The Camino Way

St Jean Pied de Port“The Camino de Santiago known in English as The Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups” – from Wikipedia

BiarritzFor those who follow my Twitter account (@JohnOhOfSydney) you will know that I was lucky to be booked by a client to join her for a few days walking The Camino de Santiago from the South of France down into Northern Spain earlier this year.

It was a fabulous trip – filled with beautiful scenery, physical challenge, and the solitude of wild places.

Golden eagle on the French PyreneesI am not a religious or spiritual person, but you don’t need to be to enjoy this trek and to grow as a person from the experience. I had the opportunity to practice my photography skills along the way and I can say that the scenery was truly stunning – like nothing that I have ever experienced. I love Australia and the Australian landscape, but I have always had a strong reaction to the deep and vivid greens of European lands and forest.

Camino way Pyrenees forestSomething that surprised me was discovering that there was very little animal life – other than domestic animals – as we walked over the French Pyrenees Mountains. There was some bird life (including golden eagles which were most impressive), but I literally didn’t see a wild animal until we reached Pamplona – and that was a solitary red squirrel.

The food in southern France and Northern Spain was surprising to me. It was probably the biggest cultural difference from Australia. The local food was very limited in its variety. A lot of bread, cured meat, and cheese – and quiche! I love all of those things, but you can have too much of a good thing…

Lunch at OrissonIt emphasised to me how much Australia has benefited from migrant culture. We have such diversity in the food available to us on any given day on in any place. There will always be Asian food, European food, American food – the list goes on. And our fresh produce is, I think, second to none in the world, and that makes a huge difference to the quality of dishes.

The walking itself was serious and requires preparation. The first day from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles is approximately 27kms. Forest path near RoncesvallesIt would be a long walk just on flat ground, but this part of the trip climbs 1,200 meters over the French Pyrenees and down another 500 meters into northern Spain. It’s a walk that many people split over two days rather than one, but we did the whole thing in one go. It was quite an achievement and a spectacular experience.

For anyone contemplating this walk, I would definitely recommend that you take your time. Don’t rush to get to your next destination. Walk slowly. Stop often. Look around. Take lots of photographs.

There is always another days walk ahead, but taking the time to really enjoy where you are (and will likely never be again!) is invaluable.

If you are contemplating a trip and would like a companion for your travels, then please seem my Travel Page for rates and conditions.

John.

Parsley Bay – Sydney

Sydney in spring can be just glorious.

In the spirit of urban exploration yesterday I visited Parsley Bay, a place I never even knew existed until recently.  It’s a quiet little harbour side bay that is home to beautiful waters – and water dragons and stingrays!).


It’s still a little cold in the water, but it made for a pleasant hour or two sitting in the shade admiring the view and photographing the scenery – you can click on any of these images to see the full sized version.

As the weather warms up (and the water too!) I will definitely have to come back for a swim in this delightful little spot – and hopefully see some stingrays!

There are some lovely overhanging rock features.


Definitely time for a haircut…


John.

Nearly midnight…

It’s nearly midnight – Saturday 1/10/2016 – and I am done with work for the night, listening to Imagine Dragons (possibly too loud), and my brain is fizzing with thoughts – about my industry, about people, about life, and the world.

All I know is that tomorrow is a new day and it will be FUN – even if daylight saving is going to steal an hour from me!

In the mean time, I thought I would share some photos from my travels.

elevator garden garden-2 park rooster waterfall beach beach-2 beach-3 bike

Yoga and being over forty

Seven Reasons Why Every Man Should Take up Yoga” – it’s the title of an article I read today. It could have been an average puff piece with little substance, but it turned out to be a worthwhile read. And I am certain that every reason is as much applicable to women as it is to men.

What really caught my attention though was that the article was written by a former cricketer Andrew May – and it focused on how yoga is especially beneficial to older men.

2016-09-08-14-29-42Everything that he said I have either experienced or could could relate to – specifically as a man who is now 44 years old. I’m not twenty-something (this is a good thing really) and I don’t have a young man’s body. Like Andrew May and his professional sporting colleges I have a legacy of injuries, large and small, I don’t heal as rapidly as I used to, I am not as flexible as I once was, my skin isn’t as elastic as it used to be, and I now tend to gain body fat more easily around my middle. All typical aspects of aging for men.

