Day 20: Alfarnatejo to Ventas de Zaffaraya 18k (inc deviation)
By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020
Written by Tom’s wife.
We had a very long but really enjoyable day today. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn early on, which meant a lot more mileage and hill climbing to get back to where we should have been.
However, it was interesting and I got to meet lots of people including a chap from Derbyshire who gave me the right directions. Then a couple of old ladies at a fuente who confirmed that I was now going the right way. After that, a group of young Spanish women walking the other way who told me how far I had to go. Which was slightly deflating.
When I reached Ventas de Zaffaraya at 7pm, I decided the prudent thing to do was to go to the first bar I saw and rehydrate. This was Hotel/Bar Aqui te Queiro (I love you here??). I asked about places to stay as hostel next door appeared closed. The owner was located though, and she spoke English – always a relief at the end of the day when I can barely string a sentence together, even in my own language. Shower and comfy bed beckons. Joy!
My grandson, Morten, who had his birthday yesterday, he is now nine, took some photographs recently. They are fabulous and are republished here with Morten’s permission. Completely untouched by yours truly!
I think these are fabulous. Morten used the following camera.
During the political campaign season, Americans are deciding who has the characteristics, skills and temperament to be president. As a dog psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, I spend my time studying the relationship between dogs and their people. I’d certainly be happy if a candidate’s attitude toward dogs could offer a simple way to evaluate a leader’s personality, cutting to the essence of a person’s character and clinching my vote without needing a detailed assessment of their policy proposals.
Is it enough just to follow the leash to choose a leader? There must be good people with bad dogs, or no dog at all, and some notoriously bad people who were loved by their dogs, no? But I want to believe that canine companionship can still shed lightonhumancharacter and help us pick a candidate.
Dogless in the White House
For the past three years, the pup-parazzi have been speculating on President Donald Trump’s dogless existence at the White House. It’s certainly most common for the president to have a dog – perhaps because, as someone reputedly said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Biden might want to be careful of the historical baggage that comes with this popular large breed. The most famous German shepherd in politics must surely have been Blondi, the dog Adolf Hitler himself said was the only being that loved him.
Bailey features so prominently in his owner’s social media feeds that Warren might want to be careful not to be upstaged by her pooch. George H.W. Bush’s dog, Millie, published a memoir that outsold President Ronald Reagan’s contemporaneous “An American Life.”
Other candidates either have no dog or are happy to keep their canine enthusiasms to themselves.
The Facebook group “Pet Lovers for Bernie Sanders” had to photo-edit dogs into an image of Sanders and his wife, who have no dog.
Michael Bloomberg was in the “apparently dogless” camp until just the other week when he got into a spot of dog difficulty by shaking a pooch by its snout rather than engaging in one of the more customary forms of interspecies greeting. The dog looked unperturbed, but pet lovers on social media roasted Bloomberg for his maladroitness.
The billionaire’s campaign quickly stitched together a 30-second ad spot of dogs voiced to endorse their candidate – ending with a cute white Lab who “says,” “I’m Mike Bloomberg’s dog, and I approve this message.”
Canine character references
Of course, dogless people get elected all the time – they can always pick up a pooch later. The Obama family did not acquire their dog, Bo, until three months after the inauguration. Having originally indicated an interest in rescuing a shelter mutt, they ended up with a pedigree Portuguese water dog because of their daughter Malia’s allergies. Though often known as the “Big Dog,” Bill Clinton did not acquire a dog of his own, a chocolate Labrador retriever, until his second term.
On Trump’s doglessness, the memoirs of his ex-wife, Ivana, are often quoted: “Donald was not a dog fan. When I told him I was bringing Chappy with me to New York, he said, ‘No.’ ‘It’s me and Chappy or no one!’ I insisted, and that was that.” But two sentences farther on – and far less frequently cited – Ivana adds, “Donald never objected to Chappy’s sleeping on my side of the bed.”
In fact, from 2010 to 2015, the Westminster Kennel Club had a tradition of sending the winner of its annual show to be photographed with Trump at his eponymous New York tower. Images fromthattime show Trump happily hugging the pooches.
Witness accounts from these meetings, quoted by Snopes.com in an assessment of the claim that Trump hates dogs, recall Trump thoroughly enjoying himself cuddling the prize-winning canines. Snopes concluded that claims Trump considers dogs “disgusting” were just plain false.
Asked at a press conference in April 1947 what had become of the pup, Truman responded: “To what?” On receiving clarification, he lied, “Oh, he’s around.” In fact, Truman had already given Feller away to his physician, Brig. Gen. Wallace Graham.
Much as we might like dogs to tell us whom to vote for, the truth is, dogs are such forgiving assessors of human character that their appraisals need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. We may just have to do the hard yards and learn about the candidate’s policies. It isn’t easy. Maybe not having to participate in a democracy is what keeps our dogs so happy.
