Hello everyone! From now on, I will be able to converse with you from afar, that is to say Australia, and share with you my experiences, my feelings, my internal growth and the incredible encounters I had with pilgrims. I am sure you would wonder, what can empower a woman of 64 of age to fly across the world so she could walk the Saint James’ Way, by herself, as she has never trekked before. Madness would be your first answer or maybe she has fallen on her head. Well a bit of both!!! I would say like my family and friends thought. In fact, many coincidences occurred and directed me to the Way of James, known as the Camino. For me these coincidences were messages and I felt that ‘someone’ was directing me to do the Camino. Every day I was thinking about the pilgrimage and it became a burning desire to achieve the unthinkable, to cross two countries on foot, alone, with a backpack. I did not know why, but I felt I had to do it.
On April 3, I arrived by car with two friends at Vezelay where I will start my pilgrimage. Vezelay is a small village from the Burgundy Region France. From afar, I had a glimpse of Vezelay and its magnificent basilica dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene at the top of a hill. The weather was horrible, but I was over the moon. It was hard to believe that soon my dream was going to become a reality.
I went to the basilica to have my credential signed as all the details of each pilgrim who starts their pilgrimage from Vezelay or is passing through are registered in a large book in the basilica. The lady at the counter at the entrance to the basilica asked me where I was going to finish the pilgrimage. When I told her it would be Fisterra, she advised me to go on a place called Muxia. At this early stage, I was a 16 years old!!! going to a great adventure and I was oblivious to the challenge of the number of kilometres I would have to cover and I agreed: Muxia would be the end of my journey. Then my friend suggested that from now I should be called ‘Claude the Australian’. This is how I came to be known along the path.
I am going to share what happened that day in the basilica. I left my friends to wonder around inside the basilica when suddenly a woman grabbed my arm and took me aside. I smiled and I followed her. She started to talk to me in a language I could not comprehend. I know English, French and could manage Italian, but it was none of these languages. Somehow, I felt and knew from my heart that she needed a listening ear. It did not matter whether I understood what she was saying; it seemed so important to her just to say it. She talked with a lot of gestures and I listened and let her speak. Her emotional pain was so obvious. As she calmed down after her outpouring, she put both hands over her heart. Then she dug her hands into her chest, making a gesture of grabbing and pulling her heart out. I was not afraid I was full of empathy, of love for this human being who was in such distress. Then she moved her hands –curved in the shape of a cup, as if she was holding her heart in her palms – and gently deposited ‘her heart’ on mine. I was overcome by deep emotions. I opened my arms and held her. She cried on my shoulder then left without a word. I promised myself to carry with me whatever pain she had to Santiago. At that instant, I felt my pilgrimage could be the pilgrimage of the heart and that was one of the reasons I had been ‘called’ to walk the Camino.