A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Monday, November 28, 2011

Southbound 'Via de la Plata' Heretics Arrive in Seville

We headed south from Zafra on the Via de la Plata in a thick fog, but we strayed from the path several times over the next week for another reason; the Way to Santiago is only marked for the pilgrims going north. We learned to walk backwards at every fork or intersection, looking for the yellow arrows (hand painted by a conscientious pilgrim, no doubt, for the Way would be  poorly marked even for northbound pilgrims otherwise.) But we still managed to add an extra 10 or 15 kilometers to our trek to Seville by way of going astray.
The Via de la Plata was an adventure even without getting lost though; we forded thigh high streams barefoot, and camped near countryside castle ruins. We took a fair amount of rain, and ate bread and cheese for dinner. For our thanksgiving dinner, we had cold vegetables and legumes from a jar. We also had our moments of luxury, though, staying in an albergue now and then, eating microwaved lasagna and pizza.
We were corrected several times for going south; by pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, and even a low flying ultralight. "You're supposed to be going the other way!" they all said. But, heretics that we were, we doggedly continued southward to San Juan de Aznalfarache, near Seville, where we have discovered, not the relics of an ancient saint, but the flesh and blood of living saints who have taken in two weary strangers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meditations Under the Weather

My stay in Zafra has been extended for a few days due to the rainy weather and our hosts' gracious offer to sit it out in their home. And, as it turns out, My daughter Olivia will be walking with me to Seville and beyond.

With all this time on my hands I've been able to meditate on our walk thus far a little more deeply. While the distance we've covered, the speaking I've done regarding peace, and the 'success' we've enjoyed in being hosted these past two weeks is somewhat gratifying to one as task oriented as myself, I have also been aware that I spend a great deal of time worrying about funding and lodging.
I look at two of my mentors, Peace Pilgrim and Wijnand Boon, and I find myself having neither the Faith of the one nor the public skills of the other. Walk until given a place to stay, and fast until given food as Peace Pilgrim did? Accept no money, ask for nothing? I would surely die of exposure or starvation! On the other hand, what do I have to do to get offers, even multiple offers daily for food and lodging as Wijnand Boon does because of his multimedia skills? I have no such skills. The stats on my blog aren't very promising. I'm not so sure anyone will read this, in fact.
In both Peace Pilgrim's and Wijnand's ways, I sense a lack of worrying about tomorrow. And while Peace Pilgrim's way was very different from Wijnand's-- hers being old school Faith in God, his being a modern faith in high tech multimedia-- they both based their journeys on a common faith in humanity.

Meanwhile, I sometimes feel confident I'll find the means to get to Egypt, but I often wring my hands wondering how I'll get the support to make it without the Faith of a Saint or the skills of a journalist. I often doubt my 'leading from God' and start to think I am simply delusional. Peace pilgrimage to Egypt... Ha! Let me just quietly and humbly withdraw from this over-ambitious enterprise.
But then I remember how I have felt compelled to do this for so many years; compelled against my better judgement. Reading about Peace Pilgrim fueled this Compulsion, but lacking her great Faith I always pushed the concept of walking to the Middle East back into the Impossible Dream file. Peace Pilgrim was a great spiritual leader more than anything, and that kind of greatness was not in me. Furthermore, I had a life to deal with, bills and rent to pay, a family to support. And I enjoy sitting by the fire while watching a good film on DVD. I love my wife. I love our little rented house, our dogs, our cat, our pond, garden, chickens. Why would I risk everything for a long walk? But every time I took a short walk there was the compulsion to go long again.
There were a few occasions when I made a tentative decision to go: after I'd had an argument with Linda, my wife, or when feeling hopelessly directionless, or when a strong sense of social obligation made me sure I had to roam the Earth finding inner peace and preaching world peace. But these were mere excuses. The real reason I felt compelled to make a pilgrimage was simply because I was  supposed to do so. There was no rational reason. It has been a call to a vocation. A genuine call to follow the Leading of God.

Wijnand appeared some two months ago as an angel of some kind, I reckon. He made the pilgrimage idea seem easy, even comfortable. While highly intelligent and multi-talented, he was an otherwise ordinary guy whom you could talk to about ordinary things. We talked about his sore feet, camping, the Blues, iPhones, Monty Python. While a determined and courageous peace pilgrim himself, there was no unattainable, lofty, Peace Pilgrim in him. I was greatly encouraged.
When Linda gave me her blessing, and Olivia praised the idea, it took me another two or three days to make the decision. I immediately asked my step-mother for financial support. I started a blog, announced my intentions. Within a week after walking with Wijnand, there was no going back. After another week, I was fretting. Nobody seemed to take my intentions seriously, or they seemed only remotely interested. It was soon very clear to me that my pilgrimage would not be Wijnand's. My tent would be much better used than his; my meals less sumptuous. Comfort would not be a factor as much as anxiety. Doubt set in, but it was too late.

