Blog 22 – Beara Peninsula – Ireland

screenshot_20160706-165020.pngLet the new path unfold……this is the Beara Peninsuala, South West of Ireland:

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20160711_122921.jpg10.7.16 Staying 2 nights in Allihies Youth Hostel on the Beara Peninsula and doing day walks with light pack to get back in the swing of things after so much sitting. So happy to be out walking again.

20160711_153253.jpgFuchsia hedges everywhere. Walked through old copper mines, established in 1812. Below is one of the old engine houses, where they pumped the water up so miners could go deeper, below sealevel even. This of course was super dangerous in those days and many young miners died.

20160711_140719.jpg20160712_095336.jpg12.7.16 Left Allihies today to walk to Dursey Island and look, I had to overcome my fear and go through many paddocks with cows and bulls. These ones didn’t even get up and I was probably 5 metres away, surrounding myself in a pink bubble of protection – lol. And sweet talked to the moo moos. The weather was glorious, I mean still cold, but the sun was out, how rare and how special after so much rain.

20160712_091810.jpg20160712_105528.jpg20160712_105926.jpgImpressions from along the way. How I love to see sign posts again! It was quite a climb, even though only to 240metres or so. And then around the corner you see this:

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The cable car to Dursey Island (only cable car in Ireland), looked like a rusty old thing, but they said the drop isn’t very deep!

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I stayed in a lovely B&B at the tip here with the appropriate name of Windy Point House. View from the verandah:

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And the next day 13.7.16, lovely Rita and Lainey from my Bellatrix B&B had invited me to come back and go walking with them for a day. They had a German group of 6 staying, travelling through a website called “Frauen Unterwegs”.

20160713_123744_004.jpgIt was different walking in a group and Rita, being a Swiss mountain goat, took us cross country along ways that I would never go by myself as I tend to stick to ‘proper’ paths. We found a little lunch spot out of the howling wind. But no complaints, we’re happy that it’s not raining! I must say though, ultimately I’m just not a group person anymore and prefer being by myself. One woman continuously sang and kind of contradictsed what everybody else is saying. I would have killed her before their 10 days holiday would be over. Well, maybe not after my 10 day enlightening course! I think the other 5 though, who were super nice, will have some group processing to do over the next few days!

15.6.17 Took a bus to Killarney to walk the Kerry Way. Wow, big touristy town after so much remote. It was horse racing weekend and the streets were full of incredibly young (school age) girls in incredible skimpy clothes (just covering bumb and nipples),  fascinators and incredibly high heel shoes. My age shows here my friends, I just felt like shaking my head and going tststs. It was way too cold for no clothes, but you gotta do it eh? By evening time they ALL carried their shoes in their hand due to blisters and, really, not being able to walk on stilts for long! The bus driver next day even commented that it seems to be kids going to the races these days, and the hairdresser also said, it’s since a few years only that the kids are allowed to go. Wonder if they let them bid money and drink also? But I love wandering around, eating lots of yummy cakes with lots of cream, you know, have to look after my cholesterol! Doing business like hairdresser and stocking up on a few things, getting organised for the next walk. At night I went to a show called “Celtic Steps” which was great.

screenshot_20160714-211916.png20160715_043936.jpgThe dancers were brilliant, and Celtic singing really goes under my skin, like the Fado music did in Portugal. The fiddely diddely music less so.

Although I only posted a Blog last week I think, I might send this one into space and then write the next one about the Kerry Way walk.

Please Gods, send some better weather!

 

Blog 21 – Buddhist Retreat

30.6.16 Getting to my B&B from Cork, Ireland, to near Castletownbere (2.5 hours journey) was a bit of an adventure. The minibus (12 passengers) died about 6x on the way, then started smelling inside of I don’t know what, motor, brakes, something. The driver joked that we will all have to push. NOT FUNNY, raining outside….but we made it and I was glad to get out of that car. Rita, my lovely B&B host, picked me up from the bus stop. And what a lovely place I’m staying at, a B&B just for woman with about 5 rooms. Her partner is a Social Worker managing a house for people with disabilities. I’m doing a photo study of the view from our dining room: 4 seasons in a day!

20160704_064246.jpg20160701_173137.jpg20160703_170712.jpg20160702_213744.jpgIsn’t it amazing? It kind of reflects the analogy that gets used in Buddhism a lot. They talk about 2 minds, our ordinary mind and our true nature mind. Our true nature mind is like the clear sky. It is always there, however, often gets obscured by clouds, meaning our ordinary mind, which is full of stories, judgements, projections, perceptions, thoughts, opinions, ‘add ons’. In Hamlet Shakespear writes: ‘…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. A mind left unaltered will find peace according to Buddhist teachings.

20160701_190333.jpgThis is Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Centre. How lucky am I to be able to spend 10 days here for a course with Sogyal Rinpoche, a teacher who (supposedly) wrote the famous book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”.

20160702_171440.jpgThis is Rinpoche in action. He calls himself Rinp O’Shea cause he is in Ireland. Very funny.

I’m grappling a bit with this particular Blog. Some of my friends know a lot more about Buddhism than me, some have never been exposed to it. Some say, Ursula, you must be so peaceful in such a place. I certainly feel quite peaceful, but I think it has to do with having done a lot of walking and spending time by myself in the last 4 months. Usually I go to retreats or courses straight from work, running there and back, then having had no weekend to myself, back to work. Which is the situation a lot of people here are in. But you know what? The thing is, you always take your mind with you. You can be restless, unhappy or go crazy in paradise or with all the money in the world or you can find peace in jail like Nelson Mandela for instance. We do have choices but are mostly not aware of this though. And often easier said than done of course.

20160706_161813.jpgThis little card was given to us today to stick on the bathroom mirror or somewhere as a reminder. Another nice analogy that gets used is, if you don’t stir the water it becomes clear. The mud settles on the bottom. Couple of people asked what happens to the mud. That question hasn’t been answered yet. I’ll keep you posted!

20160703_112813.jpgThe centre from a different angle. It has a hostel, a cafe and a spiritual care centre attached to it for sick or dying people and their family. If I ever win the Lotto that’s what I would like to build in Cairns. I know I know, need to buy Lotto tickets for that to happen. Ulrike, der Mann mit dem Koffer….

20160705_143316.jpgThe weather was dry enough today to have a lunchtime sleep on the grass. In our spare time I’m hanging out a bit with a lovely woman, Geraldine, a school principle from Dublin. Gosh if I think we have problems at work, I would never ever want to be in her shoes. Such stress! We went for a little excursion near where we are staying.

20160703_160543.jpg20160703_170604.jpgThis castle was to be a 6 star hotel at this gorgeous little bay, but people went broke in the financial crisis and now it’s sitting empty. Any takers? It’s for sale.

Well tomorrow the retreat is over and I must say, I don’t like Sogyal Rinpoche’s teaching style at all. His videos are great, there is no bullshit in them. In life I would say his power and fame has gone to his head and he has an “ego as large as Jupiter” I read in someone’s Blog. He is totally unpredictable, you never know what time he shows himself or if in fact at all. Some days we had lunch at 3pm because he appeared at 12 or something with obviously no consideration for kitchen staff or transport people. The close devotees explain his behaviours as ‘teaching methods’, they feel we need to be confronted to brake through habitual behaviour patterns. If anyone is familiar with Gestalt Therapy, it reminded my of Fritz Pearl, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, and the use of the ‘hot seat’, a totally confrontative style, but hey man! That was the 60ties! I thought we had moved on from that style.

Many people who were not regular students of Rinpoche’s or part of his inner circle had my opinion but were afraid to say anything. VERY interesting to see brainwashing in action. VERY sad, because teachers like that give Buddhism, which in my mind is about love and compassion, a bad name. Why does power so often corrupts people?  Well, there you go. But I went into this retreat to look at my judgement of people! Interesting? I bet you! Plenty of material to work with! I was able to stay quite well in the space of the ‘observer’ without getting too angry and just recognise, well this teacher is not for me. I still had great times with my meditations, met some fabulous people and that location is just so amazing and special.

Tomorrow (10.7.16) I move on and start walking again. After 11 days in one place I have my usual trepidations again. People often ask me if I’m not afraid. And yes, before a new walk I have my fears and insecurities again and again. The weather has been wild, with rain and low hanging clouds yet again. And it’s so changible, and as unpredictable as Sogyal Rinpoche! LOL….so I really have to wait and see what tomorrow brings before I know if I’m walking or taking the bus to Allihies. Talk about living in the moment! At least I know where I will be sleeping, in the Youth Hostel in Allihies.

