Thursday, May 28, 2009


Only one week to go before flying out to France!! I will be posting on the blog while I'm away and will only add a post on the walks here after I get back in the middle of July.

Here is my itinerary for the next 5 weeks:

4th June - Fly to France.
5th June - Arrive in Lourdes
6th - 11th June - Walk to Spain via Oloron Ste Marie and the Somport Pass

12th - 19th June - Walk on the Aragones Route to Pamplona

20th June - Train to Lugo
21st - 26th June - Bus to Ferrol, start walking the Camino Ingles to Santiago

27th -30th June - Walk to Finisterre and back to Corcubio

30th June - 13th July - Hospitalero at the Albergue San Roque in Corcubion

13th July - Fly from Santiago to Madrid to Johannesburg and back home

Four different routes in four weeks and a first time stint as a volunteer in a pilgrim shelter - like a dream come true!!
Hasta Julio!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A journey can become a sacred thing

"Of one thing I am certain, the transformation I yearn for is incomplete. I do not know whether I am any closer to enlightenment - I do not really expect to achieve it - but I know that the attempt is worth the effort."
Oliver Statler (a Shikokupilgrim who wrote 'Japanese Pilgrimage')

A journey can become a sacred thing,
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
John O’Donohue, from - To Bless the Space Between Us- A Book of Blessings:

There was quite a long thread on one of the camino forums about preparing spiritually for the camino. The subject raised the hackles of some pilgrims and caused confusion amongst others who interpreted 'spiritual' as 'religious' preparation.

I can understand those who prepare for a religious experience on the camino (after all, it has always been a Christian pilgrimage) but I don't know much about spiritual preparation.
What I do know is that with only two weeks to go (I'll be flying out of Johannesburg two weeks from today) I feel that my 'spirit' has already gone before me! It's a strange phenomenon, this feeling of withdrawing from your everyday life, from those around you - nothing is important because soon, very soon, "I will be on the camino". I am starting to feel like a pilgrim. I feel as though my psyche is preparing for the hardship, the cold, heat, hunger, camaraderie, leaving places behind, always moving forward of a pilgrim's life. Perhaps it is this letting go, opening up, inviting the pilgrim way to take over that is a spiritual preparation?

I have prepared all the practical details - travel arrangements, flights, train times, getting from A to B to walk to X, W, Z.
I have prepared rough itineraries for the 4 different routes we will walk and have booked a few hotels in places where we will start those walks.
I have prepared my body by training hard, walking in the new boots, having a medical check-up, collecting the medication I need to take while I'm away (asthma pump, nasal spray, bone pills and calcium tablets.)

My backpack is ready. I think I've packed and weighed and repacked and weighed everything at least a zillion times! It is standing in the corner of my spare room, patiently waiting to be hoisted onto my back and carried off on its long trek. It weighs just under 5kg.

I have deleted about 15 Google Alerts so that my Gmail inbox isn't overloaded when I clear it on the camino. I have unsubscribed from daily email digests, from e-newsletters, and from the thrice daily NEWS alerts that no longer seem important.
I have been telling friends that I am leaving on the 4th June and have already been left out of arrangements being made for while I am away.
This 'clearing out' daily details is like '...freeing the heart of ballast so that the compass of your soul might direct you toward the territories of spirit..'

In the middle ages pilgrimage was often penitential and was undertaken as a journey of expiation. It was a journey of the soul - literally to save the soul. For me, walking the camino is food for the soul. Leading a minimalist life, walking in the country day after day in the footsteps of millions that have gone before, communing with nature and strangers is soul restoring.

Last weekend we went to the mountains to do some hiking and the mountain scenery, gravel paths, rocky river beds and undulating terrain had me transported to the Irago Mountains. "This is just like the camino" said Marion. I smiled, knowing that she was also transported back to the camino.

The planning and anticipation of walking a camino is almost as special and exciting as the actual walking. I know that others feel the same. Every time I walk a camino I learn more about myself, about people, about the world we live in. I have reached the stage now where I am dreaming the camino.
I can't wait!!