My Camino de Santiago at the PGS blog

Camino de Santiago

Well !!!

Hasn’t it been a long time since the last blog entry !!!

I am going on pilgrimage (again) to Santiago de Compostela, and after much thought, I have decided to put my blog posts about this new journey up at my friend Bill Bennett’s pilgrimage blog, PGS The Way.

Bill has written a very amusing account of his own pilgrimage, The Way, My Way (which can be found HERE ), and he also plans to direct a film that he’s written about the Camino.

Bill is not a Catholic, nor even a Christian (though he had a Christian upbringing), but his blog has evolved into a meeting place for some of the more thoughtful and/or experienced multi-Camino pilgrims of whichever religious or philosophical background.

Several of the members there have expressed interest in reading about and discussing my pilgrimage ; so there’s a broader audience than the Catholic for these writings, and I concluded that they would be better published there than here.

A Pilgrim of the Way of Saint James

I’ll NEVER forget my “second” arrival at Santiago in 1993, after a botched pilgrimage where I gave up halfway, hitch-hiked home, rested three days, received a telephone call forcing me to get back walking (very complex reasons, can’t explain here) (time between the phone call and me walking out of the door back towards Compostela was BTW lower than 20 minutes), hitch-hiked back to the Camino, and searched for my friends again thanks to help from a Galician Camino sentry in a Range Rover.

After our arrival in Santiago, we had gone on toward the Altlantic Coast, NOT Fisterra, where we had eaten a perfectly unforgettable meal of fresh-gathered mussels in onion broth on a deserted beach, prepared under a torrential rain and an open fire, washed down with the almost vinegar-bitter but delightfully pure white wine of the coast …

We started making our way back via Compostela, hitch-hike IIRC, and arrived under the Seminary in a back-street, in darkness, no moon, drenching rain, total silence — and a mediaeval stair up between an ancient wall and darkened houses, exhausted, hungry, longing for home, making our way up centuries-old slippery cobbles towards the single light we could see burning in the city up in the Seminary, not knowing if the door would be open, not knowing if there would be a bed, but certain that we would not be eating until the following day, but at the same time marvelling in and humbled by this fact of arriving in Santiago in the EXACT manner of the pilgrims of centuries before.

And burning in me, the knowledge that I hadn’t been a “true pilgrim”, and that I needed to walk to Santiago again, from my home at the time, “properly”, and with no compromises, no failures, no surrender to the weaknesses along the Way.

But with this dark and shining memory always with me, of this unplanned and unlooked-for and utterly beautiful mediaeval arrival, that no matter the difficulties along the Way, the perfect arrival in Compostela was simultaneously in my memory and in my future.

THAT was when I became a Pilgrim of the Way of Saint James.

Walking

Some people may already know that I have been a reasonably keen foot pilgrim, having walked from Paris to Santiago de Compostela in 1994, Monaco to Rome in 2000, and then Monaco to Lourdes and on to Santiago in 2005 — apart from some other shorter hikes, not all on pilgrimage.

A small number of you are aware of my health problems, but I believe that it will be news to everyone that these problems include problems with my knee — that is to say, a loss of cartilage in my right knee in particular.

Which is, of course a severe blow to my personal pilgrim’s way…

I spent all of 2012 being severely handicapped just for ordinary walking about purposes – let alone returning to the Camino !!!

But it seems that there’s finally some small amount of hope for the future and in the present — I’ve been staying in Burgundy with my (very atheistic) brother, and well, the rolling hills of Burgundy are exactly in line with my favourite walking surface, unlike the rough mountainside of the French Riviera — quite apart from which. I’ve also been receiving medical help for the past two months, including a pain killer and some injections into my knee.

Not only am I no longer in constant pain, but I can actually walk, even though Dr. Gross would far prefer me to do swimming instead, because I also really really need to build up my muscles again.

So I’ve been doing a fair amount of walking in these past weeks here — and though it was quite painful the first couple of times, I’ve managed to do some actual hikes (not just long strolls), including a fairly decent one of about 15-18 KM without being in excruciating pain at the end of it — and even managed a 12 KM follow-up walk the next day.

Now, this is still far from the 25 KM that I’d consider as a basic minimum, very far from the 40 KM that used to be my daily average, and kid’s play compared to my old 65 KM maximum distance — but the fact that I can do it AT ALL is a God Send !!!

I’ve no idea, of course, if I’ll ever recover enough strength in the knee to be able to return back to my beloved Camino, but to simply be able to enjoy the sport of hiking at even this very basic level after three years’ severe health problems preventing it entirely is more than just a breath of fresh air — it’s an utter delight !!!