Preparations

Today I did this

This is the rucksack which will accompany me on my pilgrimage.

I’ve had it for about a year, so we are already good friends though it’s mostly come with me on bus journeys to other cities in Finland until now. More about the rucksack and what I’ll squeeze in /forgo another time …

At the end of 2017 – not long before Finland celebrated its 100th anniversary of independence – I became a Finnish citizen. English will always be my preferred language, of course, because I do have a love affair with words and so expressing myself in English will always be more natural for me. That said, I want other Peregrins on the way to Santiago de Compostela to know I’m Finnish and that although I might be speaking English Finnish (or Swedish) works too. I also want to be an ambassador for Finland, sharing some of the wonderful ways of thinking, doing and being as well as glimpses of the culture, which this, my adopted country, has given me.

Tonight I’ve also been studying maps!

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Posted in this & that, Finland, out and about, issues, art, peregrina, preparation | Leave a comment

Peregrina Preparations (of a different kind)

In twelve week’s time I will already be on my way to Santiago de Compostella – I’m both insanely excited and a bit anxious, and very much looking forward to it!

Preparations are going well.

I’ve been walking every day and doing at least one long distance walk (often two) each week. Soon I will start putting them together to consecutive days as stamina will be a key factor for me, I think.

I also know more or less what I’ll take with me. I’ll travel as light as I can. Many people suggest aiming for 10% of your body weight … but I’m not sure I’ll manage to go with only 5kg. That’s a big ask. But I might manage to keep it down to 6kg.

A lot of the time, however, my head feels a bit like this … there are so many unknowns, so many things to work out, and a few fears to conquer on the way too. It all takes the form of a huge tangle of questions and ponderings. Who? What? When? Where? How? … they are begging for answers and clarity.

Luckily I’m not the first ever to attempt this pilgrimage!

My friends Jolanta and Andreas (and Jolanta’s mama) have done this, and my dear friend Reija and her daughter did the Camino a few summers ago, and ever since then Reija has been pilgrimaging different routes. I love hearing about her adventures and I have a dream that one day we will do a pilgrimage together!

Another friend, Alan, (part of the #walk1000milesin2018 group) has just come back from his personal pilgrimage, and he kept a blog, Alan’s Camino which offers unique insights. Do check it out!

This morning I asked Alan (via good old fb) some of my more pressing questions

1. Toilets. Where does one go?

There are very few public toilets

(Which is what I feared)

but cafes and bars usually oblige if you ask nicely or buy something first. Albergues are far more obliging I’ve heard.

2. Accommodation. Did you always book ahead? (I expected just to turn up!)

We booked ahead most of the time. We didn’t want to, but because most people were doing it we found if we didn’t we’d get caught out! The Camino usually provided, but there was always the worry that we’d have to sleep outside, so we always booked ahead but only for the following night

In our Camino family one person did the booking as they would get discounts for so many bookings. We worked as a family and never let anyone fend for themselves, unless it was their choice.

3 WiFi and recharging devices

WiFi is available in most albergues. We only came across one that didn’t have WiFi. When the signal was poor I shared my data allowance as a personal hotspot

All albergues have plugs where you can charge phones etc, but sometimes there’s a rush for the plugs. Sometimes there were plugs next to the beds …

4. Theft

Most people on the Camino are honest.

There were more questions of course .. but it was good to get some real clarification on these, the most pressing ones.

The preparations continue …

Posted in Camino (Spain), questions on the way | 2 Comments

Peregrina Preparatio 7: Pargas- Åbo (Parainen-Turku)k

Distance 24km

Time 6 h 15 mins

Weather: Sunny, cooler in Parainen, and hot in Turku

Clothing: long trousers (cotton), T shirt, hiking boots

Companion: Tinka, my faithful companion

Problems: one small “blister” like rubbing formed on the side of the ball of my right foot because of sand in my socks; and distinct lack of places to fill up water bottle (for Tinka as it was hot and humid) as well as no public toilets … so I popped into two cafes en route

Today I followed this marker for most of the day. I’d never noticed it before …

The road to/from Parainen (Pargas in Swedish) is a busy one as it’s the gateway to a part of the Turku archipelago. Luckily the walking route follows the cycle path, and most of that is well away from the road (some on the old road, which is more or less disused nowadays).

