Fundraising for this challenge has ended so we're no longer accepting donations. Thanks to everyone who supported this challenge.
Total raised so far£0.00
Total plus Gift Aid: £0.00
Raised offline: £0.00
[p][br][/p][p][i]n.b. - Daily updates at the foot of this story page[/i][/p][p][br][/p][p]“Sorry to inform you Mr Caine, you have stomach cancer”. That’s how 1999 started for me.[/p][p]Happily the year ended a lot better than it started. By November I was back at work and clear of cancer. Well, to be precise, that was only officially confirmed in 2009 after 10 years of tracking and check-ups.[/p][p]That’s the short version.[/p][p]In between I received the most thorough and carefully planned course of surgery and chemotherapy treatment in the Oesophago-Gastric Cancer Unit at the Newcastle RVI. Under the leadership of Professor Mike Griffin the unit has become the largest such specialist clinic in Europe and achieves successful outcomes for patients that rank amongst the best in the world. Even though Mike has recently retired, his team of experts on Ward 36 continue to research the causes and treatment of oesophageal and gastric cancers in order to further raise their success rates and help people like me [ & perhaps you ?][/p][p]I shall forever be grateful to those wonderful people who took care of me in 1999. Without their expertise I would never have met any of my 6 grandchildren and I wouldn’t be enjoying my active life today.[/p][p][b][i]So after 20 years I would like to say the biggest “thank you” I can.[/i][/b][/p][p][b][i]In September & October I plan to hike 500 miles from France across Northern Spain on the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrim route and I invite you to sponsor me along the way. I'm going to be accompanied all the way by 3 very good friends-- Olympic long distance medallists Brendan Foster and Ian Stewart and long time work colleague and friend, rugby player -- Eric Wilkins. Joining us for the first 100 miles is another pal Andrew Weaver who's helping because one of his friends benefited from Ward 36 skills too. There'll be no slacking with those guys around. We're all motivated ![/i][/b][/p][p][b][i] If you are one of the hundreds of ward 36 survivors out there, my invitation to you is to find 10 people who are happy that you’re still alive and ask them for £10 each to aid that important research. If 500 of us cancer survivors can raise £100 each that would be a starter of £50,000. Remember, we are the lucky ones.[/i][/b][/p][p]Of course, if you’ve never experienced the above disease I still invite you to support the project with any donation you can manage ---- look on it as an insurance investment !!![/p][p]If you choose to use the “Donate” button on this web page please make sure you also click the “Gift Aid” button at the end of the process if you can. This allows the charity to claim the tax and further boost your donation by some 25%.[/p][p]The umbrella charity is the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity. They will receive the donations and ensure every penny goes to the correct research fund.[/p][p]If you want to pay by cheque please make payable to “Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity” but make sure to write [b]Oesophagoose fund[/b] on the back of the cheque and mail to [/p][p]Charitable Funds Office[/p][p]Peacock Hall[/p][p]R.V.I.[/p][p]Queen Victoria Rd[/p][p]Newcastle upon Tyne[/p][p]NE1 4LP[/p][p]I plan to report updates and pictures in due course, so please revisit later in the year – Sept 11th to Oct 14th is the schedule. Many, many thanks for your support. John[/p][p]DAY 34[/p][p]Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostela 12KM[/p][p]Not sure what to say, or what order to put it in. [/p][p]We have eaten the elephant one bite at a time, and we haven't choked. The last bit of the trunk was divided in four and washed down with a glass of Estrella Galicia beer at noon today after an appalling morning of walking. [/p][p]It was raining when we woke, still raining when we left and rained steadily for the first hour. Convention demands 2 stamps per day during the last 100km, so an obligatory coffee stop at something which seemed to double as a canteen for a trackside chipboard factory secured our last evidence of marching, then back out we went into the rain. There followed a lull for 30 mins and then torrential downpour for the very last half hour. Any semblance of being waterproof just disappeared in cascades of surface water on the city streets.