Sunday, 5 November 2017

Egypt 2017

Which means ‘four Spanish’ was a phrase much used by our guides whenever we came in contact with the authorities, although this was not strictly true as one of us had a British passport.
This was our third attempt to visit the famous temples and pyramids to be found in Egypt, and after the failure of our previous attempts due to travel agents going bust or airlines strikes, it was third time lucky although we had made sure that we had all the insurance policies in place in case the same scenarios repeated themselves.
Thanks to the dedication and attention to every detail, by our friends Marian and Mariano, we had had to make virtually no effort apart from the necessary handover of cash, in the organisation of this trip. So when they asked us if we would like to join them in this expedition we had no hesitation to reignite our long time objective of visiting Egypt. 
After an enjoyable overnight stay which included a meal at our favourite Indian restaurant in Madrid, and a long and tiring trip we arrived at Aswan at the start of our 10 day Egyptian adventure. If we had any misgivings or apprehension about travelling Egypt Air then those were quickly dispelled as all flights turned out to be pleasant and punctual.
After a few hours sleep we headed down a desert highway to Abu Simbel, and though we would have preferred a less tiring mode of transport we were not disappointed. The temples were well worth the trip and the only doubt was in that they were not in their original position where they were constructed thousands of years before the building of the Aswan dam.

One of the objective of our trip was the interest in places of power and concentration of energy in the temples and pyramids. Marisol and Marian had done plenty of research into these topics and were determined to explore this at all of the sites we were to visit. I must say that this added an attractive dimension to the monuments beyond the history plus the architectural and artistic magnitude of the labour involved in constructing these monuments.
Since most of the readers have probably been to Egypt themselves I will not dwell on the Faraonic history or try to explain theories about the construction of these awesome structures, but will say that any calculation of the amount of effort involved in putting together any of the large temples and the sculpting of the murals on their walls would easily tempt one into accepting the Ancient Astronauts theory of technologies from other worlds that could have been responsible for their creation. 

The murals on the walls of the Dendara Temple for example at a conservative estimate would be perhaps 10 kilometres in length and 15 metres in height. Looking at the detail on these murals it is difficult to imagine thousands of people producing identical quality of work and no mistakes in any of the carving in massively huge stones is remarkable. It was almost as if a ‘printer’ driven by a digital image produced by a draughtsman had been programmed to cut the design into the massive stone walls. 
A second unbelievable accomplishment was on those murals where the stone had a stand out relief. That is to say the motifs stand out from the stone instead of being cut down into the stone. This represents a massive effort to remove all material down to a background level and with such precision that it is the same over a very large surface. My ‘printer’ in the above fantasy would not be able to do this, so a different strategy would have to be used.

Apart from the famous Luxor and Karnak temples we also had the Edfu, Phylae, Kom Ombo, Dendara, and Abydos on our list. The valley of the Kings with the Tutankhamun tomb plus the Hatshepsut temple nearby were all included in our tour. Tutankhamun's mummy is still in the burial chamber and it had a special energy all around it. According to our experts it was not pleasant and even I had a headache and a feeling that we were not welcome!
After a very pleasant cruise downstream from Aswan to Luxor we were taken to the Abydos and Dendara temples on one of the days while our cruiser ship was moored in Luxor. The road to Abydos was somewhat shorter then the drive to Abu Simbel but much more difficult as there is more insecurity in this area. The road heads north along a canal for almost eighty kilometres up to the town of Qena, before heading across on a desert road for another hundred.  The first eighty kilometres of road has a set of three speed breakers after every kilometre! You can imagine what this drive was like with all the bumps. This road (according to Google Maps) is the highway 75 and perhaps this section of it should be renamed Speedbreakers Road!
The other notable feature of this drive which took about 5 hours was the 20 police check points spaced along with the bumps in the road. We were provided police escort on some sections (just like John Simpson of BBC when reporting from war zones) and there was the occasional wait at some checkpoints while some money changed hands. (It was the end of the month :-) On the way back we stopped to look at the Dendara temple and although the journey was arduous, the temples were well worth the effort specially since there were very few others who wanted to hang around this area.

