The Camino Information Centre – Starting Out

I had such a fun day yesterday at the Camino Information Centre. Based at St. James’ Church in Dublin, the Centre is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10.30 to 3.30 and is run by volunteers for prospective pilgrims. After walking the Camino for a number of years, I felt that the next step was to pass this knowledge on to those who were to take their first steps in the coming months.

I arrived at St. James’ Church after 10am and was greeted by Joe and Aileen, who were to “show me the ropes”, so to speak. This was my training day and although I feel passionate about the Camino and talking about it, I had many questions. My experiences revolved around the French Way out to Finistere but I have very little knowledge of any other routes. Luckily, Joe and Aileen had good knowledge of the Portuguese Way and could give hints and tips regarding great towns to stop at and accommodation.

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We had many visitors and it had to be one busiest days of the year, so I was glad to experience that rather than have the opposite. Many came to buy pilgrim passports, while others came to tell us how they got on after returning from the Camino. We also have a visit from a couple who were hoping to walk from Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago in 7 days! We planned out an itinerary for them and recommended accommodation for them. I can’t wait to hear how they get on! I had a visit from 2 friends from the Camino Prep Meetup group, so that was a surprise. One is walking this Thursday from Sarria so I wish her a Buen Camino! I picked up a pilgrim passport myself for my walk on St. Kevin’s Way and then from A Coruna to Santiago in March or April of next year.

The day had a downside however as we heard the news of the drowning of Danny Sheehy after his currach Naomhog overturned on the River Mino in Galicia as he and his team made way for Porto. It was Danny’s idea to row to A Coruna from Ireland over the course of the last four years.

I make my return to the Camino Information Centre in July and after my time yesterday, I am looking forward to it.

Giving Something Back

Ever since I took my first steps on the French Way back in 2011, the Camino has ever so slowly become part of my life. My returning each year gives me great food for thought and when I return to Ireland, I plan for my next time in Spain. Everyday, I seem to remember a moment or an experience I have had from the last 7 years. This blog is evidence of how much the Camino has become part of my life. At home, I think of the past and I long for the future, but on the Camino I am in the moment. The complexities of daily life don’t matter after you arrive and take your first steps. You wake and you walk until you reach a certain point. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.

However, I have reached a point where I am researching other routes away from the French Way. A number of years ago, I became a member of Camino Society Ireland to meet other people who have walked these routes. The society’s motto is to “give something back” and they do this in a number of ways. Like this blog, they, as volunteers, help prospective pilgrims by providing advice while they plan for a Camino. Their website is a great source of information, however, the society also run an Information Centre in Dublin between March and October. Here, pilgrims can receive information, buy pilgrim passports and guidebooks. So I decided to take a leap and volunteer. Hopefully I can be of assistance, maybe give something back, and hopefully I can learn a thing or two also.

Indecision…

My 2017 Camino has come in many different shapes and sizes. First, I was to walk from Porto to Santiago. Then, I decided on the Camino Ingles from Ferrol. And finally I returned to familiarity and the Camino Frances. I suppose I have a special friendship with the French Way, but in time, I will dip my toes in other routes.

After deciding on a start from Astorga, I longed for the meseta and moved my starting position to Logrono. Yes!..Logrono was to be my final starting place. No more changes. I’ll stick to my guns. Weeeelll, that didn’t last long as I have pushed forward my first steps to Burgos. With the 11-12 days I have, I should see Astorga, or even further depending on the weather. Once I made my mind up, I cancelled my bus to Logrono from Barajas T4 and booked a bus to Burgos. I’ve reserved a litera in Albergue Hostel Burgos, on Calle Miranda, literally less than a minute away from the estación de autobuses. Day One will begin early the following day as I make way for Hontanas, another favourite stop of mine.

The countdown continues in earnest, but I just hope I don’t change my mind again!

The Rain Jacket Dilemma

Eureka!

Ahem…sorry if I scared anyone with my opening line there but I may have cracked the one quandary I have left with my kit…the rain jacket. And it was purely incidental.

After yesterday’s rains, I woke this morning to discover my phone was unable to charge. So I needed to bring it to the local phone repair store to have it checked out. There was a possibility that the charging mechanism was water damaged, although I hoped that wasn’t the case. So I brought it to the store and the guy behind the counter had a look at it. After waiting 5 minutes for the phone to turn on, I saw the charging icon. It was just a false alarm. Phew! That will teach me to leave my phone cover at home while it rains!