[/p][p]We squelched into the vast square in front of the Cathedral of Santiago as the rain ceased and the sun made a celebrity appearance. Photos hurriedly taken we dashed to the Pilgrims office for our Compostelas and then to the hotel where we've finally relaxed, and Bren has gone into training for a "bloody good sit down"[/p][p]Over the last 5 weeks we've shared our efforts and laughs with each other and with Andrew Weaver, who did sterling work over the Pyrenees and through Pamplona (dodging El Toro) to Longrono when he had to return to the real world and work. I'm very sure he'll return with "Mrs Flapjack".[/p][p]Andrew was with us when Aussie athletics coach Nic Bideau did a long day too. Much later, up in the mountains my son Andy parachuted himself in for a real baptism of fire by walking two really long and tough hot days before also having to return to the real world. [/p][p]We've walked in the footsteps of Emperor Napoleon, King Charlemagne, Ernest Hemingway, possibly stood on the same spot as Antoni Gaudi in Astorga. We trod the same landscape as unnamed & unrecorded prehistoric ancestors, Roman legions with their generals, countless local Spanish regional "kings", equally countless leaders of almost 700 years of invading Moors, THE national hero of Spain - El Cid who began the remorseless fightback and eventual removal of the Moors from Spanish soil. And of course, if the legends are true, we have stood on ground where Saint James himself walked and preached and was finally buried. [/p][p]Much more tangible however is the evidence of the history of the route itself. The snaking westbound trail, in many places with outcropping rocks polished to a treacherous shine by the feet of millions of pilgrims over more than a thousand years. [/p][p] Churches and monastic orders constructed buildings to serve the needs of pilgrims in their endeavour to reach Santiago and pray over his holy remains. Surprisingly, many of these structures remain. Some, in ruins, some in museum stasis and some still functional and in use. However, having walked 500 miles with friends and had a memorable adventure in order to raise funds for a cause close to my heart, I cannot get my head around the fact that all those pilgrims over the centuries, who didn't have communications, waterproofs or boots or backpacks or advance bookings, etc - when they'd achieved their ambition and completed their pilgrimage, - simply had to turn round and walk home - and I mean home. The network of routes to Santiago covers the whole of Europe. There were 3 great pilgrimages for medieval Christians- Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. Everyone one of them was a huge risk. Disease, starvation, robbery and murder were all very real threats. The monastery at the top of the Saint Bernard pass in the Alps would send out monks with the legendary St Bernard rescue dogs to find marooned pilgrims trying to cross the mountains on their way to Rome or Jerusalem. Pilgrimages were a serious business in the middle ages! [/p][p]Thankfully the risks have been reduced, but they're still around as the modern memorials and shrines along our route bear witness. Only yesterday we reconnected with Dutch pilgrim Henk who'd just visited the spot on the trail where his brother died two years ago only 11/2 days short of Santiago. He was upbeat and smiling. Today he'll share the thrill we felt completing our march.[/p][p]It's a broad generalisation but it strikes me that people doing the Camino in groups are on an adventure, not necessarily without religious or spiritual overtones, but people doing it alone are usually on some mission. Life crises of one kind or another which might need weeks of thinking or maybe bouncing off total strangers with no preconceptions or agenda, we've come across several examples. Arthur Lowe the artist we met, resolved his issues on the Camino and says he's never been happier. [/p][p]One of the unsung heroes of the Camino is the old village priest from O'Cebreiro: Don Elias Valina Sampedro: who's idea it was to use the Fletcha Amarilla (yellow arrow) to mark the route in the 1960s. Beautifully simple and effective, and adopted right across Spain and now as synonymous with the Camino as the scallop shell symbol of St James. [/p][p]Obviously, the religious foundations of the entire concept are inescapable, but the variety and breadth of the places of worship is breath-taking. The opulence of the great Cathedrals juxtaposed by the stark simplicity of some of the humble rural churches and chapels, all fundamentally doing the same job and serving the same purpose. [/p][p]It's been a wonderful, worthwhile journey and thanks to everyone for supporting and sharing our experiences. [/p][p]A couple of little gems picked up on the way.