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Monday, April 21, 2014

Am I the oldest person with CF?

Thank goodness there are plenty of people with Cystic Fibrosis older than me! What you do with your cystic fibrosis differs wildly. But no matter what you do the odds are generally against you. Some people have a career and family and that keeps them strong and motivated to be compliant and fight CF. I plan adventures and that motivates me to keep fit and healthy. Having a dog helps me get out thehouse  hail rain or shine for a decent walk with plenty of hills each day, or even a paddle in my kayak (with dog!). My adventure planning motivates me to ride my bicycle everywhere everyday around town - even though I now use an electric bike it still makes me cough (I consider the power the equivalent to a permanent tail wind).

But just to answer he question, here is the graph for Australia in 2012.  I still have room to move at 48.

I did see a graph indicating lung function decline, and that is more worrying. Hardly blowing 35% of expected is not a good place to be but I'm coping with it quite well. According to the below graph it is just about where statistics would project me at.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Way of CF now available on line!

Well, I am amazed! We have The Way of CF available on Amazon UK and US (links below). You can now have a full colour large format paperback book (100 pages, size of A4 paper roughly) to read about The Way of CF, walking the El Camino with Cystic Fibrosis!

Though you can find it on Amazon I suggest you buy it right from the source, which is CreateSpace - and a $5 DISCOUNT COUPON for that link: G5K525BB

If you live in Australia, I am keeping some in stock and can mail them for AU$20. Any profits/donations are of course used to fund books that I donate to CF Associations or use as gifts to people with Cystic Fibrosis. And when details of  the 2015 Bibulmun Track become available, 1000kms hike through Western Australia, funds may be used to help fund postcards etc for that trip - watch out! Anyone who has a suggestion for a name for that fundraiser leave a comment or email !


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Camino Family

I am hoping to print this blog for fun, using one of the blog-to-print services. These services allow you to edit content and add/delete bits, so in effect it becomes a cool little memory book. During the camino there was one special Camino Family member called Sally who traveled with me the week of the Meseta. Sally is a writer and a massage therapist, and like me she was in no hurry and was there to enjoy the walk.Being a writer I thought I'd ask her for a little preface to the book. This is the most beautiful preface she wrote for me. Even if the book doesn't happen, this will:

Following years of dreaming and insane training and planning in the height of Darwin's wet season for several months, my Camino finally transpired (as opposed to perspired) in early September 2013. But that is where the strategising ended, for to walk 'The Way', one must expect the unexpected. I fell naturally into the slipstream of serendipity, synchronicity and the magical, with the often narrow, winding paths always disappearing around a mysterious bend or corner as the symbolism of life on this path.

On a day shrouded in ethereal mist, I would often think of the slipping in and out of reality. One such occasion involved a toilet stop behind the ubiquitous blackberry bushes lining the route of much of the Camino, from which I had been plucking, probably also causing the frequent stops. I was in squatting mode when suddenly, a preposterously bright lime green and blue lizard shot out from underneath me. I thought maybe the consumption of too many blackberries had hallucinogenic effects too. So how does this link to Walter?

I had heard along the 'blackberry vine', that a crazy Tasmanian was somewhere out there on the Camino, raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis as a sufferer himself. Everybody had met him but me it seemed. I had been walking with Ron from Canada for the day, and had thoroughly enjoyed his company. We stopped at the village of Ages for eats and sleep, heading for the albergue. Coming down for the Pilgrim's dinner, we walked into the dining area and a loud cry went up for Ron. A group of pilgrims all sitting at the one table hadn't seen him for a few days and were obviously pleased to reconnect. He then told me who they were. Walter and his harem.

Ron and I chatted away, and it started to rain, filling the air with the perfume of satiated dry earth. I excitedly went to the window to lean out for some lung fulls, and when I turned away, noticed a poster of the local wildlife on the wall. I cried out, "That's the lizard!", which Walter heard, and intrigued, came over to our table. Judging by his striped, non matching socks and the t-shirt with the map of Tasmania in the unmentionable position (hint....looks like some female anatomy), I knew this was an interesting character and with the admiration of him walking with limited lung function, offered him a foot treatment in my capacity as massage therapist looking out for my fellow pilgrims. I even had a collapsible bucket on board for him to soak his feet in. Saying goodbye, and wishing him luck, I went on my way, but who should walk into the dining room of a bar a few villages down the track, and invite himself to dinner? Initially annoyed because I wanted to write my blog , I was soon won over, and we agreed to meet the next morning to walk together for the day.