Later we took a flight to Cairo and installed ourselves in the Mena House Hotel. It was not until the following morning when we got up to have our breakfast, that we realised what a spectacular setting we were in with the Pyramids as a backdrop to our table at the restaurant. Tourism has taken a big hit in Egypt, and everywhere we went we had the monuments pretty much to ourselves for long periods. When we made our way to the burial chamber in the Cheops, we had the space to ourselves for about fifteen minutes.
Cairo was chaotic but nice in an old world kind of way. The Pyramids, The Khalili Market and the Cairo antiquities museum are well worth visiting. Giza on the other hand, just outside our beautiful setting at the hotel, was a mess and it looked like no one had collected the rubbish in the streets for many years. More than 20 million people need a lot of waste management which does not seem to exist in Giza. The other significant observation is that most of the private properties in Cairo and indeed the whole of Egypt look unfinished. When we asked our guide about this, he said that the rules allowed folks whose houses were under construction to pay less taxes! No wonder the houses remained unfinished for decades!
Soon it was time to go home and we said goodbye to our very able and efficient guide Aladin, used up the last of our Egyptian pounds and took the early morning flight to Madrid. Onwards to more adventures still waiting in other parts of our planet.
The funniest moment of the trip was when one of the passengers ahead of me at the Cairo Airport security check took off his belt to place in the tray for the X-ray machine, then walked through the security portal which beeped. The agents on the other side asked him to raise his arms for a manual check at which point his trousers fell to the floor around his ankles!

One had to laugh!

Click here to see a full set of photographs - Pincha aqui para ver todas las fotos

Version Español

Arbe Al’asban
Significa ‘cuatro españoles’ y esta frase fue usada frecuentemente cuando los policias nos paraban, aunque no era totalmente correcto debido que uno de nosotros tenia un pasaporte Británico.
Era la tercera vez que  intentábamos visitar los famosos templos y pirámides de Egipto y después de haber fracasado anteriormente por causa de la bancarrota de la agencia de viajes y otra vez por la huelga de la linea aérea, finalmente ‘a la tercera la vencida’. De todos modos ya habíamos sacado todos los seguros para asegurarnos de que no nos arruinaríamos por si se volvía a repetir la mala suerte.
Gracias a la dedicación y atención a los detalles de parte de nuestros amigos Marian y Mariano, nosotros no tuvimos que hacer nada mas que aceptar la invitación para apuntarnos al programa y pagar la requerida cantidad de dinero. No tuvimos la mas mínima duda para cumplir con nuestro objetivo de hacer este viaje a Egipto.
Después de una estancia de una noche en Madrid que incluía una comida en nuestro restaurante favorito de cocina India, y un largo viaje llegamos a Aswan para iniciar nuestra aventura. Si había alguna duda sobre viajar con Egypt Air, no tuvimos preocupación debido que todo los vuelos fueron confortables y a su hora.
Después de unas horas de reposo salimos con destino Abu Simbel vía una carretera en pleno desierto. Nos hubiera gustado un modo de transporte mas confortable pero ni tan mal porque fue todo lo que esperábamos de los templos. Valía la pena hacer el esfuerzo y la única pega era que estos no estaban en sus lugares originales hace miles de años, sino reconstruidos en un nivel mas alto cuando se inundaron por culpa de la presa de Aswan.
Uno de los objetivos en este viaje era la exploración de los sitios de poder en los templos y pirámides de Egipto. Marisol y Marian habían investigado este tema y estaban muy motivadas para examinar todos los posibles sitios de poder. Puedo decir que eso fue un punto de atracción adicional a lo de la historia y la magnitud de la labor implicada en el aspecto arquitectural y artístico de todos los monumentos.
Creo que muchos de los lectores han hecho este mismo viaje, así que no explicare aquí la historia faraónica o las teorías de la construcción de estas estructuras asombrosas, pero puedo decir que cualquier calculo del trabajo necesario para levantar uno de estos templos y después crear todos los murales en las paredes, puede fácilmente convencernos que esto es obra de una tecnología de otra inteligencia que normalmente proponen en programas de televisión como Aliegenas o Antiguos Astronautas.

