I’ve been very busy! Working on the sequel to TEUFEL!
I’ve been very busy! Working on the sequel to TEUFEL!
I know this is far from my usual faire. Normally I entertain with tales of war and adventure. But tonight that’s far from my mind. Tonight I’m shaken by the horrendous attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the murder of journalists and cartoonists. So much of the conflicts I study began because of bullies. People who wanted to force their ideas of what was right on other people. People who believed they had moral imperative as they did it.
Today that happened again when Islamic extremists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo and slaughtered 12 innocent people and wounded many more. Charlie Hebdo was a satiric magazine which exercised their right to poke fun at everyone- white, black, catholic, jewish, right, left, popes and presidents- it didn’t matter. Sometimes funny, sometimes tasteless, our ancestors fought for the privilege of Charlie Hebdo and its editors to print whatever they chose.
But what is even sadder is that the large news outlets are censoring the very pictures which Charlie Hebdo published. They don’t want to publish anything racially or religiously insensitive. Or… Perhaps they are just too afraid of the school bully to do anything but hide at their end of the playground and hope he goes away.
Stephane Charbonnier, editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo, was a brave man. He was as brave as any soldier I have studied. He once said that he wasn’t afraid because drawings never killed anyone. He was was stalked, firebombed and eventually murdered. I believe he was nothing less than a martyr to all the freedoms we hold dear.
To the news agencies who tout his murder but who do not have the intestinal fortitude to publish the pictures he gave his life for? Ladies and Gentlemen, I call you cowards. This man was a journalist. You are a pale imitation. He represented everything you profess to love, and you do not have the decency to show his work. You should be ashamed of your pixellations and tight crops. You don’t want to offend the people who hurt and hounded this man? Where is your offence? Where is your outrage? It is for the very slaughter of Stephane Charbonnier and the people at Charlie Hebdo that you should stand shoulder to shoulder, united across companies and countries and publish those pictures. When will you say, “We stand with the right of a free press to publish satire! We will no longer be cowed by bullies.”
This attack on our most basic freedom of speech cannot stand. It has not been the path of the west to lay down as rights and freedoms were impugned. For 100 years, the western media has mocked tyrants from Kaiser Wilhelm to Adolf Hitler to Saddam Hussein to the Kims of North Korea. In fact, they still haul out Hitler at almost every opportunity. But Hitler is a paper tiger. He’s long dead and even the dust has blown away.Neither he nor his followers are around to be offended. Apparently modern media is too afraid of the new scourge on the school yard to stand up for those who have fallen.
I know I’m just a blogger, but… to Stephane Charbonnier and the people of Charlie Hebdo…. I’m not afraid! I will not be intimidated. I will learn from your courage. I will publish your work.
I got rather behind with my Camino posts, as you might have guessed! It was really tiring to keep writing, and I was pretty sick there for a while! But I am going through the pictures now, and will be writing again very shortly!
So they say that day three is the worst day, when everything hits you like a ton of bricks and you generally feel like shit…. And I have to say that they are bang on. There was no getting up early and I certainly wasn’t raring to go. I don’t think I have ever hurt like I hurt in the morning. There wasn’t enough sleep and not enough drugs. Every step was like agony. Knives running through my entire body. Everything was pain, and to top it off, I think I am getting sick.
And yet… I met a lady in the morning who was having far worse issues than mine, and as she told me them, I was like…whoah! That is harsh. We both had tears in our eyes.
My first stop, and really only walking stop was Puente le Reina, because in PLR was that magic thing, the post office. As previously mentioned, my bag weighed a fucking ton. The woman in the post office could not have been nicer. There is now a service for pilgrims at the Spanish post office. They will hold your stuff in santiago for a month from arrival and the freight rates are super cheap. I had 4.2 kilograms (10lbs approx) in my box, (no wonder the damn bag was soooooo heavy!!) and the mail, box and storage was about 13€
But i did have the most amazing tapas lunch in puente la Reina. 10€ for an assortment of goodies that almost brought tears to the eyes. In fact, as I was in Navarre, I should say they were pinxos. Whatever they were called, they were absolutely delish. If this is food in Spain, I am here for life!!
Then, like a woman in pain, I headed to the bus! Or as I like to say, a kindly Waggoner who leant aid to this poorly pilgrim, earning an indulgence for his own soul; as happens when one helps a pilgrim. Los Arcos beckoned. Yes. It was a big hop, but with this cold coming on, and the pain in my legs, highly necessary.
I slunk into my albergue… A two shell on the best albergues list. I don’t know if I will agree with that. The one in Urtega was a one shell, and it was pretty damn nice.
I am so tired all the time. Jet lag is kicking my ass. All I want is for the pain to stop…and for some sleep!
Cizur Minor to Urtega
They say that everything happens for a reason. Maybe my coming on this trek has a purpose… Other than to show me how much pain I can actually be in. God is famous for his desire for suffering, and I am suffering. God…. Am I suffering.
