Which Road do I choose? The difficult and very dangerous and steep trail (Napoleon Route) or the easier and not as steep trail (Valcarlos Route)? Can you guess which one I choose?
As soon as I arrived in St. Jean de Port, France, I found my way to the Pilgrim’s office, dragging behind me my suitcase up a steep bumpy cobblestone street with lots of people going in and out of the various small clothing and sweets and coffee shops. This ancient quaint city in France, welcomed me to begin my official camino journey.
The lady in the Pilgrim’s office, oriented me with broken English, registering me and giving me information about the camino process and handed out sheets with elevations and sheets listing suggested places to lodge (albergues or hotels). Special prices are given for pilgrims, of which I now was officially called. We all wore the scallop shell as the symbol of the spirit of the camino. In Spanish we were called peregrinos and in English we were called pilgrims. They stamped and certified my Special Holy Year Camino de Santiago Passport. In order to qualify for the completion certificate in Santiago, I needed to try to get at least two stamps per day on my passport to certify that I indeed did walk each and every mile.
My official Camino Passport: Start date August 15, 2021
I asked for directions to my hotel for the night and another pilgrim offered to walk with me to find my hotel. I registered and settled in my room. I decided that I would stay at that hotel for two nights, so I had a little more time to spend in France.
I read about the best French black faced sheep cheese. I did not want to miss tasting and purchasing that cheese and their special almond cake with fruit filling. It was now Sunday and tomorrow, Monday morning, there was a special farmer’s market in St. Jean de Port. I did not want to miss that, so I thought I would take an extra day before I start and purchase some of that cheese and snacks and enjoy the market and town shops before my hike the next day, on Tuesday.
That night, I walked around the streets of St. Jean de Port and visited some sights and brought my very special cashmere shawl that you will see in many of my hiking pictures. I wore this almost every day when it was not raining. It kept the hot sun off my shoulders and kept me warm in the cool mornings. In the shop, the owner gave me a special discount because I loved it so much. I am so glad I purchased this momentum. It served me well.
St Jean de Port, France
St Jean de Port, France
I got up and went to the farmers’ market and I am so glad that I did not miss out on that experience. I tasted all sorts of French dishes and pastries and bought the black face sheep cheese and meats and fruits and nuts for the next day hike. I also got a chance to relax after all that traveling.
Well, have you figured out which path I choose? The difficult or the easy road? I choose the difficult path. I will show you a picture of the elevation and miles for that hike.
15.3 mile hike up and over the Pyrenees Mountains. You can see the difference between the Napoleon way and the Valcarlos route. It was estimated to take 7-9 hours. It took me 12 hours of constantly climbing in the rain, dense fog, and over dangerous slippery rocks and paths without any scenic views. The special part of this hike was to be the magnificent views, which were not available most of the day.
If you read my previous post, you found out that this hike was very very difficult for me. I was not prepared for the extreme height and extreme physical endurance that was necessary to complete this path. I was not aware that once you started this path, and after Orisson, there were no stops until Roncesvalles. I was on my own, with an occasional pilgrim passing me along the way. The dense fog and rain intensified the dangers involved in the completion of this hike. I knew I had to just keep going and keep telling myself “you can do this” “You got this” “just keep putting one foot in front of the other”. I had not trained physically for this.
One of my character traits throughout my life was my philosophy of “I can do that”, even if I had no clue how to do something. I figured out that I could do something if I just made up my mind to learn along the way and ask for help on how to do it.
I made it to Orisson and I could have stopped there for the night and started up the next day, but no, not me, “I can do this”… really, what was I thinking…
You need to understand one thing, I was carrying my backpack and it was way too heavy. I wanted to look good and so I made a backpack that looked really good, but did not give me the support that I needed. The backpack got heavier and heavier the further up the trail.
Look how cute this backpack was. The butterfly is my symbol of spiritual transformation. The bling angel was symbolic of all the angels that have helped me along the way and of course, the scallop shell which I hand painted with the camino spirit.
I ordered the patches and was proud to sew them on to the backpack that I sewed just for this special camino. The ribbons had all the cities I was going to walk through and there were pockets for everything I thought I needed for my hike.
I had bracelets special women gave me to take and have blessed. I was carrying prayers in sealed envelopes for those women who were praying and seeking spiritual healings, miracles and divine guidance in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. I believe in the power of intercessory prayers and in divine wisdom and divine healing. I lite candles and attended all the masses I could and interceded, not only for me and my family, but for everyone who was walking with me spiritually.