After about an hour and a half we stopped at a tiny cafe attached to a petrol station so I could have a cup of coffee and use the toilet, and they filled Tinka’s water bowl for her. I was delighted that the coffee was cheaper if you used their porcelain mugs (or your own keep cup) …in other words a 50c surcharge for using the disposable kind …. I hope more coffee shops start to do this! and the short break was really welcome. Tinka and I sat on the steps of the cafe, watching workmen coming in for their (early) lunch.

Then off we set again. This time armed with a bag from my rucksack as I’d noticed an increase in litter and wanted to help tidy up! A lot is thrown from vehicles it seems and there was also a lot of huge bits of debris that had flown off of lorries, cars, bikes etc I couldn’t do anything about that obviously, but the cigarette packs and cups were easy to collect from the verges.

Neither of us liked the two bridges that connect Parainen to the mainland, and this, the bigger of the two bridges, had a very long approach too.

Pedestrians and Cyclists have a separate wooden platform on the side of the bridge, which was sturdy and fine, but the huge lorries zooming over the bridge (heading back to Turku) were a problem. They were noisy, threw up a lot of dust and made the bridge vibrate and shake terribly! I hope there aren’t too many of those experiences in Spain.

After the bridge we moved from the municipality of Parainen to that of Kaarina, though we were still a long way from Kaarina centre. This was my least favourite part of the journey …long, monotonous and too close to the road.

We stopped for a little break (roll and bananas for me, half a denta stick for Tinka) just at the bridge before Kaarina centre. This was Tinka’s favourite part of the journey, I think I continued to litter pick … while she tested the water. I was a bit fearful at one pint that she’d try to swim across the strait… she’s a good swimmer, so I wasn’t worried she’d drown, but was concerned she’d have got there before me as I’d have had to backtrack to get up onto the bridge) but luckily, although she’s obsessed with water, she is loath to let me wander off alone, so we negotiated the bridge together. (Fortunately this one was less scary/traumatic)

It soon after this, I got a fright.

We’d already walked 13 km …so by my reckoning had about 10km to go, but the next sign (on the road) said 13km! Yikes … turns out The sign for cars must have been if they went along the motorway and the remainder of our journey wasn’t much over 10km more!

The rest of our walk was relatively uneventful but in places it was quite pretty, and it was on the Kaarina stretch I found myself singing a made up song

I’m so happy, I’m singing this song

I’m so happy, walking along

Walking; walking by the side of the road,

Walking; walking by the side of the stream (fields),

Walking, not quite alone

But with best friend in the world!

Anyone cycling past or watching from their car must have thought me quite odd!!

A heavy rucksack on my back, a dog attached to my waist, a huge (by then) carrier bag bulging with litter in one hand and me singing out loud.

Is this joy of pilgrimage, I wonder?

We stopped at a famous Finnish hamburger chain (that shall remain nameless) and I left the bag of litter in their bin (most was coffee cups, lids, and fast food wrappers (not all from them!) apparently thrown from cars, so I didn’t feel too bad about using their bin, especially as I’d carried much of it for 10 km by this stage and my arms were aching) I used their toilet and they happily filled Tilda’s water bowl for us (as my water bottle was quite low) so after another short break we set off again.

By now the weather was much hotter and more humid and both of us were struggling a bit. We walked in the shade where we could, I took a bit of a risk with a short cut (that worked out, phew!)) and suddenly we were on familiar turf, 2-3 km from home, and a gentle down hill almost all the way!

We were both hot and bothered when we staggered in. A quick shower /long drink of cool water put things to right, and before we knew it it was time for dinner!

Posted in canine friends, Finland, peregrina, poetry, Turku, urban | 2 Comments

Reflections

Yes it’s a bit of a pun.

I’m spending the night on my friend’s’ boat, and tomorrow will walk him (about 22km) with Tinka, our bonus dog, a gorgeous golden retriever as my companion. Before coming on board we sat around enjoying the long, lazy summer nights.

