

7am start .

The alarm goes off, sure we forgot something, ah yes the cooking pots are in the tigin also the Little magic torch which has traveled many miles with us now. It is powered by two small batteries which our little solar charger will be able to keep alive...hopefully. Just about time now to check out the spinny thing (wind generator). All voltages appear good , I decide to leave it running as Dave will check it out and shut it down in the event of any storm. So now a quick dash to Gurteen to get the bits and on to Ballymote to meet the vet for molly's check up. Molly is beginning to see a pattern here !! By mid day we are in Dublin saying the good byes.

Thursday 30th

Off to Dublin to St.James gate to get the first stamp on the "Camino Passports" and perhaps a few bottles of Guinness!! and then on to Rosslare for the 5.30 boat to Roscoff

These feet were made for walking ..
well seasoned

Saturday 1st September

After a smooth crossing with a good night's entertainment by the Normandy nights(Stena crew) we arrived in Roscoff at 10.30am. We stayed at a campsite just over half way to Carcassonne.

We watched a balloon lift off with two elderly people on board, it seemed to be a family gift as all were present for the event. When we arrived in Carcassonne we hired a car before going to Mareile and Ernst's house.
What a chef

We decided to travel to Lourdes and maybe pick up a guide book to hike across the mountains to join up with the Camino or take a train to St.Jean Pied de Port as there is no problem bringing Molly on the train here in France. We arrived at Mareile and Ernst's house to a welcome second to none. With open arms and open hearts it was like a welcome of times gone by. We feasted and chatted for hours and Molly too felt quiet at home. This would possibly be our last night in a bed for some time.

Sunday 2nd

We drove alongside the mountains to Lourdes, Molly was very happy in the back seat and close to us. Lourdes is exactly what you might expect with all the souvenir shops each selling the same or similar to the next one, just like the Costa anywhere except religious objects mostly. It was amazing to watch the train of people pushing wheelchairs up and down to the grotto. There was an energy of stillness looming, perhaps this is usual in place of unwellness and great expectations.The excitement I have been feeling all day as we left Carcassonne is building now, we have booked into a camp site in the centre of town, dropped off the car, had dinner in a Moroccan restaurant and now we must wait for the tourist office to open in the morning before planning the next leg of our journey. The Camino began in our heads as we drove away from our little grey house in the west on Wednesday 29th. five days ago already

Monday 3rd September

First Steps .......................................................................................

We have managed to option the necessary guide maps to walk from here to St.Jean Pied de Port, so the decision is made. We got our passports stamped at the information forum at the Grotto, as molly wasn't allowed enter the area I took them both in and filled out a record book on request. We walked up the hill full of anxious excitement As we looked back there was a sense of a quiet peaceful veil over it, it is probably the only town we have ever visited where no one is in a hurry....

We left the town by the river and on into the forest. Autumn has arrived and in the slight breeze leaves were eddying 'round before gently landing to position themselves as part of the forest blanket underfoot. It is cloudy and cool unlike the two previous days and conditions are just perfect for our first steps on the Camino.

We walked at a steady 4.5km perhr. and covered about 12km when we came to a campsite and decided to rest up for the night as we had gotten a late start. The owner had a different idea as she told me it was closed for the season. We continued on for another three km. and found a private place beside a weir and camped up for the night. Already my left knee joint is acting up and luckily we have brought arnica along for the job.

Tuesday 4th. It looks like a morning for the stations whether we like it or not, really ! stations, a fine climb with Calvery on top. Then a beautiful forest walk. There is plenty of fresh fruit along the route, apples and blackberries today. My left knee is locking up with even the smallest descents, Jimmy has been working magic with his healing hands and I think corrective posture should give some relief. The toes too have begun to blister but I have all the "stuff".

The signage here is not good and put us about 7-8km off course but we did see two hawks, three blue dragon flies with black wings and a black butterfly wow! so it was the right course after all. Jimmy picks a fresh flower for my hair each morning, a different one each day (the darling man xxx).


