The year of 2018 was a special one. Walking 1000 miles across Spain, Israel and Portugal. This is my journey! Walking the Camino de Santiago.
Some of you may be wondering…if the French way from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago is roughly 500 miles, how did you walk 1000 miles?
Did you get lost? Did you walk in circles?
It was filled with many pilgrimages
- April – Samos to Santiago, 112 kms
- May – St. Jean to Santiago, 800 kms
- June – The Jesus Trail in Israel, 65 kms
- Sept – Leon to Santiago, 300 kms
- Sept – Porto to Santiago, 260 kms
All of these were special, but one was very special. Special because I wasn’t leading a group, I was walking as a pilgrim. A pilgrim on a journey.
This is my story …
When my son, Cale and I planned this pilgrimage walking from St. Jean to Santiago, we had to plan it between pilgrimages we already had scheduled. It was never easier to plan, we already knew that we were in God’s hands, He was leading this year, He was leading this pilgrimage. So we headed off to Spain to begin our journey of 1000 miles.
Samos to Santiago, 112 kms
This first pilgrimage was extra special because I had my parents with me, both right at 80 years old. They were amazing! We walked, shared stories, ate, drank our wine and before I knew it this special pilgrimage had ended.
Now we realized we didn’t want to go straight from Santiago to St. Jean and start walking again. We needed to give our feet a rest.
So where should we go outside of the Schengen area without spending a lot of money?
Due to travel restrictions in the Schengen area (most of Europe) which only allows a three-month stay over a six-month period, we had to get creative. We had to make sure we didn’t break that rule because of Prayerful Path Pilgrimages.
Morocco was our choice.
Marrakesh to be more exact.
How nice it would be, to hop on over from Madrid and spend a few days resting in this beautiful country. Between the flight and the accommodations, this little 3-day vacation only added $70 per person to our budget. It was perfect!
We explored, rode camels, rested, shopped and drank lots of mint tea! And let me tell you, once you drink mint tea in Morocco, you have been ruined. It’s not the same anywhere else. Morocco mint tea is amazing and delicious!!
Back to Spain!
But now it’s time to head back to Spain and make our way to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We flew back to Madrid and hopped on a bus to Zaragoza, where we spent an evening. What a beautiful city and I can’t wait to visit this town again when I walk the Ignatian Camino!
The next morning, we took a bus to Pamplona and waited for the connecting bus to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
And this is where the fun begins …
Cale and I got seated on the bus to Pamplona and I was actually getting a little nervous, which is not like me at all. Why was I feeling this way? No turning back now. I walked my first Camino in 2013, it was only the last 100 kms because that’s all I had time for, but it changed my life. In 2015, I walked half of the Camino from Leon to Santiago, which was amazing. I had also led a few other pilgrimages along the Camino, so why was I getting nervous about this one. On a bus!!! I decided to close my eyes and pray, I needed time to relax and sitting with Our Lord always brings me peace. I closed my eyes as the bus pulled out of the depot for the 2-hour bus trip.
A light mist was falling and you could feel the chilly weather on the bus. It was May 12, the Saturday before Mother’s Day. We were starting our walk on Mother’s Day, May 13th. How special is that? Walking the full Camino with your son and starting on Mother’s Day. I couldn’t ask for anything else.
As the bus made its way out of Pamplona, I started to drift off into a nice little nap. As we continued, the city streets made their way into the twist and turns over the mountain range to St. Jean. I lived in the mountains of North Carolina, so I was at ease with this. The turns were getting sharper and this woke me from my nap.
As I looked out the window, I decided it was best to keep my eyes closed so I didn’t have to see how close we were to the edge of the road. As we continued, my prayers were getting stronger. Now, not for my nervousness of the pilgrimage but for our safe arrival into St. Jean.
Then the worst sound you want to hear started happening. People were vomiting. Yes, you heard me right. People were vomiting! Some in front of me and some behind me. All I could do now was close my ears and watch the front of the bus and keep my eyes focused on the road. At one point, I had my ears and my nose plugged because the smell started to make its way around the bus. It seemed like a life time but we finally made it to St. Jean and we all ran off the bus.
When my feet touched the ground, I felt relieved and excited. The mist had turned into a light drizzle, so we unpacked our rain ponchos, covered ourselves up and made our way to the Alberque.
As Cale and I walked, we started to laugh and made a joke about how the bus drivers must place bets on how many people they can make sick on that trip over the mountain. That was a bus ride we will never forget, but now we were in St. Jean and I was ready!
We turned down the road and made our way to our resting place. When we walked our Camino in 2013, we made no reservations but we stayed in private rooms because I wasn’t sure about staying in a hostel. This pilgrimage I wanted to experience the hostels and again with no reservations. We did however make our reservation in St. Jean.
We checked in to the hostel and made our way to our room. It was a room with 4 bunks, Cale and I claimed our beds and freshened up. We then headed out to register at the Pilgrims office, get any last-minute supplies and have dinner.