Please feel free to give me some feedback re this blog if somebody out there is still reading it. Comments, opinions, critique….all welcome. If not on the blog then email be great.

I’ll finish with a Leunig cartoon, a person I think is pretty enlightened:

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Blog 20 – racing around

Honestly? The pace has been a bit hectic for me. From quiet walking by myself to lots of action, people, talking, driving. But then, I DO like diversity. You can’t say my life is boring, can you? After ending the Wales Coast Path I visited Ian and Nat in Leeds (16.6.16), who were visiting Ian’s daughter Dani and partner Tim and minding their 3 kids under 3! Troupers they are, all of them.

screenshot_20160617-153118.pngOff to Kindy or Nursery as it’s called here.

20160617_135938.jpg We had a lovely time catching up in between childcare. Say no more. Thanks heaps for putting me up in your busy schedule. 19.6.16 I met Eric and Mike, 2 other friends from Australia, in Manchester, which is only an hour by bus from Leeds. Compared to Australia everything is so close. They had a car for a week and we drove up to Scotland to Fort William, where the Ben Nevis walk starts and also the West Highland Way starts or ends, depending on which way you walk it. The drive meant to take around 6 hours but due to an accident on a 2 lane road it turned into a 12 hours journey. In rain and shit weather may I add. So, my photo quality is limited, although when it was occasionally clearing up, the countryside is just spectacular, so rugged.

20160621_091902_001.jpgscreenshot_20160620-134901.png20160620_112352.jpgEric and Mike looking at what’s to see of Ben Nevis. Ok, give up on the idea of hiking up that one!

20160621_090955.jpgSome lonesome camper along the West Highland Way. I’m kind of getting interested in doing that walk, 8 days from Glasgow to Fort William easy walking in a relaxed pace, the book says. For 15 Pounds some company can do all the B&B bookings for you, as NO camping for this little hiker! Hmmmm, can someone guarantee good weather? Happy to pay!

Instead of Ben Nevis we went on a 10kms walk in the rain and freezing conditions (photos above) and a drive all along Loch Ness in the afternoon. No Nessy but….

20160620_212415.jpg20160620_212515.jpgThere is no tempering with camera settings here, just the sun was out for a minute on the 2nd photo. Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness. 21.6.16 Up/downwards and onwards back to England to Keswick in the Lake District and hopefully the weather is kinder to us here. The idea is to climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in the UK. Mike (and me too) was a bit doubtful if I was up to that challenge and since I didn’t know the terrain……long story. The suggestion was that if I can’t do it we all turn around. I could understand the reasoning, the bushwalkers in Cairns work similarly. However, this walk is also full of people, so if I turned around and something happened, I would never be alone for long. So, it didn’t seem like a good idea to me as I didn’t want to be responsible for possibly spoiling the boys’s fun and decided not to go. Weather also looked dubious again and I’m seriously not attached to conquer highest mountains anymore. Never was actually. So, I had a beautiful day walking around Derwentwaters, 16kms, that’ll do. BEAUTIFUL….

20160621_162114.jpgAnd the sun came out!

20160622_094307.jpgDucks and geese waiting for their first morning feed.

20160622_100952.jpg20160622_120438.jpgBEAUTIFUL. The scenery is spectacular, really is…2 lovely sculptures on the lake walk.

20160622_102736.jpgThis tree trunk was full of coins. Never seen this before. Probably for good luck, like a wishing well? Don’t know though….

20160622_140045.jpg20160622_144202.jpg20160622_144139.jpg20160623_074320_005.jpg20160623_074153.jpg20160623_074101.jpgBetween you and me and the fence post, it was a good decision to give the mountain a miss. Eric and Mike had left at 7am and were back after 6pm! Stuffed! We decided to stay an extra day in Keswick before heading off to Mount Snowdon in Wales. The weather is just too good to sit in the car, so better to just chill out for a day, chillax as we say. For my German friends, this is a mix between chill and relax.

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23.6.16 Referendum today in the UK whether to stay in the EU or get out. Hmmm, interesting, we’ll know tomorrow. We all did our own thing today and I meandered around on a few little walks, one being to another neolithic stone circle site, Castlerigg, apparently 1000 years older than Stonehenge. I wish those rocks would speak to me. They might, but I can’t hear. No one really knows their purpose.

20160623_133030.jpgWell, let me tell you, I was so glad to have been here for Britain’s summer, which fell on the 23rd of  June this year!

Off, back to Wales, a 3.5 hours drive down the road! Listening to politics in the car all the way. As you all know, the UK is leaving the EU. Wow, did that referendum create history and confusion about what it now all means in reality. We will see.

We stopped in Chester on the way, a lovely town with these old Tudor buildings.

20160624_114255.jpg20160624_161856.jpg20160624_161946.jpgMike in a beautiful old lolly shop. We had lunch and a wander in Chester and on to our destination Llanberis, where the walk up Mt Snowdon starts. Oh, I love Wales and again those lovely multicoloured houses. I like these towns too that are full of people from my tribe, boots, zip off pants, backpacks and hiking poles. Every pub/restaurant has signs up saying ‘muddy boots and wagging tails (I guess that means dogs!) welcome”. I love it. Keswick had AT LEAST 15-20 of my favourite shops, so you imagine me dribbling and sweating constantly, don’t you? I actually restrained myself and bought nothing! Yes, nothing!

20160624_210933.jpg20160624_145315.jpg24.6.16 Check the weather my friends. These photos were taken at the same time, different direction. Again, we have no clue what the weather will do from one minute to the next, seriously like that. You just put your sun glasses on take them off again a second later. So, again, I decided to give this mountain a miss aswell. So much for the 3 peaks! No T-shirt for Ursula. However, this one does have a train to go up, which is what I will do! And then another lake to walk maybe for 10kms, so I’m happy!

20160625_102054.jpg20160625_102104.jpgWith the train up Snowdon, where from half way up you were in the clouds.

20160625_101929.jpgAnd freezing on the top. 20160625_101942_001.jpgNo views as you can see – lol.

20160625_094539.jpgI could see streams of walkers from the train and again was happy with my decision. Mike and Eric came back in the afternoon absolutey drenched, while I had a 2 hours afternoon nap. Call me wussy if you like.

Wales won the soccer game today and in the pub we were staying everybody was getting pretty drunk. This guy came up to Eric and me and after a bit of chit chat, where we’re from etc and me commenting how I love listening to them speaking Welsh, he started telling this story….true story, true story, happened last week he kept saying: A woman in full burka was sitting in a train quietly talking to her son. Across the seat from them sat an Englishman (I thought oh dear, what racist joke is coming now…). The Englishman addressed her in a rather loud voice, ‘we’re in England lady, you have to speak English now’. Another woman to his right gently put her hand on his arm and said, ‘we’re in Wales actually Sir, and they are speaking Welsh’.

Ahhh, we cracked up.

20160626_111033.jpg26.6.16 Left Wales and Mike dropped us off in Gloucester. We had a lunch stop in Llangollen to visit an old aqueduct, designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1805. It’s the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain. You have to manually open the swing bridge to let the narrow boats through.

20160626_112304.jpg20160626_112240.jpgNot sure if you can see it properly but there are boats going along the aquaduct. It looked rather surrealistic from this distance.

20160626_113850.jpg20160626_183022.jpgSomebody turned one of those narrow boats into a cute coffee shop.

20160626_175430.jpgA very old pub (1500something) in Gloucester.

20160626_171435.jpgGloucester cathedral.

27.6.16 Off to London to see, no no, not the Queen, to see Susan and Stephen, and Sally and Maisy.

screenshot_20160628-125506.png20160628_132658.jpg20160628_132759.jpg28.6.16 Caught up with Sally, a social work colleague from Cairns, and her lovely daughter Maisy today, both strong West Ham United supporters as you can see. I personally don’t even know what game they play, but I didn’t say that! Now that England lost to Iceland in the soccer…..oh dear what’s happening to this country? We went to the Olympic Park and up this somethingsomething Orbit. (I’ll google it in a minute). You could go down a huge slide from this tower, the silver tube on above photo and we let Maisy have a go. NO, WE DIDN’T! (You could also go down 415 steps or take the lift).

20160628_141308.jpg20160628_114202.jpgGreat views over London from the tower.

20160629_080643.jpgHad a great time staying wih Stephen and Susan. Susan runs an arts charity called Magic Me (www.magicme.co.uk) where they organise intergenerational arts projects in aged care homes. 29.6.16 I was lucky enough to listen to one of their presentations on the last 2 projects in 2 care homes. Super interesting and I wish we would have something like that in Cairns. Met a woman called Sally from Dementia Care Matters, who will come to Australia next year to lecture or present on their organisation and I hope I can entice her to come to Cairns and maybe give a talk. Anyway, I could say a lot about this, but people who are interested can email me or look at Susan’s website for more information.