[/p][p]An old Belgian gent of 80+ years said he was doing it because he wanted to die with memories not dreams[/p][p]And[/p][p]An Irish woman said for her, the Camino was about the journey not the destination. [/p][p]Think I'll drink to both those sentiments[/p][p] [/p][p]Eric[/p][p] [/p][p]Ian[/p][p] [/p][p]Bren[/p][p] [/p][p]John[/p][p][br][/p][p][br][/p][p][br][/p][p]DAY 33[/p][p]Arzua to Lavacolla 29km[/p][p]We weren't scheduled to walk this far today but it was such a dismal day and because tomorrow's forecast is no better, we decided to bash on and do an extra 6km to shorten tomorrow's final march into Santiago. We were dropped at our start point at precisely 9am and immediately got caught in the "Poncho'd" road train. In places it was actually quite difficult to overtake. After the first batch of cafés around 5km things calmed down a little with many walkers piling in to have their morning shot. [/p][p]We caught and talked briefly with 2 of 3 young Spanish girls we met a couple of days ago (one is now crocked ) Gabrielle explained they all live and work in London where they've created their own high fashion brand - Luna del Pinal.[/p][p]It's a start-up company only in its 3rd year and I'm sure lots of you will Google it and perhaps explain if it’s any good!![/p][p] Beyond our remit to comment on high fashion perhaps.[/p][p]BUT - they did compliment me on my vibrant red rain jacket, especially the way I was wearing it with a sort of jaunty abandon, set off by the tousled, white bearded Wurzzle Gummidge look![/p][p]Lunch was another bowl of piping hot cabbage and bean broth at a roadside café, where Catherine and Heather our new, retired police officer acquaintances from yesterday caught up and joined us for the next 4 or 5km to their stopping point. Bren and I were so successful in the Harry Havachat stakes that the two ladies walked half a mile clean past their hotel while we yacked away. Now that's professional "Havachatting"[/p][p]The last few kms were a quiet grind. Most pilgrims having cleared off to their baths and beers while we trudged on in mud and puddles to arrive in Lavacolla, the last stopping point for medieval pilgrims where traditionally they'd bathe and launder their stinking gear before entering the city and Saint Iago's cathedral. Well nothing's changed there over the centuries![/p][p]There's a bit of controlled excitement in the squad l think. If the rain hadn't taken the edge off the day think it might have been a bit more palpable, but the elephant has finally shown the white flag and tomorrow the tip of the trunk will go down like 4 bites of freshly boiled octopus. [/p][p]PS Don’t knock it till you've tried it. Walking past a pulperia yesterday in Melide we watched through the open window as the cook sliced up a freshly boiled monster of the deep. [/p][p]He gave us four pieces to try - absolutely delicious and not at all like the defrosted rubber chews we get in Britain. [/p][p]Anyway, I digress. Elephant is on the menu for the last time tomorrow[/p][p]Not many pics today - too miserable to get the camera out xx[/p][p]DAY 32[/p][p]Palas de Rei to Arzua 29km[/p][p]Seems like all the action was off the Camino this morning. [/p][p]Typhoon in Japan screwing up the rugby world cup & then Eliud Kipchoge running inside 2 hours for the marathon in Vienna. [/p][p]We watched the latter in parts on Bren's iPhone and caught all the critical action. Amazing. [/p][p]Yesterday morning in Portomarin, Eric laid his walking sticks on top of his baggage whilst having breakfast. When it came to leaving time our bags had all been collected and shipped to our next hotel - including Eric's sticks. No big deal, it wasn't a mountainous section and they were waiting for him. However, we all commented on how much faster he was yesterday, so he's packed them and is flying. The Teflon kid - - non-stick!![/p][p]Early coffee stop was in the village of Casanova, which of course meant the obligatory photos next to the road sign. We all sent them to our partners. Pics and responses later.[/p][p]15km (3hrs ) later our lunch stop hove into view at the town of Melide.[/p][p]Quite possibly the best roadside lunch we've enjoyed. Pickled partridge salad with chestnuts, prunes and asparagus plus a plateful each of grilled scallops. What a treat.[/p][p]Bashing on we came across two British ladies, who are both retired police officers. It was an interesting hour or more of talking and walking, and it helped the long afternoon miles roll by.[/p][p]We had a beer with them while waiting for our pick-up ride to our lodgings tonight which is in an extremely rural location some 10kms off piste.[/p][p]We've enjoyed amazing weather for our whole journey, but the forecast for the last 2 days is dreadful and as I'm writing this I can hear thunder rumbling!!!! [/p][p]We learned a new mantra yesterday afternoon from 6 young Polish pilgrims visiting our hotel.