They have walked over 775 KM from the Pyreenes in France, across Northern Spain and to the holy city of St. James over the past 33 days.
Their journey has been one of revelation, elevation and inspiration. They have found the Camino Frances to be alive and well and full of hope and optimism for the future.
They have met many people, like minded pilgrims, sharing a common bond.
Most importantly, they have walked the Camino carrying the intentions and prayers of 383 people who cannot walk at this time.
Here they leave us with their final thoughts, enjoy!:
It’s been over a week since we checked in with Johnnie Walker and Stephen Shields on the Camino Frances.
This morning the guys will awake in O Cebreiro after walking for over 600 KM.
In the past week, they have been busy walking, climbing mountains, meeting new people, praying and enjoying the Camino life.
My favourite quote from Johnnie of the past week:
“The magic of the Camino is here. Perhaps more alive, more concentrated because there are fewer pilgrims. The warmth of the welcome we’ve received everywhere seemed to be embodied in the awesome sight of the sunset from El Burgo Ranero.
All is well.”
Johnnie and Stephen have recieved well over 300 prayers and intentions which they have now laid at the Cruz de Fierro.
Enjoy the video below showing the journey so far and the laying of the stone at the end:
This morning Johnnie & Stephen will leave Frómista, a small town in the Palencia region of Northern Spain.
By now, they are on Day 15 of their journey, having so far walked 324 KM. What an achievement in very warm conditions! (Although they had one downpour of much-needed rain!)
Coping with the physical aches and pains of walking the Camino in the first two weeks has enabled Johnnie to “get lost” and forget about the despair of the pandemic and the hard lockdown in Spain.
Total immersion in the delights of nature makes Johnnie & Stephen notice the natural offerings around them such as the blackberries and grapes:
The social aspect of the Camino – the pilgrims they have met over the past 2 weeks – has been a real highlight. They have met pilgrims from all over the world: Germany, France, Canada, the U.S., The Netherlands, and the Spanish themselves of course.
They have also taken the time to enjoy some delicious Camino food with other pilgrims, such as the local delicacy of Morcilla (Black Pudding).
“There’s a bond between pilgrims as we share the same history and the same path. Casual nods on the first day graduate to conversations discovering each other at a coffee stop, then having dinner in the evening.”
During the past few days, they have enjoyed very peaceful visits to many beautiful churches, the Church in Navarette a particular highlight (see below), and the Cathedral in Burgos of course.
The daily routine on the Camino Frances for Johnnie & Stephen is: wake, eat, walk, wash, eat, sleep, wake etc.
“No decisions are needed on the trail. Just follow the arrows. My sense of time goes first as I concentrate on getting my old frame up another hill. Whatever day it is seems increasingly unimportant.”
They have over halfway to go but this week one might even say Johnnie is enjoying being “lost” on the Camino Frances!
Johnnie & Stephen have gathered over 300 prayers from people so far but they still open to receiving more prayers and intentions so feel free to send them to [email protected]
We’ll check in with them again soon!
This morning, Johnnie & Stephen will leave Najera in the Rioja Valley to walk 28 km to Santo Domingo De La Calzada.
How to sum up their journey over the past 5 days? It will be challenging but ill give it a try!
Since our last update, they have walked another approximately 130 km through Spanish countryside from Pamplona – Puente la Reina – Estella – Los Arcos – Logrono – Najera
They have also met another walking partner, Billy, who volunteers in the Pilgrim’s Office.
So naturally, they now call themselves the “Three Masketeers” – see below:
They made it to the famous Alto de Perdón after leaving the hustle and bustle of Pamplona.
The beautiful surroundings make it easier for Johnnie to climb hills and even mountains. The promise of free wine from a fountain encourages Stephen.
Johnnie reflects on a number of things about the Camino over the past few days:
Mainly, how quiet the Camino is compared to how it was at the same time last year. While the Camino is much changed, the people he meets on the Camino are as interesting and diverse as they always were.
It’s easy to meet likeminded pilgrims along the Camino, even now.