Wednesday 5th

The excruciating pain that was in my knee joint yesterday was back with a vengeance this morning and the right knee wasn't a whole lot better. The first hour was sheer hell but it freed up after that and was just a niggle for the rest of the day, hopefully it will improve with time and distance. The signage continues to throw us off course and across tracks with boulders three feet high, so we stuck with roads today as it is better for joints at the moment, Jimmy's too are acting up a bit. People here seem to recognize that we are walking the Camino and are greeting us with waves and beeps. Each night we massage each others aches and pains and doctor my blisters.
The morning shadows

The girl ! well what can I say about her, she is so good during the day just walks along, eats and drinks when she gets it. At night she just takes up whatever space within the tent that she is given and settles in, what a dog.....Jimmy too is so patient with all my stops for joints, blisters, stones in boots etc. he says there is no hurry.

Water fonts and wash area's are located in villages and along rivers. They would have been the meeting place as well as the wash area for women in times gone by.  



Thursday 6th

The miracle of massage and arnica. My knee joints are but a twinge today and my posture is much improved. The compeed and the gel toe spacers are mighty things too. The she-wee which I took along is a mighty device, it can be obtained on the internet and I would recommend it to any woman for camping or even for just one day hikes.

Things are on the up. We covered 25km today and took lots of breaks. The weather too is on the up, yesterday and today are very hot but the sun is to our backs so we are managing fine and Molly always walks in the shadow. We watched a pair of red harriers feeding in a meadow on what seemed to be frogs.

We are in a forest again tonight and enjoying each others company, Molly is every bit as much a part of this adventure as we are so it is all for one and one for all.

Life is beautiful.....

Friday 7th

This morning as every morning we are greeted by the scent of wild cat mint, moist with the morning dew. When we awake each day Jimmy says "what will to do today ? ah shor' maybe we'll go for a walk." The sun is shining and it is a beautiful day for a walk, the forest was peaceful unlike the night before, with low flying helicopters and real or dreamt, the mad vicious barking which awoke me bolt upright to hold onto Molly which was very frightening. It may have been a dream as Jimmy heard only distant barking. It felt real...

Today we walked for four hours with just a half ltr. of water one can of sardines and a power bar between us. Some small villages do not have shops so we had to make do. Molly found a stream to keep her going. We are walking greater distances now that our legs are getting more used to carrying the weight.

Fruit is supplied by the countryside daily. Later in the day we had figs, blackberries, walnuts, and wild peaches, ripe and just rotting on the branches. We stopped off at a Marie( the mayor's office) to get our passports stamped, but the lady mayor was next door in the pub having a sup and didn't have a stamp. (Irish blood maybe!)

Saturday 8th/Sunday 9th

We arrived in St.Jean Pied de Port after a 30km. walk.

St.Jean Pied de Port, ( the foot of the pass) is the ancient capital of the Basque region of Basse Navarre. It is a walled town and has become the principal gateway to the Camino de Santiago, for pilgrims from all over the world with the exception of those from Spain whose main starting point is Roncesvalles (Spanish). The Citadelle at the top of the town is a mighty viewing point where you can get a good feel for the climb across the mountain to Roncevaoux (French).
St.Jame's gate (Porte St. Jacques

We were in mighty walking form this morning and started off with an uphill start followed by a steep decent into a little village where we had a great breakfast of juice, bread and confitures washed down by a bucket of hot chocolate m..m..m.. We had our credentials stamped at the Marie and were on our way. We followed all the Camino signage and sure enough they led us astray about 5km. off route.

The sight of the gate into town helped us to forget our tired legs and the extra mileage. We called to the office of the friends of St.Jame's where we were warmly welcomed and given some advice on the next stage of the walk. We quickly found the camp site, bought a bottle of wine, and some hot take away food. No shower tonight, we climbed into the tent and had a very restful night. We decided to take a day off before heading over the mountain into Spain.


Today we are well rested, showered(hot water, what a treat, we were like kids on christmas morning). The clothes are washed and we are feeling good. It is a town worth a visit, with old streets and pokey shops.
Nive river walk
will it be ready for christmas ?
We took a walk around town (no back packs) had some crepes, hot chocolate and picked up supplies for tomorrows assault on the Pyrenees Atlantiques which at Col de Leopeder is 1,390meters, then we headed for a pint.
Cobbled street
Taking it easy

We are now well ready and looking forward to the next stage. We are camped next to Fernanda from Holland who is hiking the G10 alone across the Pyrenees . She is carrying a very heavy rucksack, she has sent 5kilo home and still has 15kilos. We had looked at this walk as an alternative if the Camino didn't work out for Molly.

