¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Monday, July 9, 2007


The wonderful lady of the house who welcomed me to her chambre d'hôte in Dinant served up a great breakfast—better than any hotel, and not just “family style,” but really as if I were for that day part of the family. The matter of paying her the forty euros seemed strained, in fact, almost as if it was an unnecessary and unpleasant thing that had to be done as non-offensively as possible.
I got out the door at about 8:45 am and continued my march south, passing again through Dinant, now a sleepy little river village in comparison to Sunday’s bustling tourist site. My intention for the day was to follow the Meuse River—for what I wrongly figured to be about eight kimometers, then pick up the GR 654 (Europe’s extended walking route) and finally climb out of the river valley (which is mercifully level) and finish off the day in the very small village of Soulne. What I thought would be an eight-kilometer prelude to the eleven-kilometer walk out of the valley turned into a fifteen-kilometer walk, including some pretty jungle-like stretches along the river bank; I even had to get down on my knees in the mud to crawl under a huge tree that had fallen across the path, and this with thirty pounds (twelve kilos) on my back!
Anyway, I marched on and came upon the village of Hastière after about three-and-a-half hours of moving at a pretty good clip for me. I found a little family restaurant and sat down for what they call petite restauration. I ordered a Ciney beer and an omelet. In the meantime, I sized up my situation and realized just how badly I had goofed up on my distances. What was worse, the next village was at least another five or six kilometers along the river and, according to my guidebook, has no lodging, and the next one, Soulne, my original goal for the day, had only one gite d’etape but no stores or restaurants, and it was another eleven kilometers beyond that.
So it seemed that the wisest thing to do was to call Hastiere home for the night and conquer the hill and dale to Soulne (and maybe beyond) tomorrow. The kind folks at my restaurant, when I inquired about a gite or chambre d'hôte, asked if I was a pilgrim to Compostelle and then told me that the church rectory across the street now serves as an auberge for pilgrims. My waiter, a young teen, even led me right to the door! What kindness is shown us pilgrims! So for ten euros I had my own room with a beautiful view of the Meuse River, not to mention a warm shower and a comfy bed.
Haustière is home to a beautiful eleventh-century Romanesque church, once part of a great Benedictine abbey, ruined during the French Revolution. The church, to which this house is the rectory, is really very special and has a millennium of history caring for pilgrims like me: evidently this place has long been on the road to Compostelle. Those earlier pilgrims left some nice graffiti on the walls of the ancient crypt of the church. I left just a note in the guest book saying how proud I am to be among their company in this place.
The trouble knee did very well today... I hardly felt it through the morning, so maybe the walking is actually helping it. I can tell that my leg muscles are hardening up nicely as the days go by. Gregory the Great still feels plenty great, but I am getting used to him riding atop me, like an old horse. We’ve now traveled together about ninety kilometers, or sixty miles, if I am adding right. I’m probably about two or three days from crossing into France. The weather was great this morning, but it is raining now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring—almost all good, if things continue as they have been. I'll miss the Meuse: this wonderful river with its deep green shoulders and great, grey granite cliffs has been a fine companion these past days.