The Camino One Year on

Welcome to Roncesvalles

The church at the crest loomed out of the mist

It’s exactly one year ago that I started out from St. Jean pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to walk to Santiago de Compostella. As regular readers of this blog will know, I never made it. This was, however, a day of triumph for me. I set out at seven o’clock in the morning into a rainy, dull morning and headed for the hills. I was unsure about this stretch, I was trying to get over the mountains to Roncesvalles in Spain. I felt this was my last chance to do so. Certainly it was my last chance before reaching the age of 65 and becoming officially ‘OLD’.

It is, at the time of writing, exactly one year ago that I walked across the Spanish border. By this time I had decided that taking the diversions suggested in the guidebook meant that I would be climbing up hills only to come back down again and that was a waste of the little stamina that I posessed. I decided to stick to the road. The Route Napoleon over the top had been closed the day before because of snow. The top was still enveloped in cloud and there was no chance of capturing the magnificent views from there, so I opted out of that route. I later found that I had made the right decision as the route was not fully open and several Pelegrinos had come a cropper on icy slopes.

After a short stop to eat some bread and drink some water I set off on the increasingly steep road. I was beginning to struggle under the weight of my haversack and was met with disappointment at each bend in the road to find, not the summit but another winding stretch. I don’t have the literary skills to describe the elation when the church at the top loomed out of the mist and I realised that the top was within my reach. I reached the hostel, exhausted, but with a real feeling of achievement.

I had successfully completed the first and most difficult stretch of my journey and I felt that I would easily finish the pilgrimage and reach Santiago de Compostella in triumph. Of course that was not to be. On the third day, the easiest walk in beautiful weather I had to drop out with pains in my chest.

One year on, how do I feel about my walk? Well my chest pains amounted to nothing at all. I still get them but they seem to be a muscular problem. When I set out I was concerned about my right hip as it had been causing me some pain. It never bothered me at all on the Camino. Today I am popping pain killers to counter the the pain in my worn hip. I’m not so bad that I need a replacement – yet but I certainly could not attempt the walk from St Jean today. My feelings were correct. That was my last chance to have a go at the Camino. I didn’t complete it but I learned so much about myself and the nature of salvation that it was worth every heavy step. If you have thought of walking the Camino I would encourage you to have a go.

If you would like to find out more about my short walk you can find a fuller account in my book “My Journey of Faith” availabe on Kindle. See my books page. I’ll continue to walk but on less adventurous routes.

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My February Column Published Today

Jesus carries his cross to Calvary

Jesus Carries His Cross

My latest column is published today in the Scottish Catholic Observer. The Way of The Cross. This month I look at the Second Station – Jesus caries his cross. What more is there to say about that? Get your copy this weekend in your local parish and find out.

Full text here next week for those who miss the rush and can’t get a copy.

I’ve discovered Geochaching – What Will You Find?

I met an American pilot on my walk through northern Spain earlier this year when I attempted the Camino. His name was Ray King and on our walk together he told me about his hobby – geochaching, following clues to find a hidden container. It’s a bit of walking in the fresh air and solving puzzles.

I’ve started to search for local caches and chalked up my first one. Ray told me about some really ingenious hidden containers. I hope to find some really tricky ones – just for the joy of solving a puzzle. I found this video which shows some really fancy caches. Have a look and see if it inspires you.

And, if you find Ray King on your travels, pass on my regards; I lost touch on the road.