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an adventure for 2014

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

It was Easter 2013 that we I had a crazy idea.
PapaBear had gone off to camp with the older kids and had a face-to-face encounter with God and came home expecting MamaBear (me) to suggest we adopt a dozen babies from Africa. I rather suspect he would have been up for the challenge. But with half the family away I had had time to think and had hatched my own plan, albeit a much simpler one.
You’ve got to know that we adopted into our family two little kids from Togo last year – that is to say, we sponsor them, but our biological kids talk about them as much as each other, so they are family now. And even before we’d done that, we’d talked with our GP one day. We had visited him with a broken toe or something and came away with broken hearts. He had just returned from his latest trip to Africa and talked passionately about what he believes is the single biggest problem in Africa – the long treks women make to collect (often impure) water. He reckoned if you could give access to clean water, you could change their lives completely. Of course, we already knew that, but it took his compassionate account to compel me to action. I asked the kids to consider what we could do to help the situation. I asked God to lead our thoughts.
I came across “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – may I encourage you to read this one? It is a life-changing book. It’s almost certain that if you have access to that book, you are living in a position of privilege, and for me, it made me want to use my position to bless others.
As a family we read aloud Katie Davis’ “Kisses from Katie” and our hearts swelled more for the people of Africa.
Some Christmas money went towards digging a well. We welcomed Komi and Dagan into our family. But we could still do more.
I discovered charity: water. I spent Easter reading every page on their website and my idea took shape.

“What if I went back to the Camino and walked 1,000km to raise money for a water project in Africa?” I suggested to PapaBear.
I needed him to know this was a Serious Suggestion:

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And over the next few months the dream grew. We decided the younger boys (who will be 11 and 13 when we go) would be invited. They didn’t hesitate.They were in.
Then the little girls (the youngest will turn 8 soon after leaving NZ, the other will be 10) wondered aloud why they couldn’t go.
Too far, too hard.
“But we walked last year – and I did it with a broken arm and I never complained,’ Tgirl pointed out.
Can you argue with that? Would you even want to?

So we started looking at routes. How to make 1,000km along various camino paths. All roads lead to Rome, but we were going to Santiago, and there are a lot of roads that go there too. We’ve ended up with the following proposal.

Lboy13 and Mboy11 will accompany me to Madrid at the end of April. We’ll take a bus to Pamplona and walk through the Pyrenees to Bayonne in France on the Camino Baztan. 110km Done.
Then we’ll head down to Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port, which is a semi-official-ish starting point for the main Camino route, the Camino Frances. That will be 67km on the Voie de la Nive (and no, I don’t speak French apart from baguette and merci, but my linguistic detective work tells me the Nive is the name of a river and “voie” is probably “path” – googletranslate provides confirmation. And I have a map and compass, so we’ll be right. Besides, it’s only a hand span on the map)
When we leave Saint Jean for our second take at the Pyrenees, PapaBear will leave Auckland with the two younger girls. If all goes according to plan, we will arrive in Pamplona on the same day, and we’ll have done another 70km. The girls will have missed the hardest stretch with compulsory longer stages. (by the way, you can zoom in on the map and scroll around if you really want to)

PapaBear has two weeks with us and we’ll blitz along as far as we can, trying to find the balance between enjoying our time together and covering some decent distances. Then he’ll hop on a train bound for Madrid airport (and ultimately, home), and the rest of us will walk due west towards Santiago. But we won’t keep going that way. We have already walked the last 300km of that route, and so when we get to Leon, we’ll sidestep northwards through the mountains on the Camino del Salvador. When that finishes, we’ll continue on the Camino Primitivo……and a good way along that route we will hit the 1,000km mark. Hopefully we will still have time up our sleeves – if not, we’ll take a bus, but if we do, we’ll go the extra mile…..we’ll zip off the official route and make our own way down to Melide where we have wonderful memories from our last trip. The rest of the family has charged us with buying a particular variety of biscuit from a particular bakery there. We’re not objecting. From there it’s just a few days to Santiago, the totally official end-point of all the Caminos.

