Lourdes pilgrim ‘thrilled’ about guidebook

“I walked the Piemont route from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port in September 2015 with only a French guide book, and I don’t speak or understand French!  Needless to say, it made the journey at bit more challenging.  So I am thrilled about your book and hope to walk the route again this year with your guide book in hand.  And what an incredible, beautiful route it is!” said Fred Bovenkamp, on Camino de Santiago.me forum today.

Spiritual and Walking Guide front-cover

Learn more about the Lourdes, France, to St Jean Pied de Port  route by viewing the Camino book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, on Amazon at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino. By Stacey Wittig, Camino pilgrim.

The only English version spiritual devotional and walking guide for this part of the La voie du piémont pyrénéen. Available now in paperback or Kindle.

Road Trip Jordanian-Style

I love a good road trip. If you’ve followed my blogs for awhile you know I enjoy muddin’ in Louisiana bayous, road tripping through New Mexico and off-roading around Arizona backwoods. So when my new friend Mohammad Qamhiya suggested that we take the Namaleh Road – or King’s Highway – on a sort of pilgrimage to Petra in Jordan, I said, “Heck, yeah!”

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“We just called in and learned that the backroad to Petra is open today,” announced Mohammed. “It is our good fortune as the mountain pass is not always accessible.” Who knows who he called to get that information? I was surprised to learn that there was cell service out here in the back of beyond. We’d just spent a candlelit night at off-the-grid Feynan Ecolodge in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature reserve. True Bedouin country with camels, goat herds and sunbaked rock sans electricity except what little was produced by the lodge’s solar panels. The compound was designed around internal courtyards reminiscent of the ancient caravanseri or inns on the silk routes through the desert. Adventurers from around the world come to the inn to spend a day with a goat herder, hike the slot canyons and ancient ruins or learn traditional Bedouin coffee rituals from a shaykh (tribal leader). Explorers like us are willing to give up the luxuries of a five-star hotel for a star-lit experience.

The previous evening, we lay on mats on the lodge’s panoramic rooftop terrace looking up at a field of stars. Suleiman “Starman” Al-Hasaseen guided us through the heavens pointing out stars that could be seen with the human eye which were used by Bedouins to navigate passage in the desert. Then he got out a high-powered telescope, and we stood to peer into the state-of-the-art astronomic device to view Jupiter’s moons. I was tickled by the anachronism: traditional Bedouin starwatching versus modern high tech astronomy.

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“Seriously, are you up for taking Namaleh Road? We’ll ride in Bedouin Jeeps on a rough, dusty, primitive four-wheel-drive road,” Mohammed warned with a frown. Mohammed seldom frowned. The King’s Highway, so named because it was a trade route of frankincense and spices from the southern Arabian Peninsula through Petra towards consumers in Egypt, Rome and Greece. Huge camel caravans made their way through mountains and deserts on this track.

He must have predicted our answer because when we walked out of the desert compound, four local men each with a well-used vehicle waited to take us over the desolate mountain pass to Petra. I didn’t see a Jeep among the fleet, but rather 1980s-vintage Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishis. I snagged the front seat with Abdullah in an extended cab Mitsubishi pick-up – old but meticulously wiped clean. He drove us over rutted, bumpy roads from the ecolodge to the nearest village. He pulled up into the on-coming lane of the dusty two-lane road next to another Bedouin Jeep, waving at the driver and shouted across open windows something in Arabic before swinging into a roadside vegetable stand. More Arabic or maybe it was the local Bedouin language as he jumped out of our truck, and from behind the tomatoes appeared a green five-gallon plastic can. “Oh, this is the gas station,” I said to my two travel writing companions in the backseat. The shopkeeper hoisted the heavy can and started pouring gasoline into our 4×4.

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“Why is it I always get the driver that needs to put gas in his Jeep after he picks us up?” I said remembering my white-knuckled off-road trip to tea plantations in Kerala, India, with the gas needle pegged to empty. But here in the remote reaches of Jordan, our gas gauge read ‘full’ as we turned towards Petra on the asphalt highway.