La suma de la longitud de los murales en las paredes de Templo de Dendara como un ejemplo y como un estimado conservador puede ser hasta 10 kilometro y hasta 15 metros de alto. Fijándonos en el detalle en estos murales es difícil de imaginar que miles de trabajadores podían producir obra del mismo nivel de calidad con ningún fallo en estas piedras enormes. Parece como hecho por una impresora programada para reproducción de una imagen digital.
Hay también en muchos de estos murales la técnica conocida como relieve alto, que resulta aun mas difícil. En este caso es necesario quitar material de fondo hasta un nivel que es uniforme en un tamaño enorme en todo el mural. Mi teoría de la impresora digital no podría hacer eso, necesitaría alguna otra estrategia.
Nuestro itinerario nos llevaba a todos los templos famosos de Egipto, entre ellos los de Karnak y Luxor, y también los de Edfu, Phylae, Kom Ombo, Dendara, y Abydos. También nos llevaron a las tumbas de Valle de los Reyes donde encuentra la del Tutankhamun, y el templo de Hatshepsut.
Despues de una relajante paseo por crucero desde Aswan a Luxor, fuimos a ver los templos de Abydos y Dendara. La carretera hacia Abydos era mas corta de la de Aswan a Abu Simbel, pero mucho mas dura para conducir, debido a la inseguridad en la zona y la costumbre de las autoridades de instalar reductores de velocidad. La carretera sigue un canal durante casi ochenta kilómetros hasta al pueblo de Qena, y luego continua a través del desierto por otros cien kilómetros. La parte hasta Qena tiene estos reductores de velocidad cada kilometro y hace el viaje muy pesado. 
El viaje duro casi cinco horas y paramos en múltiples puntos de inspección policial, donde tuvimos que registrar los ‘Cuatro Españoles’. Los policías nos acompañaron en varios tramos de la carretera donde supuestamente había mas inseguridad, tal como lo hacen para los reporteros cuando mandan noticias desde las zonas en guerra. En algunos casos tuvimos que esperar hasta que nuestros guías ‘regalaron’ una cantidad de dinero (era el fin de mes :-) En camino de vuelta fuimos al templo de Dendara, y en general valió la pena porque eran monumentos estupendos y había pocos turistas.

Acto seguido llegamos a Cairo y nos instalamos en el lujoso Mena House Hotel. No nos dimos cuenta de la ubicación hasta la mañana siguiente cuando vimos la Pirámide de Cheops mientras desayunábamos. El turismo ha bajado mucho en los años recientes y tuvimos casi todos los espacios turísticos para nosotros. Cuando llegamos a la Gran Galeria y la cámara en la Pirámide, estuvimos solos durante quince minutos.
Cairo era caótico pero interesante por su ambiente antiguo. Las Pirámides, el Mercado Khalili y el Museo de Antigüedades son muy recomendables para visitar. En cambio el barrio de Giza, justo al lado de nuestro lujoso hotel era como un basurero, y parecía que nadie había limpiado las calles de basura desde hace años. 20 millones de habitantes necesitan mucha administración de basura, pero en Giza no la hay. Una otra cosa que nos pareció peculiar era que muchas de las casas parecían inacabadas. La parte inferior generalmente parecía habitada pero el ultimo piso siempre en construcción. Cuando preguntamos a nuestro guía sobre esto, supimos que en Egipto la gente paga menos tasas mientras su casa esta en construcción! Con razón, las casas quedan en construcción durante décadas.
Ya era hora de volver a casa y cogimos el vuelo desde Cairo hacia Madrid, después de despedirnos de nuestro nuestro guía ‘Aladdin’ y  gastar los ultimas Libras Egipcias. Nos esperan nuevas aventuras y viajes en otras partes.
Y el momento mas gracioso del viaje? Hubo un viajero adelante de nosotros en la cola para pasar la seguridad en el aeropuerto de Cairo, que de costumbre se tuvo que dejar la chaqueta, los zapatos y el cinturón en la bandeja para pasar por los rayos X. Cuando paso por la puerta de seguridad le pito y los agentes le indicaron que le iban a revisar manualmente. Le indicaron levantar los brazos y cuando lo hizo se le cayeron los pantalones al suelo!