We spent some time swopping experiences and having a laugh, at a french man who found it was very difficult for him if customers filled their own olive containers, of three legged dogs along the way, were they hit by cars or are the winters in the mountains so bad that the leg of a dog......who knows.

Monday 10th

This morning we were outside the bakery at 7am to take bread on our long trek across the mountain. It is so different now with so many walkers and cyclists. We met only two walkers previously. It is great to meet so many people of all nationalities with one goal in mind. We met an Irish girl this morning. We especially connected with two Englishmen living in France and traveling by bike. We had mighty craic with them and a Japanese man in Roncesvalles after we had all managed to cross successfully into Spain.

My 'ol knees are acting up again, but this time I know that if I persevere that they will come right. We are in a campsite here and have been assured that it will not be difficult for us to camp along the way, we should just ask at the refuges/albergues.

Again we listen to the sound of the night owl which has become familiar to us now. Today we watched Griffon Vultures fly overhead, there are 1,800 pairs here in the mountains.
A stones throw

We have received a message that Jimmy's mam is in hospital so he may have to travel home, we will keep in close contact over the next few days. Tonight we have the campsite to ourselves and it's mighty.

Friday 14th

I have been too tired to write until tonight.

Tuesday was a long hot walk. A number of people were struggling, especially the Japanese man. We spent some time talking and resting with him,(again my knee was giving me pain) he is 62yrs and flew 30hrs. from Japan just two days ago, would any of us be able for this walk after that. He took off his heavy back pack and fell over, we had found in the first couple of days that we got light headed when we took off the weight. We heard the next day that he had wisely decided to abandon the walk and take public transport.

Three Irish women passed us on the track but pretended not to speak English,"bon camino"(we have Irish patches on our bags) would spending a moment to talk delay them so much... ("people are strange" Jim Morrisson).

We arrived in Larrasoana expecting the warm welcome from the Mayor who according to our guide book is understanding and a friend of the Way of St.Jame's amigo del Camino de Santiago

Well ! the good mayor was walking up the town when we arrived and he proceeded to shake his hand at us "no perro, no perro". I went inside the albergue to have the passports stamped and inquire from his wife where we could camp. He arrived in and both of them began to shout at me, "no perro(dog) no camping" he pointed up the road and told us to walk 20km to the next town. We sat outside while Jimmy massaged arnica into my knee, he came out and began to kick stones down the street, he huffed and he puffed, as if to say how dare we come into his town with a tent and a dog.

We walked on for about 5km. It was getting dusky so we hid in the woods where we spent the night. It was the most frightening experience, a dog came barking at us just as darkness fell, Molly remained very quiet. All night we lay motionless listening, waiting, we could hear a group of dogs barking. It was as if we had escaped from a chain gang and the blood hounds were on the loose.


We left this hiding place about two hours before daylight tired and anxious, is this what we should expect from now on ? We walked on to Pamplona. The Camino has now become just a walk to us as we are not encountering the so called christian spirit or just simple respect for ones fellow man. After the best vegetation hot meal ever, which we were given to take away when we explained about Molly, we left Pamplona for Puente La Reina 25km.

We arrived at 9.45pm having walked 45km that day, the hospitalero (hostel warden) had left for the night. A cyclist smuggled us in through the hostel to the back garden where we quietly rested for the night. The next stage to Estella is just 21km, and there are four alberque's and two campsites, Molly is limping on her right foreleg so we will take a day off to give her a rest. But the good hospitaleros in Estella had different ideas no camping and quess what? no perro.... We were directed to the campsite out of town 3km. with restaurant, supermarket, swimming pool etc. just what we need right now. When we got there, there was a large sign outside, no dogs. I was tired and ready to throw in the towel and hit the high road home.

Jimmy kept me going, saying that if we were to continue we had to just depend on ourselves. So we found a secluded place for the night, we had one power bar and a mouthful of water and trust. We left just before daylight, always on the look out for the police as we had learned that it is illegal to camp wild in Spain.