While leaving the shopping centre, my brother and I passed a new Regatta Great Outdoors store and decided to check it out. I have been on the hunt for a more effective rain jacket since yesterday so maybe…just maybe..they may have something in stock. The brother was looking for hiking trousers as well and he bought his first pair of zip-off trousers and quick-dry socks. I will have him on the Camino in no time 🙂

While he was making his purchase, I asked one of the guys working there if he has any hi-end rain jackets in stock. He had Craghoppers, DareToBe and Regatta (obvs as it is a Regatta store!!). My ears perked when he mentioned Craghoppers. There was a good selection in stock and I tried on a few. Of the lot, the Kiwi Classic was the best and with a 10% sale, I bought it. So now I have another jacket to test and if it doesn’t do the job, I have 30 days to bring it back and get my money back. Win-win. My only concern is that it is slightly heavier than the Helly Hansen. We will wait and see what it is like on my next hike on the Grand Canal next Saturday, the 3rd.

 

Up-to-date Packing List

It is quite normal to change your packing list if you are one to return to the Camino frequently. There may be items that just don’t work for you or a better item might be available for sale. So I’m just going to post what I have scribbled down for my Camino in September. I weighed this at 7kg last week, the lightest pack I have brought so far. This is without water and snacks.

Pack – 33 litre Osprey pack

Wearing:
North face microfleece 1/4 zip
Craghopper shirt
Craghopper trail trousers
Bridgedale socks
1 under armour underwear
Salomon trail shoes with superfeet insoles
1 baseball cap
1 buff
Small over the shoulder bag containing the following: Phone and Earphones, Passport, Flight details, Debit card, Small amount of money, Camino Society Ireland Credential

Within the backpack:
Vaude Backpack raincover
Silk liner
1 pair of Sandals
700ml Water bottle – attached to pack with carabiner
Small plastic folder containing: – Flight details – Prescription – E111 card

Top pocket of pack:
Craghopper Kiwi Classic Jacket – Hooded rain/wind jacket (replacing the Helly Hansen Loke Jacket)
Berghaus Rain trousers

Within a Compression sack:
1 pair of shorts
Helly hansen t shirt
Icebreaker coolmax t shirt
2 under armour underwear
2 pair of bridgedale socks

Within a dry sack:
First aid kit (ibuprofen, motillium, etc – includes blister kit, germoline, small swiss knife with scissors)

Within a dry sack:
Toiletry kit (Travel toothbrush/toothpaste, roll on deodorant, Lifeventure all purpose soap 100ml, disposable razor, hand sanitiser)
Quick-drying REI packable towel
Medication
Wet wipes

Within a dry sack:
Ear plugs
12 safety pins for drying clothes
Phone charger / lead / Adapter
Power bank for phone
(Still debating whether to bring my action camera with strap attachment)
Camino Shell (take out when I start walking)
Spork

Backpack Waist pockets
Headlamp / tiny torch
2 carabiners

If you have any questions about my packing list, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Bray Head with Camino Society Ireland

Hike #2
Bray town, around and over Bray head and back to the town.

Another weekend and now just 100 days (eek!) before I fly back to Spain and into Madrid. Time flies, doesn’t it? And speaking of time flying, this day 4 years ago I had completed my third day on my third stint on the Camino Frances. My 2013 Camino was easily my favourite and one I will cherish for a long time. I met so many good people and I hope, one day, to see some of them again.

This weekend was shaping up to be something special. During the week, temperatures were in the 20s and the sun was out most days. I had 2 walks planned and was eagerly looking forward to them. Today (Saturday) was in Bray with Camino Society Ireland, and Sunday with the Camino prep / training meet-up group. There were rumours of rain coming up from the South to hit Dublin today but I quietly had my fingers crossed. The last thing I wanted was to be mid-hike in the middle of a downpour. So I packed my rain gear in the hope that there would be just a few showers and that would be the end of that. I left the house in the midst of light rain but nothing that would bother me.

After an hour trip by train, myself and my brother arrived at Bray and was welcomed by quite a few fellow walkers. There were more at the first outing in Howth a month previous but I would put that down to the weather. I brought my Osprey 33 litre backpack with Helly Hansen rain jacket and Berghaus rain trousers. I had my pacerpoles with me this time as we were advised to bring poles with us. They proved to be a great help.

