Planning a camino for a busy guy and his 31kg dog


This post was written by Maria J Bellido.
Maria is an awesome Virtual Assistant who helped Mike plan his Camino. She is super organised and a great executioner of plans and a fountain of creative solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Maria speaks 5 languages and lives in Zaragoza, Spain.


First of all, I need to thank Mike (and Maya)  for this challenging opportunity.  Walking El Camino de Santiago Norte with Maya really makes a difference!.

Although I began my planning duties in a quite common or ordinary way, I quickly realized that Maya, a 30kg dog, had the starring role in all this walking experience.

No Room At the Inn for Pilgrims’ Dogs

WhatsApp-Image-20160427There are many blogs sharing a few experiences and I only have to agree with one statement.  Most of the “albergues” – the hostels catering to the pilgrims – are not open to host dogs.  They have tons of excuses to say no, even when I only focused in “casas rurales” with plenty of space to camp.  They argued that they also had (barking) dogs that disturbed pilgrims during their restorative sleep hours.

After contacting a few of them, I thought it was better to change my mind and start looking for camping places that welcomed Maya.

And issues came up again! Some of the areas Mike and Maya will be walking through are quite small villages, nearly deserted, where only elderly retired people live and campings prefer to chose touristic areas, close to the beach.  A good example could be Lezama, 2406 inhabitants.  All the camping areas are located at a reasonable distance… with a car… and the purpose of El Camino de Santiago is walking, right?

When all the ordinary options seemed to be too complicated, some other options appeared.  Thanks to the magic and fascinating world of new technologies, there are new startups that are putting together all the dog friendly hostels and hotels in Spain and other European cities.  After a good research it looked like the most convenient option was in Portugalete or Bilbao.

For the rest of the waypoints on Mike’s walk where official camping options have been nearly impossible, I guess wild and discrete camping becomes an alternative. But sshhh! Let’s keep this between you and me!  

Not Planes or Trains, just Automobiles

Maya’s accommodation was not the only challenge.  

Mike wanted to drive from Granada to Irún, park the car there, walk El Camino, rent another car to return to his starting point and then finally drive back with the initial car back home.  Complicated, right?

We quickly eliminated trains and planes as options for Mike to get from Granada – in the south of Spain – up to Irún in the North. Most regional plane operators don’t allow animals in the hold on domestic flights and for the ones that allow pets on board – they have to be small pets (less than 12kg) and have their own rigid travel carrier. The train regulations were not much help either.

While I was researching car options, I confirmed that whilst Irún is a fantastic place for transport companies operating in Spain and France, it is not a target place for rental car offices.  All of them chose Hendaye instead.  Although the walking distance between both places is just 4,6 km, we shouldn’t forget that we are crossing the French border.  And you know how expensive it is to leave your car in a different country, right?

After a funny chat with Mike, we thought that a good choice would be changing the initial route.  He will now be walking from San Sebastián to Santander instead.  Another good reason to change the initial destination is that we couldn’t find reasonable options to rent a car in Laredo to come back to Irún. Santander is a bigger place with sort of a world of possibilities.

If you are planning to walk El Camino de Santiago Norte on your own without the company of your dog, you have tons of opportunities to find affordable accommodation at albergues, sharing cars or travel by train, bike or plain.  Anyway, nothing is impossible and I think this experience (both walking and planning) will be a good one to remember.

And please, do not forget to join and donate to Mike’s cause here and share your thoughts!


Photo by yoppy

 

Update 2: The sort of final route, other bits and being a rainbow

I’m going for a 255km walk to raise funds and awareness for M.E/CFS and to, well, just walk.
Read more about why I’m walking.

My Final Route

After much research and trying to navigate the various logistic challenges, my final route is San Sebastian to Santander. Covering a total of 255km and likely to last 12 days of walking.

skitch

Maya, me and 3 Chums on the Camino

bc5caa62-19ac-4dcc-8222-1bfbd1286441So I haven’t told Maya yet that she’s walking 12 days with me – I mean , I’ve spoken the words but I don’t really know that she understands what I mean. But she trusts me and she’ll go along. Though I’m not entirely sure how long that loyalty is going to last after the second day!

