- Teresa O'Kane
- Author of Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure from Casablanca to Cape Town http://tinyurl.com/owdwvrp I write about travel and adventure from my home in California and from Africa. I've sailed a catamaran from California to Hawaii, trekked in the Himalayas, worked as a construction manager on a bridge project in Zambia, hiked 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, (http://bootsbedouinsandabridge.blogspot.com/) and traveled in over 100 countries and all seven continents. Indie Book Award Winner for Best Memoir of 2012, New York Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, Travelers Tales Solas Award for Best Travel Writing Honorable Mention for My Gambian Husband. Indie Book Award Finalist - Best Travel Book 2013. BOTYA Honorable Mention 2013 - Travel Essay. Member of The Explorers Club since 2013 You can follow my current 2013-2014 expedition across Africa, this time in a 1973 Land Rover Series III 109 on http://teresaokane.blogspot.com/ and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/safarijema
Thursday, April 15, 2010
On March 16th, 2010 I was busy loading my backpack (one pair boots, 2 pair socks, 2 pair hiking pants, 2 t-shirts, rain gear and, last but not least, ear plugs) for a 6-week trek in Spain when Scott said, “What if we travel to Spain by sea instead of by air?” By the 17th I was trying to fit cruise attire into my backpack. By the 20th, Brazilians (we boarded in Sao Paolo) were handing Scott their cameras and asking him to take their photo. We didn’t manage to fit much cruise wear into our packs after all so I think they mistook him for crew. Scott played along, cheerfully posing everyone and putting them in the best light. “Smile! Say queso!” he said, which wasn’t even right since the Portuguese don’t say, “cheese” before taking a photo. If they did it would sound more like “kejzo” anyway. But queso or kejzo, it didn’t matter. Both end in an “O” so a few Brazilians who mistook Scott for crew have photos of themselves looking like they've just been goosed.
We occupied our days at sea by finding creative ways to make hiking gear passable on “formal” nights (impossible) and by reading, playing trivia, and talking to nice people, especially those from Holland and America. Most afternoons found Scott in the library where he learned to play Bridge from a patient teacher who just happened to be the doppelganger for my wonderful brother Mike. That was nice...
At the first shoe store, the saleswoman said with disbelief, “Size 9 and a half! Are you kidding me?” Then, she announced it over the P.A. system. The other customers in the store pointed at me and stared waiting to see what would happen next. I know they were thinking, ‘Big foot! It’s not a myth!’
The shop clerk gave me a look of pity as I left shoeless: How ever did you get this nice man to marry you with feet the size of tennis rackets?
We began the hike in Pamplona, home of the running of the bulls and occasional hangout for the late Ernest Hemingway. In Pamplona you can find signs such as, ‘Hemmingway slept here’, ‘Hemmingway wrote here’, ‘Hemmingway drank here’, and random shops simply called 'The Hemmingway'. We didn’t stay at the Hotel Hemmingway near the bullring because it was 200 euros per night but as we stood in the lobby soaking up the aura of the notorious adventurer a hotel guest noted our hiking apparel and said, “You must be Peregrinos! You should stay at the Refugio!” and he walked us there pointing out the places where Hemmingway had a cigar and took a lover.
It’s not that bad. I brought lots of earplugs with me, the refugios are spotless, and a slight smear of Vicks under the nose works wonders. If it weren’t for all the Germans who get up at 5 a.m. to use up all the hot water and race to the next Refugio for the best bunk (the German half of me really wants to do that too), they would be great. So far, all the refugios are co-ed. Even the dorms and the bathrooms aren’t divided by sex. It’s like living in a house with a hundred brothers and sisters from all over the world. We’ve met Estonisan, Dutch, German, Irish, English, Canadian, and lots of Spanish peregrinos. On rare occasions we get a double room to ourselves, and that is muy bien. So far, we haven’t met any other Americans but we probably will meet one or two over the next 40+ days of the hike.
One is supposed to be on a spiritual or cultural quest to hike The Camino. If we see it as a spiritual quest and make it to Santiago, where the bones of St. James rest in peace, we are awarded an indulgence. An actual indulgence! That means if I complete the Way of St. James, as the Camino is called, I will earn an indulgence and all my sins will be instantaneously wiped clean. Poof! Permanent record erased. Then if I were to get hit by a car or something before I had a chance to sin again I would go straight to Heaven. The chances that I wouldn't sin again shortly after leaving the compostela office by say, taking the Lord's name in vain,"Gosh darn-it! That is one beautiful Cathedral!" (only it wouldn't be "gosh"), or coveting chocolate or beer or woman's boots is pretty remote and the "express to Heaven" reward was more significant before the Pope did away with purgatory but still, I will be walking a little lighter after I gain the indulgence at least for a few moments.
Strange to say if you know me but I do feel spiritual while walking the Camino. At least that's how I interpret the vibe. I feel just so darn happy all the time. I have long thought nature is my religion and I feel closest to my Maker when I am out in it. Scott says his intention is a cultural quest, which I don’t mind since he has been giving me history lessons everyday. Whether it be details about an old Roman road we are walking on or tidbits regarding Spanish or Portuguese explorers, it is always interesting and takes my mind off my aches and pains.
Mid-May will find us in Cairo where we will board an overland truck for a ten week journey up the Nile that will take us through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Bridge: A footbridge that is, in Zambia. We will work with a non-profit called Bridges to Prosperity. Learn more about how we became connected with this organization at: www.firstgiving.com/teresaokane
Torres del Rio, where Hemmingway, as far as I know, didn’t sleep.
Haiku (sort of) for the day:
The hills were green