'The day' turned into eight, across the dreaded Meseta, which is flat and often treeless. I hate to emphasise it too much, but Walter and I loved this section and thought it was the best as we laughed, talked, ribbed, stopped to look at the marvels of nature, horsed around, opened our hearts and minds and souls, and when I had had enough, which was once, made Walter tune into his podcasts of Richard Fidler, the great ABC interviewer. But amongst all of this, was his unwavering kindness towards his fellow pilgrim, his extended love to mankind all woven in and around and through his necessary routine to stay alive. He shared so readily wanting to order plates of food for all at stops along the way and I told him he was one of the funniest men I had ever met. And to be one of the funniest men, one also has to be intelligent, and I loved his fierce intellect. And if that wasn't enough of a find, he regaled me with his outrageous stories of his adventures, except they were all true!

Life on the Camino is over as such for me, but I will always have the greatest admiration for Walter, who was carrying a far heavier pack than most, physically and metaphorically, weighted down with all of his medications and the added complications of sending his excess medicines ahead. Not only that but he walked every step, and then not too surprisingly carried on to Finisterre, the ancient site of Druidic origin overlaid with the Christian Camino significance. Not many pilgrims carry on from Santiago to there, and one receives a separate Compostella in recognition.

I call it my gift from the Camino. The gift of meeting Walter, and the privilege to walk beside him and write this preface for what will be a very entertaining, inspirational and inciteful read.

A quote comes to mind, which accompanied a beautiful photo (see below) in an exhibition I stumbled upon of pilgrims on their journeys.....'Don't walk behind me, I don't want to be your guide. Don't walk ahead of me, I cannot follow you. Walk beside me and I will be your friend.'


Friday, November 8, 2013

All is well that ends well!

Here is the much coveted certificate, the pagan document I received in Finisterre to warrant that I completed the pilgrimage from the French Pyrenees across Spain to the Atlantic Ocean.

But to me the below photo is what signifies the end of my pilgrimage, the last flight home, the Dash-8 which took me from Melbourne back to Devonport!

The best thing is of course that we reached our $10,000 goal for Cystic Fibrosis!!
In fact, through the Everyday Hero page we have so far (you can still donate I believe if you are quick) raised a total of $10444, of which $6354 went to CF Australia and $4090 went to CF Tasmania!

And so life will continue Post Camino.

Now for the next adventure. Any ideas???
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cape Finisterre

Today is truly my last day's walking the Camino. I will be reaching the end today. This is it. So not wanting to rush into my day I had a leisurely breakfast in Sardiñeiro with Niall and Oonagh before leaving at a very acceptable time and with ample blue skies. Given the forecast was for rain we were particularly delighted. And so we happily saundered up and over the hill for our final descend into Finisterre. From the top of the ridge we could already see Finisterre, and Mobte Fache, the hill behind it  clearly, a beautiful sight, the end of our journey lies there.

It was a steep track that took us to a beach which was to be our final approach to Finisterre. A quick photo before we start the beach walk;

The beach was full of litter. In 2003 this beach was covered in oil after the Prestige oil tanker sank and broke up. Within a year of the spill the very successful cleanup had made these beaches amongst the cleanest in Europe, but by the looks of it that is now passed tense. We saw a dead dolphin, dead seabirds, a dead rat,... Signs of civilisation??

But none the less, it was pretty cool walking along the beach. The actual yellow arrows of the Camino were on a parallel track, but on a day this nice we had to walk the beach.
In accordance with dubious tradition Niall and I had to quickly do the pagan thing, skinny dip in the Atlantic. We decided not to burn our cloths here, a recent tradition. Timid is everything, as we had barely regained our modesty  two women came walking up the beach yelling my name. It was Sarah and Anna. Both had walked with Karina, and Sarah I had met in Burgos where she joined 'our family'. She had also added the FitBit app to her phone so I could sync my FitBit occasionally. This means I could now sync it again for the study. The FitBit is a fancy electronic pedometer which I have worn the entire trip for a cystic fibrosis  related study correlating well being with activity. I can see my position in the field of 30 participants and I am on top of the leader board no matter which way you look at it. It was probably not expected anyone would walk 900 kilometres during the study!
In Finisterre we all found respective accommodation, me in a little hotel, the others In an Alberge, before meeting again for lunch. During this time we ran into various familiar faces again that we were pleased to see. They included Kerry, Charlene, Ken, Birgitta, Claire,... Why always so many women! Harden up men, the Camino needs you!
After lunch many of them took the 3pm bus back to Santiago. So glad I just saw them, total coincidence, or was it???? The Camino 'provides' we say. Below is Sarah and Anna before jumping on the bus.

And Charlene....

And Kerry....

Come 4pm we all had enough lunch and beer to go for a walk. I made a head start, assuming the others would catch me. But without a pack it was sooo much easier walking up the hill, it was virtually effortless. Not a huge hill, just a 3-4km slow rise, but heck it felt like it was downhill all the way. Wearing my five fingers I glided up to the lighthouse on the cape.

