I returned home from my trip to Sydney and feel armed and dangerous. It’s been a couple of weeks since I flew down to do the Camino Downunder workshop and once I got back, I literally hit the floor running with the start of the teaching year, my evening work, Spanish lessons and catching up on the four days of work I missed while I was in Sydney.
I didn’t really have a choice of whether to blog or not; I simply did not have the time. But whilst I’ve been away from blogging, it’s given me an opportunity to process all the information I gleamed from a couple of seasoned pilgrims and try to put it into perspective and implement it into my planning.
Let me first say, I had such a great time while in Sydney that I’ll probably blog about some of the good times later on. I used the opportunity to explore Sydney in such a way that is similar to how I think it might be when I’m in Spain; to get a taste of things yet to come. With a mindset of expectancy, I experienced a wonderful time meeting strangers and experiencing just some of the many things Sydney has to offer. It was remarkable and I will share some stories down the track.
It was drizzling with rain the morning of the workshop and I headed out from my hotel with brolly in one hand and Google Maps GPS on my iPhone in the other. I knew I only had to walk a street or two away from where I was staying. This sounds simple, but you are yet to know what I am like when it comes to finding my way to intended destinations. After my trip to Sydney, I realise that orienteering is just not my thing. Something internal wills me to go in the completely opposite direction to where I actually need to go. Although proven many times over, I still argue to the death with whoever happens to be with me. I object till I’m blue in the face and even after I have been proven wrong, I still feel driven to go where I feel it is the right direction. My head tells me one thing; my heart, another.
Trying to read the GPS on my phone didn’t help me either. I am one of those people who has to turn the map around so I can see the direction I am meant to take. In truth, I think my spatial awareness could use some fine tuning. My brain simply won’t process upside-down. This time I had no one to argue with, and I won. I took the direction of my burning desire, and yes, you guessed it, I ended up streets away from where I needed to be. At one point I decided to ask this girl I was standing next to at the traffic lights. “Can you please tell me where Clarence Street is?” She smiled shyly at me and held up her phone and shrugged. She had just arrived in Sydney and was using her GPS to find a street. We both laughed and continued on once the lights turned green. Next minute, I found myself on Clarence Street and outside the building that the workshop was to be held in.
I’d given myself plenty of time and had arrived early so I decided to find a place to buy some breakfast. I headed off down the street, after noting a couple of land marks and found a little breakfast bar on the next intersection. I ordered an egg and bacon roll and a lovely hot cup of coffee, which I enjoyed immensely. I made it back to the meeting point without any more misadventures and was met by Yvonne Grossman. She took a group of us up to the ninth floor where we met her husband Marc and other members of the group; about 20 people approximately. Marc was rearing to get started. Once everything kicked off, we spent an intense morning jammed packed with information. Marc worked his way around the room and asked us all to state every concern we had while he filled two white boards with these queries. Most of the session before lunch was spent answering all the questions raised.
We spent a good deal of time looking at the book of 30 All Weather Maps of the Camino that most of us purchased, along with a print out of the cross sections and elevations of the mountains that we will meet along the way. Throughout the day we discussed topics such as: the concept of a pilgrimage, the timeline and a little bit of the history of the Camino, the walking of the Camino de Santiago, a proposed itinerary, a packing list, a food guide, health issues, resources, phrase guides and various scenarios. As part of our package, we received a very informative guide-book called, The Guide for the Spanish Camino ~ Walking the Camino Frances as a 21st century pilgrim, by Marc Grossman, as well as other information and a souvenir cloth badge of Camino Downunder.
I purchased the 30 All Weather Maps produced by Camino Downunder because they are very good quality and made from waterproof plastic paper with highly UV-resistant colours to prevent tearing and fading, they show a 3D aerial view of the terrain using geographic information system (GIS), and on the back of each map of the section of the walk, there is an accommodation guide and food recommendations and finally, it has been successfully tested by pilgrims walking the Camino Frances in 2009.
The Grossman’s also provided a wonderful selection of snacks for morning tea that lasted throughout the day. A surprise treat offered toward the end of the day was some traditional Spanish liquor.
I’m glad I invested the time and energy into flying down to Sydney to participate in this workshop and I would recommend it to anyone contemplating their first pilgrimage to a land unknown, as in my case. I learnt a lot and I know I still have much more research to do.
As I said in a previous post, it is not the destination but the journey that is the pilgrimage and my pilgrimage has already begun. Attending this workshop is part of my pilgrimage. I plan to put as much time and energy into research as I can. I want my trip to be successful so I am planning for its success. None of it will be wasted.
I plan to discuss many of the things I find out here in more detail in this blog. It will be my record and reference point. I also plan to share interesting stories that crop up along the way.
So, hasta la vista amigos,