No podíamos hacer mas que reír!

Monday, 25 September 2017

My Father - Mi Padre

(En español abajo)
Mum and Dad (1959)
Dad was a man of few words and had an aura of a self assured man who was rarely ruffled and kept himself out of controversies and always chose the path of least conflict and maximum political correctness. Behind this quiet and unassuming facade there was a very intelligent human being. This is borne out by his amazing ability at school and university, where legend has it that he was always first in every course he attended. He also stood first at the very competitive University of Punjab, and to put that into context, the same feat was achieved by the Nobel laureate Hargobind Khorana a few years earlier.

A period of resettling in post-partition India was followed by opportunities to study in London and then a long association with Africa, where he worked in several countries starting with ten years in Ghana, and including a few years with the UN Development programme. 

He charted a fairly eventful and adventurous life, made possible by his incredible intellect and the longterm association with my Uncle Harbhajan Singh Ji (MamaJi), which made a fantastic partnership and was a powerful force that propelled all of us, their children, into the wider world beyond our wildest childhood dreams. This is for me the most cherished and important legacy that has been given to me by these larger than life figures in my family.

Remarkably for our humble beginnings, Dad was a self made man in every sense of the phrase, and in comparison we, his children were given success on a plate, by him. 
I will be forever grateful.

A few years ago on a trip to Europe I suggested that he tell me everything he could remember from his first thoughts onwards, about the history and anecdotes of our family. Luckily for all of us in the family we have this record in the form of a book for the benefit of all the generations from now on.

We are given only one father and I will forever miss the gentle smiling man who was there at the end of every journey home, to welcome us and to make us feel at home in his own way. I would like to think that at the end he would have smiled in satisfaction at a life well lived and a job well done.

My father, Niranjan Singh Bawa, passed away on the 6th of September 2017. He was 93 years old.

I have no pictures of him on his own. 
He was always with Mum.

 Dad and Mum seated left

 MamaJi & AuntyJi, Mum & Dad


Mi padre era un hombre de pocas palabras que emitia un aura de seguridad y raramente le vi enfadado. Tuvo una vida alejada de controversias o conflictos y su conducta era siempre impecable. Detrás de su modestia y tranquilidad se escondía una persona muy inteligente que siempre fue el primero en todos los cursos del colegio y universidad. Fue a la famosa Universidad de Punjab donde se graduó con la mejor nota de ese año. Unos años antes el Premio Nobel Hargobind Khorana se graduó con la misma nota en esta universidad.  

Después de la partición de India en 1947 mi padre busco una nueva vida y tuvo la oportunidad de estudiar un posgrado en Londres. Luego empezó una larga asociación con Africa, donde trabajó en varios países. Trabajo diez años en Ghana, otros diez en Zambia y cuatro en Sierra Leone en un proyecto con UNDP (Programa de Desarrollo de Naciones Unidas).

Tuvo una vida bastante llena de acontecimientos y aventuras, que fue posible por su increíble inteligencia y una larga asociación con mi tío Harbhajan Singh Ji (MamaJi), una combinación fantástica y una fuerza especial que nos impulsó , sus hijos,  a expandir nuestros horizontes para lograr todos nuestros sueños. Eso ha sido para mi el legado mas importante y valioso que me han podido dejar estas dos personas de mi familia.