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Oncoming traffic included a robed Bedouin on his camel, a horse decked out in Arabian regalia and, of course, the occasional passing car bearing head-on into our lane. No matter that my seat belt wasn’t functional – I simply prayed. Fields of tomatoes and squash were just a blur as we sped up and over what us off-roaders call “whoops.”

“Oh, my God,” I laughed as my head almost hit the ceiling.

“Don’t laugh – you’re just encouraging him,” said Annette from the back gripping the “Oh Shit” handle above her half-opened window, which wouldn’t go up or down, BTW. Abdullah turned to me grinning and motioned to the road ahead. Somehow in a split second he communicated, “Hey if you liked that, this next one is even better.” I glanced at the speedometer as we hit the second asphalt rollercoaster: 80 kilometers per hour and I tried to do the math – how many miles per hour? It seemed like a million, and I thought for sure we were going to take air. I’m sure all three travel writers’ stomachs were in our throats as we came down.

“I think he thinks we like it,” Brigit hooted above the wind noise in the backseat – as if she liked it. Soon we were on gravel road and weaving around a construction barricade in the middle of our lane. This evidently was the part of the road that was typically closed, but we passed the sign too fast to see if it actually said, “Road Closed.”

“Yallah, yallah,” laughed Brigid, “That mean’s let’s go! Let’s go!”

Annette remained solemn.

We drove right by the UNHRC work crews and onto the dirt road that switched backed and forth ahead of us like the ominous Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park. Were those United Nations Human Rights Council workers that we just dusted? Before grabbing my own “Oh Shit” handle, I noticed that its vinyl covering was pretty much worn off. I tugged one last time at the flaccid seatbelt – no, it still didn’t work.

vagabonding-lulu-on-kings-highwaycwittig-30Up and up we drove on the mountainous, squiggly two-lane dirt track. Earthmoving equipment was parked catawampus of the side of sharp-angled ditches. They seemed to be laid aside for the preferred method of road building as groups of three or four workers with shovels bent backs in front of the motionless behemoths. We hit the first mountain pass and started down the other side, seeing more mountains rising before us. “This could be like how Berthoud or Loveland Passes looked before they were paved,” I contemplated as I viewed the harsh angle of downward gradient before us. Abdullah started pumping the brakes to slow our descent. The brakes didn’t really seem to be working too well, but he continued to pump.

“Great! This is payback time for the prank I pulled on my flat-lander Father back in Durango years ago,” I realized to my horror. Dad was visiting me after I first moved out West and was working for the phone company in small mountain towns. I had finally gotten used to driving on steep mountain roads without guardrails and wanted to show off my expertise in my sassy sports car. As we whizzed down One-Million-Dollar-Highway with drop-offs on the outside turns, I pumped the clutch, pretending it was the brakes. “Oh no, the brakes are out,” I taunted my Dad. Did I mention he was afraid of heights? Yes, I still feel totally guilt-ridden about that one.

So back to Abdullah. He seemed to be well-practiced at the brake-pumping thing, so I realized that “this is how they do it here.” No need to worry. As we began to climb again, I watched the mountains outside my open window change from grey to red. We stopped at the summit to stretch our legs and make use of the phenomenal photos ops high above the Jordanian desert below at sea level. We climbed to the top of a rise where we could look down on our Bedouin jeeps.

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“Oh, no what are we going to do?” wailed a travel writer from another truck. “Looks like your truck is broken down. He has the hood up.” I could see Abdullah pouring water from what looked like an skin animal bag onto the radiator.

“No, it’s OK. He knows what he is doing,” I said. I, too have a truck of the same vintage that I must baby like Abdullah was doing with his brakes and radiator. My ‘87 Toyota Four-Runner with windows that fail to rise and an engine too small for the load is like my baby, and Abdullah’s vehicle seemed to be its twin separated at birth. I walked down to where Abdullah stood proudly over the engine compartment nursing his ‘baby.’ I caught his eyes and then patted the fat fender of his truck. When he smiled back, I knew we had a special connection: crazy drivers and their well-worn vehicles.