Today I got up before first light. Two hours before, because I knew that the altar de Pedron was going to kick my ass…. And kick my ass it did. I rose from my bunk jet lagged and wired at four am and was on the road at five. Putting on my pack was hard. It was so heavy. I couldn’t believe how heavy it was.
I was also eager to beat the rain which was supposed to fall. Yes. Weather reports here are a cruel taunt to make you think it will actually be cooler. And to be fair, it was cooler.
Starting in the dark was both exciting and hard. I was the first pilgrim out. I groped my way out of Cizur Minor with my $7 headlamp on, and I can’t believe how happy I was to have it. While I was told it was waaaay too dim for much night stuff, it was awesome. The Spanish are awesome at marking the way for pilgrims, and only once was I in doubt on my way. By six, t he first pilgrims passed me. A bunch of speedy Germans. Like all Germans, they moved with a sense of purpose, like this was yet another fight one must plow through.
More and more went by as I heaved my bulk up the mountain. Sometimes, I could only go about ten feet/four meters before I had to rest again. It was rough and it was steep. I truly don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life. One foot in front of the other. It was sooo hard.
What made it worse was some of the men who went blazing past with barely an acknowledgement other than a dark look as to tell me I didn’t belong on his path. Yes. There is sizeism on the camino. Never from women. Women look at me and are like…wow! Go you! Men get that snarky ‘spandex is a privilege and not a right’ expression. Fuck’em.
But then you have these moments of such amazing kindness. I met this Italian man half way up, and we talked, but he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Italian. He was from Como, but a native of Calabria, where I am thinking of living. It is amazing how much you can communicate with someone through mime and smiles. He was genuinely happy to see me on the trail, and wished me buen camino with a big smile. He soon went on his way around a bend in the path. When I made it that far, he was still there and had a handful of blackberries in his hands. He had picked them for me from the bushes at the side of the trail, I think because he was worried about me. It was such an act of kindness, I can’t even articulate how it made me feel.
Another neat moment was a Polish fellow who wanted to tell me something, but again, until we found that we had German as a common language, wasn’t going so well. I have to say, after five months in Canada, my German is really vanishing. We chatted as the sun rose (or he chatted as I gasped for breath!!) and then said perhaps he would see me again, and wished me a buen camino!
Half way up the altar is the village of Zariquiegui. When you walk into town, there is a water fountain there. I had forgotten to fill my camel bladder when I left the hostel, so for the last km, I was out…and water was never so much in need. I filled it from this fountain, and it was literally the best water ever.
The best ‘blank’ ever is a theme on the camino. Every shower is the best shower ever. Every meal is the best you have ever had, and hot water that tastes of rubbery plastic is a joy with every squirt in your mouth. When I got to the fountain, I ate my breaky of a day old sandwich I made the morning before in Pamplona, and while I can’t actually call it the best Sammy ever, because the bread was older than Jesus at that point, it was pretty damn good.
I sat there for a while, talking to pilgrims as they passed, because I really needed the rest. I am not used to being so out of shape, but to be fair, Canada wasn’t so healthy for me. Pounds up and walking down. C’est la vie. Met this great couple from South Africa there who were very excited when I said I was a military historian. The gentleman had to mention that he was a boer and did I know about the boer war! More British oppression of… Well… Everyone! Damn you, England! My nickname of ‘Birdie’ sounds really cool in an Afrikaans accent.
I finally made it up to the top, where the famous statues are. I shouted for joy! It was so hard to get there, and you think that getting up there will make it all ok. It sort of does, but I also felt pretty broken by it. People came up, took a picture and trotted off down the other side. I gasped more. I also took pics for people! It was a great experience… Might have been more so without the truck parked there, shilling for an albergue and selling drinks. That felt needlessly something that I can’t define!
Met another super sweet woman, a little younger than my mother, with MS, and we ended walking down together! To me, she was a dynamo! She was even caminoing in a trekking skirt. I think it was a macabi? Totally cool, but if I did that, my thighs would be ground beef… Or to use the German word, hackfleisch.
But then… Horror of horrors… Going down the mountain was as bad as going up! Sleep, slippery rock face! I planted my walking sticks in and went down. Black diamond trekking poles with anti shock! I can’t say enough good things about them. I have to say that when I have my poles going, I feel like the huge, un gangly spider machine from the remake of Wild Wild West! Goes through my mind every time I get going down hill and it never gets old!
Pamplona to Cizur Menor
So I did half of my planned walking today. After getting hellishly lost in Pamplona because I followed the pilgrim signs out of town instead of towards the cathedral, I felt like my initial offering of 9 kms was enough to please st. James – note to self. Don’t get lost. If you are following pilgrim signs, they will always lead you out of town. Of my 9 kms, five were screwing around in Pamplona. Not exactly the best use of shoe leather. Poor me!
But I did eventually find the cathedral. Thought about going in, but I had to pay and I thought… Nah. I got my credencial in the diocese bookstore, and mine looks different than the st. Jean PP credencial. It has a cover in colour and everything!
Here is the first stamp!