A pesar de nuestro pasado humilde, mi padre logro todo por su propio esfuerzo, mientras nosotros sus hijos tuvimos la suerte de tenerle a nuestro lado para ayudarnos a conseguir nuestros éxitos.
Le estaré agradecido para siempre.

Hace algunos años, cuando mi padre nos visito en Londres, le sugerimos que nos contara todas sus memorias desde sus primeros recuerdos, sobre la historia y las anécdotas de nuestra familia. Tenemos la suerte que estas memorias están catalogadas en un libro para el beneficio de todas las generaciones desde ahora adelante.

Dicen que del padre solo hay uno y siempre echare de menos el hombre gentil y sonriente que nos esperaba al final de cada viaje de vuelta a casa, para darnos la bienvenida y hacernos sentirnos a gusto. Me gustaría pensar que finalmente tenia una sonrisa de satisfacción por una vida bien lograda y un trabajo bien hecho.

Mi padre, Niranjan Singh Bawa, falleció el 6 de Septiembre de 2017. Tenia 93 años.

No tengo fotos de el solo. Siempre estaba con mi madre..

Monday, 31 July 2017

Venice 2017

This year we again made our pilgrimage to another Venice Biennale. As usual we had done our homework and knew in advance what to watch out for and the impressions of some critics. However this time around we had the added incentive to see the installation of dear friend David Medalla, one of whose works was chosen to be included in the Arsenale. Logistics aside Venice was in full swing and as usual the heat of July meant that we had easy access to all venues, despite the exorbitant cost of the ‘vaporettos’ which meant that generally we walked everywhere. Our hotel was the same one we have used on our last few visits, very central, and from where we were within walking distance of most venues. This also had the added benefit that in passing we walked through most of the tourist spots, something that one always wants to include even if you have seen them a few times already. Venice was full of people but the great majority had no idea that this huge event ‘The Biennale’ was happening under their very eyes.
David Medall's 'A stich in Time'
Lorenzo Quinn's Hands

Now I am not an art critic but I do like to comment and discuss, and this year there was much that incited a response. The first thing that disappointed was that the German pavilion was missing the performance that is its main exhibit this year. Perhaps the performers were taking a day off, much like I used to do in my youth, when the sun shone outside, or perhaps there was a dispute about salaries or who knows what, but although it had been touted as a highlight this year, we were treated to an empty scene where a glass floor with the two spaces (above and below the glass) loomed empty like something was about to happen. It reminded me of the story about the Munch painting (The Scream) in which a long line of visitors at a museum waited to see (and take photos of) the empty space from which the painting had been stolen!

Kiki Smith's at the Central Pavillion

The Russian pavilion, generally my favourite, was a bit less exciting this year, though they did have some new ways of displaying some twenty or thirty mysterious sculptures, in that the shadows which one could see behind each sculpture were not created by light but in fact projections, which is kind of strange. Why would an artist go to these lengths to create shadows when the same effect can be arranged more easily, unless you had a few assistants who had nothing to do and you gave them this huge challenge. ‘Now go and create a shadow for each of these sculptures, take photographs, buy storage media, buy projectors and install electric fixtures, and project from a suitable location to make the whole thing look authentic’! 
Russian Pavillion
Still, art works in mysterious ways and who am I to criticise.
Phyllida Barlow at the British Pavillion

There were a few pavilions which need not have bothered to show up but there were also those which had made huge works and filled their spaces to the brim. One of these was the British pavilion which was so overstuffed with Phyllida Barlow’s sculptures that it was difficult to walk around. The Japanese and Chinese were also full of innovative pieces. It would be hard to do justice to the whole event without getting into a lengthy discussion so let us just say that there was much to see with a few duds. A few that stick in my memory were Azerbaijan, Ireland, Japan and Canada.