But that doesn’t in any way mean that I dislike my body, or feel bad about it, or don’t feel attractive. On the contrary, I love my body. And being older has actually brought some improvements. When I was in my twenties, I was always very lightly built. I’m no heavy weight now, but I have “filled out” you could say. My upper body is larger and stronger and I build muscle much more easily and quickly than I ever did in my twenties.

Anyway, for many people – male or female – aging is a huge challenge for our perception of self. We are no longer the person we feel we should be. Our body is busy betraying us, and of course work and family life make it all so, so much harder.

Andrew May’s response is that yoga is the answer – and I honestly can’t disagree.

I personally prefer pilates to yoga, but they share enough basic principals (like flexibility, core strength and stability, and control) that I personally feel they are interchangeable. 10 years ago, pilates gave me a solution to a lifetime of back trouble that started when I was 15 years old.

Andrew May observed that doing yoga bought him “better mates”, better mood, and better sexual function (amongst other things). Unexpected benefits perhaps, but I would say that it shouldn’t be a surprise really. Undertaking a discipline like yoga is completely at odds with the permanently busy, consumerist lifestyle that so most of us are ruled by. Taking time out to stretch, to breath, to extend our bodies and our awareness of ourselves forces you to stop, to disconnect from the rest of the world and to just be, for a time at least.

It is no wonder I think that in doing so we can find broader benefits than being more flexible – and of course there is nothing here that says women can’t benefit just as much as us men!

John.

April in Melbourne – part one

I have just flown back to Sydney, having been in Melbourne for only two days – it felt like a lot longer though thanks to interesting people, a vibrant city, and catching up with family and friends.
I tweeted a lot of the trip because I was excited to be back in Melbourne and feeling a connection with it.  So I thought I would share those tweets…

I flew out of Sydney eventually, but only after Jetstar cancelled my flight and moved me to a qantas flight instead.  More aggravation than I needed and it left me lucky that my Monday afternoon booking had cancelled! Continue reading

A little art

There are some neat pieces of software out there on the Internet.  There are image processing versions of Google’s Deep Dream engine (Google created it for machine anaysis of images).  Also a site called Linify that reproduces images using coloured lines.

I picked a photo that I took a while ago and ran it through both systems and I thought I would share it here.

lorikeet

My feathered friends

dream-800

How Deep Dream sees them after three iterations of the engine

linify-800

How Linify sees them

John.

The Sydney Skinny – 2015

Well, the Sydney Skinny has been and gone for another year!
I swam in the fifth wave (I think) this year, which (totally accidentally) turned out to be the Body Image group.  It somehow seems appropriate given “me”.  Anyway, it was, as with last year, a fun group of people who all stripped off on the beach and swam either 900, or 300 meters.
Sydney Skinny 2015

I found the swim a lot easier than last year, but it was still a lot harder than I expected.  There was a reasonable amount of chop and some bigger waves (of perhaps 50cms) from ferries or other boats.  My main problem was that I actually started to feel sea sick about one third of the way through!  I was trying to move with the waves, rather than bashing through them and it turned out to be a pretty sickening rythm.

So, next year I am thinking that I need to do more open water swimming in preparation.

Anyway, it was a fun experience yet again and great to see so many people getting out and enjoying the sunshine, the water, and the freedom of being nude!

John.

 

There is another Sydney…

We think that we know the places that we live.  They are familiar to us by site, sound, smell, and feel.  But (if you are lucky) every now and then you come across a side of your home town that you have never seen before, and your eyes are opened…

I was lucky enough to be taken to visit a very unusual building.  It is almost in the CBD of Sydney, but the owners (whoever they are!) don’t seem to care about it.  It is home to a mix of people, but it is as far from your average apartment building as you could imagine, half squat, half artists commune, half… something else (yes, that’s three halves, but it seems strangely appropriate for this place).

The roof of the building has become an amazing art space for graffiti.  Uncontrolled, no rules, yet civilised in a manner that society at large may be uncomfortable with.  Don’t forget to click on each image to see them full size and enjoy the photos.

graffiti 1

graffit 2 John.