This is both a lovely and intelligent article. Professor Clive Wynne raises some important points but concludes that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. I, for one, would not trust a person who doesn’t like dogs!
Focus on your breath. Listen to your body. Notice your emotions, but don’t judge them.
These are a few of the cues routinely used to induce mindfulness, a meditative state of self-awareness and detached acceptance that promises practitioners a sense of peace and presence of mind.
By putting equanimity within arm’s reach, if even for a moment, mindfulness programs are quickly gaining steam throughout the country. And it’s perhaps no surprise. At a time when America’s huddled masses seem more wound up, stressed out and distracted than ever before, the call to calm down is a compelling one.
At issue is not only relief from stress but also the innumerable ailments related to it. And like yoga, mindfulness programs are proving to be powerful antidotes. From depression and anxiety to weight control and pain management, there’s a mindfulness treatment out there for what ails you. Fortune 100 companies are using mindfulness as part of leadership training, and the military is incorporating such techniques to reduce stress before deployment and to help ease post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s cultivating a general skill that can be applicable in lots of different circumstances,” says Vermont-based psychotherapist Arnie Kozak, who’s been using mindfulness in his clinical practice for nearly 20 years. “I think the place where it pays the biggest benefit is helping people to reduce reactivity,” he says. As Kozak explains, mindfulness won’t change someone’s condition, but it can change someone’s response to it and, in doing so, alleviate suffering.
How and why mindfulness works
In dealing with a difficulty — say, a crisis at work or a chronic disease — people often get mired in the narrative they create about the situation, perhaps chastising themselves about their feelings or behavior, envisioning catastrophic consequences or rehashing the incident ad nauseam. Mindfulness, however, teaches a healthy skepticism about the stories we tell ourselves, say Kozak, who likes to repeat a mantra: “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Fundamental to the practice is acceptance, rather than avoidance of a stressful situation. In a sense, it’s the opposite of the “Calgon, take-me-away” approach of yesteryear (commercials for the bath products featured a harried Mom pleading with Calgon to “take me away” from the cacophony of domestic life). Mindfulness, alternatively, would ask you to accept and observe the chaos, without liking or disliking what’s happening around you.
If that sounds challenging, it is — but the rewards can be profound. And they don’t require some sort of monastic discipline.
After an eight-week course of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, participants changed their brain structure, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. Brain scans of the subjects, who meditated an average of 27 minutes a day, found a thickening of regions associated with learning, memory, self-awareness and compassion and a thinning of the region connected to stress and anxiety.
According to Psychologist Lindsay Sauers, there are two parts of the stress-response cycle, and though everyone knows the first part — the rush that comes when you system is flushed with adrenaline and cortisol — the second part doesn’t get as much notice, but it’s important. There must be an emotional and physical release in response or the cycle is “incomplete.”
“We often wait until the ‘breaking point,’ when addressing the impact of stress becomes an absolute necessity,” she told Dave Bellomo of NorthCentralPA.com. “The challenge is that in waiting, we often feel so guilty about the consequences of the breaking point that once the immediate distress has leveled off, we go right back to pushing aside stress until it grows to that ‘breaking point’ again. It becomes a ‘rinse and repeat’ situation. While the rinse and repeat might be tolerable if we know it’s going to happen … this all-or-nothing process has a cumulative, detrimental impact on the body.”
Bringing mindfulness mainstream
University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness is where MBSR — and much of the mindfulness movement in this country — got its start. That’s thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained biologist who founded the center in 1979 and developed the MBSR program, helping to bring meditation mainstream.
Today, there are some 520 MBSR programs across the country and about 740 worldwide, according to the center’s executive director, Saki Santorelli. The center has seen more than 20,000 people complete its eight-week course, with many of them referred by conventional medical centers.
Santorelli attributes the interest in mindfulness primarily to research and access. “From the very beginning, research has been a critical part of this process,” he says, adding that “society, in many ways, trusts science.” The growing body of literature on mindfulness fuels further interest.
Also, mindfulness work has a low bar to entry, Santorelli says. It doesn’t require renouncing one’s faith. It doesn’t necessarily cost anything. And it enables people to take an active role in their own healing.
He argues that the optimal approach for health care incorporates both the Western discipline, in which practitioners do something “to” or “for” a patient, with the self-care inherent in mindfulness.
While the former is critical if a patient requires surgery, the latter can bring about a sustained approach to well-being, Santorelli says. How so? He explains that through mindfulness, observation gives way to self-awareness — the point at which it becomes possible to change habits and behaviors.
That’s especially important, he adds, since so many of today’s maladies are related to lifestyle — from obesity to smoking.