I love this time of year!

Tomorrow’s walk isn’t a hike and isn’t really a pilgrimage either, more of a means to an end, with a plan B to get a local bus part of the way if it gets to be too much for me or Tinka, as it’s been really rather warm and dry fir the last few weeks here in Finland

Right now I’m lying here looking up into the sky at midnight, appreciating the white nights and simultaneously missing the stars.

Yep it’s that marvellous time of year again!

But I’m also looking ahead (in my mind) to September and the Camino. Wondering how it will be, how I will feel, how I will cope with the challenges along the way, and wondering what stories I’ll have to tell …

Posted in Finland, Finland, out and about, peregrina, rural, this & that, water | Leave a comment

Peregrina Preparatio 6 : Unst

I walked almost 30km today, yet without the kindness of an older couple from Unst I might well not have have managed to get to Hermaness national nature reserve! There’s a lesson to be learned from that – don’t be too proud to accept help, don’t be too rigid and set an unbreakable rule of “on foot only” because people can be angels in disguise.

Pilgrimage Uyeasound (hostel) to Hermaness nature reserve, and back to Haroldswick.

Distance walked 30km

Weather: Dry, cool and windy in places (though for Shetland it was actually very calm especially at sea)

Clothing: walking trousers and overtrousers, fleece and rain jacket, buff on head.

I set off on foot from Uyeasound at 7am this morning, treating my long hike as a kind of pilgrimage. My first stop was at Baltasound, a mere 2hours (8km away) because I wanted to post letters and cards from the most northerly post office in the U.K.! In the wee shop along from the post office there was a self service cafe … really self service, you put the kettle on and helped yourself to milk from the fridge. I bought a pie too and heated that in the microwave!

I was impressed they offered real cups, plates and cutlery. There was a fee if you chose to use plastic! Yay!

After my short break I started to walk towards Haroldswick which was another very long climb. It was then that I met some angels in disguise, an older couple (locals) who stopped to ask if I was going to Hermaness, and if so would I like a lift. It turned out they weren’t actually going there themselves, but had seen a young German man walking earlier and had offered him a lift, and then me! Such kindness!

They drove us not just to Burrafirth but right to the carpark of the national reserve (well out of their way!) What It was fantastic that they’d offered (and I’d accepted) as the road up to the Hermaness is a long and windy one (I walked it on the way back) and it is a longish hike (3km?) from the carpark, up, up, up over Hermaness Hill to the cliffs where the seabirds nest … The views are spectacular and well worth the effort! But without the lift I’d have run into troubles getting back!

I walked back down to Haroldswick (more spectacular views) and called in at the heritage centre to use their toilet, and then on to the tearooms the couple had told me about. So not only did I use the most northerly post office in the U.K. I drank coffee (latte) in the U.K.’s most northerly tearooms!

By then I had done all the walking I was going to do (30km) and it was time to catch the last bus of the day (dial a ride) back to the hostel! When the bus came it wasn’t the mini bus of yesterday but a private car (driven by a lovely woman called Pat) who said that although she’d go round the bus route (which meant I saw the Methodist chapel up close) she doubted there’d be anyone else because a ferry had been cancelled and sure enough it was just me. So my journey back to Uyeasound was like a private taxi and cost £2.

I walked 30 km today, and was walking most of the day (7am -3:30pm) with a short break in each Café and an even shorter one on the cliffs where I ate my packed lunch (a tin of tuna, an apple and a bread roll) … I didn’t get hungry today (probably because of the second breakfast!) and quite possibly should have drunk a little more water …

Posted in out and about, peregrina, rural, Scotland | 5 Comments

Shetland and Orkney preparing for the Camino

In Orkney I stayed with my friend in an eco pod on an organic farm. We travelled there in her car on the small ferry from Gills in Caithness to St Margaret Hope, from where it was a short drive.

Our oyster catcher eco pod

Tonight, in Shetland, I’m staying in a hostel called in Uyeasound. I got here on three busses and two ferries (altogether over 3 hours of travelling with 4 hours exploring on foot in Lerwick)

The two accommodations couldn’t be more different, but both are really good preparation for the Camino.