We’ll be joined at various points by friends. My amiga from Germany – Helen – at the start for 3 days, then the lovely James from the UK for 4 days. Poor James is joining during some of the longest walks – but he is a seasoned walker and I’m honored to have him on those long, endless walks.

Somewhere in between the start and end , my Bolivian friend – the ever smiling Horacio – will join for a few days and we will no doubt laugh until we cry!

Tremendously excited to share this journey with 3 amazing people.

Got gear

So the gear list is almost all provisioned and my packing list is nearly complete.

Tent 
Sleeping bag
Sleeping mat
Walking Poles
Blister prevention hiking socks
Compeed anti blister plasters
Solar Charger
Night light
Penknife
Walking shoes/trail shoes
5 x easy dry/wickaway t-shirts
2 x lightweight walking trousers – convertible into shorts
Flip flops 
1 x hoodie
5x underpants (or 1 pair reversible 🙂
Maya brush
Cagoule rain outerware
Packaway pillow
2x Microfibre towels (one for Maya)
First aid kit
Backpack

 

More Training

My goal by Thursday May 5th is to able to get my tent pitched in darkness and in the rain in 5 minutes or less. It will be like a military drill!

Unfortunately, work commitments have meant that I have fallen behind in my training schedule. So this week – Thursday to be exact – I’ll hike a 24 km round trip fully loaded and a 32km round trip next Monday. Then that will be it!

I couldn’t have gotten this far without help… meet Maria

So I work with my clients on-site 10 days a month including travel time. Then I work 8-12 hours a day of the rest of the time on Amazemeet, Snaptime and whatever else I’m exploring – when I’m not with clients.

I realised pretty quickly that I needed help but had no real idea what form that help should take. So I hired someone who did. For my startup adventures in Amazemeet and the 27 other ideas we have on the list, I hired Clara Bielefeld to be my co-conspirator with a marketing and growth focus (that’s a fancy title for ‘awesome ninja lady’). Clara, seeing my quite obvious predicament as an over-committed person, suggested I hire a Virtual Assistant.

So I hired Maria Bellido – someone with seemingly inexhaustible enthusiasm! She has helped with researching accommodation options, dates and times to things, spoken to hotels and generally provided support that would have been nigh on impossible for me to do as competently and as timely.

If you are ever in need of a superbly organised, intelligent and enthusiastic person to help get things sorted, flights booking, research done, flowers ordering (ahem!) and whatever else. I know just the person.
Did I mention she speaks 5 languages!!

Be a Rainbow and Give What You Can…please.

My target is still unreached – though I have raised the goal twice. Please donate now to help reach it.

Every single cent of every Dollar or Euro, every penny of every Pound you donate to this walk goes to activism and awareness raising by InvestInME who are in the forefront of fighting for greater awareness and funding by the UK government for ME/CFS research. This disease devastates the lives of the people that have the it and the lives of the people that care for them. You and I can be a rainbow in their clouds.

You can make it easier for them with a simple donation – no more than 2 minutes of your time and less than the price of a coffee and slice of cake.

Please donate and share this post.


Photo by scottdurgan


Photo by Jake Cook

#MikesLongWalk: An update and my first training walk

The Latest News

It seems like ages since I committed to walking the Camino and raising money for ME/CFS activism and awareness. Quite a lot has happened over the last month. Here’s the latest news:

We’ve raised £2,128.66 out of the £3000 target and I’ve confirmed 2 sets of friends joining Maya and I on bits of the walk and I’m gradually acquiring my gear.
The route is pretty much all finalised – I’ll publish it on my next post (early next week hopefully) – I’m just finalising the camping locations at each of the stops and Albergue options for my companions who aren’t able to tent it.

I’ve bought my backpack which is a Forclaz 40 Air from Decathlon , holds up to 40 litres of my stuff. My target weight for gear is about 8kg and at the first trial this all fits in rather nicely.

Just this week I completed my first training walk – had to happen sooner or later – here are the details and pics.

My First Training Walk

With just 7 weeks to go until my Camino starts, I need to get some consistent training walks in. I’m targeting about 24km per day during the Camino and my training walks need to be at least that distance – fully loaded with the expected back pack weight, the right shoes and generally the kind of clothes I’ll be wearing. The aim, of course, is to test everything – the kit, the dog and ME!