Enjoy this article? Then go to http://amzn.to/2412teu and read more. #MyJordanJourney #LearnJordan Disclaimer: Jordan Tourism hosted author Stacey Wittig on this trip. All her opinions are her own.

Bootstrapping: Challenges of translating Camino book from English to German

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“It’s an idiomatic phrase that we don’t really have in German,” explained Thomas with a frown. I couldn’t really SEE his frown, but I could HEAR it. I was sitting in my car in Flagstaff, Arizona, talking on WhatsApp to the linguistic expert who is translating my first Camino book from English to German. The young Deutscher just moved to Brisbane, Australia, last month so it is somewhat difficult to set an appointment where our time zones don’t collide. It was 5 pm my time and 10 am his time. I’d just completed my last meeting of the day and could give my full attention to the international call.

“You say in your book that you ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.’ We don’t really say that in German,” Thomas continued. Bootstrapping may just be a purely American thing. “We do say that we pull ourselves up by our hair,” he added.

“That would work,” I replied, and thought, “This guy is GOOD! I am so blessed to have met him in Paris.” Thomas and I had accidentally, or perhaps with divine intervention, met in Paris, France, when we walked a pilgrimage from the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Chartres Cathedral 100 km away. The Christian Paris to Chartres pilgrimage that takes place every year during Pentecost has roots in the Middle Ages. The pilgrimage is called Notre-Dame de Chrétienté in French.

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Even though I was older than Thomas’ mother, we had walked together joking and laughing much of the way. (When we weren’t lamenting blisters, sleep deprivation or exhaustion.) In three days filled with challenges and joy, Thomas and I got to know each other well. When I learned that he was a professional translator, I asked the twenty-eight-year-old about interpreting my first book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago. Since publication, many Germans have recommended that I translate the text into their language.

“I could work on it in September, after I move to Australia,” he smiled. “I’ll have time then.” Since Pentecost was in mid-May, I had plenty of time to prepare my manuscript and raise funds to pay for his services.

But last night Thomas wasn’t laughing or joking too much. This translation was serious business for the young scholar and he approached me with the respect due a valued client. “Maybe I am being too German here, but I want to discuss each of these changes with you. You have laid your heart out in this book. And you’ve been very true to the Bible scriptures that you quote. I don’t want to change the words [imagery] without your approval,” he said sternly.

The impossible task of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is analogous to the achievement of getting out of difficult situations through your own efforts. The German version uses “Schopf,” an archaic word for “hair” or “head of hair” and is used in this context because it is from an old proverb. Today’s use of “schopf” means “swamp.”

The excerpt from my Camino devotional that uses the bootstrapping idiomatic phrase:

Seven years ago, during a self-imposed weekend retreat, I heard the Lord whisper, “Walk El Camino de Santiago.” El Camino hadn’t crossed my mind for over a decade; and, in fact, I really didn’t know much about the ancient pilgrimage route. Yet I felt the Lord’s call to take a spiritual journey. The obedient act of walking would teach me to shift my emphasis from trust in a busy calendar to trust in God’s provision. I had to let go of the belief that if only I had enough sales appointments, won enough sales contests, (fill in the blank with your own if only,) then I would be perfectly happy. I thought of myself as self-made, and relished the image of me – a working woman – pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, or in my case, by my own Bandolino Italian leather pumps.

The German translation of that excerpt:

Vor sieben Jahren dann, während eines Einkehrwochenendes, hörte ich den Herrn zu mir sagen: „Begib dich auf den Jakobsweg.“ Der Jakobsweg war mir damals schon über ein Jahrzehnt nicht mehr in den Sinn gekommen und ich wusste auch nicht allzu viel über diese historische Route. Allerdings fühlte ich einen starken Ruf, mich auf eine spirituelle Reise zu begeben. Laufen hat etwas von Demut und ich hoffte, dass mir eine Pilgerreise dabei helfen würde, mein Vertrauen in Gottes Plan anstatt in einen vollen Terminplaner zu setzen. Ich musste loskommen von dem Gedanken, dass ich eigentlich nur genug Verträge brauchte; eigentlich nur genügend Wettbewerbe gewinnen müsste, um endlich glücklich zu sein. Jeder hat irgendwo ein „eigentlich nur“, eine Bedingung für das Glück. Mein Selbstbild war das einer eigenständigen, erfolgreichen Frau, die sich in schwierigen Situation am eigenen Schopf aus dem Sumpf zieht. In meinem Fall an einem aufwändig frisierten Schopf.

