Monthly Archives: October 2015

Day 4 & 5

Day 4 & 5 Camino Continued
Last night we went for a walk before dinner (which in Spain is about 8 pm). Earlier in the day I went to the John the Baptist church and encountered a priest teaching a group of about 30-40 children. Both he and they were enthusiastic. When we returned in the evening a youth choir was practising a series of songs with choreography. They stood in front of the altar and sounded sublime. I said to Hetty, “I want the album!” Seeing children and young people in cathedral like churches is encouraging because far too often all one finds in curious tourists.
Today we decided to have an easy walk of 9 kms to Villmayor de Monjardin.
We ended up at a Christian albergue run by a Dutch evangelical group. It was a nice change from some the big impersonal albergues. We had a meal together and a meditation before bed.


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Some more Camino reflections on day three and day four

1. Last night on the way from the supermarket we stopped in at a church as the choir was practising. It was amazingly professional and would be the envy of any church.

2. Later we were speaking with a young polish couple. We said that we were Christians and were spending a lot of the time praying for friends and family. The young lady’s eyes lit up and asked if we could pray for her brother too because he had some serious issues to deal with. Then she added that she would like prayer for them as a couple.

3. This morning as we leaving Puente la Riena at 6:30am a group of about 10 men were huddled around a doorway. Cynically I said that they were waiting for the tavern to open. As we got closer we realised that one of the men held a large crucifix. As we got close one man rang a bell and they walked solemnly up the street towards the bridge with us not far behind. At the bridge they rang the bell and started singing. It was amazingly beautiful. I have no idea what the words were but I hope that they were words of faith and prayers for the town

4. Then this morning as our feet were getting tired we looked for a coffee shop but found none open. There was a stone wall fence that we sat on. A lady over the road was sweeping her garage out. She motioned us over and gave us a chair to sit on. She was cooking some delicious meatballs in the garage – as you do. She came over and gave us each one. When we left she wished us a “Buen Camino”. Real hospitality!

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Prayers and Rainbows: Camino day 3

Day 3.We stayed at a very friendly albergue (which I have been spelling incorrectly)  in Zariquiegui. Breakfast consisted of a sweet roll, black coffee and orange juice. By 7am we were on the road to Puente La Riena via Alto del Perdon a peak which was quite a steep climb and an even steeper and rockier descent. At the top of the ridge is a line of wind turbines which would have excited Don Quixote.

We had committed ourselves to pray for friends and family on this walk (more than usual) and various issues that
have been exercising our minds. As we arrived at the top of the hill, wind and a rain squall hit us. However, in the midst of that we saw a magnificent rainbow. It was a reminder of a covenant God who keeps his promises. It was an incredibly uplifting moment and inspired our prayers.
We went through a number of small villages but sadly they all their churches are closed. I like to go in and pray for the people that attend – as well as have a sticky beak around. Now it is time to find an albergue and then find the pilgrims bridge I first encountered in 2006. 


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Day 1 and 2 of our Camino

Today we started our second Camino experience but it all happened a bit by accident. We had intended to park the car at Pamplona airport, take a bus to town and then catch another bus to our planned starting point – Larrasoana. Problem: there is no bus service, or any public transport apart from Taxis at Pamplona airport. So we decided to go the whole hog and take a taxi to Larrasoana. 
Now this is where the psychology comes in. Neither of us expected to be walking any distance today but here we were walking a quite hilly section towards Pamplona. We missed one place where there were hostels and at the next they were closed for the season. So by the end of the day we were on the outskirts of Pamplona at a hostel next to a church and a C13th bridge. All very rustic and normally the stuff we love but on this occasion we were both a bit narky.
We had a good night’s sleep in the Trinidad Albergue in Villava on the northern outskirts of Pamplona. A French couple came along at one stage to share our room.  Mrs French Couple must have smelled my boots and decided to walk a few more kilometres to the next alburgue. The caretaker was quaint and even came around at about 9:30 pm to say goodnight. He might even have wanted to tuck us in.

We left the alburgue at about 6:45 and headed through Pamplona as it was waking up. On the southern outskirts we started a long ascent towards Alto del Perdon – an image often associated with the Camino. When I get there I will take a photo. But we have stopped short at Zariquiegui only walking 16 or 17 kms today as the joints were telling us that they weren’t used to this. 

Some observations:

  •  A taxi driver alerting us that we heading in the wrong direction at one point. That was appreciated.
  •  A number of people of all ages saying “Buen Camino” as we trudged along.
  •  A bread stick, ham and cheese tastes amazing when you have had a good walk.
  • We encountered a couple begging their way around the Camino. I’m not sure what I think about that.
  • You can pick an Aussie accent for miles!

    The Familiar Mile Post


    Pamplona Waking Up


    The Magdalen Bridge

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Taking Opportunities

Being a church-visitor-aholic I have become very aware of the manner in which famous and historic churches treat visitors. For some it it is simply a money making exercise. Other churches see visitors as a chore and there are those who see visitors as their contribution to the local tourist economy.

Parallel to these observations is another. Thousands of bemused Japanese and Chinese tourists visit these places extensively – I was tempted to write “religiously”. Most of these visitors know little of what the stories in the windows mean, why there are altars and crosses, who the statues represent and what the other paraphernalia such as baptismal fonts, really mean.