Tomorrow I’m off with the sparrows to Ireland (Cork) to first of all do a Buddhist Retreat in West Cork, a centre called Dzogchen Beara. You can google this if anyone is interested. The retreat is with Sogyal Rinpoche who wrote “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”. But it’s not a residential nor a silent retreat and I’m staying in an airbnb with Wifi and just attend the course in the day time. I haven’t slept in the same bed for 11 days since I’ve been travelling! Whaaaaat? No clean sheets every day? I hope to meet people there who can suggest my next walk to me. There are lots in Ireland I hear and read.

20160622_104428.jpgA rose pettle for you and hope this finds you all well and happy.

Ursula

 

Blog 19 – Wales Coast Path

The ever so attractive wall flower:

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Oh, no, these are the wall flowers. Nature amazes me everyday, how can these beautiful things grow out of nothing?

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7.6.16 I finished walking the Gower part of the trail and am now around the corner so to speak looking back to where I’ve walked the previous day or two (see map in blog 18). Very cloudy/hazy weather unfortunately.

20160607_082111.jpgYesterday I was so stuffed that I didn’t manage to go out to dinner after I finally arrived at my B&B. It was the afternoon of asphalt walking again that did me in. But then in the mornings I have usually recovered. Today was also mostly (~20kms) fantastic cycle paths, a bit endless for walking. It was covered in some special red surface and for some reason my feet are not too bad tonight. I passed the Llanelli Wetlands with a brilliant information centre. Have I had any sex in my Blog yet? I don’t think so, so here it is, Flamingos mating:

screenshot_20160607-181408.png20160607_095822.jpgNot very clear is it? Didn’t want to get closer to disturb them, but she continued eating anyway. 20160607_095549.jpgAnd these were so cute!

8.6.16 How will I ever get back to work? I woke up this morning thinking I need a sponsor to support my walking around in the world. There are so many products that keep older people young supposedly. Is there a muesli bar company or maybe Keen Hiking shoes company? Or can I be a research guinea pig on how walking keeps the blood pressure down in over 60 year olds? Or how to walk well with bunions? Surely….can you keep your eyes and ears open my friends?

Today’s walk was partly along a very deserted beach full of rubbish. Kilometres and kilometres of it.

20160608_090325.jpg20160608_090557.jpg20160608_090745.jpgIn one spot somebody had been a bit creative with the rubbish and built some kind of shelter. I thought about the ghost net project that started on Darnley Island in Australia in 2010. Ghost nets are nylon broken fishing nets that lie around on the beach and when floating in the ocean many fish and turtles get tangled up in them and die. Now many Aboriginal people turn the beach junk into amazing art works.

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I must say I started feeling quite down walking through kms and kms of this mess. And to know that this wasn’t an exception, this is what’s happening in many places around the world is very depressing.

20160608_120137.jpg20160608_123108.jpg20160608_121722.jpgOn to nicer things, Kidelly castle. I was hanging out for a coffee, coooooffeeeee, Marianne, you know the one, and was asking this guy in Kidelly for a coffee shop. “There is the Chinese Restaurant” he pointed out. “They got everythin’ Love, Fish&Chips, chips and….” you know the rest. But have they got coffee, “yeah yeah, they got everythin’, chips and all”. Please imagine a strong Welsh accent aswell. Needless to say I gave the Chinese Restaurant a miss. Then I asked some older ladies, “Oh luvvie, you should have come a bit earlier, we just had a lovely cuppa in the Church, every Wednesday, if you want to come next week.” She must have not seen me walking with a big pack on??? It feels all a bit retro somehow. Anyway, I found some coffee and apple cake, but resisted to the Cornish double clotted cream.

20160608_145251.jpgSometimes the path just goes through paddocks, no trodden out path at all. I feel a bit insecure on those bits, wondering if I’m going the right way. And then I got the fright of my life this afternoon. A huge unfenced paddock had lots of steers that all came running towards me. I have a work colleague whose father was killed in Scottland by a bull, just walking his dog. I was SOOOOO scared and thought my last moment had come. I held my walking sticks in their direction, sort of in a Crocodile Dundee fashion, talked loudly “it’s ok, it’s all ok” and tried to calmly walk on, holding the walking sticks behind me. The steers all stopped, but then some kept following me. Eventually they lost interest. I think they were just nosy really, but my adrenalin was going on full speed, sweating like crazy. I was really very scared. Anyway, I’m here!

9.6.16 Today I took a few buses to avoid a looooong walk inland. So I walked from Pendine to Saundersfoot.

20160609_122149.jpgThis is Pendine Beach where they do speed races on the beach I was told. Did 19kms with lots of up and down like so:

20160609_131409.jpgNot sure why it’s so hazy a lot of the time. Can you see the path I came down though? And up and down 5 more times like this. And a bit more rugged coastline:

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20160609_151206.jpgscreenshot_20160609-180212.pngThen lots of beach as it was low tide. Stunning bright coloured seaweed. A woman stopped me and pointed to the sea saying ‘did you see the trees?’ Trees? I thought she was having me on, I had no clue what she was talking about. And she showed me 7000 year old wood that was preserved in clay from when the sea level was much lower and there was a forest here.

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This is clay, not rocks like I thought. Amazing. Lucky to meet people who just tell you things. Coming into Saundersfoot you walked through these unlit tunnels, bit spooky.

20160609_163915.jpgAnd then the nicest thing of the day. I had asked in every tourist shop for a sticker with dragonshell on it, like they are on every post and pole. Or a badge or some little memorabilia of the Wales Coast Path (WCP). Nothing, but everybody said ‘oh, what a good idea!’. I met this couple who are walking the whole 1400kms of the way and they had a badge on their backpack! They had written to the WCP society or whatever, who apologetically said they hadn’t organised extra stickers yet, being a new path etc (HELLO, it opened in 2012), but they had some lying around and mailed them to this couple. And she gave me her badge! She said they live in England and can write again. I got so emotional (over a badge!) and we had a big hug.

20160609_204641_001.jpgHere is my special badge! I found a heart later that I gave her in spirit.

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10.6.16 Saudersfoot to Manorbier via Tenby. Wanted to take the bus from Saudersfoot to Tenby to shorten today’s walk a little bit and after waiting at the bus stop for about 1.5 hours was told that the bus company Coastal Cruisers had gone into receivership a few days ago. Oh! This is a bit of a disaster, so many walkers depend on those buses in way out locations. Then the school bus came and we could get to Tenby.

Tenby is such a cute place that I decided to take a day off tomorrow and go back there by bus. It started raining in the afternoon, all the more reason for a day off after 8 days walking.

20160611_110610.jpg20160611_110621.jpg11.6.16 Tenby is very pretty with all those different coloured houses. I went by boat to Caldey Island, which is famous for its Cistercian Abbey, chocolate factory and generally very pretty and peaceful.

20160611_182913.jpgA Cistercian monk welcoming us at the boat.

20160611_182214.jpg20160611_122640.jpgThe abbey. The weather just hung in and then cleared in the afternoon. When we came back we had to land in a completely different spot, the tide was out.  20160611_152137.jpgwater gone!

This is a shot of Caldey Island in the distance from my hostel, finally a clear view.

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12.6.16 Manorbier to Bosherston. Drizzle all morning but then clear. Stunning Coastline yet again. Are we bored yet with me meandering along endless trails? The foxgloves along the path add such pretty colours.

20160612_114135.jpg20160612_161904.jpgHello lovely steer! Moo moo…….I DO like you you know BEHIND THE FENCE!

At St Govan was this incredible little chapel squashed between rocks and you could just walk through to the ocean. Saint Govan was chased by pirats apparently and the cliffs closed in around him so he could hide and was protected. He died in 568.

20160612_162635.jpg20160612_162953.jpg20160612_162812.jpgAnd this is the view out of the above little window. At St Govan headland was a walker sitting waiting for the bus. I was glad to tell her that she’d be waiting for a looooong time, no more buses. It’s dreadful, walkers don’t know this, we generally don’t read the papers.

13.6.16 Starting to plan how and when to get off the trail. Looks like I will visit Natalie and Ian in Leeds, friends and work colleagues from Cairns. They are visiting Ian’s daughter here in Leeds. And then of course on the 19th I’m meeting Eric and Mike from Maleny to “do” the 3 peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon, 3 of the highest mountains in the UK. So, after a lot of lonesome existence, some time with friends coming up.

