Monday, 6 July 2009

First Reflections on my Pilgrimage

After 411.6 miles, 38 days on “The Way” and 32 different beds, I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday 28th May, two days earlier than planned. The feeling of walking into the plaza in front of the cathedral is impossible to describe! Mixed emotions of joy, triumph and, strangely, a certain feeling of sadness were all there and it was hard to hold back tears. I have brought back, along with the memories, over 500 digital photos which I have been busy sorting through and labelling. These are going up a few at a time as and when Valerie is able.

Did the Pilgrimage meet up with my expectations? Yes! and way beyond anything that I could have anticipated. Was it hard? Yes at times, but nowhere did I feel like giving up, even when walking in the pouring rain over the 'Puerto del Palo' - Alt. 1,140 mts and shrouded in mist!. Did I ever feel afraid? No, not once! I was alone for much of the time, and walking alone through remote areas I never had ‘the grues’. The only time I looked over my shoulder was when I saw the huge paw print, the size of my hand, on the track. Wolf? Bear? Great Dane? No, after asking some locals later, apparently it was a Porcupine!!

One great joy for me was the ability to talk to people in their own language. (There’s a sermon there somewhere!). Being able to walk into a cafe-bar and ask the way. Stop at the side of the road and talk to the local farmers about the weather / cattle / T.B. test. Even being asked to translate for a group of Germans who only spoke German and English! All this meant that I was close to people and their way of life.

So, it is a time to reflect and also a time to say ‘Thank-you’. The first thank-you is to my wife Valerie, she not only let me go, she gave me positive support and encouragement! Without her I would not even have considered it possible. Thanks also to friends here in England and further afield who have prayed for me over the past weeks. That prayer support was the reason for my inner calmness and the constant assurance of God’s presence.

Thanks to all those who have given a donation to the Farm Crisis Network. When all the promises are in, my hope of raising £500 will easily be met.

Finally, I want to put on record the kindness and help that I have received from the Spanish people themselves. I have been a sojourner in a foreign land, and from stepping off the ferry on the 27th April to driving back across Spain with Valerie and a friend, I have been treated with respect and courtesy. Nothing was too much for them to do and without the help of dozens of unknown people my pilgrimage would not have been so marvellous. Thank you all!

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