This being a Holy Year, which I wrote about in my previous posts, is a year of total forgiveness of sins when walking through the Holy Door of the Cathedral in Santiago. I will walk for myself, my family, my friends and all of those who chose to spiritually walk with me on this journey. It says in the bible that we can do that for others. We each can choose which path we take spiritually. If people we love are lost, we can keep believing in miracles. Those loved ones still have the choice to reject God and His love; however, they are at least given the choice through our prayers.
Thank God I made the commitment to do this for others, because I may have given up and not finished the 500-mile pilgrimage. Thank you all for allowing me to walk for you. It gave me strength and endurance to keep going and not quit. Interesting how helping others, helps us.
I had pictures of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and metals of the sacred heart of Jesus and a metal of the Holy Spirit and an angel my friend Pat made for me and of course my recovery coin, with a butterfly on it, that I got 32 years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota when I went to a spiritual 8 day “Learning to Love Myself” treatment center and surrendered to God and took Step One, “Admitting I was powerless over my addictions and admitted I needed the help of others and God to help me work a spiritual program in my life. It takes work to heal and trust others and get closer to God and courage to do the right thing.
This is the day I celebrate, September 9, 1989, my recovery sobriety date. Wow, what a spiritual healing journey these 32 years have been.
HOW did I do that?
H stands for Honest,
O stands for Open minded, and
W stands for Willing – to do whatever it takes to work through the pain and ask for help and take advice and trust people and learn from those mentors, counselors, healers and trusted advisors to guide me on my spiritual path and role-model how to do the next right thing and live one day at a time and keep working on changing behaviors that are sabotaging my relationship with myself and others and God. Special thanks to my son, who gave me a reason to live and keep learning and growing. Also a special thanks to my sponsor of 30 years, Sylvia, who loved me when I was unlovable and crazy and kept loving me and mentoring me and helping me become the woman of grace and dignity that I am today. I thank all my angels and mentors and friends and also those who trusted me to walk with them on their journey. Believe it or not, helping them, gave me purpose and helped me. Love you all…
I pray for all the lost and wounded friends, family and AA members. I pray that Jesus will rescue them like He rescued me…..
Father, God, Jesus and Holy Spirit- picture I carried with me.
Painting when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. I think this was in Cathedral in Leon, Spain…
Lessons Learned on this First Day Hike
- My backpack was way too heavy and did not give me the necessary support
- I saved the two outside panels and threw out the backpack and used a small water bladder with hose which had small packets and carried very little weight.
- God had my back on my way
- When I got lost, he sent a nasty angel to guide me back
- Thank God, I learned that even nasty angels may have the right message
- God sent 2 nice camino angels, one to carry my backpack and the other gave me his walking poles. Just writing about this brings tears of gratitude to my eyes.
- They encouraged me and helped me get down the mountain to the next town
- When I got lost, everything seemed to be going fine and the fog lifted and I saw and petted wild horses with bells and saw flocks of black-faced sheep freely roaming the countryside. I was going down the hill and it seemed perfect. So, just because everything seemed to be going great, does not mean you are on the right path. Then the mean angel jumped out of his car and told me to go back to the cross.
- Spiritually, I realized how many times I ventured away from the cross and got lost. It was probably my mean angels that fueled my immaturity and rebellion which reinforced the wall which kept me on the wrong path for a long time. I don’t blame them, however, one of the things I have asked God throughout the years is for Him to teach me diplomacy. If I have a message for someone and I deliver it in the wrong tone, then what good is it if they do not hear it because of the way I delivered it. I am getting better at this. Practice, practice, practice…
- I do not regret taking the harder way. I learned many spiritual lessons from my angels. God had my back and brought the right people on my path to guide and help me. That is the essence of the camino spirit.
- This experience brought back many memories of how God sent people in my path in life to guide, direct, love and teach me.
I finally arrived, almost crawled into Roncesvalles, Spain after 12 hours of endurance and perseverance. I got sick later that night and threw up and I realized one thing. I had to take care of my physical exhaustion. They make you leave the alberques by a certain time in the morning, so I went over to the hotel and got a room on Wednesday and took a shower and went right to bed and slept all day and got up to eat and attend the pilgrim mass and blessing in the evening and light a candle for all of ua and then went back to bed and got up the next day, Thursday and started back on a camino schedule of about 10-15 miles a day.
Lesson Learned: Taking care of our physical needs are very important to keep our mental and spiritual in balance.
Pilgrims Mass – I lite a candle for all of us…..So many prayers were released in France and Spain….for me, my family and for all of you and your family and friends. Believe through faith in miracles….
Love you all… Esther Mae
One thought on “Which Path to Choose?”
Truly heavenly. Love you. Proud of you.