We now needed a torch for guide in the mornings as it would be easy to take the wrong track, although the row of white tissue paper which is left along the path could take the place of the way marking. What gives people the right to dispose of their waste where ever they like. Surely like us people carry a bag for their daily waste. Is it ok to just walk away and expect others to pick up after us???? Also the track is covered in human feces, the daily rush to get a place in the hostels seems to deprive walkers of their decency. We haven't met anyone who is camping. Surely facilities for camping would stop the stamped to the hostels and offer people a choice.

We soon found water, grapes and blackberries and our spirits were lifted. It was as if the decision to go it alone had given us new energy. Molly seemed a little better this morning. Later we arrived in Los Arcos where they had no dog food, so we bought meatballs but one shop owner and his mother gave Molly a huge piece of ham and wrapped a similar one for tomorrow. This gesture restored our belief in the Camino. The local people here, especially the old men are stopping to talk even though we don't have the language, Molly is so gentle and patient with all.
Revived spirits

Before finding a camping place for the night we washed our feet and socks in a river. The phrase of the walk so far while we washed each other, " mother o god, have you no hot water" nice one Jimmy..... As we moved on to find camp we spotted a snake, green with a black head, about 14" long, he seemed in a hurry to scurry away, (we may have had a hungry look).

Sunday 16th

Yesterday we walked into Logrono after stopping off with "Felicia" for a stamp and a coke.

She is mighty, standing there at her stall as her mother did before her at the border from Navarre into La Rioja, waiting to meet and greet asking only for a donation in return for a drink or a shell or a stone etc. The familiar apron(pinnie) worn by all the old ladies here and once worn at home( and I want soon) was as black as the ace of spades. She had four dogs, a wall built with plastic baskets filled with broken tiles. She was a tonic.

Border crossing

It was Fiesta day in Logrono and had been in Viana the night before. They still run the bulls here and have bull fighting. The city was packed, we had lunch, stocked up on compeed, new insoles, which are mighty and we were out of there. Drink was flowing,spirits were high and it was fast becoming rowdy. I got a lecture in Spanish from an elderly woman while Jimmy was on the phone to his mam(who is home from hospital and doing good). The lecture was about my fair hair and skin and I should have sandals on to allow my feet to cool etc. she was well meaning and I enjoyed her.

We are still camping at dusk and leaving before first light but it is alright now as it is the way it is. Stubble fields are good and flat. The night sound of the cricket lulls us off to sleep.

Today we are sheltering from the mid-day sun in a church porch having the most tasty lunch on plates, of bread, cheese, sardines, olives, cake, chocolate and coke, a feast.

My feet are well blistered now with blisters on top of blisters, so Jimmy has to doctor them which he is disliking less now, but once I am walking they don't bother me. The knees are great now and we are feeling very fit, covering about 30km per day.

The welcome sight of a water fountain appears always at the right moment. We have used river water when necessary.

Was this in our honour ?

As we walked into Nájera we were greeted by this band of musicians who played some tunes on one side of the river and then crossed over to repeat their repertoire...

Monday 17th

Everyday Jimmy plans the route for the following day. As we are not accepted in the towns it is necessary to be well away from them at night far away from houses and roads, and we don't relish the thoughts of spending a night in a police station. There was a storm in the distance as we left Santo Domingo de Calzada. We had walked 30km and Molly was limping quiet a bit. It was difficult to find cover so we had to keep moving. The storm was getting closer, just then the heavens opened and an electrical storm with fork lightening held us huddled in a ditch trying to keep each other dry and warm for over an hour. Neither of us had ever experienced anything like it before.

By the time it stopped it was dark, we were tired cold and wet. We moved on and eventually found a place under a tree, our sleeping bags were dry and we slept like logs. Today we stopped for breakfast at a roadside hotel and had tortilla's and hot chocolate for breakfast. We met a man with a dog who gave us a brochure for a hostel in Burgos where we could stay with Molly. The owner is a friend of his and has just opened this hostel.

Molly is very lame today so we stopped walking and found camouflage in the corner of a stubble field under a tree. We are not sure that Molly will make it to Burgos which is about 45km. from here as her foot pads are very tender. We have been putting liquid compeed on them but if doesn't help her we will not ask her to walk any further. Hopefully the compeed and the early night will be what she needs, she is trying so hard.

