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The truth about pilgrimages

Day Three – Larrasoana to Pamplona (18 kilometers, about six hours with lunch stop)

When we checked into Roncevaux our first night on the Camino, they asked to fill out a card with our name, address, and check the box that most resonated with our reason for doing the Camino.  Among the choices were “spiritual,” “religious,” and “sports-related.”

Everyone has his or her own reason for taking this on. Ours, as Jay explained in his first post, was to celebrate life and come to terms with a tough year (cancer, the loss of my mom). Others we’ve talked to along the way have their own reasons. We’ve met 24-year-olds figuring out what to do next in life, a 55-year-old from Detroit who left the auto industry and embarked on a journey to make sense of himself and come to grips with an illness. We’ve encountered a woman from Holland who began her pilgrimage by walking out her front door and continuing – all the way through France and now Spain – because as she put it, “Well, I’m a little bit crazy and I wanted a long walk.”

Everyone comes to the Camino with a personal cause. But here’s the irony: The Camino isn’t just a personal pilgrimage.

From the beginning, we’re thrown on this path like fish in a stream. Some ride the currents, finding the fastest path to the finish. Others hang in the shallows and then rejoin. Our paths cross, intertwine, and remind us we’re all in this together.

I can’t think of any travels we’ve taken where we’ve met such a diverse group of people and felt so connected. It’s as though judgments fall away and conversations – however brief – are cordial. “Bon Camino!” are the common parting words. Smiles, sometimes weary, always accompany them.

Today Jay and I hiked with an eclectic group – a German man and his 18-year-old daughter, Nick and his newfound friend Katya. We talked through the miles and delighted at the find of a random coffee machine at the outskirts of a town. We laughed as Nick climbed down the banks of a stream to pick three flowers for the ladies in the group and we walked together through the rain to Pamplona.

We’re learning that even though a pilgrimage might begin as an inner journey, it’s never a solitary pursuit.

Today’s Wish List 

What we wish we would’ve brought:

Lighter-weight, well-ventilated raincoats. Being prepared for every kind of weather is key on the Camino. My raincoat served well but I was wishing that it had more ventilation so I could hike comfortably and can keep dry.

What we’re glad we have:

Rain covers for our backpacks. If you buy a backpack for the Camino make sure it has a rain fly that tucks away easily and can be pulled out just as easily.

  • Gloria Matuszewski - October 16, 2011 - 5:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Jay Graham - October 17, 2011 - 5:36 am

    It’s our pleasure Gloria – there’s more to come.

  • Sallie McConnell - October 18, 2011 - 7:45 pm

    Oh My Gosh…this is amazing. I anxiously wait to read about this great adventure. I feel like I am right there with you…except that my feet are not sore!
    Safe travels and Love, Sallie

  • Jay Graham - October 20, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    Thanks Sallie – it was a great trip and we plan on going back to hike to the end.

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