Japanese Pavillion

The ones who seemed to be having difficulty with their spaces were the likes of Uruguay and Venezuela. Uruguay appeared to have a collapsed roof, the reason for which I can only guess, and could be that a heavy object suspended from above or the huge storm the previous evening a few minutes after our plane landed in Venice, might have contributed to its shutdown. Egypt was also listed as closed, but it seemed to have recovered by the time we got around to it, showing a video story which was mysteriously left unresolved by the time it ended.
Rina Banerjee at the Arsenale
The two different locations of the Biennale as usual and the myriad associated ‘Collateral Events’ in beautiful ‘pallazi’ made us really hustle during four days of intense walking. On our first day at the Giardini, as we made our way out at closing time a huge storm blew in and mercifully a largish tavern in front of the exit accommodated what seemed like a few hundred visitors, squeezed in like sardines, for an hour while we downed our ‘spitzers’ and the storm raged and finally ended into bright sunshine.

Marisol in Venice

On our last day we tried very hard to find the Scottish pavilion located in a remote church. We got there just before it closed and saw the video which had received some curious reviews. ‘Not my cup of tea’ I thought to myself as it had the story of Pinnochio on a loop in a fantasy setting. Nicely done but not worth the effort to go and find it! The minor silver lining was that nearby and quite by accident we discovered the Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi where our friend Luca Curci (Itsliquid/Bari) has curated his exhibitions during the Biennale season.

All in all a very nice and interesting Biennale and enjoyable in the company of our friends Maximiliano and Maria Jesus, who know a thing or two about Venice.
The full set of photos from Venice Biennale 2017

Some pics of me in Venice (photos by Marisol Cavia)

Monday, 26 June 2017

Camino de Santiago - 2017

In English and Spanish 
En Español un poco mas adelante

Full set of photos from the Camino 2017

I was not thinking of writing a post to describe the latest excursion to continue our yearly progress along the Camino de Santiago, since we have now settled into a routine for organising and going along from day to day. The group of pilgrims is the same and the basic scenery, problems and experiences are more of the same. However a few friends have asked basically the same questions and wondered why I have not communicated this year. So I have put together a brief one off post.

This year we tackled the part of the Camino from Belorado (where we finished last year) up to a few kilometers before Sahagun at Terradillos de los Templarios (what a name!), the reason being that the last leg would have added up to 40 Kms if we had wanted to finish in Sahagun itself and that was about 10 Kms too many for most of us.

Montse, our travel expert and Ione her very suitable assistant had spent an entire day planning the overnight stays and we had advanced reservations for nine people in specific hostels or albergues along the route, and I watched for a while, when they did this.

They calculated for each day, more or less, where they thought we would get to with a rough estimate of the group's walking abilities. Ours were around 25 to 30 KMs max. Then on a good map they found a place at around that distance and found all 'Hostals' or 'Albergues' in the area on Google. Then they chose one or two, which looked promising, called the phone numbers and asked for availability and reserved if the price was right. Most of the hostels reserve and you pay when you arrive. Which means in many cases you have to call again a day or two in advance to ensure that the reservation is confirmed and that they know that you are already on the camino and confirm the time when you expect to arrive etc. It was time consuming but in the end worth every ounce of effort, especially when you find that your bed awaits when you arrive. Most importantly if you are using the mochila (rucksack) taxi then you know where your mochila should be delivered.
I used the mochila taxi throughout this time for various reasons. 1 it was cheap, 2 it allowed me to have a bit more flexibility with contents of my bag, and 3 it made walking (specially uphill) easier, which I found quite difficult the previous year.                       

All that worked very well. We typically started at 7am and generally arrived by 1.30 or 2pm. Then we had showers and a long lunch, followed by a siesta, a small walk around the town, dinner and to bed.
We started by taking the bus route from Laredo to our starting point of Belorado. The first day was a short walk to our first night’s stay because we did not start the walking until about 3pm after the long bus trip. After that we consistently walked 25 or more kilometers every day.                     

We had good weather except for a 30-minute downpour, which caught us in a very muddy part of the camino. My walking boots turned into muddy boats and luckily soon after the rain subsided we managed to find a bar, which had facilities for washing muddy shoes!