Just past the light house is where people had attempted to burn cloths, and other just left belongings. There were quite a few people here, many were tourists I am sure. I should've left my watch - it keeps stopping.
I walked around and contemplated, shed a tear, gazed across the Atlantic with glassy eyes as the sun starting setting. When the temperature dropped a little I withdrew to the licensed facility on top for a scotch. They poured me half a bottle of 12 year old Chivas as per usual, for €3.50 and I checked in on Facebook....  A monumental check-in!!
Eventually the other punters caught up; here is Claire our resident drug and alcohol counselor from Melbourne with Oonagh and Niall. We drank wine and were soon joined by others. Even Deede texted me to say she had arrived and would be making her way up for sunset. So I checked for her a few times, one of the times I found Birgitta from Sweden wondering around. Eventually Deede showed up with a friend. Deede also walked it, in three days. Pretty amazing. Big day for her today. With the cape walk it would've been 40kms she covered before finding her fartsack.
We ended up having some Irish coffees and beers in the cafe before calling a cab after dark. No cabs. So we all walked back to Finisterre, downhill... Burgers and beer marked the end of this mega day, the end of my Camino, the start of a new life!

Oh did I mention the proposal we witnessed on the edge of this earth? This couple were surprised by these musos who gave the woman some beautiful flowers and then did their thang. The man went down on his knees,... And they will obviously live happily ever after.

It was past midnight by the time I got to bed. Mission complete. Bus to Santiago tomorrow, then train to Madrid the next day and off to Dubai that same night. And life goes on PC - Life Post Camino. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

End of earth is nigh

Ahhh, how nice to have a good sleep! The extra hour of winter time (the clocks changed back!) did wonders. I seemed to have a leisurely morning, even had a shower, and went down for breakfast. There was a group of peregrines I hadn't really met there yet, except seen in the past few days, including here for dinner last night. I assumed they'd also been here for the night. No, they had stayed in the Alberge, but came here to eat. They listened to my CF spiel and took the postcards, and I had breakfast with them.
And this is how I met Niall and Oonagh, English teachers who had been teaching in Spain for three years, and were finishing off with the Camino. Birgitta from Sweden and Claire from Melbourne. A Camino formed family. Claire went off to scout ahead, and the other three asked if I'd walk with them. I told them I'd walk the flats with them but they shouldn't wait for me on the uphills. I said I'd see them in the next cafe. But no, these perigrines were sincere and actually waited for me regularly to catch up. They even stopped in the cafe for a coffee and drink, Niall even enjoying a morning beer (USA/Scottish heritage). My style of walking.
The track went straight up the hills, particularly pleasant track, muddy and rocky and no traffic. And the rain started same time we did. We passed a cool patch of track covered in green stones. We all picked one up to take home:

The rain and wind picked up to the point where I said this was the worst I'd had on the Camino. But Niall told me that on the Meseta they had the worst of rain we got today for 6 hours straight with winds 5x harder. Perhaps I was lucky... I must also say my memory only ever remembers happy events.

After noon we started seeing patches of coast in the distance, whenever the clouds gave us a gap. And there it was, the Atlantic Ocean! And there is Cee, the town we are heading for down there, with the hamlets of  Corcubion and Opcion on the other side.  

A steep track took us down to the towns, and we soon found a cafe for a late lunch. To get there we walked through one cafe with very surprised people who watched us squeeze through their narrow cafe. We entered it thinking it might be nice, walked through to the other side, where there was another entry, and decided it wasnt that nice and exited. There had been nothing for 12 kilometres since our last coffee stop. I had every intention of staying in Cee, but decided that I could walk a bit further yet. My ankle had been hurting all day for some reason, but all my other ailments had vanished. I blame the beer with lunch for me wanting to carry on with Niall and company.

Below is Oonagh on her way down the steep slippery road down to Cee.
And the dead centre of Cee, overlooking the bay.

Here I am following Birgitta out of town, up the next 100+m hill. Good company sure makes walking easy.

We are getting so close to Finsterra now, it is scary. Even the cat is trying to tell us something. It didn't like the miaowing sound my camera makes when I turn it on or take a photo (yes, customisable sounds). 
And here we are walking into the county of Fisterra. The town is still 10km away or so, but this sure looks pretty good to me!

Niall and Oonagh decided to find a hotel 7km before Fisterra and walk in tomorrow, and I certainly was ready to call it a day. It was almost 6pm and we'd done about 25kms.  It all seemed easy, but my ankle was really quite sore. We found a beautiful little hotel with a pizza restaurant below it; Pension Nicola in Sardiñeiro. Pizza and beer for dinner! 