My feet are improving by the day, even the restless feeling which has lasted for up to an hour some nights is settling sooner. Dad's army feet as Jimmy refers to them, I now know why soldiers keep marching on the spot after they have stopped moving as it is easier on the feet unless you can rest them..... Yes sir, Captain Mannering sir... Jimmy's beautiful white beard has reached a fluffy stage of growth, he has not quiet gotten used to it yet so he will probably part with it at the first opportunity (what a shame).

Tuesday 18th

Molly's feet are very tender today so it may be our last day walking the Camino. This morning we met a young couple from Italy on their way back from Santiago with a donkey, a dog and a little kitten.
They offered us some vaseline for Molly's feet but we declined the offer as they too have a long road ahead and we can get some in the next town. About 6km later a group of cyclists stopped with us to give us the vaseline from the young couple. We were both overcome with emotion that we openly cried, this was "our Camino".
Donkey on guard !

We met a Canadian man and his Scottish wife along the road who shared a tomato with us. They had become very disillusioned with the Camino as people seemed tunnel visioned to get to the next hostel and had no time for fellow travelers, they were not sure if they would continue. They work with an animal shelter in Canada and were very touched by the Italian couple. The next town St.Juan De Ortega had no chemist, no shop, no dog food, and the only restaurant would not serve us outside and we were not about to leave Molly outside. I did manage to ring home to find that all are well.

We met an Irish American woman Deirdre from Sligo whose male companion had left her to walk with his thirty something daughter who had had a hissy fit, so she was very sad, we hope to meet up in Ireland when we get back. We had walked 20km with just a yogurt for breakfast, so we moved on. Later we arrived in Agés.

I don't know where to begin......

Molly is so poorly now that we have nothing to loose. So we headed straight for the municipal alberque (which doesn't get a mention in the guide book) and asked if we could stay here with Molly for the night. To our surprise Anna, the hospitalero said that we could stay in the hostel and that she would take Molly home, feed and look after her for the night. Anna who had no English, understood that we wouldn't leave Molly suggested that we camp in the church garden. Meanwhile she cooked a hot meal for us.

Molly seemed so weak that we were very worried for her health. She just lay on the ground as if unable to get up. A canadian man gave us some mole skin plaster for her wounded foot pads. A Norwegian woman Lilah who massages horses at home gave her a massage which she seemed really relaxed by. Another Norwegian man Willie Neilson gave us tar with scots pine resin and sat with us. A policeman from South Africa said that he worked with German shepard's and that they would keep going until they dropped. A gathering of people sat on the street in a healing circle around Molly and she responded. This was the moment when we knew that we wouldn't ask her to continue.

We went on line in the hostel and hired a car in Burgos. It was not possible to take the bus or a taxi with a dog, so we had to ask Molly to walk another 27km. The forecast for the night was for temperatures to drop and Anna again reassured us of a bed and for Molly at any time during the night if we felt cold. After a nights rest and a good feed courtesy of Anna she seemed brighter.

Willie Neilson came to check on her, we noticed a stork's nest on the roof of the church, it was about 6' wide. We had hot chocolate with him in Anna's before we left. Anna for me is the reason why I came to walk the Camino. We hugged and cried together neither speaking the others language.............

So the letting go has begun....

There were days in the past when it would have seemed easy to let go. Yesterday was the high point for us from meeting the Italian couple, to Anna, and the healing work and attention which Molly received, so it feels like the right time to leave.

We arrived in Burgos, it seemed a long walk for all three of us as letting go is never easy. Still I received a fresh flower as I had done every morning of our Camino. We met a beautiful Swiss woman Susan, who had injured her knee and she too was ending her Camino. We spent about two hours talking before leaving in our rented car.

It is very difficult to express how I feel today, But I am so privileged to have shared this journey with a magical man and a mighty special dog.

The people who shared our Camino envied our ability to do it our way, although we explained that there are no facilities or encouragement for campers. Their experience of hostelling was not pleasurable. Everyone was in a hurry to get ahead of the next, the young managing to secure the beds while the less able had to move on. So many people in the same room with the majority choosing for closed windows. The banging of doors and loud voices showing no respect for others. Meeting the same people each day, knowing who would have time and who would not.

As Willie Neilson said "some people walk the Camino..... others walk on the Camino" ! and he decided to take the bus to town........

Bon Camino.

Now for the Rhone alps


                                                                                                                          Return to camino 2018 ten years on... Click here for the story,