The Camino was just as delightful as other years and the fitness, plenty of meditative walking not to mention the customary eating and drinking followed by hours of conversation with other pilgrims made for another great outing.

However there were a few difficult moments along the way. The section of the Camino from Belorado to Burgos was very pilgrim non-friendly.  At one of the overnight stops at Orbaneja de Riopico we stayed at a small hostal, but we discovered the next morning that in the small town no bars opened until 10am! So our 7am start meant that we could find no breakfast until we were in Burgos about 3 hours later. This was a big deal for some in our group who typically needed a good strong coffee to wake up and get going.

Another annoyance for me was noise. Sharing rooms with several beds invariably leads to having to learn how to deal with this and I found this disturbed sleep somewhat and that invariably led to having to walk while not fully rested. Fortunately for my years I don’t need that much sleep and earplugs are the obvious answer. The other source of noise pollution that I sought to avoid as much as possible was the banter at high pitch of a group of people walking together. In this case keeping a few meters ahead or behind the group with my meditation exercises was the answer. I also had at my disposal a phone full of music and its easy manipulation through my Pebble watch.
Yet another difficulty was learning how to keep up with much younger fellow pilgrims while walking uphill. And here I discovered this year how to use breathing as an aid to make the extra effort.

There were also a few niggly ailments and the usual foot blisters among our group, but nothing much to write home about. Most of these are best left to the memories of those who suffered them. Fortunately for me I was once again spared most of these, through using good footwear and diligently applying non friction creams and other foot care.

On the last day of our walk with the end in sight we nearly missed a bus that was expected to take us from our finishing point at Terradillos de los Templarios to Sahagun, 12 Kms away. However we found out during the walk that there was only one bus that day and it passed our end point at exactly 1 pm. Given the length of our walk that day we estimated that we would arrive sometime after one. As our destination approached and we began to walk faster and faster, it became clear that unless the bus was delayed, we would be only just making the bus stop at one pm. In the end we arrived just a minute before the bus pulled into view and finished our journey comfortably.

Now we just have another 250 Kms to complete the entire camino.
From Terradillos de los Templarios to Sarria.
Roll on 2018.
Buen Camino.

 No pensaba escribir esta vez nada sobre el tramo de Camino de Santiago que hemos hecho hace una semana para continuar nuestro ritual anual, porque en nuestro grupo de peregrinos hemos ya conseguido una rutina para organizar el proceso diario y mas o menos es la continuación de la experiencia y no hay mucho nuevo que contar.  Pero algunos amigos me han preguntado porque no he escrito algo, y también varias preguntas sobre como hemos logrado alguno o otro detalle.  Así que aquí tengo un breve descripción de la excursión.

Este año hemos andado la parte del Camino que empieza en Belorado (donde terminamos el año pasado) hasta Terradillos de los Templarios, unos doce kilómetros antes de Sahagun. Ya el ultimo tramo tenia 28 kms y andar 12 kms mas hasta Sahagun era mucho para algunos de nosotros.

Montse, nuestra agente de viajes y Ione una asistente muy hábil pasaron un día entero planificando las estancias en el camino y el grupo tenia reservaciones confirmadas en hostales o albergues para todas las noches. Tuve la oportunidad de observar como ellas hacían esto.

Primero calculaban para cada día donde el grupo podía llegar con nuestras capacidades de andar (unos 25 o 30 kms cada día). Después con Google buscaban todos los hostales disponibles en la localidad seleccionada. Llamaban por teléfono a varios y buscaban alojamiento para el grupo, y si el precio era aceptable lo reservaban. Casi todos los hostales y algunos albergues reservan, y uno puede pagar cuando llega. Pero es necesario llamar un par de días antes para que sepan que estamos en camino y confirmar la reservación, la hora de llegada etc. Era mucho trabajo pero valía la pena para tener la cama disponible cuando llegábamos después de varias horas de andar. Aun mas importante era tener una dirección para usar el ‘mochila taxi’.