So 10 am came and went and we started to move out. The walk involved using the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones but rather than continuing to Greystones, we would climb up and over Bray Head and loop back to Bray. Looking from Bray, it seemed daunting, but we were assured that the climb was gradual and not as steep as it looked. Onwards we went along the promenade which was bustling with joggers, walkers and a solitary accordionist. The clouds were dark but I wasn’t dressed for rain at this stage.

10 minutes in, as we were walking along the cliff walk, we felt the first drop. One drop became two until a steady shower started. “This is down for the day”..I said to myself. I pulled on the rain jacket and continued in the hope that it was a solitary shower and it would clear sharpish. At the very least, it would be a good time to test the rain gear! A half an hour and it hadn’t relented. The zip-offs were soaked so I thought that now would be a good time to don the rain trousers. The backpack was a lost cause at this stage and soaked through. I should have brought a cover! After a little while, we stopped for a bit so I could put on the rain trousers. They were a massive help! I would recommend them to anyone interested. Most there had ponchos but I prefer rain jacket and trousers.

The climb up the hill was tough in places but nothing too challenging. It was pretty funny seeing a sign warning us of the presence of a bull and totally disregarding it. Yes, we are that crazy!! There were a few awkward obstacles to negotiate but all in all the climb is anything you would see while walking from Rabanal del Camino to Foncebadon. At times, we were walking through flowing streams but the rain started to subside while we were making the descent back to Bray. It was pretty misty also, and it was a shame that we didn’t see the one thing that we came to see…Bray Head cross. Visibility was very poor being so high. The descent was gradual but the rain made walking difficult and it was very easy to slip. After another hour, we made it back to base safely and in one piece.

Despite the conditions, it is a beautiful walk and I would love to give it another go in better weather. During the week, the Camino Society left me a message on Instagram (after I expressed concerns about the forecast)..”It will be like a new adventure”..and it most certainly was. It gave me a great chance to test my rain gear and find any faults..which there were many. I have a few months to find a more effective rain jacket as my Helly Hansen just didn’t cut it. It was also great meeting society members again and talking about future plans. Bernard and Jim can’t be praised highly enough. I can’t wait for the next outing.

Unfortunately, with the poor weather conditions, I felt it wise to cancel the Camino prep / training meet up in Howth tomorrow. I have been on the Howth cliff path while it is raining and it can be difficult to negotiate some sections.

More photos can be found on Camino Society Ireland’s facebook page.

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Another Weekend Walk..

Last weekend, myself and some from the Free Camino Prep meet-up group met up and walked a section of the Grand Canal Way. We decided to meet outside of Dublin in a little town called Hazelhatch. The great thing about this trail is not only is it way-marked but it is serviced well by Irish Rail, so myself and my brother caught an early train to Portlaoise from Heuston Station in Dublin. We were practically the only people in the carriage so this was a novelty considering it is exactly the opposite during the week! We arrived in Hazelhatch Station, just outside of Celbridge just after 10am and waited for the remainder of the walkers. By half ten, we were 9, including the both of us, and we decided to make a start. We had 600 metres to reach the start of the trail so it wasn’t far. The Grand Canal Way actually starts in Lucan in Dublin but I chose this 12 km section as it is the easiest to get to and it is the most scenic. It isn’t difficult either, in fact, it is all flat and didn’t cause any of us any bother.

The route is well maintained and it passes many towns if you want to stop for a snack or a coffee. The Grand Canal itself is used to this day by boats and barges making use of the 117km river. We saw plenty of kayakers flying up and down the canal as we walked westward. The trail passes the Lyons Estate with it’s boutique hotel and cafe. €183 will get you a room for a night! After the 12km, we arrived at the town of Sallins. We grabbed a coffee and made way to the train station for the next train Dublin-bound.

I really enjoyed this walk but it lacked any ascent or descent for that matter. If you want an easy walk with good scenery, I would recommend this trail. But as practice for a Camino, I would give it a miss. It can be walked from start to finish in 5/6 days and many people carry tents if they were to walk it as a whole.

Tomorrow, a number of the group walk from Dun Laoghaire to Killiney Hill and back. I will write when we complete that. Follow me on instagram (@clearskiescamino) for some photos as the day progresses.

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