[/p][p]"No vino! - - no Camino." [/p][p]So, time to join the lads.[/p][p]PS about 36 km (22m) left to go[/p][p]DAY 31[/p][p]Portomarin to Palas de Rei 25km[/p][p]We're definitely in a pattern of fine autumn weather. Same dense cold fog until we'd climbed away from the valley, followed by crystal clear calm sunshine day. The high mountains of Galicia are well behind us now and are a faint grey lumpy line on the easterly horizon. We're firmly entrenched in rolling dairy meadow farmland with lots of woodland and small villages. Apparently, the economy of our destination town of Palas de Rei is driven by dairy products. [/p][p]Today we met a group of four from Shrewsbury and one of the couples run an exotic animals business. They explained, anything not indigenous to the UK can be classified as "exotic". Amongst the favourites are snakes, scorpions and giant millipedes etc. Nice![/p][p]One of the phenomena of the Camino is the lengths that Japanese walkers, in particular, go to in order to avoid any exposure to sunlight or air pollution.[/p][p]Several of the more extreme cover-ups leave them akin to spider man. Lycra body suits, masks, gloves hats & leggings are de-riguer, quite why anyone needs a pollution mask in rural Spain is beyond us. [/p][p]Today I surreptitiously captured a beaut. Pretending to photograph Bren I captured "Hannibal Lecter" overtaking him. Have a zoom look at the pic.!![/p][p] Tonight's lodging is a boutique rural hotel and is very comfortable. [/p][p]Now I know this is sending out the wrong message for a charity fundraising effort BUT shortly after checking in I get a call from Bren.[/p][p]" Cainey. What's your bathroom like? " he asks.[/p][p] I nonchalantly reply "I've got a Jacuzzi"[/p][p]" No way, but I've got an Olympic swimming pool in mine" he says.[/p][p]Off I go to inspect.[/p][p]Sure enough he's got a rectangular plunge pool. You know, the kind where you invite 3 or 4 "Special Friends" round for a party and play "Hunt the Soap"[/p][p]Anyway, I return to my Jacuzzi. [/p][p]Fill it up[/p][p]Pop in a generous dollop of bath gel.[/p][p]Luxuriously climb in, sit down and switch on.[/p][p]NOWT, NOTHING. ZERO - BLOODY ZIP.[/p][p]It doesn't work.[/p][p] I climb out wander round trying every switch in sight then truculently get back in. The bath gel is that damn eco-friendly stuff that loses its bubbles in 90 seconds. So now my most luxurious experience of the whole Camino is reduced to me being stared at by 3 pairs of useless jacuzzi jets.[/p][p]I had a quiet ****.[/p][p]Anyway, I think tonight I'm gonna pen a tragic ballad along the lines of- - - "I've got a Jacuzzi with no Uzzi."[/p][p]Supplementary report today.[/p][p]Just been advised during dinner.[/p][p]When Ian and Eric were having their post trek showers/baths this afternoon the hot water went cold and then finally reduced to a trickle. The hydraulics engineer at the Portomarin reservoir has been on local TV reporting a 100mm (4") drop in water level, attributed to excessive water use in room 6 at our hotel around 4pm.[/p][p]Bren was filling his luxury plunge pool at that very moment!!![/p][p]DAY 30 [/p][p]Sarria to Portomarin 23km[/p][p]Weather report first. Galicia sits right in the top North West corner of Spain. The Atlantic batters it's western shores and the Bay of Biscay bounds it to the north. So, the weather is notoriously changeable. We've been lucky in the extreme so far. This morning started very cold and foggy for about 4 hours then the sun eventually broke through. The forecast says we're gonna get wet on the last 2 days.[/p][p]Which brings me to our progress. Today we passed the "100km to go" marker, meaning we're 7/8ths of the way through our marathon and definitely onto the last part of eating the elephant. The tail, rear end, body, front legs, & flappy lugs have all been successfully nibbled away. [/p][p]Bren’s been finessing his lunch pack "snaffling". He'll only accept quince jelly now if it's served with a runcible spoon! However, it was so cold this morning that 3 of us passed on the foraged breakfast -lunch and went for the traditional Galician winter warmer of Caldo Gallego. So, while BF downed his coffee & homemade double decker club sarnie, we enjoyed a reinforcing bowl of hot cabbage greens and bean broth made with a ham bones stock. Doesn't sound too clever but believe me, with a basket of crusty bread it hit the spot.