The set up on the organic farm was very basic, with very fluid rules. As one visitor said “the antithesis of a structured camp site” … and I liked it a lot.

The other visitors were lovely, friendly, but the pod gave us a lot of privacy and space. As accommodation goes it was good. The pod was spacious (though with a double mattress rather than the two singles we’d expected) and warm (I’d expected it to be chilly) and they provided bedlinen towels as well as pillows and a duvet. What was hard was the sleeping. The mattress was thin and I found it very hard to get comfortable …and each morning my ribs or hipbones ached! The showers were surprisingly good, but there was no water in the kitchen area (which was more like a lean-to, with a good fridge, toaster and kettle but a funny old hot plate!) so washing up was done in the wash house! I really liked that the farm were heavily into recycling and there was a pail for food waste scraps for the hens!

The hostel up in Unst, Shetland is quite different. I’m in a bottom bunk and the bed seems to have quite a good mattress. The hostel provided bedlinen, duvet and pillow but I had to bring my own towel. The room I’m in sleeps ten In this room (five bunk beds), but actually I have the whole room to myself tonight as the other guests are in tents, caravans or private rooms. The coin operated showers and toilets are opposite my room, but it’s very quiet.

The kitchen here is huge, with good fridges, cookers/hot plates and small cupboards to store your food. Tonight some guests made quite elaborate meals and it felt a bit too busy, and with one exception people weren’t nearly as friendly as earlier.

This has got me thinking about the Camino

  • How will it be on the Way?
  • Will the beds be comfortable or not? Will I sleep or suffer from insomnia?
  • How will I keep my stuff together in a busy room?
  • How will I pack up quietly in the morning if others are still sleeping?
  • Will fellow pilgrims be friendly? overly chatty? Needy? Indifferent? And, How will I react?

Having these two two-night stays as part of a longer holiday (staying with different friends) has been a really good experience for me, and great preparation for the Camino. I’ve done loads of walking and exploring … and Tomorrow I will do a long solo hike to the top of Unst (and back) with a back pack … all good training, physically and mentally!

Posted in peregrina, rural, Scotland, travel

Peregrina Preparatio 5k

I went on a pilgrimage today, in the far north of Scotland, though it started out as a walk. It’s difficult for me to define -exactly- what a difference between a walk or hike and a pilgrimage are (I’m still figuring that one out) but perhaps not knowing precisely where I’m going, even if I do know (I assume I know!) where I’ll eventually end up.

Today I had a companion, Bel. She’s a young, well-trained, very obedient, collie, and I probably wouldn’t have done this without her.

Learning number one. The right companion is a blessing!

My friend, a local, had told me there was a path … and I did find the starting signpost, but this was not a well marked, or even a well-trodden trail by any stretch of the imagination. As I looked carefully it was possible to work out which way to go! I don’t know if we ever got to Poulouriscaig or not but we did walk further -much further – than 2.5 km before stopping for coffee (from a flask) and heading back!

Learning number two. Whatever the weather, and whatever the forecast – watch the weather!

We saw no one all of our journey …not even in the far distance, and I kept my eyes firmly on the weather as although it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day a sea mist kept threatening, and trust me I did not want to get caught out! And we didn’t! But watching the weather -looking back from time to time to check the mist from where we’d come- was also a good habit, as I found the way back relatively easily.

This was the only signpost en route … at the edge of a peaty bog, marking the safe route to take.

At one point my walk/hike transformed into a pilgrimage. Walking into the unknown, on the edge of my comfort zone (no network signal at all!) but not fearful, enjoying the beautiful scenery and just ‘being’. Having Bel with me on this pilgrimage was a joy. Because she’s well trained and doesn’t chase sheep (other than on command) she could be off leash …and gave me a sense of security. This is her neck of the woods and it showed.

Distance: 9.5 km

Weather : Warm (20C) not windy … sea mist threatened but didn’t materialise

Clothing:shorts and t shirt (trousers and rain jacket in bag)

Conditions : hilly (not used to that!) unmarked trail …

Posted in peregrina, rural, Scotland, signs, this & that