Camino de Santiago update 1: open and gratitude

This was posted originally on a year ago today. 

So my Camino has begun and I have completed close to 50 miles in length over 3 days. I’m currently on my well deserved rest day in Pamplona and thought now is a good time to update my journey. 

I’ve called this open and gratitude because on the first evening in St Jean Pied de Port I had dinner at an albergue where they did an introduction game. For this, we said our name and a word for our Camino without the need to explain anything more. I chose the word ‘open’ as I said I was open to what the Camino will bring me without any expectations. The podcast I’ve been listening to starts by saying that the Camino brings you what you need not what you want. I’m sure that’s true so I must therefore remain open to it all.

So my journey started in Chester and it all went well until the morning of my departure from Bordeaux when I was meant to catch a train but the French strikes had begun. Luckily, they were all prepared and a bus was due instead and I had to make a couple of changes before arriving in st Jean Pied de port. It was no doubt the Camino telling me that nothing goes to plan.

Pilgrims start their journey at various points in France, Spain or Portugal and st Jean lies at the foot of the Pyrenees so whichever route you take you go via the mountains. Therefore the first day for everyone is the hardest in many ways.

I was lucky that the first night I was in St Jean there was a mass in the local church and they did a blessing for the pilgrims who were there which was beautiful and very moving. We were called to the front of the church and stood in a circle whilst the priest offered prayers for us and our journey with pilgrims and the rest of the congregation sayibg Ameb after each prayer. For those who arrived other days there was the chance to light a candle for their own blessing.

On arrival we were told that the Napoleon route over the Pyrenees was unsafe due to snow so I knew I would be taking the road route called Valcarlos. This is less steep than the Napoleon route however it is longer and harder on the feet due to walking on roads for most of the walk. The last bit before Roncesvalles sees us all cross the same path over Le Col de Lepoeder at 1450m. It is a hard walk for many reasons and prepares you well for how difficult the Camino will be as you have to call on every bit of strength you have to finish. Some split their journey at Valcarlos and continue to Roncesvalles the next day whilst others complete in a day.

For my first day I had an extra 3km to walk on to Burguete where I stayed in accommodation boasting a piano signed by Ernest Hemingway. Although the extra 3km were hard to do that first night I enjoyed having less to do the next day.

I have walked for 3 days now and each day there is different scenery to take in, different levels of walking and for many reasons different people to walk with. My sense of gratitude comes from what my body and especially my feet have helped me achieve. Everyday we are tested mentally and physically and I’m proud of myself each day for completing the stage. It is difficult I won’t deny that however I have enjoyed each day and since arriving in st Jean I have noticed that my mind is still. I have been able to do walking meditations as I go and I have found that my mind is focussed on putting one foot in front of the other and getting to where I need to go. My feet are hurting however I am looking forward to starting again tomorrow which will take me along stage 4 to Puente la Reina with the highest point being Alto del Perdon. If you have seen the film ‘The Way’ it is the part where all the pilgrims statues are in a line leaning forward due to the wind.

It’s another hard day however I know that I will still be grateful to my body and feet as well as my mind for getting me through.

Until next time ‘Buen Camino’.

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