As director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Frederick Hecht is using mindfulness techniques to disrupt the automatic eating behavior that so often derails efforts to lose and maintain weight.
“The idea is to chew our food a little more carefully, to really savor both the texture and the taste of the food, to be aware of all the sensations you’re feeling as you eat,” with the goal of getting greater satisfaction from less food, he says. By paying close attention to how they feel before and after eating, participants may be more likely to make healthier choices.
“There’s promising data for things like mindful eating, but it’s preliminary data,” says Hecht, who is training in internal medicine and clinical epidemiology. “More research and better research is really key, and its particularly key for health professionals when we’re called on to really recommend this, and we need a stronger evidence base.”
At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pulmonologist Roberto Benzo is using mindfulness techniques to help patients manage conditions such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Health is far beyond fixing an organ, having a transplant, getting a coronary fixed — that is just a piece of the story,” Benzo says, referencing his yet-to-be-published research showing that quality of life and self-care hinge on one’s emotional state.
The many benefits of mindfulness training.
With that in mind, Benzos work as founding director of Mayo’s Mindful Breathing Lab is to help patients see past their disease and appreciate life.
“To embrace life, we always embrace what we like … It’s difficult to embrace that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes things are not going in the direction we want,” he says. “Mindfulness is the ability to be here and now even when one has a condition like a lung disease or a heart disease or something like that.”
Using techniques like breathing, moving and gratitude, Benzo has found that patients tune in to the moment and feel better. “They start to look at the good that is in front of them,” he says.
But getting to that stage requires switching gears.
To that end, Los Angeles-based psychologist Elisha Goldstein and author of “The Now Effect” reminds his patients to simply “STOP.” The acronym stands for: Stop, take a few breaths, observe your experience and proceed. As Goldstein puts it, the exercise “pops them out of autopilot” and into a position to ask “what really matters in life” at that moment. From that place of calm, we are better poised to make the best choice and the most of the moment.
As those moments build up, they may amount to a lifetime of living in the midst of them.
I can do no better than to repeat the advice of Elisha Goldstein in that penultimate paragraph.
Stop, Take a few breaths, Observe your experience, Proceed.
Gilliwolfe has changed very slightly the appearance of the post. But it’s just as good!
Day 19: Riogrande to Alfarnatejo 16k
By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020
Written by Tom’s wife
This morning’s doze was interrupted at 6:30 by a digger starting up and then at 7:15 by lights of a 4 X 4 as fella turns up for work. Hey-ho! So up and into town for double rations of bacon bocadillos with coffee and on the road at 11am. Passing out of town, two ground workers and the digger driver wanted to know if it was cold in the tent so I put them right; good sleeping bag and doggie hot water bottle. After a bit more building site banter (to make me feel at home, but without the rain) I stopped at the fuentes on the outskirts of the town, had a quick wash and filled the water bottles.
A hard uphill slog followed and this pack isn’t getting any lighter, I’m going to have to be more ruthless in selecting items next time! But it was a great day’s hiking and I was delighted to find Restaurante Gerado by the Rio Sabar where I scoffed an early supper of ham, egg and chips with two beers for €8. Bargain! Sated we trotted off into the hills for 45 mins and found a lovely camping place in the olive terraces – pictures tomorrow.
It’s an amazing walk and that doesn’t really give full justice to what Tom and his two dogs are doing.
It’s a very real pleasure to be given the permission to republish these episodes.
After good night’s sleep under the crag, we woke to find ourselves in thick cloud so didn’t rush to get going.
To save water, I brewed a small coffee, gave Chica her quota and had a muesli bar for breakfast. I packed up between bouts of light rain and we set off at 10am with almost a spring in our step, down to the road and heading east.
We passed a strange group of buildings which turned out to be a circus school, complete with mini castle. Which was slightly surreal!
Beautiful scenery as we were walking on the northern edge of El Torcal nature park. We have visited here before and the small park has an amazing and unique karst limestone landscape straight out of a cowboy movie. If you find yourself near Antequera, it’s well worth a visit. Lobo Park is nearby too, where they are trying to preserve the last of the almost extinct wolves in Spain. You can go on a ‘howl night’ which Chica thought sounded fun.
After a short break for Chica to catch some rays, a very long stretch of road walking followed and it was getting hot. I started to get a bit concerned about the shortage of water. I intended to knock on a door and ask but all the gates were padlocked and there was no sign of life. I began to feel really anxious – we were both thirsty and the route was about to leave the road and head across county where there would be much less chance of getting water. Then I saw a chap and his dog at the bottom of his driveway. He saw me and waited to speak to us. After mumbling in my extremely basic Spanish, it turned out he was Belgian and spoke excellent English. He fetched water for us and a very welcome apple for me.