Walking inside Pamplona was easy enough…. Except the city is a complete maze. Those poor bulls! Seriously! I can find a cathedral in any European city, but in Pamplona, it is impossible. The cathedral isn’t all that tall, and the old buildings of the city are almost as tall as it is, so it isn’t a case of seeing a spire you can navigate to. Noppe nope nope. That City is a maze. A walkable, somewhat shady maze… Still didn’t want to waste five km there….
But walking outside was hard. The temps quickly climbed to 33 and while one goes down out of the city, one has to quickly go back up again to Cizur Minor. It is absolutely baking with no shade and a big girl like me just about melted away.
Ok. There was shade….there,…
One thing I discovered very quickly was that I have way way way too much crap. Things that seemed so important when you are packing become like loadstones. I might be strong, but going up hill, one starts thinking that…really? Do I really need this? Even my sacred camera, that I adore is like two pounds of ‘do I really want to fucking lug this around?’ So when you look at my pictures, and they aren’t from the iPad, know I suffered for them.
So while the camera is staying, the tripod is getting the heave. The sleeping pad is going. Extra clothing. I already left most of my body lotion. But lbs must go.
But people are so nice. Spaniards will wish you buen camino as you passed by! A Scottish tour leader bid me have a safe journey and to look after myself. People are surprisingly caring. On my collapse halfway up to Cizur, a lovely Dutch lady, Sigrid, stopped to make sure i was ok. I had found half a piece of shade and sprawled. She walked me up to the knights of Malta albergue where I collapsed for the night.
Ok. I had melatonin. And then three hours later I had another one. Yes. Dorm life… Where everybody snores. Loudly!!
Jet lag is killing me though. I am so tired.
Well Columbia did it!!!! Sporty big women can be happy! Columbia really delivers! And in nice colours and great quality! If you are a plus sized woman, you can be secure in the knowledge that you can be outdoorsy and have the right stuff! So much of the plus sized technical clothing is NOT sized for plus sized women’s bodies at all. No accommodation for hips, or curved bottoms or… my other horror… BIG upper arms! I try on plus sized jacket after jacket, and they never work!
But Columbia fits great!!!!! I also really appreciate that their fat clothes are called ‘extended sizing.’ I think that is just nice. -NB- I was just on their site, and now it says plus sized. 😐
Here is my Fleece! Officially, it is a “Fast Trek™ II Full Zip Fleece” in ‘Airstream’. It has shaping through the bust so you don’t look like a volvo (boxy but good!) and through the waist. I have had many a fleece that was just a big square, because fat people are OBVIOUSLY a big square. And it fits perfectly! The colour is also complete awesomesauce!
Next is my “Switchback™ II Jacket”. I bought a 3x (as with my fleece) And it fits well over my size 22-24 bootay. The arms are big enough! It has a hideaway hood which I love, because I hate my hood flopping around with my backpack! I can actually just get it on over my fleece for that great layery look. I think my only carp about it would be that it was thinner than I was expecting and as it is a squall shell, it doesn’t breathe as well as I had hoped… but it is awesome. It is rumply because I left it in it’s pocket! But the rumples fall out very quickly.
It is super light and packs into its pocket! What isn’t to love?
Lastly, my C9 by Champion 2X running pants. Not much to say here. They are pretty good, and were an awesome sale. (regularly $40, for $20 at Target- I bought before the boycott, but really? I find Target online has lots of plus!) So nothing but non chafing, flat seams, which is what I want! Curves into the bottom nicely! I have some of Champion’s other plus sized pants, and I am thrilled with them. I think Champion does the job REALLY nicely! I quite like walking in compression pants… and I was really worried that if I sprung for convertible pants, that the line of the leg zipper would chafe. So these are safe. I also bought them in black and grey which are the ones I will probably take on the Camino. I like the blue and blue heather better, so I will pack them for real life walking post adventure!
I thought I would share my new logo with you all! 🙂 It is from this fine fellow, Venom_hunt on fiverr! He worked VERY hard on it, and I am really happy with the results! If you need a vintagey logo, hire him! Watch for a complete rebranding sometime this week! 😀
So I have had to postpone the WWI trek. Sadly, my funding didn’t come through and I was left not able to do it. 😦
But changes are a fact of life, and I had been planning this trek for September, and then planning to do the Camino de Santiago next april. The Camino is a much cheaper proposition, and so I decided to swap them! HOOORAY! So now I shall be a pilgrim on the Way of Saint James! I will be starting in Pamplona on Aug. 28 and then walking 450-500kms of a 700km route. Yes. I will be sneaking ahead in a few places on the train.
But fret not, my friends! Even though the Camino is traditionally a religious route, there is still more war along it than I can shake a stick (or a trekking pole!!!) at! I haven’t spent much time in Spain, just to Barcelona a few times, so this will be really exciting for me. Do I speak a word of Spanish? Not really! Just the very basics of Mexican spanish from trips to Mexico, but those languages are as different as Quebecois and French. But I am on tenterhooks to head off! Everyone says the Camino is a life changing experience!
And…To be honest, Spain is brimming with war! Check it out!
In fact, to steal from Wikipedia…