So today in Lyon I was greatly encouraged. At the unusual Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, perched on a hill overlooking Lyon there were gospel pamphlets for Chinese tourists. Down the hill at Lyon Cathedral there was a large painting representing an open book quoting John 3:16. This could not be missed as you walked in. My schoolboy French served me well. I even heard a young couple quoting it aloud and being mesmerised by it.

I was encouraged because these two churches saw gospel opportunities and did not let them slip. 


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The Reformation Relics

Being a reader of church history it has been fascinating to observe all the references to the Reformation on our current trip. To name just a few:

  • In the centre of Prague is a huge monument to Jan Hus the early reformer
  • Then in Konstanz Germany there is a museum to Hus
  • In Zurich there are references to Zwingli and a statue
  • Luther is mentioned in many places in Germany and has street names and statues in his honour. There is a huge monument to him in Worms
  • And of course there is the Reformation Wall in Geneva
  • There was even a wall built in St Gallen to separate the abbey from the town because the town had become Protestant. 

Yet I have this uneasy sense that these, for most, are just bygone relics of history that sit alongside dead kings and local luminaries.

I raise this because the Reformation was a return to Biblical basics – it was a return to the primacy and inerrancy of Scripture. These are truths that are just as necessary today as they were 600 years ago. The message of these relics needs to be reenlivened (have I made up a word?). It would be a pity if these relics lost their meaning.


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In the C13th the Teutonic Knights set up what was to become one of the largest castles in the world. When they got too big for their boots the Polish kings made it their headquarters and later still the Prussians took it over. It was heavily damaged in WW2 in fighting between the Germans and Russians. Today, however, it is a World Heritage site and is being restored beautifully. The Visitors’ Centre, maps and audio guide make the  visit very enlightening. The tempestuous and varied history of the site is well presented. My one quibble would be that the museum superintendents tend to patrol around like prison guards. A few lessons on PR wouldn’t go astray. I realise they have a treasure to protect but this can be done in a far more positive way.



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Gdansk and Solidarity

The memorial to the Solidarity movement in Gdansk isn’t pretty.  Large lumps of concrete and steel shape the formidable memorial. The museum behind it is constructed of rusty steel representing the ship building industry and provides a fitting backdrop. 

 But then again it remembers shipyard workers who gave their lives to free Poland from Communism. The movement that started in the ship yards of Gdansk was a struggle of life and blood and ended with the collapse of communism as it was. The hard brutality is quite appropriate. 

I found it quite moving. It speaks of hardship and struggle, brutality and victory. All through Poland we have found tributes to the events that started in Gdansk and spread throughout Eastern Europe.

My hope is that Poland will hold on to these events because it is clear that rampant capitalism wants to take the place of the old enemy.





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Now, a few hours in a city certainly won’t make you an expert but it does give some first impressions.

My dominant impression of Leipzig is one of culture. The statues are to great writers and musicians. We encountered Bach, Schumann and Wagner. Among the writers Schiller and Goethe got a guernsey. The number of bookshops was astounding as were the number of secondhand and antique book shops.

As part of the National Library there is a small but beautifully presented German Museum of Books and Writing that takes you on a journey of how humanity has communicated via writing from scratching on stone to the Kindle. It also looks at printing, fonts, censorship and the different ways manuscripts have been created in various cultures.

We entered two churches. In one an orchestra was practising for a gospel presentation and in the other there was a display of how the gospel of Christ played a role in the freeing of the city from communist rule.

As I said to begin with, I am no expert. There are many things I could write about – good, bad and ugly but it is certainly a city I would like to visit again.


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Crossing the Channel

Some people quote the adage,”It’s not the destination but the journey.”  Well some journeys go horribly wrong. It happened to us on Thursday. We packed up our tent at a camp just outside Dover so as to get to the ferry in time as well as return the hire car. The lady at Budget had given me clear instructions on how to get the car to the right level of the car park. We entered Eastern docks headed to the car park only to find it blocked off. Traveling further we passed an unattended French customs booth (in the UK) and found that all lanes led to ferries. Panic set in. I stopped a hiviz vest worker and he suggested a route. That seemed to get us into further relentless one way lorry traffic. Finally after asking about 6 different people at 6 different points I got the car to the car park which turned out to be just a few metres from the original entrance. My wife was most surprised that I had asked for directions ( she calculates) a dozen times.

THEN after a smooth and eventless Channel crossing, we met our Peugeot rep. He passed on the car after explaining its bells and whistles. He did add that it had very little fuel so the first thing we should do is buy some diesel. So using the GPS we asked it to take us the nearest petrol station. We faithfully followed its directions onto the freeway. “Take the next exit.” Problem. It’s is fenced off with a high security fence and razor wire. The further we travel the fences continue, left and right. Police patrol every few hundred metres. Next problem, the only place that this road goes is onto the ferries and I find myself in lane marked for “trucks only!” I stop, surprise and shock my wife again, and ask two non English speaking French policemen how I get out of this mess. They wave me towards the open jaws of the ferries. Finally I see a black man in a hiviz vest. Is he an escapee from an illegal camp or the real deal. He shows me where I can do an illegal turn and pretend to be a lorry leaving a ferry. It took about half an hour but I think the morning took years off my life I can little afford.

On this occasion I was quite happy to forget about the journey and just reach the destination.


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