Este año utilicé el ‘mochila taxi’ todos los días porque 1- era bastante económico, 2- me permitía mas contenido en la mochila y 3- hacia mas fácil la caminata especialmente las subidas que me fueron difíciles el año anterior.

Todo funciono bastante bien. Salíamos todos los días a las 7 y en la mayoría de los casos llegábamos a las 2 de la tarde. Luego nos duchábamos y seguido de una larga comida, siesta, una pequeña excursión para explorar el pueblo, cena y a dormir. Muchos de los hostales tenían horario de apagar las luces bastante temprano.

Empezamos con un viaje de varios autobuses desde Laredo hasta nuestro punto de partida en Belorado. Ya eran casi las tres cuando empezamos el camino del primer día, un tramo de doce kilómetros hasta nuestro hostal para esa noche. Después todos los días hicimos entre 25 y 30 kms.

En general tuvimos suerte con el tiempo, aparte de una media hora cuando llovió torrencialmente en un tramo con mucho barro. Mis botas parecían como barcos de barro pero afortunadamente un poco mas tarde nos encontramos un bar donde podíamos lavar nuestras botas.

 El Camino estaba bonito y encantador tanto como otro años y el ejercicio, la meditación, y por supuesto la comida y bebida seguido por horas de sobremesa y conversación con otros peregrinos resulto otra vez en esta excusión muy agradable.

Naturalmente había momentos difíciles como hay de esperar. Por ejemplo la sección de Camino desde Belorado a Burgos carecía de muchos servicios para peregrinos. Teníamos una parada en el pueblo de Orbaneja de Riopico y era complicado encontrar algo para desayunar cuando empezamos el día siguiente a las 7am en punto. Andamos tres horas hasta Burgos para encontrar un bar abierto donde podíamos tomar un café, requisito fundamental de algunos de nuestro grupo para despertar y empezar a andar.

Otra molestia para mí era el ruido. Compartiendo habitaciones con varias camas invariablemente conduce a tener que aprender a lidiar con este sueño algo perturbado y invariablemente tener que caminar no totalmente descansado. Afortunadamente para mis años no necesito tanto sueño y tapones para los oídos son la respuesta obvia.

La otra fuente de contaminación acústica que traté de evitar en la medida de lo posible fue el tono de hablar alto de un grupo de personas caminando juntos. En este caso, la respuesta era mantenerse unos metros adelante o detrás del grupo con mis ejercicios de meditación. También tenía a mi disposición un teléfono lleno de música y su fácil manipulación a través de mi reloj de Pebble.

Otra dificultad era aprender a mantenerse en ritmo con los compañeros más jóvenes mientras caminaban cuesta arriba. Y aquí he descubierto este año cómo usar la respiración como una ayuda para hacer el esfuerzo adicional.

También había unas cuantas molestias y las ampollas habitual de pie en nuestro grupo, pero no hay mucho que destacar. La mayoría son mejor dejados a los recuerdos de aquellos que los sufrieron. Afortunadamente para mí, una vez más no las sufri, a través de usar buen calzado y aplicar con diligencia cremas y otros cuidados de los pies.

En el último día de nuestro paseo, con el final en vista, casi nos perdimos un autobús que nos llevaría desde nuestro punto final en Terradillos de los Templarios a Sahagún, unos12 Kms. Sin embargo, nos enteramos durante el paseo que sólo había un autobús ese día a la una de la tarde. Dado lo largo de nuestra caminata ese día estimamos que llegaríamos algún tiempo después de la una. A medida que nuestro destino se acercaba empezamos a caminar más y más rápido, quedó claro que a menos que el autobús se retrasara, estaríamos llegando a la parada del autobús muy justos. Al final llegamos un minuto antes de que el autobús apareció y terminó nuestro viaje cómodamente.

Ahora solo nos faltan 250 kms para terminar todo el Camino

Desde Terradillos de los Templarios hasta Sarria.
Seguiremos en 2018.
Buen Camino.
Todas las fotos desde Camino 2017