My first training walk was from Nigüelas and across the mountain and down to Lanjarón, mostly along the GR7 route.

face on with line

My companions on this walk were Mark and Giles, Mark’s dog – Luna and my trusty mutt – Maya.

We had a pretty dreary start to the walk – the almost consistent sunshine and blue sky typical of Southern Spain decided to take the morning off but thankfully the rain held off for the entirety of our walk.

From Nigüelas, we took a shortcut to meet the GR7 – cutting out Acequias – and continued upwards until we reached 1260m above sea level and then pretty much stayed on this for 10KM after which we began our descent to Lanjaron. I don’t much mind the climbing, the 5km descent on mostly concrete road was a killer on the knees.

Needless to say, the landscape – inspite of the weather – was stunning and being out on the open road with the promise of beer at the end – well, what’s not to love.

Training is supposed to teach you something and it did – here is what I learnt:

  • I need layers – when the cold wind blew, my single fleece was just about enough but not cosy. We like cosy.
  • My running shoes might do for the walk  – they are really light but around the 12km they got a little rubby. I’ll know for sure after the second training walk.
  • I need to add Compeed blister plasters to my gear list!
  • As much as I love my trusty walking stick, I will probably be better off with walking poles and the one that my mate Mark recommends are the Leki poles – they are super light and strong.
  • I could have walked an additional 7 – 10km on the flat – which is great news from my first training walk!
  • My pack weight was 8kg and I could probably manage and extra 2 – but 8kg probably will do – especially given I need to factor in food rations for Maya.

Enjoy pics of the training walk and look out for the horrible processional caterpillers!

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What Next

I’ll be purchasing my tent – I’ve got my hopes pinned on getting a Tarptent Double Moment – it is a seriously lightweight and well reviewed/recommended setup by people who know tents!

And getting the rest of my gear together – especially a sleeping bag!

More training walks and multi-day ones too. The next one is pencilled in for early April – 24km one day, a camp out and 24km the next – that should sort the men from the mice!

Please help

I’ve written about why I’m doing this walk – to help raise awareness and funding to cure ME/CFS.

Donate and share this post – ask your friends and family to do the same. Also really really important is that you find out more about ME/CFS – the more people ask and discover, the less isolated the sufferers feel and the more we can hold our governments accountable for funding research and effective treatments for this.

Thank you for helping fix this.

 

A week of amazing things.

3 amazing things happened this week

First – the fundraising target for my Long Walk on Camino de Norte was reached in less than 24 hours.
Then I hired a developer to work on an ongoing experiment – SnaptimeApp – and this was the fastest hire on Upwork in 8 years of using the service.
Finally, despite some setbacks, we launched Amazemeet to the world.

Reaching and exceeding my Long Walk fundraising goal

I don’t usually ask people to fund things I believe in – usually I fund to the extent of my means and do the best I can. This time is different.

This time I wanted to create awareness and amplify the amount I was prepared to contribute for a cause so close to my heart.  So I went ahead and created my first ever campaign on Just Giving and set a modest £1000 goal.

Within 12 hours I was 90% to that goal and by the next day , it was entirely funded. This triggered my goal matching and doubled the goal.

To say I’m blown away is an understatement – I was thrilled to tears – sobbing as I read the messages of support and having my faith in humanity rekindled to a blaze.
Thank you so very much.

The campaign has so far raised £2050+ for the Invest in M.E charity.  I have since increased the goal to £3000. There are 15 or so weeks to the start of my walk and there is still plenty of time for you and others to contribute to this effort and truly make a difference getting both help and justice for the sufferers of this brutal condition. Please support generously.

As I chatted with my best friend Joel about how the fundraising was going – he said he had been researching the Camino de Santiago and discovered his family namesake – Robert Langton – the Bishop of Salisbury and Winchester – had also walked and documented his Camino in 1520. So now this is getting weird  but pleasantly so. I guess everything is connected after all.

Record awesome hire on Upwork

Since I joined the freelance work platform in 2007 , I have been convinced that for any digital work,  the future is freelancing and remote freelancing at that and Upwork (formerly oDesk) is an amazing platform dedicated in bringing that future to the present.

In all the time that I have been using it – my average time to find and hire talented people has been pretty short – from 5 hours to a couple of days. This week, however, I beat this record with a time to find and hire of 90 minutes and that included 2 Skype based interviews. That is a phenomenal time – made only possible by the work that Upwork has done to facilitate the interactions between providers and purchasers.