Rebecca and the gang posted in Facebook they took an excursion to Finisterre today and saw the spot where dirty pilgrims jump in the sea and burn their stuff. That'll be me tomorrow, yeah!! Oh, and I got messages from Sauffie who seems to be heading to Finisterre as well, and Charlene got there today. Maybe we'll see Joke there. Who knows!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gumtrees? Nope, it's an entire Dry Sclerophyll region!

Despite having proper cotton fitted sheets and a room on my own I still didn't sleep that well. Weird isn't it. No place like home! First I was cold, then with a second blanket I was sweating,.... Anyways, woke up relatively early and was aiming to get on the road by 730 for the potentially 30+ km day ahead. Charlene left about 715 and I finally left at 8am in search of breakfast. Good thing I had some yoghurt and a banana as nothing was open this Saturday morning. It was dark for almost an hour as I slogged up the first hill on a wet narrow forest path on search of hot coffee in the next village. Next Sunday summertime in Spain ends and we will have light in the morning.

Rains came and went and came and went regularly, the path was seriously wet, like a river in places. Glad my shoes are awesome. Gumtrees everywhere, this is crazy. Not like the plantation style patches I saw before Santiago, this truly is like home!

I hit a few villages over the next few hours, but none had signs of life. Nothing to do with it being a weekend either, these villages were merely bunches of homes without shops/cafés. The map i have actually tells me if there is coffee, but would I believe the map? I stopped for muesli bars, nuts, chocolates and lollies. A handful of peregrines overtook me during the morning. Not too many, and most I didn't know and most were Spanish or non-English speaking at least.
Then I finally came to the village that had a cafe. It was noon by now. I had eggs and bacon, a couple of coffees and a bottle of water. Replenished my kamelpak, I don't like carrying two litres, so just put in enough for half a day. The barman always looks a little surprised when I ask for a glass of water and our it into my backpack and ask for another two glasses...

And just then Charlene appears. She had taken a wrong turn. Same wrong turn that had me fooled, but I did a quick number two in an adjoining paddock whilst I was well off track. Always take advantage of opportunities when you see them. John from Cyprus and his Taiwanese women was in the cafe as well, and a Danish lady I'd seen a few times before, you certainly can't get away unnoticed on the Camino, even on the way to Fisterre! I told Charlene I'd stop again in the town where I might stop for the night in Santa Mariña, 7kms away, but she said she was definitely going for the 30kms today, all the way to Olveiroa. 
The narrow stone huts used for drying corn are looking older and older. I wonder how many have collapsed and buried a human. Some you see half collapsed! Wind turbines are dotted all over the countryside again. Every time I see them like in the photo below I believe it will be downhill soon, but that wasn't exactly the case. Maybe the track just follows the ridges.
I stopped at Casa Pepa in Santa Mariña for 'lunch' at about 3pm, and despite a fair number of punters seemingly stopping there I decided to have a beer and carry on. Not sure it was wise, but what else can you do in these tiny hamlets all afternoon.

The track continued, following more and more roads, bunches of dogs everywhere, many German shepherds, and many loose. They bark at you, then come up for a pet. I assume if they were biters they wouldn't be loose, and barking dogs don't bite... I know Charlene is a little worried abut them as she got bitten in San Francisco whilst running. I expect her to be ahead, so I might hear her scream if she gets bitten.
The weather keeps on being threatening, but the wind is great and the worst of the rains seemed to avoid me. Come 7pm, well not much change from 7 anyways, I was exhausted when I finally pulled into Olveiroa. I even wore the Vibrams for the last 10kms, despite mainly being wet road. It is a pleasant change to my sore feet and joints. These barefoot runners just make you land on your joints slightly differently so it is nice to have the change.

Located and booked into a perfect little hotel called As Pias with apparently the nicest restaurant. I first had a beer, but needed a shower before dinner. Everyone there had arrived much earlier, like 3pm!!!  Ken from Scotland didn't recognise me I'm pretty sure and I didn't recognised the rest of his company, I spoke to Kerry who was waiting for her French walking partner for the day. The Frenchman asked if I wanted to join them for dinner but I had to go unpack and shower first. On my sore sticks that was not going to be a quick affair. With beer in hand I drooped off to my upstairs room and cleaned up. I had some tea later on my own and disappeared for an early night. Charlene is at the Albergue; she is a bean counter at home, so the spending money in hotels registers more with her than it does for me. No seriously, I can ill afford it too, but I can even less afford to get sick these last few long days of walking. Best spend a couple of dollars extra for a warm comfy room. And seriously, it is not that super expensive anyways at €35 for the night. I put it in the travel insurance budget!

The previous adventure!

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