Order the English version by clicking here: Amazon.com

German version now available at https://www.amazon.de

Rudy Maxa’s World discusses Stacey Wittig’s new book

160924-rudy-maxa-logo-1Author Stacey Wittig was honored to be interviewed by Rudy Maxa from Rudy Maxa’s World with The Careys last week. The interview was broadcast from the chic lobby lounge of Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona. The radio program reaches over 275+ weekly radio stations each week across the USA.

Bell Rock happens to be the site of one of Sedona’s four major vortexes of earthly energy and a spiritual place for Native Americans and others.

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Stacey and Rudy talked about hiking in #Sedona and her new book, Spiritual & Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port in the comfortable “Living Room” of the Hilton Sedona Resort. The book was written to enhance the spiritual experience of pilgrims walking from Lourdes to SJPP along the Way of St James.

The show aired on Saturday 10a-12p ET on TuneInListen. Click here to listen to a recording of the interview that took place in one of America’s sacred places:  http://rudymaxa.com/podcasts/2016-2/

The show has a weekly audience reach of approximately 1.4 million via approximately 275 affiliated network stations, a 24/7 TuneIn.com channel, growing social media platforms, frequent remote broadcasts, online and more.

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About Rudy Maxa’s World with The Careys

Renowned travel expert and award-winning journalist Rudy Maxa, along with the show creators and married travel partners Robert and Mary Carey, easily connect with the audience and skillfully cover the world of travel, culture and its allure through modern segments, on-location remote broadcasts, etc.  Combined, Rudy Maxa’s World with The Careys offers unmatched experience, unparalleled insight and unique understanding into travel, trade, tourism and dozens of related industries. http://rudymaxa.com

About Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Located in the spectacular Red Rock Country in Northern Arizona, Hilton Sedona is a luxury resort with spacious rooms and suites, spa and championship golf course. #HSRRedRock http://www.hiltonsedonaresort.com

Order Wittig’s new book about the Lourdes pilgrimage on Amazon by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2cTM0Xt

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The “Living Room” or Lobby Lounge of the Hilton Sedona Red Rocks Resort and Spa.

 

Spiritual & Walking Guides releases new book: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port

Spiritual & Walking Guides just released its latest book: Spiritual & Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port. The Camino guide book is today’s most comprehensive spiritual guide for walking from Lourdes to St Jean de Pied Port in France. Order at Amazon by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2cTM0Xt

Many modern pilgrims desire to walk the primitive pilgrimage route from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, France, and beyond onto the Camino Frances. But, until now, few guides have been published in the English language for the Voie du Piémont Pyrénéen sections of the Camino walk.

Spiritual and Walking Guide front-coverThe three-in-one book incorporates daily devotionals, Bible verses and way guides that will help prepare your heart for a closer walk with God.
Included in the book: 
• Maps for wayfinding
• Daily scripture readings – no need to carry a heavy Bible
• Meditations that help you hear God’s direction for your life
• Questions for reflection to make the most of your pilgrimage
• Details about where to sleep, daily distances walked and essential websites
• Insider travel tips
• How to procure a Pilgrim Credential
Here then is a guide ideally suited to you, the pilgrim, who is seeking both spiritual and terrestrial direction while walking the Camino route from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port in France.With space to journal thoughts and revelations about your Lourdes pilgrimage, you’ll hold onto this book as a keepsake f
or many years to come.
About the Author
Stacey Wittig is a Spirit-led Christian, who was transformed by the Camino de Santiago experience and now writes about hiking and pilgrimage.
About Spiritual & Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port:
List Price: $24.99
5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Full Color on White paper
106 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1537021508
ISBN-10: 1537021508
BISAC: Travel / Special Interest / Religious
Order on Amazon by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2cTM0Xt

The Pace of a 83-Year-Old Man

Today I walk the pace of an 83-year-old man. I’ve watched him 50 yards ahead of me for the past hour or so. When he goes up a hill in the distance, I can see that I’m not catching up. Later when I am on a rise looking down, I see him below me.