Today’s walk was awful. Quite a bit of the Wales beautiful coast seems to be owned my military and they were ‘live firing’ today as it’s called, as supposed to ‘dead firing’????? This meant you couldn’t walk along the coast and had to do a big detour through the inland on asphalt roads yet again in drizzle. And then through some paddocks with black and white animals in them! You know the ones….oh no…..what do I do? But at least a fence to the right I could leap (!) over in case of emergency, hopping and leaping, my favourites. The signs said to go there and no other option so I braved it. Cattle to the left, army firing around me, NICE! I feel really safe! But these were cows and didn’t even bother to get up, phew! Paddocks were muddy and shitty and anyway, long story, lots more asphalt. I tried to get to Angle to catch the one and only bus for the day they put on as the emergency schedule till a new contractor is found. Time schedule was handed out in the B&B and hangs on some of the bus stops. Got to the bus stop well in time for 14.44pm, and guess what? No bus ever showed. Over an hour later the school bus saved me again. ‘Oh no love, there’s no bus, they haven’t found anybody to take over yet’. 95 bus drivers lost their jobs for now with no warning. Anyway, he took me to Pembroke after 25kms bitumen walking! I decided to finish my Wales Coast Path here. 251kms in total in 11 days.  Good decision as it’s bucketing down again and my boots are soaked (and so stinky, but TMI (too much information?)) Staying a couple of days in Pembroke to sort out how to get to Leeds and then Manchester. Pembroke castle where Henry VII was born in the below tower, King of England, is pretty spectacular. That’s him:

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You read history and it seems all about fighting, who conquers whom and takes over and plunders what. But I won’t give up and send you this lovely sign from the door of a church on Caldey Island.

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Ursula

Blog 18 – upwards and onwards

20160530_214858.jpgThe last 2 days in Hamburg at Bettina’s place were also really lovely. Bettina was another airbnb guest (come friend) of mine in Australia. She is now an airbnb SUPER host herself. Bettina pointed out a the Globetrotter shop to me in Barmbeck, a HUGE camping, hiking everything shop with 3 floors of anything one might want in this area. Now I’m not sure if people know this, but I’m addicted to those shops and everybody for some reason points them out to me. Anaconda in Australia, Decathlon in Spain, Globetrotter in Germany. I usually try and avoid shopping in huge stores that are run by rich multinationals, but here, my principles go out the window. I drove past the Globetrotter twice trying to control my breathing with meditative exercises, but the 3rd time I failed and just had to get off the train. I felt my heart rate increase, I started to sweat, to salivate – all typical signs of addiction. I googled my affliction and I seem to be what’s called a “Trophy shopaholic”, one who is shopping for the perfect item. Well, I found the perfect silk pyjamas! Lighter that my previous night attire, remember the snowman variety from Blog 8? And hugely lighter, probably 25 grams! Plus the latest guide book about the Wales Coastal Path. Even in English I might add. BRILLIANT. I wonder who will point out the British shop variety to me?

1.6.16. Well, despite the usual anxiety (Will I find the Underground at Heathrow (used to hate that airport)? Will I manage the Underground ticket machines? What if I take the Tube in the wrong direction? What if I miscalculated and overstayed my welcome in the Schengen countries and they arrest me? Will I find Susan and Stephen’s place? What if the plane is later than it already is and I cannot contact the neighbour re the key etc etc)…booooring, but never the less thoughts that go through my head). All silly stuff, but most thoughts are, mine anyway. All went well of course. Susan and Stephen left for Australia yesterday but kindly let me stay at their house anyway.

2.6.16 Weather is typical for what I think of England, raining, windy and cold. S&S live about 40 tube stations from Heathrow, in Loughton. Took me longer by Tube to their place than from Hamburg to London, ahhhh funny. Nothing drew me into London city today and instead I rugged up with my kind of normal by now 5 layers, plus scarf, long johns, hat and umbrella and explored the Epping Forest, a beautiful old forest about 6000 acres in size.

20160601_181435.jpg20160601_173616.jpgBeautiful beech trees over 350 years old. OMG, it’s not a Zwiesel at the bottom of this tree is it?

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Pretty roses and some unusual house wiring I had never seen before.

3.6.16 Took bus to Swansea today and just after we crossed the Severn Bridge into Wales the weather turnd from rain into sunshine, quite bizarre. “Croeso i Gymru” – Welcome to Wales!

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Bettina had the brilliant suggestion to add a map to my Blog so people can see where I actually am walking. So, here is the Wales Coastal Path and I’m starting to walk tomorrow from Swansea North or West rather. Yes, yes, I’m walking the opposite direction to the guide book AGAIN.

20160601_191859.jpgSwansea seems like a dump if I may be so judgemental. The rubbish in the streets and along the beach in Swansea Bay is unbelievable. I thought Malaga was bad. And the bins are overflowing with lots of litter around them and birds spreading it even further. I was wondering if the rubbish removal people were on strike. So so sad what we supposedly educated people do. I talked to a local lady some 10kms on and she urged me to please write to the papers and the Council re this.

20160603_064736.jpgThis is Swansea Bay, start of my walk and I’m sparing you the rubbish photos. The singposts for this walk are the dragonshell logo. I guess it means a mixture cost and the Welsh flag of a dragon.

I was carrying a fairly light pack today because I would take the bus back to Swansea after the first etappe. I didn’t manage to find accommodation in Penmaen, mid term holidays here.

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Luckily, the further away from town I got, the less litter. And for the rest of the day the landscape started to look really beautiful. I’m happy again!

20160603_101911.jpgSpot Sandy, the seal!

20160603_100252.jpg20160603_100307.jpgFunny little beach shacks that people either own or rent to keep their deck chairs and beach “stuff” in, change etc.

20160603_113430.jpgAt the beginning of this beach I had the choice between the high road or the low road depending on the tide. Looked like low tide with plenty of time so I walked along the beach. Then I thought you had to walk around this headland also, ‘rock hopping’ as we call it in Australia. My friend Ruth and I don’t like rock hopping much, mainly because basically we’re too old for it and the hopp is long gone. I was quite insecure and had no idea how long it would go for and if I would find the path again. I stepped on what I thought was fairly solid looking seaweed, which wasn’t solid at all and I fell in the water. Wet to the hip! I got up a bit shaky but laughing as no injury just to slip again. Wanted to make sure I’m REALLY wet. Ok, not for me this path, I turned around while the tide was still out to find the high road. I found a little cave to change into my shorts and sandals. Lucky I had a change of clothes cause most of my stuff was back at the airbnb. The first time EVER I didn’t have all of my house on my back! No knickers for example….

20160603_120441_009.jpgAnyway, all good, no injury and upwards and onwards with the boots hopefully drying out by tomorrow.

4.6.16 Took bus back to Penmaen in th morning to continue where I stopped walking yesterday. It was beautiful today, such a varied landscape from nature coastal reserves to what almost looked like rainforest with 268 steps to climb. I didn’t count them, my book said so.

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And then I saw something I least expected to EVER see in Wales:

20160604_105208.jpgLuckily I’m not afraid of snakes and since we have 21 of the 25 most poisenous snakes in Australia, I thought this little critter can’t do much harm. I can see some of my family members shake in horror though (won’t mention names!). However, I found out later, this is an adder, the only poisenous snake in the UK. LOL! Still wouldn’t have killed me, could kill a dog or a baby though. I had just packed the camera away, walked on a few steps and saw one of its babies on the path. But it slithered away quickly. One of the houses in the distance is the Youth Hostel in Port Eynon, where I stayed the night. What a spot!

20160604_160022.jpg20160604_162953.jpgI saw an interesting menu in Port Eynon. Help! What can I eat? What on earth are Curry & Chips? Next door was an ice cream shop and I opted for the much healthier (!) food choice there of scones with jam and lots of some strange double clotted cream, if you know what that is!

20160605_084205.jpg20160605_112957.jpg5.6.16 Sunday. Today was beautiful again. For hours just me, sheep, some cattle, the rugged landscape and some huge beaches.

20160605_094753.jpg20160605_091937.jpg20160605_091519.jpg20160605_102502.jpgThis is Worms Head, where at low tide, which is in the next 30 minutes, you can actually walk over and see lots of bird life and a seal colony. But I decided against it after my last rock hopping adventure. My legs are still a bit sore. Then came amazing Rhosili beach:

20160605_105700.jpgAnd I actually found some REAL food here, the best roasted vegies with pesto, fried watermelon and homemade bread I ever had? 20160605_113127.jpg

I thanked the chef on my knees, well almost. I’m exhausted today arriving in a lovely B&B in Llanmadoc. The long gap of not walking left me quite unfit again. Never mind will just have to build up again.

