SwitchBitch Book 2 ‘My Journey of Transformation in walking the Camino, Sole to Soul’ my best 18th birthday present!

Earlier this year I published SwitchBitch Book 1, ‘My journey of transformation from Sour to Sweet’, documenting my physical transformation in losing 45 kg in changing my eating habits, and in expressing my love for dancing. 

SwitchBitch Book 2 ‘My Journey of Transformation in walking the Camino, Sole to Soul’ follows in its footsteps, pardon the pun, having walked the Camino in Spain, and documents my journey on this three-week journey. The book also shares further transformational changes since SwitchBitch Book 1 was published in January this year. 

Launching my second book this year, celebrating it today with my very special friends, some even flying in from Paris and London, is my best 18th birthday present. 

It was clear to me from the beginning that SwitchBitch would become a trilogy, the physical change covered in Book 1, the beginning of a spiritual journey being documented in Book 2, and further spiritual evolvement coming from a planned trip to Havana and to Buenos Aires next year, to learn to dance the Salsa and Tango, respectively, the subject of Book 3.

Like Book 1, I wrote Book 2 in Apricale, the little Italian village near the French border and north of Ventimiglia. I had been ntroduced to the village in 2015 by Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen. I was looking for a place in which to write Book 1 last year, and could think of no better place than Apricale, it being poorly endowed with retail offerings, other than a little supermarket and a shop selling local produce mainly made from olives and olive trees. I wanted a location warmer and drier than Cape Town in winter, with no shopping and eating distractions. I could think of no better place to stay than in Apricale, described as the most beautiful village in Italy. Writing Book 2 in Apricale was a no-brainer.

I had stayed at Apricus Locanda B&B in Apricale three years ago, when I ate at JAN restaurant in Nice for the first time. I had wanted to stay in a tiny French village to practice my minimal French which I had spent a year trying to learn at Alliance Français. Chef Jan-Hendrik said he could not assist with such a recommendation, but said he could recommend Apricale, his favorite escape break place, and from which he leads Italian food tours, a mere hour from Nice. At that time a room was available for me at Apricus Locanda for five days. Last year I called Jeanette, the owner of the B&B, and introduced myself via Chef Jan-Hendrik and my stay two years prior. She knew who I was immediately, referring to me as the dry cappuccino lady! I booked three weeks, to write the book in this ideal location. Its Dutch owner is vivacious, lively, friendly, and supportive; has a great decor touch which includes lots of hearts, something I share with her, having felt the love in my life while I walked the Camino, seeing hearts everywhere; and serves a generous breakfast, including my dry cappuccino. The B&B has a fabulous pool, and last August it was a refreshing way to keep fit. In June this year the temperatures have been lower and it has been wetter, which meant that I did not get into the pool as frequently as last year. 

This SwitchBitch Book 2 would not have been possible without the support of a number of persons, some behind the scenes, and others on Facebook. Writing a book was a journey in itself, having learnt so much about book writing as well as self-publishing, but I also learnt a lot about myself, procrastination being a negative trait I had to confront then. In writing Book 2 it took me three days before a I sat down and started writing, only having given myself two weeks in which to write this Book 2, becoming an effective ten days. I wish to thank the following:

  • Graham Goble, who was the subject of a large part of SwitchBitch Book 1, having been the catalyst of my physical transformation. He accepted me as I was when we met, and never expressed a judgement about my weight at the time. It was when I fell in love with him that I lost 45 kg. Graham became a very close friend, but I ended our relationship 18 months after meeting him, in that he disrespected me. Graham had walked the Camino a few years before we met, and suggested that I do so, it possibly benefiting a spiritual transformation. 
  •  Stuart Bailey, who has been a silent supporter, and has become a very special friend since we first met when I started dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek in October 2016. Stuart played an important role in SwitchBitch Book 1 being completed, in gently ‘nagging’ about the progress of the book,and in creating the subtitle for the book.  Stuart looked after my house and new apartment, as well as my car, while I was away. Most special was his call when I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, on my last Camino day, to congratulate me and saying that he never doubted my ability to finish it. He also said that he had looked at each photograph of me over the three-week Camino, and said that I looked pregnant, with an aura and a glow of happiness. This was amazing feedback to receive, showing that the Camino had moved something in me. 
  • Jörn Merkel, whom I met at the screening of a spiritual movie at Soul earlier this year, connecting with him in German, an important development for me in accepting this part of my life emotionally, which I had suppressed for most of my life, I discovered. It is such an important development that I have dedicated a chapter to it. Jörn gave me space on the Camino journey, but with regular encouragement and communication. He very generously offered to assist me in a problem I have with a property in Hermanus, suggesting a solution for it, and driving to the town whilst I was away. 
  • Alex von Ulmenstein, always a support in the background, since he was a young boy, and my toughest critic. In Spain I needed to book some flights, but the information came up in Spanish, so Alex was able to make the booking for me in English from where he lives and works in the UK.
  • Billy Kennedy, founder of Temenos spiritual retreat in McGregor, for permission to use his painting ‘Camino’ for the cover of this book. 
  • Jeanette van Manen, for welcoming me back to Apricus Locanda in Apricale, and going the extra mile to make it as comfortable as possible for me to write SwitchBitch Book 2. In telling her aspects of my Camino experience I could hear myself speak, and focus my feelings about what I had experienced. 
  • Brigitte Käse, for her guidance on our Camino walk, and her organisational skills in creating a smooth walk for us over the 21 day’s, not one of our group members having any physical disasters (other than blisters on our toes) nor any other problems at all. I gladly subjected myself to her leadership and guidance, quite contrary to my past need to be in control and to know better. As the other eight members of our group of ten walked in pairs, Brigitte and I walked together a lot, especially at the beginning of the Camino. We had such fun together, seeing every heart on the Camino, and also doing things that the other fast walkers may not have experienced, like tasting the wine of a garagiste, ringing the church bell at a monastery, and dancing in the square in Burgos. We had met for a pre-walk meeting in Cape Town, and Brigitte gave me detailed pointers as what to bring and what to leave at home in the interest of luggage weight, and most importantly, what to get medically. She then spontaneously invited me to the wedding of her niece in the Groote Kerk, when I was still in hiking gear, for its classical music which the bridal couple had opened to Capetonians generally. I then knew that we would have fun together, especially as she had no shame as to how I was dressed. Brigitte had done eight previous Camino walks, so we could not have been in better hands. From being our guide, Brigitte has become a friend. 
  • Gail Unsworth, a friend from Durban whom I met whilst dancing at Constantia Nek. Gail walked the Camino in September last year, being very patient with all my questions about what to take with me. She could also assure me that certain sections of our walks were not as treacherous as had been made out by one member of our group. She supported me with messages on Facebook as well as privately, having walked every step of the way with me.
  • DJs René Tanguy and Dino Ben Tovim, for their support whilst on my journey, and knowing how much I would miss my dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek and at HQ, respectively. DJ René was particularly complimentary, referring to me as an ‘iron lady’ in walking the Camino, and having made it. I am not sure if I am still that ‘iron’ person, perhaps still in resolve to complete the Camino, but not so in my heart. Writing this book will answer that question for me. But I did realise again how incredibly much I love dancing, and I am grateful that I had some opportunities to dance the Camino! In reaction to one of my Facebook posts about Apricale, DJ René wrote: ‘Keep walking my lady Chris. Keep looking for perfection in an imperfect world. Quality and service is everything. With music it is even better like the cherry on the cake. Have a fab time in Italy. ??????’, a message I loved reading. 
  • Jo-Anne von Willingh was the most amazing Facebook friend, in rallying support for me on Facebook, when I expressed my trepidation about the last five days of the Camino, being longer walking days than those we had covered in the sixteen days prior. She wrote as follows on Facebook: ‘So last night one of my FB friends who is walking the Camino in Spain said she is really battling. The weather conditions are tough, the food is not good & she has 5 days within which to complete 100km walk to get her certificate. I told her before she left I will be giving her my full support & cheering her on all the way. Today I am thinking of her & the challenge ahead so in solidarity with her I decided this morning I will walk 20 kms everyday with her & keep her in my mind till the end of this week. I know this is her dream to finish this walk & I am so proud of her for even doing this so please send her your Love for Strength as she pushes through the last stretch. All the best Chris Von Ulmenstein you can do this !!! ??’
  • Llewellyn Lambert and I have been Bestie friends for a number of years, but interestingly he let me go, not communicating with me during the Camino, perhaps to give me this lesson, as I was very reliant on sharing my experiences via Voice Notes with him every day, excessive now it seems, as I survived without this crutch since starting the Camino. I saw it as a way of him letting me go too, as he has a partner now, and needs to spend time with him too. But I know that he will always be there for me. 
  • Barbara Müller of New Voices Publishing Services, for her advice and design of SwitchBitch Books 1 and 2, always professional but always supportive. 
  • Mike White of Tandym Print, for the printing of SwitchBitch Books 1 and 2. 
  • AmaWalkers, for planning our Camino, and booking the accommodation. While I appreciate that the company found Brigitte Käse for us as our guide, they selected some dreadful accommodation. The owner of the company was most ungracious and unspiritual when I provided feedback to her about our daily experience, the accommodation in particular.

I am dedicating this book to all of those who wish to transform their lives, whether it be to lose weight, to dance, or to walk the Camino. If I can do it, you can too. As with SwitchBitch Book 1, I wish for this Book to be an inspiration to women of my age and even younger, as young as twenty-something, sharing that one can change one’s life and feel 18 years old again, as I do now! 

I am launching my SwitchBitch Book 2 officially tonight at a special Birthday Dinner. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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