[/p][p]I mentioned yesterday the guide book advice about the influx of new walkers on the track. How right it was![/p][p]The early morning climb out of Sarria was a veritable road train, plus an extra influx of cyclists too and it all got a bit busy. The cafés and bars were all doing good trade as we passed by, so I suppose every cloud has a silver lining. The Camino is seriously contributing to the local economy, it's also noticeable how the regional government of Galicia in turn invest heavily in the Camino infrastructure with well-maintained tracks and sign posting. An unexpected downside of the extra walkers is it gets more difficult to find a space to have an on the hoof pee.![/p][p]Another feature to start appearing on the landscape are the Galician horreas. They are tall narrow very well-ventilated storage structures designed for air drying & keeping racks of maize corn cobs through the winter. Critical to their design is the exaggerated overhanging platform on which they stand above ground. This is to prevent rats and mice eating them before the owner can. Some are extremely decorative and stylish.[/p][p]Our resting place tonight is Portomarin a very smart and pristine village sitting high up above the valley floor and home to a C12th fortified monolithic shaped church. The reason everything is so smart is that in 1960 the major buildings, including the church, all sitting next to the river, down in the valley below, were all dismantled and rebuilt 2 or 3 hundred feet higher up while the valley was flooded by the construction of a massive dam miles downriver. Every autumn the water level in the reservoir is at it lowest and the old roman bridge reappears from the murky depths. [/p][p]Our receptionist explained there are still a few old people alive in the village who are resentful of the Franco dictatorship for evicting them and drowning their town along with their family histories. [/p][p]Of course, a new higher-level bridge had to be built which now provides a quite spectacular elevated entrance to the new town of Portomarin. [/p][p]DAY 29[/p][p]Triacastela to Sarria 19km[/p][p]For all intents and purposes today could have been a walk in the countryside of the Lake District. Weather very sunny, not too hot and a few fluffy clouds. The landscape was rolling and very green, given over mostly to dairy farming, including some very beautiful long horn cows which I've not seen before. We had to negotiate lots of woodland lane type paths as we made our way gently downhill most of the day. First stop of interest was at a small art gallery in the tiny hamlet of A Balsa. The artist is an English man from Oxfordshire who in his earlier days had been a more than useful cross country and road runner when he worked on the Thames Valley Police force. He couldn't believe it; a couple of his youthful heroes were here in his rural retreat on the Camino. Best of all his name is Arthur Lowe same as the actor - a.k.a. Capt Mainwaring in Dad's Army.[/p][p]So today, "Dad's Army" met "Dad's Army" - it all happens on the Camino.[/p][p] He explained briefly how circumstance in his life and walking the Camino in 2006 had brought about the life changing decision to commit to painting in such a remote location. The building had been a cow byre originally and he'd himself converted it to home down below in the cattle quarters and gallery upstairs where the hay and feed would have been stored.[/p][p]While we waited, he painted a tiny water colour on Bren's Camino passport as a progress stamp. A unique memento. [/p][p]Further on we came to a favourite landmark on the journey - a water font and pool with large scallop shell sculpture at the back which provides great photo opportunities. [/p][p]Meandering on we enjoyed a brief lunch stop and didn't enjoy the worst empenada in the whole of Spain. Reckon the pastry was supplied in containers from Redimix Concrete. (sorry - Empenada is a shallow savoury pie).][/p][p]A little later we heard raucous barking getting closer behind us. Turned out to be a German couple on bikes and Bobby their bearded collie who ran about shouting all the time. He was totally joyfull and threatless, but noisy. Bren wasn't convinced. Anyway, on the trails he was fine but on the road sections he jumped into the trailer the guy was towing behind his bike, was zipped up and shut up while he was transported at speed to the next off-road section when he could leap out and run around again.[/p][p]Definitely not as irritating as electric motor mountain bikers. I mean "Come on" - - - sitting there on their bum twisting their wrist to whizz up hills… may as well give out Compostela certificates to people doing the Camino in a car. [/p][p]Anyway, we're here in Sarria and tomorrow we enter the last 100km. We can smell the finish. [/p][p]Sarria is the shortest distance to Santiago where people can walk and qualify for a certificate, so we have been warned there will be extra walkers from tomorrow especially as two other routes join up with us for the last 100 kms.