I will post this Blog even though it’s only 3 days into my walk. But just so you know where I am and what I’m up to. Lots of love to you all.

Ursula

Blog 17 – Time with family

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18.5.16 Spent a lovely afternoon with my Oz friend Heinz being guided around Zurich. Lucky cause he flew back to Oz the next day.

screenshot_2016-05-19-13-11-28.pngOne last cheese fondue the next day in shitty weather again and off on an overnight bus to Hannover to spend a couple of days with my nephew Tore, his wife Barbara and kids Oliver and Robert.

20160521_133005-1.jpg20.5.16 Oliver just started archery. I remember trying that once and the bowstring hit my elbow and turned it into nice shades of black/blue/purple. You’re supposed to wear elbow protectors!

After watching Oliver we went to see Robert at Hodenhagen airport, who is into flying gliders and is also an instructor. And to my surprise they said it’s my turn today to have ‘a go’ with him! Oh no…..I’m not prepared! Which might be better in hindsight, not much time to build up the anxiety level!

img-20160521-wa0017.jpgHere I get the parachute fitted, which I am promised I won’t have to use!

20160521_153416.jpgTore and Barbara watch from the sideline.

img-20160521-wa0004.jpgSeatbelts on, some instructions given.

img-20160521-wa0003.jpg Slight panic attack, but even this shall pass!

20160521_154307.jpgAnd up we go…..20160521_160149.jpgAnd, look at this! She’s cool enough to take a selfie!

20160521_160247.jpg20160521_155932.jpgThis is Robert, my lovely and confident glider flyer.

.img-20160522-wa0005.jpgbye bye Hannoveraner….

20160522_180946.jpg22.5.16 Hello Staderaner. From right to left is Tina my niece, Klaus my brother, Boris, Tina’s husband and Wenche, my sister in law. Yes, we BBQ in Germany aswell…..

20160524_155935.jpg20160527_221706.jpgNow I was lucky enough to see and listen to their kids’s hobbies aswell. Arvid plays guitar, ukelele and bass and Caja follows the Australian aunty in ballet and also plays the flute.

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20160523_173326.jpgStade has a lovely old centre and every tourist takes a photo here with this sculture.20160523_163559_004.jpg20160523_162440.jpgKlaus and Wenche in front of their new apartment.

img-20160526-wa0000.jpgBye bye Staderaner and off I went to Rammsee (25.5.16) to visit my cousin Ulrike and her mother Marie-Luise, my godmother, the bestest, most favourite aunt of all times.

20160528_192523.jpgAt the favourite Restaurant called “The Baerenkrug”. Many family celebrations happened here.

20160528_183919.jpgAnd I’m eating one of my favourites: Sauerfleisch und Bratkartoffeln!

20160529_082833.jpg20160529_082535.jpgAnd every morning I was spoiled with a substantial breakfast. It was not a good idea to have traded in the too large pants for smaller ones!

20160526_165425.jpg20160526_165247.jpgGermany is soooooo hot! Phew….With Ulrike and Annegret in Strande at the Baltic Sea. These things are called Strandkoerbe, and people own or hire them at the beach to keep out of the cold wind or to claim their bit of beach, not sure.

Because I’m doing a lot of sitting and certainly A LOT of eating (German cakes and cream! Hmmmmm) I went for a decent 7kms (well, sort of decent) walk today from Rammsee to my home village called Flintbek…auf den Spuren der Vergangenheit.

20160527_092336.jpg20160527_103224.jpgThese are typical old farm houses in North Germany.

20160527_100040.jpgAnd this is our old family home, sold 20+ years ago. Our street used to be the commercial centre of the village and nowadays nothing nothing nothing, but houses is left. No grocery store, no dentists, no hair dresser, no fish shop, no electro shop, no baker and no candle stick maker (well, I think they were already gone when I lived there!). I’m not THAT old. And since I saw so many churches in my wanderings, I went to visit our old church, built in 1223 on the way to the cemetery.

20160527_103047.jpg20160527_102024.jpg20160527_102056.jpgI was overwhelmed with emotion and nostalgia entering the church. Many weddings, Christmases, christenings and my confirmation happened here. I remembered it as being a large place, from my childhood perspective and now it seemed to be a rather small church.

20160529_105614_001.jpgbye bye Rammsee, off to Hamburg to catch up with some friends. Some of you will remember Merle, who stayed with me and in Cairns for some time a few years ago:

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I want to say a big thank you to all my family members and friends who spoilt me rotten and fattened me up for the next leg of my adventure, 3 months in the UK, Ireland and Scottland. I had a lovely time catching up with you all and seeing what you’re all up to.

Not sure where I’ll be next after London, what I’ll do, but I definitely am itchy for walking again. I love traveling with only vague plans and allow the journey to unfold. Bits and pieces start to emerge, a meditation course near Cork in Ireland in July, meeting some friends from Oz mid June in Scotland, maybe some walking along the coast of Wales. You’ll just have to wait for the next Blogs, won’t you?

And last but not least you won’t believe what I found! There are Zwiesels even in North Germany. I once thought I was researching a great Swiss rarity, but……………

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Blog 16 – Swiss Bonus

Ok, I have a day to ‘kill’ in Zurich til my bus leaves at 7pm tonight for Hannover. It’s raining yet again and at the risk of some of you not getting what I’m talking about, I wanted to leave a few more impressions of Switzerland with you and especially tell you the story of the Zwiesels. This will be partly in 2 languages, since the Swiss do that all the time (if not 3) and should be no worries. I’m starting to think German again I noticed. But that’s beside the point.

Well, once upon a time (es war einmal ein kleines Urselchen…..), not sure if you remember, I stayed in a place called Zwieselberg. My girl friend Sygun texted me that night “sleep well in Zwieselbergli with the 7 Zwiesels” (a mock on the 7 dwarves, die 7 Zwerge). That made me really laugh and on my next day walking in drizzle rain, to keep my spirits up and entertain myself, I started looking for Zwiesels and researching the same. Please be aware there are no such things as Zwiesels and also remember the high altitude was already getting to me – lol. And very quickly I came upon the 1st of many Zwiesels:

20160511_095121.jpgThis is the double headed Zwiesel, der Doppelkopf. Quite scary looking.

20160511_135233.jpgThis is Zwiesalus rosterius (Latin name and hence the same in German if you know what I mean!). But unfortunately I was already too late, this species is extinct.

20160511_101945.jpgNow these little fellows were interesting. They are direct descendants of the common Dwarf. Hier ist ein direkter Nachkomme des gewoehliches Zwerges. The dwarves tried to hunt them down because they saw them as great competition and so (over a long time obviously), they mutated into tiny fellas, just about 7cms tall. This provided them with greater options for hiding and hence this species survived and in fact multiplied to great numbers. Isn’t evolution amazing? I think I don’t need to translate this…..

An extra little funny bit was when I started sending these photos to Sygun, she started to think there really IS a thing called Zwiesel, I mean you never know in Switzerland. Sygun had of course only meant it as a joke, which it is……Sygun is also still evolving to my sense of humour…..but she started realising when I sent a photo of this speciman:

20160511_134354.jpgNow, here the language is a bit tricky, because this is an Unterlandbootzwiesel. (Not a submarinezwiesel but a sublandzwiesel). Very shy and only occasionally poaks its head out of the ground. I was so lucky to see one. But when I sent the next photo, Sygun got very excited and wanted to meet the Unterlandbootzwieseloberkommandant!

20160512_123720.jpgI said to her that I can arrange such a meeting, no problem, but firstly she already has a lovely husband, secondly I wasn’t sure this guy was her type, as you can see he’s into walking aswell. And thirdly he surely is too old for her. Sygun discussed it all with her husband and decided to give Herr Unterlandbootzwieseloberkommandant a miss. My English speaking friends, that title is hard to translate, but maybe you could try google, the God of all knowledge?

20160511_100440.jpgNow this Zwiesel works for the Zwiesel police force, no more to say.

20160511_162222.jpgHe zwiesels all day and can be hard to shut up.

20160513_091902.jpgAnd sadly researching everywhere in old Swiss libraries and whereever, I could find out nothing about this variety. Let me know if anyone knows something or has seen such a Zwiesel before. They might exist in Tasmania? Kind of, likely. I think I have seen similar ones before on my excursions there.