But Wijnand was an angel because he was the one who pulled me into the void. The very void God has been calling me into for so long. The void I have been turning my back on. Wijnand was the very human example I needed to take the first step.

I still haven't reconciled myself to the fact that this pilgrimage will not follow some comforting pattern. Neither Peace Pilgrim's nor Wijnand's journey will be mine (or my daughter's). And I have as yet no idea how it will progress, nor what patterns will develop. As it stands now, most of our food and lodging has come about through Couchsurfing; our hosts have been nothing but exceedingly kind and generous. Where there is no Couchsurfing, however, we camp near the road, carrying bread, cheese and chourico to nourish ourselves. We have been given food twice, without asking, a la Peace Pilgrim. And we've been given lodging twice outside of Couchsurfing. But, while I am doing a Peace Pilgrimage, I am no Peace Pilgrim. Neither am I Wijnand Boon. So it is clearly my more difficult task to find my own way; to have a faith of my own, in both God and in humanity. Do not worry, seek the Kingdom of God. I know this, but from the outside in, not from the inside out. Knowing this from the inside out is going to be the greatest challenge. Walking, meanwhile, is a piece of cake.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zafra: Via de la Plata

From Almendralejo we journeyed down the Via de la Plata, accompanied by an energetic man named Luis for the first 5 kilometers. We then altered course for Fuente del Maestre when we received a message from Camille, our previous host, that a friend of hers would host us there. The detour added some 15 kilometers to our walk (for a total of 30-35 kilometers) and we had to hustle to get to Fuente before dark. The extra effort was well worth it, however, as our Belgian host, Joachim (or 'Joe') cooked a gourmet meal for us and entertained us with tales of marathons and cycling trips. Both he and his visiting brother were thoughtful and generous and we set off the next day rested and refreshed.
The walk from Fuente to Zafra was short, scenic, and unhurried compared to the previous day's walks. When we arrived in Zafra we found the house we are currently staying in, where we are guests to four more teachers. They've been busy with classes but perfect hosts in spite of this.
Tomorrow I hope to continue down the Via de la Plata towards Seville. The journey will take about 6 days, and I'll be staying in a tent unless I find an inexpensive Albergue along the way. Olivia, meanwhile, will take a week's holiday, going by bus to Madrid, then meeting me again in Seville, where we hope to continue southward.

From Badajoz to Zafra

Our host in Badajoz: Hassan and Sadegh, both engineering students from Iran.

Our hosts in Montijo, Sylvia and Camille from the USA.

The Guadiana

José, who walked over 5 kilometers with us just to show us the way.

An experiment which failed.

Monday, November 14, 2011


From Badajoz we worked our way east, camping one night, then spending the next night in Montijo with two very kind English teachers from America, Camille and Sylvia. We camped again a kilometer beyond Arroyo del San Serván, and got very wet this morning stomping our way to Almendralejo. A very kind woman has invited us into her house to use the internet, and we're hoping afterwards to find a place to stay dry tonight. Tomorrow we set off for Zafra, where we should arrive in a day or two.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Beginning

Just a few minutes from home, with our friend Olga.

The starting gate, 4 November, 2011. My wife, Linda, and our dog Migas seeing us off.

The first steps

Our first campsite near Valencia de Alcantara

Extremadura highway


Still smiling after three days.


We camped one night after leaving Alburquerque, then reached Badajoz where we've been the guests of, first, Angelina (a friend of our first night's host, Ana) and then two Iranian post-graduate engineering students. We've eaten Iranian food, listened to Iranian music, learned a bit of Persian and told each other dozens of stories. We're now working out our route south to Seville.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The First Three Days

We left Castelo de Vide on Friday, walking some 20 kilometers to Las Huertas, Spain, where we stayed with some friends. After dumping a few kilos from our backpacks the next day we walked another 8 kilometers, then camped for the night with our friend Gianni, who joined us in Valencia de Alcantara. Olivia and I walked another 30 kilometers today (Gianni walked, then hitchhiked ahead of us) and we're now staying in Alburquerque as Couchsurfing guests. We are tired, sore, and very grateful to our hosts for giving us the comforts of home for a day or two.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goin' South

My daughter and I will be heading to Valencia de Alcantara, Spain, soon, then heading south towards Badajoz, Sevilla, Tarifa, and hopefully into Morocco.
Yesterday we left Portalegre behind, taking the little travelled road through the mountains to Castelo de Vide-- but instead of a view we got fog and rain. Nevertheless, our twenty kilometer walk, which included our friends-- Nelson Switha for the start, and Kim Willis nearly to the end-- was uplifting. While we carried no packs-- our destination was our home near Castelo de Vide-- we did manage to get a few signatures on our two petitions.
We're holed up in Castelo de Vide today because of the weather, and we'll be setting off again either tomorrow or the next day.
If anyone along our route would like to host us for a night, please contact me on this blog. My daughter and I are both more than willing to do a bit of work in exchange for your hospitality.