From day one, I had to come to terms with the physical and mental challenges I was going to be faced with and my fears: fear of getting lost, fear of dogs, fear of heights.
I went through excruciating pain. I walked more than two weeks alone through deserted villages, forests and majestic countryside and I met no one. Nature was my companion. I discovered how beautiful my country of birth was. Walking alone, in nature, for so long changes you and gradually, bit by bit, I came face to face with my life. There was no escape. Through this process, I grew and I started to free myself of the burdens I was carrying. Then things changed, I started to meet people, pilgrims in principle. Bit by bit, they came into my life and I became their listening ear. Walking in solitude had changed me and I was challenged and worried to see so many people in the streets of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I remembered how emotional I was and how I cried when for the first time I saw the Pyrenees five days earlier as it took me eight weeks to reach Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The second part of my journey had arrived: Spain.
I felt my journey in Spain was going to be different. However, like in France, I met pilgrims who confided in me and for a brief time shared their worries, their secrets, their regrets and their hopes. I listened and I counselled them. I remembered the moments in France where I felt so lonely when sadness engulfed me, such as the solitude of life, the abandonment, the betrayal, the pretence and fear of judgment, which are feelings experienced by us during the course of our lives.
The second part of my journey in Spain was as beautiful as in France with all the coincidences, and the beautiful meetings along the way. Crossing the Pyrenees, I stopped at Orisson and received a very important message from a Templar who had said to me that only a few had received the privilege that I had received, that I had a mission in life. I had to be aware and make sure that I follow the road that was mapped out of me. I knew this meeting was an important one and I looked more closely at signs, coincidences and happenings along the Camino Frances.
The magic of my journey never stopped. I crossed over the bridge of the A9 highway on 8 July 2010 at the entrance to Santiago de Compostela after three months of walking through France and Spain. The activity and buzz of the city were disturbing me more than ever and tears started to roll down my cheeks. I was at the end of my dream and my journey. It had been three months of challenges, pain, insecurity, questioning, determination, and every day asking a bit more of my body than I had ever asked of it before. As I was coming into the square, the bells of the Cathedral started to ring out in joy. It seemed that they were welcoming me and acknowledging my achievement. My heart was beating like mad when I heard ‘Claude! Claude!’ coming from all four corners of the square. Many pilgrims were calling my name.
I rested a few days and it was time to leave Santiago to go towards Fisterra and Muxia. I sat on the edge of the bed and remembered all the pain, the fears, the insecurities I had experienced along the way. Surprised by these feelings I questioned myself. Why was I hesitating? Then in front of my eyes, as though I was watching a film, I saw the people, the meetings that had filled my soul. My pilgrimage was not finished: I had something else to do… With a sturdy hand, I opened the doors and ventured into the deserted streets of Santiago de Compostela towards Fisterra and Muxia.
Traslation: Elvira Sánchez
Cover photography: Wikimedia