[/p][p]Mustn't get grumpy - mustn't get grumpy - mustn't get grumpy[/p][p]DAY 28[/p][p]O'Cebreiro to Triacastela 21 km[/p][p]Weather-wise a strange day.[/p][p]We started at 4250 ft and initially climbed gradually to 4400ft then ended up down in the next valley at 2200 ft above sea level. So, you can see the direction of travel was down. This had an influence on our weather. [/p][p]Despite a clear cold night at altitude[/p][p]it wasn't too cold when we set out, but very quickly we walked into low cloud which simply means wet mist or what the Irish would call a "soft day". Not what we signed up for. [/p][p]After a couple of hours of mizzle, we started descending and rapidly got below the cloud base to have a comfortable end to the day. That's the boring weather report out of the way and reflected a very rare day without sunshine. Actually, quite refreshing.[/p][p]But back to the mountain top and O'Cebreiro. This fascinating village of well-maintained thatched medieval round houses is also home to a beautifully simple and unaltered C9th church which has been ministering to pilgrims heading west to Santiago for over a thousand years. It is also the site of a miracle in the 13 century which elicited an approving glance from an even older statue of the Virgin Mary. Consequently, the church itself is a site of great religious importance. [/p][p]Your scribe had left breakfast early to take pictures of the dawn breaking and the mist filled valleys to the north. Galicia isn't disappointing us, it's a glorious part of the world. On returning, imagine my surprise to find Ian insisting Bren should visit the interior of this exquisite little church. (After 27 days a little crack is opening in his horny carapace !!!)[/p][p]I'm lacking any kind of religious conviction, but I have to confess this little ancient building is indeed a very special place. Looking at the veritable bonfire of lit candles it clearly means a lot to others too.[/p][p]The dawn images drew a crowd as well, so after feasting on the mystery of God and miracles, followed by the vastness of natural wonder we set off a little later than planned. Not sure about the longevity of the inner calm we felt.[/p][p]The trek was relatively uneventful, apart from getting caught up in the rural milk run. At lunch break Bren made an important discovery. He's been carrying a fold out cushioned seat pad all this time. He'd forgotten he had it - I suppose it makes a change to forgetting he's left it.[/p][p]We're having a sweep on how long before it's gone. [/p][p]The last couple of miles into Triacastela were particularly nice, down a deep country lane lined with overhanging Sweet Chestnut trees, edible chestnuts were everywhere beneath our boots.[/p][p]Just as we arrived the mist closed in again and it's been raining softly all afternoon and evening. [/p][p]Only one thing to do (after shower and laundry)- hit the bar![/p][p]Met some really interesting people. John from Lancashire by way of Victoria, Canada, and his wife Eva from Panama originally. Eva fell a couple of days ago, hurting her hip and picking up a black eye. They're now bussing the hilly bits and walking the flatter portions.[/p][p] Henk from Tilburg in Netherlands who is on a particularly poignant mission. His brother died 2 years ago doing the Camino, only one day away from Santiago. He's planning to visit the spot but doesn't know how he's going to react.[/p][p]And this guy was a professional soldier working with the UN forces in what used to be Yugoslavia trying to prevent the Slavs, Serbs, Croats and Bosnians from slaughtering each other when the lid came off the pressure cooker that was the old communist regime. [/p][p] Puts my sore legs into perspective. [/p][p]Anyway, I'm glad to report we've got that elephant seriously worried now. The " one bite at a time" strategy is definitely working. We've just taken a chunk out of his left lug!!![/p][p]Not much left now. By next Wednesday he'll just be a discreet burp.