In fact, their friend (from St. Jean) Gemma has formed a bubble with two other pilgrims:
Another thing Johnnie reflects on is safety and personal responsibility on the Camino.
We recently wrote a blog on Is the Camino safe?
Of course, the Camino is safe, says Johnnie and we all need to take personal responsibility:
“Everyone is asking the question “is the Camino safe?” All of us certainly feel safe, but I must emphasise again my view that on Camino, like at home, you are only as safe as you make yourself. Stay distant from others, cleanse your hands frequently and wear a facemask!”
“As we walked in the afternoon heat towards Los Arcos we remarked to each other how beautiful is this part of the route and how privileged we are, not only to see it but to see it at this special time. Let’s hope everyone has the opportunity to do the same very soon. “
And with that, we will leave you with some very wise words from the Camino Francés:
This morning Johnnie and Stephen will awake in Zubiri, a village in Navarre, Spain.
It is the stop in between Roncesvalles and Pamplona on the Camino Francés.
So far they have crossed from France into Spain via the Pyrenees and have walked a total of just over 60km.
They also describe the health and safety measures being undertaken in St. Jean such as mask-wearing, hand gel, and social distancing which is now the norm.
Unfortunately, their U.S. friend Kate has been unable to join them due to the travel restrictions but they have instead acquired a new walking companion, Gemma, a Health Policy Consultant with the WHO.
This is Gemma’s first Camino which makes it all the more exciting!
The next morning in the 14th Century chapel in St. Jean (Église Notre-Dame du Bout du Pont):
“It was here in the silence we laid the petitions and messages we’ve received before the altar with the Pilgrim Bible which now has the first stamp of the journey. Candles were lit and prayers offered for everyone… and for ourselves that we may walk safely (and blister-free!) on the Way to Santiago.”
Today is the day!
Johnnie Walker and his friend Stephen Shields set off on the Camino Frances which they will tackle over the next few weeks. They will be starting their journey in St. Jean Pied de Port and walking all the way to Santiago. Here is a note we received from Johnnie over the weekend ->
ONLY ONE MORE SLEEP – I’M EXCITED
Anticipating this Camino is in many respects exactly the same as any other. In other respects, it is very different.
My rucksack is packed – checked and double-checked. I’ve been doing some training walks – yesterday 24 km on the long uphill final stage on the Via de la Plata.
I’ve felt the inevitable aches and pains and the joys of the deep sleeps which follow.
No matter the number of Caminos I’ve walked the excitement remains the same. And the old anxieties revisit like relatives you’d rather not see: will I be physically able to do it? What if something goes wrong? Have I forgotten anything important? Irrational fears.
Of course with this Camino, some fears are not irrational.
The COVID pandemic has taken its toll on everyone and the virus remains alive in Spain, spreading and waiting. Already Kate Stephens has sadly had to drop out, unable to travel from home. Her place may be taken by another friend.
All along the Camino, we will be taking the precautions I take at home at all times – keep the distance from others, clean hands before and after touching surfaces and wear a face mask. To further reassure me (and you!) I remind myself that I also have the same rights as Spanish citizens including access to the health service. That didn’t stop me taking out additional travel insurance!
It is 11 years since I last walked from Saint Jean and my anxiety about physically being able to do it is because I’m very much aware that I am now in my senior years. With that in mind, I have booked rooms in hostels and hotels along the way.
Sleeping in the shared dormitories of my youth is now not an option – especially in current circumstances. I’m very grateful to Camino Ways for assisting with room bookings and for their charitable contributions to help pilgrims.
Many people have responded to the invitation to send me the thoughts and prayers and intentions they want me to carry.
Keep them coming! I’ll tell you more about this very soon.
Roland is the founder and director of CaminoWays.com. Originally from France, he has many years of experience organising adventure holidays and globe-trotting. His quest to hike in as many countries as possible continues; so far, he has walked the Camino and the Via Francigena; climbed Kilimanjaro; hiked in Nepal, New Zealand and Japan; led mountaineering groups in South America... among many other adventures.