Day 34 – Villafranca del Bierzo to Ambasmestas

In our heads, we thought today was going to be one of the easier legs but we were wrong from the word GO!

Within the first 5 minutes, we were walking up an incline at what felt like at 60 degree for 3.5 km. Then the fog and mist were completely surrounding us just before the drizzle started. We had light rain on and off for most of the day. So on went the ponchos, then off came the ponchos, up went the umbrellas, down came the umbrellas. At least we got to put our rain gear to great use 🙂

Next, we trudged through mud before getting lost and needing to backtrack because we missed a track turn off! Which subsequently was downhill on loose rocks AGAIN! Our knees are never ever going to forgive us for this. This all happened JUST before the rains came – hard and fast!

And of course, for majority of the day, we did not see a single other pilgrim until the final 3 km. So we did feel like we were all alone and lost in the world.

It was a mentally trying day more than a physical one, that is for sure!

But guess what?! Whenever we got to a point where we needed help – the Camino provided! There was either a place to stop for lunch, a yellow arrow to redirect us or local people available to help us.

Our experiences on the Camino have centered a lot around giving. Whether it be giving someone a wave, physically giving someone something, just giving someone a hand or giving some advice.

The last few days in particular it has really been accentuated for us. A few days ago, we had stopped for a bit because of a cramp in Le’s leg. This lovely fellow pilgrim walked past and offered if he could help in any way and we explained it was just a cramp. He wished us well and on he went before turning back after 40 metres or so to give Le an energy bar that had Magnesium it in. He insisted we hold on to it.

Yesterday, we woke up for our rest day and when we opened our bedroom door, we saw a wine bottle with a note scrawled on it from a Camino friend who thought of us when he enjoyed a glass of the wine.

It was such a pleasant surprise even though we don’t drink alcohol but not for a second did that even cross our minds. What crossed our minds FIRST was what a wonderful gesture!

Then we went for lunch with some other Camino friends in Ponferrada after we visited the Templar Castle. And one of them said she would buy us lunch. We didn’t have her buy us our lunch.

And this is when it got us thinking. Not about her buying us lunch but about giving and receiving.

On the Camino, it is about giving and receiving and it’s about losing and gaining. And it does feel right regardless of whichever side you are on.

In society, some people love to give and while receiving sometimes feels unnatural for whatever reason, whether it be because we don’t want to appear like we are taking advantage of the situation or that we need help etc etc.

But the reality is, why is receiving so hard sometimes?! Is it our ego/conscious mind being too proud and not wanting to appear vulnerable, weak, or greedy? ? It actually doesn’t make any sense when such an act of kindness is rejected!

If someone is genuinely and sincerely giving us something, what is the harm in us saying thank you and accepting it?

There are ENDLESS stories of giving on the Camino and they are all heartfelt in some shape or form. They are such a natural act to witness. And it’s not just about giving someone a pair of shoes or an umbrella, it’s about giving so much more. It is about giving the recipient hope, shelter, warmth, love, compassion, kindness, security…. And the list goes on for the abstract things! But at the end of the day; To give, there needs to be someone on the receiving end. And that person on the receiving end, sometimes just needs to accept.

We need to be more gracious and just appreciate that someone cared ENOUGH for us to want to help or give us something. Even if it is buying us lunch. Maybe it is their way of showing us that they are thinking of us.


Day 15 – Belorado to Atapuerca

Another day and more adventures! We had 3 tough hills to climb today but we managed…. Just!!

We started off the morning at our usual pace and then we found a hat that had been left behind… the day then became the quest for the rightful owner.

It was almost like we had adrenaline pumping through our veins to search for the owner and we just flew through the kilometres to try and catch up with the possible owner. Every pilgrim we bypassed we asked if they had lost a hat!

It became almost like a challenge for us and we must’ve asked about 50 people if it was their hat, we had found! And due to language barriers at times, we had many people confused, thinking we were offering a hat, thinking we were asking if they had their hat, thinking we were asking where their hat was – it was rather entertaining!

By the end of the day, most people who we had come across, recognized us and would ask if we had found the owner… to which we sadly had to answer, “No!” Some poor person out there is missing a hat, (which luckily they didn’t need today) but may need somewhere on the rest of their Camino!

So because of this found hat, we had new-found FAME J and made some interesting friendships and had some interesting conversations. It’s incredible how these experiences arise on the Camino!

To date, we have talked to so many different people from all around the world. But in the last two days, we have managed to have conversations with people where they speak VERY little English! We got the opportunity to brush up on our very limited knowledge of Spanish and Italian. And still hold a conversation for over half an hour… to which at the end, we were invited to be guests in Italy and Spain and have had guests invite themselves to stay with us in Sydney!

These are the wonderful experiences of the Camino that we will cherish for life. 🙂

Anyway, back to the hat story! We are disappointed we never found the owner. We will try again tomorrow but doubt we will have much luck. We have a rest day in Burgos so think that we will start losing more friends that we have met on this stage, which means it will be futile trying to track down who lost this hat!

But what we have taken away from all this is that the important thing is that we tried! We could’ve left that hat there but we carried it with us the entire day in hope we could reunite it with its rightful owner! To everyone who saw what we were doing, many acknowledged and thanked us for asking them. They all seemed appreciative to know that we were trying. Success isn’t everything, sometimes it is about how much effort we put in and the inadvertent positive outcomes.