Newly energised and very relieved, we left the road and headed steadily downhill enjoying the great views all round. Chica met lots of friendly mutts including a very snivelly Welsh border collie.
Eventually, we made it to Riogordo at around 5:45, There were a lot of workman and road reconstruction going on. Despite the diversions to avoid newly-laid concrete, the farmer on his mule drove his sheep and goats straight over it.
Exploring the town, I bought sardines for Cheeks and chocolate for me. It seemed very pleasant and I looked out for sneaky camp spots but I got diverted into Bar Molina for Iberian steak and chips, goats ice cream and honey, and quantities of beer.
At 9:30 we headed off in the dark and made camp on a piece of waste ground. This turned out to be slightly sloping so I had to use Chica as a wedge to stop me slipping down it. She appeared to rather like it. What a good girl! But maybe it’s best to suss out the camping place before the beer in future.
Up at sparrow’s fart and actually managed to catch the 7.28am train. Yet again, no problem taking a dog on the train but, unlike Merlin, Chica really didn’t like it. She sat on my lap and trembled for over an hour. Only just before we got off, did she settle. Then we encountered our first refusal. The train stops short of Antequera and the last 18k is on the bus. Even when the lovely train guard tried to persuade the driver to take us, he was unmoved. So a rather expensive taxi ride was needed to do the last section.
We have visited Antequera before – the old town is interesting, once a centre for fabric-making and our trail took us along the river and past where all the laundry was once done. There was an old stone ‘washboard’. It must have been very hard work.
An easy well-defined track today through open countryside. The weekend’s cold had left me with a ferocious sinus headache but it was clearing nicely and we both enjoyed the sunshine.
After a few days off, the pack felt heavy and I was glad to reach Villanueva. The small town is used in film sets apparently, but there was nothing here today so I found a suitable camping place under a rockface showing signs of recently climbing activity. But maybe not tonight….
Today, and the next two days are devoted to republishing this fascinating walk.
No walk around the neighborhood is complete without my dog Lulu eating grass. Even on a full stomach, she likes to hunt for the perfect blades and chew away. Left unattended, I’m sure she could mow down a small lawn. Since lawns today have any number of herbicides and pesticides, many pet parents wonder if it’s OK to let their dogs eat grass.
Here’s what the experts say about these grass-eating habits. It’s yummy: It’s normal for dogs to chew on the green stuff because they like the taste of grass, says Dr. Jennifer Monroe of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. Some pooches even develop preferences that range from fresh leaves to drier weeds or even a particular species of grass. What they cannot discern is whether grass has been chemically treated. Use caution when walking on a neighbor’s lawn and stick with greener products in your own yard. Monroe recommends nontoxic treatment options.
“You do have to be careful if you have a dog that is a chronic grass eater,” she says. “We do have a lot of clients who bring pets in for vomiting and wonder if it’s from something the yard was treated with.”
Nutritional deficiency: Most commercial dog foods offer a balanced diet, so many experts say its unlikely that your dog isn’t getting the nutrition he needs from his dinner. Instead, dogs with certain intestinal diseases don’t necessarily digest food properly and have trouble absorbing minerals, which can lead to grazing, says Monroe. Anemia and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract also cause dogs to eat dirt.
They are trying to induce vomiting: When dogs are eating something that doesn’t agree with them, they often have an upset stomach and eat grass to induce vomiting. If eating grass causes your dog to vomit twice a week or more, call your veterinarian because there could be another underlying health issue. She also recommends a visit if there is any doubt that your dog may be ill; better safe than sorry.
Some dogs nibble the lawn and are fine, while others are always eating grass and vomiting. It may just be the grass tickling their throat and stomach lining that causes them to vomit, says PetMD, or it could be something more serious. That’s why it’s key for dog owners to make sure their pets aren’t sick. Keep track of how often your dog vomits and let your vet know.
Instinct: One theory is that this unusual dog behavior is just instinct. Dogs in the wild are natural omnivores who eat meat and plants, so domesticated dogs naturally gravitate towards plant material too, says Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Another theory is that wild dogs would eat plant material in the stomach of their prey, so they developed a taste for it.
Behavioral issues: Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) regarding the grass. (I suspect that my Lulu falls into this category. She’s pretty determined during those lawn-gobbling excursions.) In the majority of cases, Monroe says this is no reason for concern. To correct the behavior, she recommends reducing your dog’s grazing time.
Basket muzzles restrict grass guzzling, too. In severe cases, she recommends consulting a certified veterinary behaviorist for advice. Otherwise, let them stop to smell — and chomp — the greenery.
“If not they are not vomiting and not destructive, I say let them enjoy it,” Monroe says.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in October 2013.
All very straightforward it seems.
But I suspect there may be just a few who found this post revealing.