Amazemeet launched

The startup that I have been building for the last 12 months was finally launched this week – although it didn’t go out on the 14th of January as I had hoped – we got it all lined up and released on Saturday 16th January.

This has been a real labour of love and I’m incredibly proud of the work me and my team has done on this. Now to see the workers of the world – fed up with crappy meetings – show it some love.

Please check it out and share it. You may very well save someone’s life with it 🙂

I'm going for a walk

The Short and Sweet

Between May 8th and the 20th , I’ll be walking 214km 240km of the 815km long of the Camino del Norte – the northern route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
I’d like you to support me and my selected charity and invite you to join me.

Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Millions of people from all over the world have walked to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The routes they have take over the ages are called the Camino.

For whatever the reason people make this ‘pilgrimage’ – spiritual, recreational or simply popping out with the dog for a pint of milk – this is a chance to connect with whatever you need to connect with.  In my case, my dog, myself and your donation for a great cause.

Ultimately I intend to complete the entire 815km northern route in 4 visits. This is the first visit, the second is tentatively planned for September 2016 and the rest in 2017.

You can see more of the route I’ll be taking here.

Make every kilometre count

I’m making this journey because I’m fit and healthy and fancy a walk. There are thousands of sufferers of M.E in the UK  – including my best friend Joel – who can’t walk 100 yards without feeling totally exhausted. They’d love to do this – but they simply cannot.

They – like Joel – used to be fit and healthy until they suddenly got severely sick and never got better –  like a permanent severe flu. Their lives have been put on painful pause by M.E and their recovery put on hold because the UK Government and medical establishment are hiding their heads in the sand on this. It is up to the general public – you , me and InvestinME – to move this forward.

So I need your help.

I need you to put your hand in your pocket and sponsor this walk. My target is £1000 and I’ll even match donations up to that target.
Give what you can and more importantly share this we need to raise awareness  as much as we need to raise money.
Sponsor me here now:
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E)

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a systemic neuroimmune condition characterized by post-exertional malaise (a severe worsening of symptoms after even minimal exertion). It causes dysregulation of both the immune system and the nervous system. The effects of ME are devastating enough to leave 25% of patients housebound or bedbound. For moderate to severe patients, living with ME is like living with late-stage cancer, advanced stage AIDS, or congestive heart failure for decades. – www.meaction.net

Living with ME is like living with late-stage cancer? That’s pretty rough – right? Now imagine that is your life for the next 5, 10 or even 15 years,

You would think that with such chronic pain, suffering and lower quality of life affecting so many people with this condition that there would be state funding to fund research into the condition and develop a cure or definitive treatment. Not so – in the UK,  the funding to date – of  £2m over the last 25 years  – is entirely embarrassing.

It simply isn’t good enough and I’m taking this walk partly to raise awareness of both the condition and the lack of emphasis on it. Please help me in doing both.

Join me

My 214km walk is in 10 stages and if you would like to join any of the stages – that would be wonderful. Here are some things you need to be aware of:

  • you need to be fit and able to commit to complete whatever stage(s) you join
  • you’ll need to make your way to the rendezvous location the evening before the start of the stage with whatever gear you need
  • If you would like to do a multi-day walk with me – you might have to rough it. My dog and I plan to camp in a tent most of the time but there are very basic hostels called Albergues that you can bunk in.
  • We’ll walk for 6 – 8 hours a day and eat ,drink, muse and recover for the rest of the time.

If all this still excites you – please send me a mail and lets plan our camino. Please make sure you also make a donation to the cause too 🙂

A Super Special Limited Offer

I’m a sought after world class agile coach – you cannot hire me until 2018 because I’m all booked up to help organisations deliver value more effectively and joyfully . If you would like to spend a day walking and talking about the challenges you are facing as a manager/Scrum Master/whatever in a tech organisation struggling to deliver value effectively – then make a minimum donation of £500 to the cause above,  get your walking boots on and lets talk. I guarantee you it will be the best £500 your company ever spent.

Limited to first 3 people only.

Updates on my Camino

I intend to keep this blog updated of my progress before, during and immediately following the walk – so be sure to bookmark and follow along.

You can also “like” my Facebook page here to stay updated.