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”― Mahatma Gandhi


Day 11 – Logroño to Navarrete

If there’s an up, there’s a down! If there’s a happy, there’s a sad. If there’s hot, there’s cold. So if there’s sunshine, there’s rain!

And that is what we got, we walked pretty much entirely in the rain today, it wasn’t heavy thank goodness but it certainly was wet. We have spray jackets and also ponchos so our upper bodies were dry at least. 🙂

We could’ve had a few reactions to the rain! We could’ve let it dampen our spirits, we could’ve been annoyed, we could’ve seen that it ruined our rain-free record so far. And maybe these thoughts did creep in at times.

But we chose to see it slightly differently; we figured that we couldn’t truly appreciate the sunshine if we don’t experience the alternative!

We flipped it slightly and saw that we were lucky that today, the path we walked was mainly sealed so we weren’t slipping and sliding in mud or rocks! That was more than we could ask for. Obviously we would probably feel differently if the walk was longer and or the rain was heavier but based on what we experienced, we are grateful that if we were to experience rain, that it would be today out of any of our walking days so far!

The rain itself revealed to us our lesson in life: we will have bright days and we will have not-so-bright days. And depending on how we react to them, it can affect how we feel overall about the situation. But it is the “not-so-good” that makes us appreciative of the “good”.

And what is rain? It’s not there to depress us, it’s there to water the earth. How can we expect beautiful lush farms and gorgeous green scenery if there is no rain? We, as humans, need water for survival so we probably shouldn’t be too resentful of rain sometimes!

Let’s not forget that the world is made up of opposites if we didn’t have what we perceive as the “negatives” occasionally, how can we value the positives?

Day 9 – Viana to Logroño

What a blissfully short day today! We surprised ourselves at how quickly we walked 10km. We had left a wee bit later in the day than usual, and after less than 3 hours, we are here in Logroño.

The walk was a little lonely today as we didn’t see very many other pilgrims. We may have seen a dozen, if that, which is highly unusual considering that we have been easily bumping into anywhere between 30 – 50 on past days.

Our schedule is now very different to that of the John Brierley guidebook, which is what most pilgrims use to map out their walking stages. It provides great recommendations but obviously everyone should tailor it accordingly which we are sure people are doing. But that means for us, we are now behind most of the people we started with back on Sept 5th in St Jean Pied de Port. Being behind doesn’t bother us… but it is a little sad realizing that we may not see them again unless we catch up to them (which is very unlikely).

But that is life, isn’t it? We are all at different stages in our lives, just like on the Camino, all pilgrims will be at different stages. We will be walking with unfamiliar faces, but hey, that is how it started over a week ago.

In life, we need to respect one another’s lives. Some people are having kids, while others have just started dating, some are buying property while others are moving interstate. These things happen, the only thing certain in life is change and we need to accept that. People move on and that is ok. We don’t need to try to cling onto what once was – just be happy for one another 🙂

It’s the way the world works; that is evolution. Nature is living proof that change is inevitable. We just need to learn to adapt and keep going with our own lives/path/Camino!

And a photo as a request from a friend 🙂

This is us at sunrise 🙂


The Camino is beginning…

If anyone has ducked over to our travel blog, Wise Monkeys Abroad – then you will know that we are walking the Camino.

We are doing the Camino for several reasons, including raising awareness and money of Angelman Syndrome, for another travel experience and ticking off another UNESCO Heritage List.

But the main reason, the idea even came about was because we were ready to do some inner searching, both spiritually and personally. This played a huge part in us also trying to live our lives with a different perspective, hence this blog!

Anyway, as we embark on this pilgrimage and experience each day, we hope that we will be able to (subject to wifi) share our thoughts, reflections, experiences on this blog. This segment, will be our Camino Diaries series.

We think that for us to truly see the goodness and positivity of everything in our lives that we also need to challenge ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. No better way than to walk 800km (rain, hail or shine). 800km of thinking, 800km of endurance, 800km of slowing life down!

In fact, we start the  pilgrimage this Friday, the 5th September, that is 3 sleeps away! So before we have even taken one step of the Camino, we have already experienced our first Camino story to share.

We are now in Bayonne, which is a town about 51km north of St Jean Pied de Port where our Camino will start.

With only a few days to go and after 7 weeks of travelling, we wanted somewhere to go that was close enough for us to unwind and mentally prepare.

The plan was that on Thursday, we would arrive in St Jean Pied de Port and pick up our Camino passport as well as our shells. Instead when we arrived in Bayonne, we visited the Cathedral of Bayonne. Inside, we met a man who provided us with the camino passports and shells. We sat and spoke to him for a brief moment when a lady came up and spoke to him in French. She handed him a handwritten note in an envelope and left.

The gentleman wound up our conversation with him and wished us well and as we got up to leave, he said to us, “Can I give you a mission?”

To which we both sat back down and nodded.

He said, “That lady just came over and explained that an Italian lady doing the Camino has had to stop due to injury but she would like this letter to go onwards to Santiago. Can you take it with you?”

“Of course!” 

We felt such a gush of emotion that the Camino for us, although 3 days away, was already starting! We cannot wait to see what lies ahead but as our purpose is to slow life down, we are going to take each step, one at a time, and just take each day as it comes for the good and the not-so-good.

But regardless, we will take the opportunity to really “see-the-day”.