And this is the story of the 7 Zwiesels. I’m kind of glad to report that none of them joined my Bettchen (bed) at night. But I had a fun day in the rain and laughed a lot, all by myself. Is this what walking and clean mountain air does to you? The article I posted on Facebook a while back said that hiking changes your brain…..say no more.

Ok, a few more final photos from Switzerland.

20160518_174853.jpghmmmmmmmmmmm

20160515_101223.jpgFrom the distance I thought this lady was walking her border collies, but they were her ponies.

20160518_120419.jpgLeft my boots in Rapperswil.

Hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed the days looking for Zwiesels. If not have a laugh anyway at my expense, and say ‘now, she really lost the plot’!

 

Blog 15 – Heidi, Heidi, lalala la lala lala

My friends, I didn’t lie to you in the last Blog, I DID NOT LIE. The Swiss DO vacuum their streets and today I saw it with my own little eyes:

20160509_075511-1.jpgIt’s a bad photo as it just started raining and often my phone won’t unlock quickly. But here is the proof, I have never seen anything like it.

8.5.16 Took a bus today from Romont to Posieux. 30kms in sunshine is barely doable for me but in drizzle, forget it. Love being driven through these little villages, sometimes seeing pilgrims desperately checking their GPS, guide books, maps,  whatever and also looking lost. Villages are sometimes just 1 km apart, weird and hard to describe in Australian standards. Yeah yeah and I also got lost again, unbelievable. It’s not that I miss signs ( which I probably also do), I stare at the signage and often just don’t know what it means. Never mind, walked 10 kms and took bus again into Fribourg, and with exploring this beautiful old town I clogged up 20kms anyway. Fribourg is the kind of border from French to German Switzerland. I asked a few shop owners and people today how they know which language to address others in, because I don’t. They said, they just try. Isn’t that a strange thought? Lots of churches in Fribourg and I found Eglise Ursuline.

20160509_151107.jpgHere she is St Ursuline, then and now. 20160224_195029.jpg

20160509_093145.jpgSomeone’s garden in Posieux.

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9.5.16 Left Fribourg in the rain via this bridge (yesterday’s photo in sunshine). But it cleared up through the day and I started climbing higher into the mountains.

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The signage is LOTS better. It now often has a camino shell sign right underneath the little man, just what I thought before, why can’t they do that? They heard me….and the day was beautiful, just like the Switzerland in your dreams:

20160510_180039.jpg20160510_180837.jpg20160510_112707-1.jpgSt Antoni on the way to Rueggisberg. And all the cute names are starting ending in wuerzli, gruetzli, pfuerzli, pfaefferli etc….love it, makes me laugh.

20160510_181114.jpg20160512_074640.jpgView from bedroom in Rueggisberg. Clouds coming, rain predicted.

20160510_093723.jpg See how clear the signs are here? The little red note on the lower sign says ‘gesperrt’, ‘ path closed’. And the amount of trees and branches they placed in the way, well, I don’t want to be critical again, but is this overkill or what? I had to laugh. I laugh a lot anyway, I think the clear mountain air is getting to me a bit, oxygen overload, or endorphins overload?

20160512_074708.jpgAccommodation in Zwieselbergli with a really nice couple. Andreas a Social Worker (!) and Verena a primary school teacher, haha just like another primary school teacher Verena I know! Luckily this one is retired and loving it! My host Verena also complained about the increase of kids with behaviour problems! Hard to believe this far removed in the mountains. Left this lovely place in the cold and rain to Thun:

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20160512_132807.jpgI so wish you and I could see the lovely snowy mountains everywhere in the back ground. The walk would have been so beautiful mostly along Thun Lake, but rain all day long. My tonight’s bed (12.5.16) is in another old castle, Gut Rallingen, now owned by a Christian Brotherhood.

20160512_172741.jpgBEAUTIFUL, I’m sitting in a 500 year old warm room, all timber and one of the brothers brought me a postcard of what I would see if there were no clouds:

20160512_162614.jpgThe Gut Rallingen is what you see in the middle there. Again I’m alone in a 4 bedroom dormitory. So lucky. 40CHF with a huge dinner and breakfast included. Rain predicted for the next 2 days. Hmmmm…..

20160513_075134.jpgThis is their chapel up in the loft.

13.5.16 It didn’t only rain last night, it bucketed down and still is. So, Frau ist flexibel, and changed plans again. I had already changed plans and was to take the boat from Interlaken to Brienz to cut the etappe in half. Suggestions were take a bus to Beatushoehle, Beatus stalactite caves, do a tour there, then bus on to Interlaken and boat. Now, the caves were flooded (happens about once a year!) and closed. But I stopped anyway and it was still impressive with roaring waterfalls:

20160513_095458.jpg20160513_094031-1.jpg Then bus on to Interlaken, a ritzy ski resort in the winter. It was strange coming here, because there were lots of rich Arabs coming out of hotels that cost thousands a night. Women in full veils in the middle of this cold mountainous coutry side. And busloads of Asians too. I don’t think I would like to visit Interlaken in the summer high season, because now it was still relatively quiet. The bus driver had suggested that I take a boat stop at the waterfalls in Giessbach. Well worth it, they were powering and you could walk behind one of the drops.

20160513_133330.jpg20160513_133420.jpg20160513_133505.jpgHad coffee and cake after in this privately owned castle looking palace “Grand Hotel Giessbach” for 12 CHF. Never mind, today is an expensive day. Also bought new shorts that fit, in the hope that the sun will come out again one day. Tomorrow I’m to cross a 1100mts high pass, the Bruenigpass and the reception girl at the Youth Hostel just said it’s supposed to snow again overnight. Maybe Frau has to be flexible again…wait and see. (or not to see as the case may be!)

20160514_085327.jpgWell train it was, 14.5.16, and check out the view from the top. And I saw soaked paths that I would have actually had to wade through….good decision. Got off at Lungern, walked 6kms along the Lungern lake, train again to Sachseln and walked 5kms to Flueli-Ranft, a BEAUTIFUL place. Skies opened up for a little bit:

20160514_130437.jpg20160514_115254.jpg20160514_163339.jpgThis is Paxmontana, an Art Nouveau Hotel, stunning. I meant to go for coffee there and asked for room rates. Through booking.com they were CHF 400 and up. I looked like a drenched rat, wet, dirty. I would have sent myself sleeping in the hey shed! The receptionist said CHF 150 and when I was about to walk out she said, what about 100 and I said ‘yes’. It was beautiful and the staff were all so nice, not snobby at all. She gave me an amazing room with view out the front, bath tub in a sort of alcove, bar of chocolate on the bed. It was SO worth it compared to the place in Rolle. I am so lucky.

20160514_162627.jpgRained again unfortunately, but I spent a lot of time in bed in the cosy warm room. Remember the accommodations in Portugal, where I slept with towel warmers? Heating everywhere here of course, I love it!

The day after (15.05.16) was dry for a change and I walked to Stans (17kms) and from there took a train to Luzern, just 25 minutes. An ex airbnb guest of mine, lovely Regina had invited me to stay at her place and we had a great catch up. She spoilt me with a yummy meal, fresh asparagus with sauce Hollandaise and fish and a strawberry desert. Regina took me back to the train station in the morning for an 8am train to Schwyz. I unfortunately saw nothing of Luzern which I believe is another worthwhile beautiful town. Another time maybe.

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20160515_130103.jpgVery cute, someone stacked their firewood making it look like houses.

16.5.16 Two days left of walking. And today is over the Haggenegg pass, 1414mts high, the highest point of the Switzerland Camino. SCARY, but because it was dry, I wanted to try it.  I had no idea if I could do it. I got my knee supports out for the first time, for the way down. The climb up was 1000mts and down 700. It took 3 hours up and up and up.

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And I huffed and I puffed like I usually do going uphill, but it was just a matter of taking it steady and slowly and one step after the other. I made it in the time the book and the signs said, which surprised me, cause I felt I was crawling. Had coffee in the restaurant on top and suddenly the waitress ran out and screamed ‘it’s snowing’.