[/p][p]DAY 27[/p][p]Villafranca del Bierzo to O'Cebreiro 29km[/p][p]A truly beautiful and brutal day all at the same time[/p][p]I think if Andy had stayed for this day it might have finished him completely after the last 2 days exertions. [/p][p]The front desk manager in our Villafranca hotel was marvellous. He was very tall and was a dead ringer for Basil Fawlty himself, down to the exaggerated arm waving, and fawning, dashing enthusiasm. Only difference was his genuine helpfulness and efficiency. [/p][p]The breakfast bar was very good indeed and provided ample opportunity for food "snaffling" a highly prized skill amongst serious hikers the world over. The objective is to prepare a packed lunch whilst eating breakfast. Most hotels don't even worry but a few try to police it and then the game hots up. Surprisingly, Eric is very skilful at this game of subterfuge often later producing goodies from his backpack that WE never saw being "snaffled". Bren simply goes for the most elaborate stacked sarnies he can wrap in a napkin - his latest weakness is quince jelly as a final condiment![/p][p] A clear and cold (7°c) start as we headed West out of the Bierzo basin and up the narrow valley of the Valcarce river. Very steep mountains on both sides offered alternative routes west but both eventually returned to the valley floor before the infamous 5 mile climb out of the end of the valley to today's destination. [/p][p]Knowing what was ahead we "passed" on the alternatives and meandered up the valley saving ourselves for the final assault on the Galician border. [/p][p]Our 11 o'clock coffee stop was pleasant as the sun eventually warmed the air and again, we headed up the valley. Almost 2 km later Bren realised he'd left his stick behind yet again. Aghhhh.[/p][p] 2km back, & 2km return to the same spot - best part of an hour. No chance, forget it, thank you. Mr Forgetful rides again. 20mins later, he's decided he can walk quicker without it anyway![/p][p]Meanwhile Eric and Ian ploughed on, heading for the lunch stop up the trail. Unknown to us as we admired the amazing motorway on stilts above us, Eric aka "Harry Havachat" had engaged in conversation with a young Aussie woman heading for the same staging point. By the time BF and I arrive Eric has invited Liz to join us for lunch. [/p][p]What a good decision. She proved to be great company, gave better than she got in the banter stakes and explained she was a lawyer back in Sydney specialising in crisis management. She needs to get her business card in front of Seb Coe at the IAAF and the BBC athletics department. They seem to be engulfed in scandal problems and every time someone opens their mouth their foot vanishes.[/p][p]Liz was staying over at the hotel and before leaving she explained her full name was Elizabeth Rex.[/p][p]How cool is that? She can sign off as Elizabeth R. Now I can think of some pretentious knobs in the UK who'd love that moniker & for an Aussie it's way better than Priscilla Queen of the Desert. [/p][p]So, with a heartening broth inside of us and recharged batteries we headed 2km up the valley for the final challenge. What a brute of a finish - 8km of relentless climbing and in places extremely steep and rough as hell underfoot. By now the temperature was high 20s and it rapidly became a silent slog.[/p][p]A local stable offers a horseback option taking weary or incapable pilgrims to the top. We met them on their return journey. Think they were either on remote control or Mogadon.[/p][p]We staggered over the top into the wonderful mountain top Celtic village of O'Cebreiro ( pronounced - Oh thay bray air oh - - go on, try saying it quickly !! ) some of the buildings are round and thatched, also every property is made from massive rocks, and at approx 4000ft everything is designed to resist foul winter weather. [/p][p]We are all truly knackered tonight. [/p][p]Late news. Reverential silence required please. [/p][p]Just received a donation on my Virgin money giving site from no other than Elizabeth R.[/p][p]I daren't go down on one knee - there's no one in my room to help me up. [/p][p]If you ever read this Maam, many thanks your donation is greatly appreciated - - - grovel grovel[/p][p][br][/p]
In memory of my Gran who was a patient too. I thought this would be better than spending £5 on myself.
Dec 9, 2019
Well done to the long distance hiking team. A great cause to support.
£30.00plus £7.50 Gift Aid
Dec 9, 2019
Many congratulations on completing your walk for this excellent cause. What an amazing challenge.
Best wishes from a fellow patient of Newcastle’s outstanding gastric-oesophageal unit- 7years and counting
£50.00plus £12.50 Gift Aid
Dec 9, 2019
£40.00plus £10.00 Gift Aid
Dec 7, 2019
The Gateshead Harriers 1960s - 70s Old Timers
Well done guys. A tough job well done.
£120.00plus £30.00 Gift Aid
Nov 28, 2019
Leon Wright ( survivor) & family
Well done your an inspiration
£100.00plus £25.00 Gift Aid
Nov 26, 2019
£25.00plus £6.25 Gift Aid
Nov 24, 2019
Well done to you . 10 years and counting for me.
£50.00plus £12.50 Gift Aid
Nov 22, 2019
The donation was raised at an afternoon tea event on 6 November 2019 supported by St Johns Methodist Church and friends, The proceeds have been split between your excellent achievement and St Johns Building Project A Warm Welcome