Because the office was closing soon, we decided we had better register first and then get our supplies. We walked up the cobblestone street to find the pilgrims office. There were only a few pilgrims ahead of us as we anxiously awaited our turn. Approaching the desk, we were excited and nervous at the same time. The nice lady asked us our names and where we were from, and then she proceeded to pull out some paperwork. She asked if we had ever walked over the Pyrenees. When we said no, she pulled out a map.
She then started to inform us that they were predicting snow overnight and that the route over the mountain might be closed. She said, we might need to take the road route to Roncesvalles. As we heard what she was saying and our brains knew the smart thing to do was to wait…I sensed that both of us were saying NO. Part of the Camino is walking over the Pyrenees. We didn’t want to take the low road! We wanted the mountain.
I think she saw it in our faces, so she proceeded to tell us that the mountain wouldn’t be closed it would just be difficult and dangerous. So, we sat down and asked lots of questions. My heart and brain were in a battle as I sat there and listened to her. I knew I wouldn’t be stupid but I really wanted to go over the mountain, I was thinking maybe we might have to wait an extra day in St. Jean. Unsure…I knew that the Way of St. James is like the way of life, trusting God, day by day, step by step. Now I had to stop trying to figure it out and listen to the nice lady. As I focused back on her and stopped my brain from thinking, she was walking Cale and I up the mountain on the map on her desk.
I will never forget her conversation; I think she was trying to scare us yet still give us the information we needed.
She proceeded to tell us that when you get to this point, as she pointed at the map and then made eye contact with us, “this is where a pilgrim died!” turn right.
Next “when you get to this,” again as she pointed and made eye contact, “is where another pilgrim died,” Then continued,” make sure to fill up with water. There will be no more water until Roncesvalles.” This continued on for a few minutes.
She did tell us one very important bit of information. Before we got our Pilgrim passports stamped, she said, “if you do the mountain tomorrow, please take the road down; do not take the path through the woods. This is where most pilgrims get hurt and have to be airlifted out, due to the ground being frozen and slippery, the road is a safer way down.” This was a bit of information I would not forget.
We then got our first stamp of the pilgrimage, said “Buen Camino “and headed out to have dinner. By the time we exited the Pilgrims office, the rain had started to fall a little harder. You could actually see the white mountain caps on the mountain range we would have to cross tomorrow. I was praying we would be able to cross the mountain in the morning but now, let’s get food in our bellies.
Pizza, need I say more.
We headed to a little pizza place on the river. Ahh! Pizza. Now, due to the rain, we had to wait for a table inside the restaurant. It was a chilly rain and I already felt it in my bones. Oh, how I wanted to sit in a warm restaurant and eat a good meal. As we sat down, we were seated next to two men and one of them had on an LSU hat. Imagine that! This caught my attention because that meant they were from the states. I spoke to them for a little bit, found out they were from Florida and that they were father and son. Just like us, mother and son. It always helps to meet people from your part of the world, especially when inside you are worried about the snow and needing a little comfort.
We proceeded to order our meal. I am not a big eater so I told Cale, let’s just split a pizza. As we tried to order, they informed us that we couldn’t share a pizza. This kind of made me upset, but what are you going to do. So, we both ordered a pizza and a glass of wine and settled into our meal. Enjoying every bite and hoping the rain would slow down so we could make our way to our hostel without getting too wet. Little did I know, how much I would appreciate my leftover pizza the next day.
When we returned to our hostel, we had two roommates; an older couple from Australia, whom actually we would never see again…two different roads. We only spoke to them for a short time. Having never slept in a shared room before, I was a little nervous about my personal belongings. Not the backpack and clothes, but my phone, wallet and passport. So, I placed my little purse under my pillow and my phone was charging next to my head. It felt right. This hostel was nice, it had curtains and chargers on every bunk. So, I closed my curtain which made you feel like you were in your personal room.
I laid there and contemplated my day. Wow, what a day! So much has happened and so much will happen tomorrow. As I fell asleep, I prayed for our walk tomorrow. I prayed for our safety, prayed we would be able to cross the mountain and prayed for our hearts to be opened for the experience which we would be embarking on in the morning.
Here is what I wrote in my journal for Saturday, May 12th:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Lao Tzu
“A little excited and nervous all at the same time. Not sure about tomorrow. Due to weather, the first day is very hazardous. We must be careful. Not sure what to expect, just trusting in God. Just like life, we only know about the now, no need to worry about tomorrow. So, for now, I will say some prayers, play games on my phone and rest.
Praying for sunshine … need the sun to dry the trail … expecting rain and snow tomorrow.
Offering my Camino to my family, prayers for healing of body, mind and spirit. Asking for guidance for my children, may God guide them and may their hearts be open to see His guidance. May all my family feel God’s presence and love.
St. Michael pray for us
St. James pray for us
Our Lady pray for us
“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.” ~ Pope St. John Paul II