20160516_111932.jpg20160516_121851.jpgThat white stuff my friends is called snow! Brrrr. I shouldered my pack and got out of there. Fresh snow? Not my thing….although they might have cranked up the ski lifts again and I could have had a ride down….only kidding! I was even more mindfull on the way down. It was VERY steep. And then when I was down it was another 8-9 kms to Einsiedeln and my accommodation, all flat and I thought ‘flat!’ piece of cake. But it turned out to be the longest 9kms ever, it just dragged on and on along a creek and asphalt little roads etc. I was visualising a nice bed with fluffy doona in warm room, I was STUFFED. I now AM in this nice comfy bed in warm cosy room (7pm). Einsiedeln is again a beautiful little town and you feel obliged to at least see something of the place. The very friendly hotel lady told me just after I arrived that the monks were singing now in the Kloster some gregorian chants (which I love) and it’s very worthwhile to go. But I couldn’t move, my feet were throbbing and needed tender loving care and Voltaren. So, I went to see the Kloster a little later:

20160516_192752-1.jpgpicture taken from my hotel window and so glad I did go and see it. It is famous for its black Madonna and pilgrims come from all over the world. It is stunning, the ceiling paintings are beautiful. I hope these painters received regular neck massages.

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Pizza and bed for me. Its 4 degrees out there again. Man, come on it’s mid May! I have only 1 day walking left and my pilger pass is already full of stamps.

20160516_175311.jpgsee if we can squeeze a Rapperswil stamp in somewhere.

20160517_160910.jpg20160517_173746.jpgRapperswil in th distance. This concludes 14 days of the Swiss Camino. I did 280 kms roughly. Not sure how long the walk actually is. I’m staying in a pilgrim Herberge tonight. I thought it might be nice to share with others. And it is, in fact I’m giving out quite a bit of information due to walking the ‘wrong’ way, I’ve been to places where te others are heading. It’s a 12 bed dormitory and happens to be full tonight. Ursula will probably not get much sleep. I’m always kind of sad when a walk finishes. I thought today, why don’t I make this my life, just continue walking. Hmmmm.

Thank you again body for holding up so well and supporting me without blisters even this time. Tomorrow I am meeting Heinz in Zurich for a stroll and coffee, a friend from Cairns. He was visiting family and is flying home the day after. Then I’m off to Germany to spend time with my family. I wish you all well, “buen camino” through life.

Blog 14 – On the road again

20160504_142524.jpgLets chill out in Geneva! These grass lounges were all along one street.

I put the PS at the front: This turned out to be a loooooong Blog. So I suggest, you log out, make a cuppa tea or whatever your favourite beverage is and come back!

Well, what a challenging first day I had (Wed 3rd)! Lessons in learning to ‘go with the flow again’ started straight away. Leaving Sygun & Peter and Verena, I was full of anxiety, fear, sadness….a sort of emotional cocktail. I wasn’t in THE ZONE at all. I didn’t have a pilgrim pass yet, and to get one would give me a late start for the first etappe. I also felt quite unfit from all the bloody coughing, which is still hanging on. The fear at the beginning is mostly about getting lost I think. The guide book I have now is great, but I’m doing this walk back to front. This sounds easy, you just start reading at the back of the book, but it is a mind twister. Every right turn, means left for me, uphill means downhill etc, get the drift? Anyway, I had figured out and Peter and Sygun had suggested it, that because the first however many days are near or along Lake Geneva that I could take a boat to Versoix, which would save me 10kms of the 1st day’s 24. Great idea, I booked the 12.30 boat online the night before. Sygun and Verena dropped me off at Cern tram stop and I took the No 18 into town. I went to the Cathedral St Pierre for my pilgrim pass. They didn’t have one and sent me to the Basilika Notre Dame. They didn’t have one and sent me to a nearby church office. Here I was lucky and for CHF 25 (did I mention yet how expensive Switzerland is?) I received my pass. Same thing in Portugal was 1.50 Euro. I personally don’t really need yet another ‘credencial’ paper. I mean how many times can my sins be taken, and what sins anyway Saint Ursulina? But it is really helpful because you often get price reductions for meals and accommodation and entries to albergues.

So, all good, time enough to get to pier Paquis. Boat was 20 minutes late, VERY un-Swiss and the crowds (6) were getting restless. When it arrived, much apologies from the crew, they had had engine problems. We were rushed on board and 1 minute after leaving 2 stewarts came to me saying that we won’t stop at Versoix or in fact anywhere at the Northern side of the lake because of heavy wind! So, this was not good for me because the Southern side is totally not where I needed to be. When I questioned why they hadn’t told me before we boarded, they were very apologetic and said the captain only told them just now bla bla bla, nothing we can do. I now had to join the harbour cruise and we would be back in Geneva at 14.30pm. When asking for my money back, because I didn’t want a harbour cruise and then start walking 25kms at about 3pm, they said they couldn’t refund me because I purchased the ticket online and I would have to write to the company. So, here I was on a lake cruise in windy, cold conditions. I felt teary, which I think is really from leaving my friends and all the mixed emotions. Another issue too was that I had booked a, for my standards really expensive (but the cheapest available)  accommodation already, where I needed to get to today. When I got a grip again, because ‘it is what it is’ and nothing I can do about it other than swim, I settled down, realising that now, while I am on this most beautiful lake, I might aswell enjoy it. The head stewart was super nice and tried to help me problem solve by suggesting I take the train after we get back and he booked me a ticket in 1 minute flat (he paid) to a place called Coppet, a bit further than Versoix, cause time was ticking on.

20160504_125222.jpgscreenshot_2016-05-04-13-36-53.pngSilly not to enjoy this eh? But sometimes we just can’t see what’s in front of us….

So, all went well, I caught train to Coppet, a 9 minute train ride! Fast trains in Switzerland mind you! But the relativity of it all. This 9 minutes would have taken me 5-6 hours walk (17.8kms per guide book). Terry, I can see you shake your head and wonder why walk if you can take a train! 

Coppet is a cute little place right at the Lake with a chāteau where they prepared for a 3 day flower show in the chāteau gardens. So, I started to relax. From here only 7kms to my destination, plenty of daylight left and most of all I saw signage everywhere! 20160504_160541.jpg20160504_155358.jpgMy confidence slowly started to return, I wouldn’t have to read my guide book upside down after all! So, this deserved a relaxing start with coffee and cake in a café by the Lake. And then she was off, finally walking again. Everything was beautiful, vineyards, apple tree plantations, all in flower, the smells were divine, the sun was shining, the views were to die for, spring time was here and the world was ok!

20160504_171632-1.jpgSo guys and here is my 1st night’s accommodation, I stayed at my castle, Château de Bossey. I had decided years ago to turn it into a conference/seminar centre and also allow pilgrims to stay, you know the upkeep of all my castles is a bit of a burden…lol

20160504_174215.jpgThe top right little window is my room and this is the view from my room:

img-20160505-wa0000.jpgThese alps are everywhere…

Next day walk was beautiful AGAIN! It’s a Public Holiday today, Himmelfahrt (Ascention Day).

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If this doesn’t make your heart sing, I don’t know what will! I swear the Swiss don’t only sweep their streets they also vacuum them. If you see a spec of rubbish, you feel compelled to pick it up because it sticks out so much. My next night was in Rolle, directly at the Lake. Almost twice as expensive as last night! (CHF 145) Tomorrow I’ve booked a women only dormitory room in Lausanne.

Lake Geneva is with its 90 Trillion litres of water the biggest water reserve in Western Europe by the way. Little education on the side. You want a view from tonight’s room?

img-20160505-wa0001-1.jpgOh dear, what I have to put up with! I totally deserve this screenshot_2016-05-05-20-29-11.pngafter 25 kms of course. 20160505_163904-2.jpgAhhhh, it’s all just amazing. Uh lala, was going to be my new OMG. My friend Sygun said I use OMG (Oh My God) way too much. But when researching Uh (or Oh) lala, I found someone saying that French people actually don’t say this at all and if they do, it tends to refer to something negative. Or it means: “Check out that hot piece of ass”. Google said this not me! So, well oh lala is now of course not a new option.

20160506_093534.jpg You meet all sorts of pilgrims. This woman walked with her dog and some sort of cart invention, which she has a harness for and doesn’t have to use her hands at all. She is camping and the gear is too much to carry.

20160506_143847.jpgTulips festival in Morges.20160506_135748.jpgAfter Lausanne I will leave Lake Geneva. I took a train for the last section to Lausanne. 30kms is such a stretch for me and I wanted some energy left to wander around Lausanne for a bit.

20160506_182230.jpgI was having cathedral withdrawals you see. But got my hit in Lausanne20160506_175840-1.jpgwith the Cathedral Notre Dame, nicest building in Switzerland accordig to guide book from early Gothic, built between 1170 and 1275.

20160506_184548.jpgAnd then, having completed 25kms again, I celebrated my girl friend Verena’s birthday with a Swiss cheese fondue. I hope she appreciates my effort.