Why 1,000km? It makes the maths easy! If you sponsor one cent per kilometer, it will cost $10. If you sponsor ten cents it will be $100. What could be easier?
But we’re not actually asking you for any money…..not yet!
For now, would you be able to take a look at Would you snoop around and see if this is a charity you might find yourself willing to make a contribution to when we walk? We’ll be putting up a campaign, but not until next year. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to check out the website and see the fantastic work they are doing.
Will you take this journey with us? (we’ll blog weekly until departure and then daily if possible when we’re away)

Spain Sept 29 001

Excitement at the Lock

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

“Do I get onto the roof? Do I get onto the roof?” Jgirl18 shouted with a tone of panic growing in her voice.
“Jaala, get on the roof NOW,” MamaBear shouted, or perhaps even screamed. Ordinarily screaming does not help in an emergency, but in order to be heard above the roaring torrent of water cascading into the bow section where Jgirl18 was standing the boat the instruction giver resorted to LOUD. Panic SLOWLY, the boat hire trainer had told us. I am not sure how slow we had been 🙂
Jgirl18 has no recollection of asking the questions, but she jumped onto the roof like a scalded cat (giving herself a decent bruise in the process) all the while heroically holding on to the end of the rope that was tethering the bow section, and FadaBear pulled the boat back so that the bow section was no longer under the deluge rushing into the lock. It was all over in less than fifteen seconds, but those seconds had ticked by very slowly, and in the process we gained a first hand lesson in lock safety.

It had all started when we edged our 70 foot boat into what appeared to be a 74 foot lock. There certainly was no room to spare, and to complicate matters further, this lock had flood paddles that were actually in the lock gate themselves. This means that when you open them to flood the lock, the stream of water often bounces off the cill (the flat concrete base at the bottom of the lock gates) and fountains upwards. This lock had been more extreme than the others, and we had even taken pictures of the fountaining streams of water that arced in front of the bow of the boat – safely in front of the boat at first….

London Oct 10 Canal 032

London Oct 10 Canal 035

This lock we had changed over responsibilities, so the older boys were on paddle duty and the two girls were on rope duties. This subtle change, combined with the high risk lock flood paddles provided just the variables for near disaster. As the lock fills with water, the boat often surges around the lock unless securely roped off around the bollards along the side of the lock, and the people on rope duty need to continually take up the slack from ropes which is introduced as the boat rises with the water in the lock. This time, the inexperienced ropers didn’t manage to keep the ropes taught, and so the boat started to surge forward. This was not really a problem at first as we only had the paddles open a crack, so water was spraying into the bow but not enough to pose any real threat. One of the boys on the paddles was asked to close the paddle completely so that the water spraying into the bow would stop. However, inexperience meant that the paddle was actually opened wider instead of being closed off. Suddenly, the inconvenient spray turned into a rushing torrent of water that was surging directly into the bow section of the boat, buffeting Jgirl18 and threatening to swamp the boat. We were told you have two minutes until the boat sinks in these circumstances – not a statistic we wanted to test. FadaBear jumped on the end of the middle tether rope and managed to pull the boat back in the lock within a few seconds, and the torrent of water stopped coming into the boat. There were some very nervous and shaken-up pilgrims – poor ERgirl6 was a bit frightened by the whole episode and the emergency-toned shouts that were being made! It all gave us a very good object lesson as to why we get everyone off the boat for lock passing, and why we only have one person giving instructions at locks! Thankfully we didn’t end up in any real danger.. and we will certainly be keeping our wits about us for future locks! Given that we typically pass through ten locks a day this will be most of the time :-).

London Oct 10 Canal 039

London Oct 10 Canal 056
all smiles in the end!

Bonjour Paris

Saturday, September 1st, 2012
First impressions are so important, are they not? They often provide a clear insight into new situations and people. This time, our initial impressions of Tahiti, LA and Paris were rendered in a hazy blur due to extreme exhaustion. We ... [Continue reading this entry]

when others think you shouldn’t

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Someone out there thinks we are being irresponsible parents forcing our kids to go on a big walk. We've only heard this second-hand......if we had been told directly we would not have defended our position. We would have thanked them for ... [Continue reading this entry]

Another new pilgrimage: 2012

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
It won't be fifteen months like the last one. It won't even be fifteen weeks; it'll be about half that. But it will contain a pilgrimage....of sorts. The first plan was to walk the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied-du-Port in France to ... [Continue reading this entry]

a new pilgrimage

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
(actually written on 21 January 2010, post-trip....but I've dated it to appear at the top of the blog forever-n-ever....and then reinstated it in its proper chronological home as we kept pilgrim-ing) When we set out we had *a long ... [Continue reading this entry]

happy mothers’ day

Thursday, May 7th, 2009
by a daughter Berlin, Germany The tulips are blooming in the streets, but the ones in the flower shop across from where we are staying looked a little closed up. So how about a pink posy?

[Continue reading this entry]