¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

From Ostabat: one day to go!

As of today, I am no longer on the "Voie de Vezelay", one of three routes through France to Compestela, which I have followed more than half-way across France. Having arrived at the second to last stop along the Way before it leaves France and enters Spain, I also have come to the place where all three of the French "voies" converge into one, the little village of Ostabat in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Since my tendon scare the other night the anti-inflammatory treatments, the stretching, and most of all, the prayers of so many of you, have worked wonders. The legs seem pretty darn good now. One hard decision to make, but which was suggested to me strongly by Gabriela, my hospitalier in Sauveterre, and the Foleys, my good friends back in Leuven, was to walk without my heavy pack to take much of the stress off my already hard-working legs and feet. So the last two days, and probably tomorrow as well, I have sent my heavy friend on to the next place by a sort of backpack taxi service available here, while I walked on with just a light daypack. It has helped immensely. So tomorrow, Sunday, I will walk into St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and end this pilgrimage exactly where I began it nine years ago. I'll visit the church there to give thanks and spend the night in a private refuge run by some folks from the Netherlands.
This is Basque country now and it shows in the domestic architecture, (all homes are painted white with dark red trim), the highway signs, (now in both French and Euskadi), and the customs and culture of the locals.
A couple kilometers outside of Saint-Palais this morning I met up again with my old companion from Brazil, Luiz. We walked together the rest of the morning; today's walk took us up some very rugged trails to a very high place with a magnificent view to the mountains in the not so far distance. There is a lovely little chapel there so we dawdled, rested, snacked, and refilled our water bottles, (the Chapel of Soyarce). An grizzled old pilgrim came by from the other direction: he told us he had walked all the way around France, before heading to Compostela, and now is finally on his way back home; amazing! Another couple of day trekkers came by and we visited a bit with them, (along the Chemin everyone is a friend!). Then a couple of others, two men, one about my age, the other in his 30's. As it turns out, the elder of the two, Philippe, is also a priest and serves in Nazareth, Jesus' hometown. We had a great visit on that mountaintop (a mountaintop, by the way, good enough for some commandment giving, transfiguration, or an ascension, I'd say!)
Following that, on our way down from the mountaintop, we came across a very humble little 12th Century (I think) chapel in the midst of some old farm buildings, (Chapel of Harambeltz); inside was an extraordinary display of lovely and colorful reredos and imaget on all the walls. This chapel of St Nicholas had once been a place for pilgrims to be cared for on their way.
It has been a very good second-to-last days.
One day more, 21 kilometers more, a few great people more to meet, and one final prayer more…and I will be done.