4th day walking today (Saturday) and got lost on the last 3 days here and there. I must review my previous comment about good book/good signage. I wouldn’t have dared to critize the Swiss, but every Swiss walker I met agreed with me. The signs often don’t match my guide book and they have the same signs for local tourist walks as for the Camino way. It often just says ‘Tourisme pédestre”, with the little yellow man and you’re not sure if this is for around the block or for the Camino or what. In Portugal were all these extra funny stickers: “Gut Weg will Pfeile haben”. Sorry, untranslatable, it relates to a German saying. And what was really helpful there was on ways where not to go. Now that I have left Lake Geneva, which was a good orientation, having it often visible to your right, it’s a bit more stressful. Anyway, it’s of course not as bad as my original fears, because it’s fairly populated, you meet other walkers, cyclists etc to ask.

20160507_092757.jpgCouldn’t find this cyclist anywhere though!

20160507_083936.jpgThis beautiful wooden tower called Tour de Sauvabelin, from where you are supposed to have an amazing view over all of Lausanne etc, unfortunetaly closed for renovation.

20160507_114906.jpgCame across this lovely wooden mermaid at one stage being lost (again) by accident at the edge of a little water reservoir. I almost didn’t notice her.

Last night I stayed in Moudon. That was interesting. Due to some agricultural festival everything was booked out. But I had heard about some military caserne (Kaserne), that offered beds to pilgrims in some huge dormitories. So, the info lady at the Lausanne tourist info centre called for me (after having made 10 unsuccessfull calls already) and it was a hit. The guy said there is a group of 8 but I could be by myself in a 60 bed dormitory and whether that would frighten me. Que???? Hmmm. Better by myself than with 59 soldiers. Anyway, that whole etappe was challenging, got lost, guide book useless, lots of asphalt, in short I took the bus after 15 kms to 2kms before Moudon where I went to the caserne. All closed but there was a bell and some 17 year old soldier came out (behind highly secure gates etc) and said, no, no accommodation here. We had a bit of a chat, there were only 3 soldiers there and they had no idea why they had to be there and were bored out of their brains, playing cards and stuff. So, I convinced them to ring the person who we had booked with, which they did. They found out the place was actually in Moudon town, where I wanted to go anyway and since they had nothing to do another 17 year old drove me there in a military vehicle. I mean how safe can you be! I had asked if we could go in a tank (Panzer), but the answer was ‘no’. Now, where he dropped me off, a place called ‘Arsenal’ was not the right place. It was very busy though being used as the car park for this agricultural show. So, I asked the car park attendant and he called that phone number again for the 3rd time by now and asked for an address. (Some times it would be helpful to have a phone, but then I don’t speak French anyway). Then a dear old English lady must have overheard us and came to ask if she could help. This story maybe sounds very convoluted, hence hopefully you have your cup of tea, but it shows how things go sometimes. So, we found out that the correct place is actually right next to the church and is now used for God knows what, school groups or something. So, the lovely English lady drove me there, just a km or so.

20160507_183107.jpg20160508_053722_001.jpgWell, I have arrived. And because in the big dormitory was a group of 8 walkers, the caretaker put me in a 4 bedroom room ALL BY MYSELF! For 18CHF. How good is that? 1 bed for me and one bed for my things and 2 spare. 3 more German walkers arrived for the big dormitory and we had a nice chat. I had lost my body wash container and asked if anyone had seen it and one of them immidiately gave me one of theirs, saying it was spare anyway. It reminded me of when Ruth and I walked and I had left my towel behind somewhere, and the same night we met 2 German women cyclists who cut their towel in half saying it was too big anyway. Ahhh, the universe provides. These are tiny little sharings, it’s hard to describe, but they make your day. When I left Lausanne I still had a public transport  day pass that I almost threw away, but then thought no, I might meet someone, cause everyone goes the other way to me. And I met this Austrian lady whom I could give it to together with a map of Lausanne and she was so happy. And it’s not that we can’t afford those things ourselves, it’s a sharing of resources, a giving of a right gift at the right time or something.

Today was to be a short walk of 15 kms from Moudon to Romont and unbelievably I got lost AGAIN, wandering through fields of green and yellow with no signage to be found. I stopped a motorcyclist, who was lovely and pointed me in the direction of Romont. He was a farmer checking the crops. A km or 2 later, he found me again on his bike and look what he did. He must have gone home, printed out a map for me and marked where I needed to go.

20160508_154653.jpgHonestly, now in hindsight it brings tears to my eyes. The kindness of strangers. Meanwhile, there were also yellow markers again on the trees. Another km later he drove past again to tell me, a little disturbed I think, that he had actually never noticed the markers before even though he lives here. I tried to reassure him and explain that this is normal, we often only notice things on a needs basis, what’s in our field of awareness, but this conversation was getting beyond my limited French. How lovely though.

20160508_115121.jpgRomont in the distance. I’m getting there.

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I’m there!

 

Blog 13 -Sharing with Friends

Flew to Barcelona (all trains booked out!) and shared a car ride from there to Toulouse through an organisation called blablacar.com for 20 Euro. It was great, 5 people in the car. 2 from France, a dentist from Italy, the driver from Kamerun, but living in Barcelona and me. Lots of chatting in 3 different languages. Made it to Toulouse in 4 hours, exactly on time and Andreas picked me up from the meeting point. And can you believe it, it has gone bloody cold again. Snowing/sleet in Switzerland, Germany and even Italy. What is going on this year? Man, and I had already kissed my long john snow man pants good bye!

wp-1461672998847.jpgLilie and Andreas whom I have met in 2006 on the Camino Compostella, run a beautiful Gite (Albergue) for pilgrims who are walking the Via Tolosana, one of the 4 Caminos through France. I had already visited them in 2010, when I walked from Montpellier back to their place, 45kms west of Toulouse. The house is an old farm from around 1650 and it truely has a stunning atmosphere (and also requires a lot of maintenance, like old places do). Tonight (Tuesday) we had 6 French speaking pilgrims from various places including Quebec, Canada. And 2 Canadian helpers arrived, who work for food and lodging through an organisation called Workaway. I had also signed up with that organisation before I left Australia, but work!? So far, I just can’t seem to fit it in!

It feels lovely to live a bit of community life for a few days. Andreas and Lilie do a nice little ceremony after the pilgrim meal, where they pass a candle around and people who want to share something (or not) about their walk/experiences/emotions or whatever, can do so. They are trying to keep the Camino walking experience special and not just see it all as a business. This is so nice and it takes a real committment because everyday new people can be very wearing.

wp-1461756988298.jpgPilgrims leaving this morning. Thursday we only had one pilgrim, Carmen. She was a pianists and wow, she provided us a beautiful concert. So, everyday is different in Albergue life.

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Flew to Geneva and met my dear old friends Sygun and Verena at the airport. The top left photo is the view from Sygun and Peter’s house on a good day! Amazing. Switzerland is so beautiful. But as the bad weather tends to follow me, next day overcast, raining and freezing again. I’m a bit lost re my next walk, one reason being the weather, the other not being able to buy an English or German guide book and not being quite able to figure out how hard the walks are. Spending hours on google is really frustrating me.

Saw this on Facebook the other day and can really relate:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s ok. The journey changes you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart and on your body. You take something with you…..Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

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My dear friends Peter & Sygun and Verena after market shopping. At least 20 different kinds of tomatoes. Thanks for spoiling me and trying every remedy from the garden to heal my persistent cough.

20160502_1244160.jpg20160502_124217_001.jpgLeft foot in Switzerland and right foot in France. I seem to be fascinated by this, did it in Portugal/Spain.

Meanwhile it’s 3rd of May. The walk I had in mind, the Chemin des Crètes de Jura or Jura Hoehenweg, is not flowing. No guide book in a language I understand, still snow on top, too high, too hard something something something. We now ordered the German guide book for the Camino Switzerland from Konstanz to Geneva and hopefully it will arrive in the shop tomorrow. (no electronic version available). I intend to walk it backwards or reverse rather. You know what I mean….So, tomorrow (Wed 4th), after a late start because I have to find a pilgrim pass (credentials) somewhere and churches don’t open till 10am, I will be off again. I will take it easy, because these weeks of coughing have taken lots of energy out of me, although I don’t feel sick as such. I haven’t walked any long distances since Santiago, 13th April. I will also have to get used to Swiss prices, realising now how cheap Spain and particularly Portugal were. I might have to try Albergues again! That reminds me, I have to buy new ear plugs.

bye bye my friends
bye bye my friends

20160504_101359.jpgtill we meet again in October for a spoil wellness week near Salzburg!

Thanks for reading my Blog and leaving such lovely feedback. It inspires me to keep writing.

Hugs from

Ursula