I’ll Push You: Mountains and Valleys

camino-santiago-wheelchair-to-pamplonaOn the first leg of their inspirational Camino de Santiago journey Justin and Patrick encounter a few ups and downs, some of them quite unexpected! but make it to Pamplona safe and in high spirits.

By: Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray

As I sit here in Pamplona, Spain, I can’t help but to contemplate on how amazing our journey has been so far (and were only three days in!).

It has been full of immense challenges and immense joy but Patrick and I both agree that it has been TOTALLY worth the effort thus far.

Some of the challenges we had even before we begin our Camino where, let’s just say, interesting.

First, we missed our train from Paris down to a picturesque little town on the southwest corner of France called Bayonne. This was not because we were incompetent of getting on the train, but because the French railway system had a challenge with proper communication at the train station (surprise, surprise).

After 36 hours of continuous travel, we eventually arrived at our hotel in Bayonne at 1:30 in the morning, and immediately ran into our first major obstacle… I could not fit into the elevator!

It was a super tiny elevator and Patrick ended up having to move me in to a office chair with wheels then get me into the elevator and then upstairs. Upon entering our room we saw that there was a step up into the room. A few more transfers and a chair drug across the floor finally resulted in our first nights sleep.

Upon arrival in St. Jean, things were a little easier. The elevator was still quite small but they had a standard wheelchair, and I got to take my first bath in 14 years!

Day one of the Camino led us up the Pyrenees mountains and we choose the most difficult route. We were told we are crazy, that this is impossible, that there was absolutely no way we could get it done.

After 13 hours of insane uphill, being blessed by a priest, ascending rocky slopes, being seranaded by an opera singer, being told “the impossible is possible” by a wonderful Basque man, trekking through 6-10 inch deep mud, and facing truly the most difficult task we have ever faced, we made it. Ted and Patrick were completely exhausted…..

But nothing could stop us…..Roncevalles offered us a beautiful landscape with comfortable beds.

wheelchair-camino-justinThe next morning we got up and hit the road in the rain. Tranquil silence in dense trees seemed almost surreal. 4 miles in, the front wheel of my chair literally snapped off.

With the help of some fellow Spanish pilgrims, we were able to rickshaw the chair for a little over a mile to the next town and hangout with some of the most generous loving people while we problem solved. Unfortunately aluminum welding requires a very special skill set. While we were disappointed that we would miss the rest of the days walk, we felt that a bigger city would be the best place to find assistance. Ted, Patrick and I loaded up in the film crews car and headed to Pamplona to find a remedy.

This is an amazing city with incredible accessibility. A great place to wait while we hope and pray a local welder can repair what has been broken.

While this journey has already been full of literal and metaphorical mountains and valleys, we have been provided for. We are well, we are safe, and we are eager to see what awaits us in days to come. While by no means has this been a traditional journey, it is our Camino and we are thankful for it.

*You might also want to read Justin’s previous blog post: Part 1 – The Journey Begins and their next step: Part 3 – Familiar Faces