Friday, July 5, 2013

Victory Day 1

Train trip yesterday evening--two-car train full of excited people with backpacks. Several light conversations. Lined up in St. Paul Pied de Port to get our Pilgrims' Passport, in which we get stamped at every possibility. My US passport rarely gets stamped these days--especially in Scandinavia or in EU. We found our night's lodgings; playful Sabine cajoled us and fed us extremely well. Just 3 in our dorm, so we were initiated slowly to the all-gendered dorm experiences.

Up early on the 5th to begin our actual walking. Began walking from SJPdP, France, to Roncevalles, Spain. As we began our journey, we paused to recite the blessing offered by St. John's Episcopal Church the Sunday I left Seattle, We left at 7:40 am, walked steeply up for 20 kilometers and then steeply down for 7 kilometers (I will leave the math to you). We summited at 3:45 pm and arrived at Roncevalles at 5:45 pm--an extremely long first day.

We had decided to send our backpacks ahead, which saved the day--neither of us would have been able to have walked even 1 mile up the severely steep inclines. With the freedom of only carrying 5 pounds in our small day packs, we slogged through the ups and downs for 10 hours. Unbelievably beautiful scenery continued to inspire us to take the next step AND the next steps. The Pyrenees at this section are incredibly steep verdant valleys in all directions, pasturing many animals. Fauna entertained us all day: soaring vultures with 8-foot wing spans; tan cows, speckled goats, whitish sheep, and mid-size horses--lending a mild whiff of scat; ubiquitous neck bells echoing across the velvety green valleys receding to the horizon on all sides of us.

I had clear sensations of all of your support nudging my back--or one the downhills, forming a protective circle. My inner talk changed from encouraging myself to less effort to effortless patience. THANKS, TEAM! Who knew that at 68, I would begin to enjoy extreme hiking?

The weather was ideal--new tan lines as proof. The wind fluttered my hat, offering an ongoing sound of cooing Mourning Doves--my favorite bird from childhood days visiting our Grandma Drinkwitz in Wheaton, MN. Karin and I easily and non-verbally fell into easy individual walking rhythms, her slightly faster and ahead of me--not too close and not too far away (Vim Vender's film)--affording each of us connectedness AND individual contemplative space.

When we finally rounded the last curve to see the roof of the small cathedral, the first sounds we heard after 10 hours in the wilderness were church bells and an insistent weedwacker. We are staying in a hotel tonight as reward for job well done. After a wonderful Pilgrims'dinner (spaghetti and traut), we attended a Pelegrinos' (Pilgrims') Blessing Mass, complete with a blessing in several languages. The priest was warmly welcoming, with big smiles and outstretched arms. This touching Mass is offered every day. El Camino Day One has been blessed and miraculous. No blisters--we change socks every two hours--hanging the old socks from our backpacks to dry. With that image, I will drift off to sleep to dream of tomorrow.


  1. 27 kilometers is quite a day.
    I love the thought of the heavenly churchbells and the earthly weedwacker.
    Wishes and prayers for your journey to continue as beautifully as it has started.
    Kate McCormick

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  3. Anne, So good to read your posts! Your St. John's community is rooting and praying for you along the way!! Kay Rawlings