Two weeks ago, I started my running/hiking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela starting in St. Jean Pied the Port at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The day before, I had took the train from Madrid to Lourdes, France and after spending the night there proceeded to St. Jean.
The first two and a hal-days went very well. I was able to run/hike barefoot across the Pyrenees mountains and the Navarra region, up to Pamplona. The first day as easy due to a lot of grassy surface and and soft forest path. It was also cold up in the mountains. The second day was more agonizing due to the harsh gravel paths. The third day, I was able to hike barefoot up to Pamplona, but in the afternoon the road became too harsh and hot that I had to use my sandals for the first time.
Since the fourth day up to the present, I have done more hiking than running, and less barefoot trekking due to the heat and harsh road conditions. I have to use my sandals more often especially in the afternoons and also when confronted by long stretch of sharp gravel that would hurt my feet. For several days, I have been suffering from a swollen right ankle due to a sprain while running with my sandals. The only way to alleviate the pain is to hike barefoot. So these days I try to do more barefoot hiking, up to four to five hours in the morning before the summer heat is felt.
So far, I have been averaging 30 km per day. Today, I have done around 420 km since I started, more than half the length of the Camino.
The last two weeks on the road has been a time of solitude, prayer and reflection. It is indeed a retreat on foot. It is time of soul-searching, going over my life´s journey, and discerning God´s will for the years to come.
It has also been a time of experiencing friendship and community among other pilgrims, especially in the Albergues at night. I have also been able to celebrate the Eucharist and to listen to other pilgrims share their stories. I have also heard confession and gone to confession (to a fellow pilgrim-priest from Ireland.
Through out the past two weeks I have become acutely aware of the following:
1. My dependence on God´s providence and the kindness of others
2. My own limitations and weaknesses
3. The need to be more flexible, and not to rigidly hold on to my own plans and wants
4. The need to slow down, not to race, because life is not a race but a journey. The slower and relax I am, the more distance I can cover in one day.
5. The presence of God in the beauty I see around me and in other pilgrims I encounter on the way.
I still have 13 more days to go before I reach Santiago de Compostela. I am still at the Meseta - the hottest region in Spain. I hope that by the time I reach the mountains and Galician region where it is cooler, I can do more barefoot trekking. I am planning to do the last stage from Sarria to Santiago totally barefoot. Thus, I have reduced the average distance for those days to 24 km/day.
I continue to remember my loved ones, relatives, friends and confreres in my prayer. I pray and hope that I will reach my destination safely.