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He  stays the same size. If he were getting smaller, I would know he’s pulling away. If he were getting larger that would indicate that I was walking faster than him.

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This man and I have met up three or four times over the past 10 days to exchange greetings and some pleasantries. We follow the ancient pilgrimage route of the Via Podensis from Le Puy, France, towards the west and Santiago, Spain. Via Podensis is just one of hundreds of paths that form a spider’s web throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East that connects the three most popular pilgrim destinations of the Middle Ages: Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. Today people like the man ahead of me continue to follow these ancient routes.

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Le Trois: Stacey, Joseph and Michel

Earlier this morning, the 83-year-old man recognized me and my two traveling companions.
“Ah, Le Trois — the three are still together,” he said in French and smiled approvingly. We all know each others’ countries of origin — me, USA; Michel, France; Joseph, Belgium; and the 83-year-old man, Switzerland.  This man from Geneva is an intriguing loner, so we haven’t wanted to get too close too fast. He has ducked out of every conversation so far without leaving his name behind. Indeed, in one meeting when asked where he planned to sleep for the night, he answered before disappearing,  “A kilometer away from nowhere.” In other words, off the beaten path of the popular pilgrim sleeping spots.

photo of Jean-Francois, the 83-year-old man

Jean-Francois, the 83-year-old man

But today we finally exchange names. Jean-Francois is fit and trim, dressed in ultra-modern, lightweight backpacking attire and equipment. He carries a smile along with a tall wooden hiking pole intricately carved with the names and corresponding years of each Camino he’s walked. Jerusalem in 2014. Lourdes in 2015. Arles and other pilgrimages routes across Europe dated with the carver’s flourish. The 83-year-old man has walked over 60,000 kilometers in the past decade or so.

And so now, I am still not catching up. Interestingly,  Jean-Francois typically appears at a crossroads or a church. The next time I see him, he’s standing at a crossroad to warn us not to go in the wrong direction. He comes along side of me and we walk for awhile together. He does not speak much English, and I do not speak much French, but we talk in simple words and communicate well. I tell him that I, too walked Lourdes in 2015 and Arles in 2008.

When he looks down at my hiking boots matching the rhythm of his and says, “Vous marchez bien!” or “You walk well, ” I feel like I have been honored with the best compliment. For today I am proud to walk the pace of an 83-year-old man.

Stacey “Vagabonding Lulu” Wittig is a spiritual travel writer based near Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona. This article first appeared in Pinewood News in May 2016. She wrote from the road that month while traveling Les Chemin de St Jacques – Via Podiensis – in France.

Une table sur la route: Saugues, France

Joseph.Jacob.crop.800Correspondance de la voie le 30 avril 2016. Le Puy du Velay (Via Podiensis) à Santiago. Réimprimé à partir de Pinewood News.

Aujourd’hui, j’ai vu une belle jeune femme italienne de rire à la météo avec des flocons de neige qui s’accrochent à la sombre des cils. Les flocons sont grandes et diminue lentement jusqu’à ce que le vent intermittent enfonça rapidement dans nos visages. C’est le dernier jour du mois d’avril près Le Puy, en France, et je ne m’attendais pas à ce que la neige.

Chaque fois que j’ai amené gants légers à la France ou l’Espagne à marcher un des anciens chemins de pèlerinage connu meilleur au US comme le Camino de Santiago, je n’ai pas besoin d’eux, alors j’ai laissé derrière eux. Aujourd’hui, j’aurais aimé avoir une paire. Je me disaient que je ne pouvais vraiment pas obtenir des gelures en 20F-degré météo, mais elle n’est toujours pas aider mon engourdissement des doigts.

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Aujourd’hui, j’ai également vu des centaines de jaune jonquilles décorant un tapis d’herbe à travers laquelle un petit cours d’eau méandrique coulait. Je n’avais jamais vu des jonquilles, appelé jonquils ici en France, à l’état sauvage avant et le contraste entre le jaune et le vert m’a arrêté dans mes pistes. C’était avant que la neige a commencé à tomber sur les Chemins de St Jacques.

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Plus tard, après la chute de neige est tombée pendant un certain temps, j’ai vu quatre hommes dans la forêt, parler et rire debout à côté d’une porte dans notre voie. Il semble un bon endroit pour arrêter et parler aux pèlerins qui étaient en situation de rattrapage avec nous par derrière, ce qui avec un autre champ de jonquils en vue, cette fois avec leurs visages gai rejetée vers un lit de neige. De toute évidence, cette place a inspiré d’autres avant nous, parce qu’à travers une autrement wordless griffonné signe de rendement à proximité étaient les mots, “I love lyfe.”

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“Mi vous aimeriez une banane?” Pierre offerts à chacun des trois autres hommes et moi. C’était un gros bouquet de très awefully long les bananes — trop pour un homme d’être transportant dans son sac à dos. “S’il vous plaît, avoir une banane “, il a offert de nouveau après chacun d’entre nous a poliment refusé.

“Eh bien, si nous pouvons vous aider, ” Joseph, le belge ont ri. Chaque pèlerin a pris une et à l’unisson pelés leurs bananes et pris une bouchée.
“J’ai de prendre une photo de ce “, J’ai dit de prendre ma caméra. Ils ont tous hammed it up pour moi et j’ai pensé, ” quelle belle et salubre Camino m’être fait ici de la famille en France. Si je devais prendre cette photo en Espagne, les gars serait levée leurs bières, pas leurs bananes.”

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Plus tard au déjeuner, Joseph m’a montré un en bois, shell sculpté à la main de la taille d’un petit escargot. La coquille, le symbole de St James, qui s’est tenue une histoire spéciale pour Joseph. “Hier, c’était chaud et je voulais quelque chose à boire, et j’ai vu un signe que suit ‘Nene.” Après la marche du signe, j’ai vu un homme dont les vêtements étaient tellement sale. Il avait besoin d’une coupe de cheveux. Normalement je ne donnerais pas arrêter et parler à un tel homme. Mais je voulais quelque chose à boire. ”

” Il s’est assis à une table sur la route. Sur la même table qu’il avait une bouteille de vin rouge, verre à moitié saoul, pain, fromage, il a également recueilli des pièces de machine, vieux bidons d’huile, de bidons d’essence et Rusty outils. La table était sombre et sale et derrière elle, il s’assit dans un fauteuil roulant.”

“Mais le gars a été tellement heureux que dans quelques instants, nous échangions au sujet de nos familles et de vie. J’ai passé 20 minutes avec l’homme. Il m’a dit qu’il avait un travail pour installer le câble électrique élevé partout dans le monde. Mais ensuite, il a eu un accident et ont chuté.

Il revint ici, chez ses parents dans ce petit village. Il m’a dit que c’est son bon plaisir et sa vie pour rester et inviter les pèlerins pour quelque chose à boire et parler avec eux durant leur pèlerinage.”
“Il m’a donné ce shell “, a déclaré Joseph le doigté avec amour. Je lui ai demandé : ” Combien voulez-vous?” “Non, c’est un cadeau”, l’homme dit. Il a été mon premier inhabituelles passe sur le camino.”

“Quand j’ai finalement s’éloigna, à moins de 200 verges de quitter sa place j’avais les larmes aux yeux. “Joseph, ne vous comprenez maintenant pourquoi vous marchez Compostelle?” J’ai entendu. Ce gars m’a ouvert les yeux. Je me demandais pourquoi j’étais sur cette voie. Elle (la raison) pour l’échange avec d’autres EST. Je ne suis pas seule marche le Camino pour moi, mais également pour la communauté que je trouve ici. Je fais partie de ce que fait cette le bonheur de l’homme et il est partie de la mienne.”

08-DAY FOUR Le Sauvage to Aumont-Aubrac (18)800