Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I've Arrived!!!

A fabulous arrival, but hard-earned.

Yesterday, the last night before arriving, was designed to be an easy walk so I can find accommodation and clean myself and my well-worn clothing as well as possible for a presentable arrival. Yeah, the best laid plans... GoogleMaps guided me to a town called Buenavista 20 kilometers to the north of the Basilica. Reality has two places called Buenavista and I spent hours in frustration being directed toward one and then the other before stepping out and asking if there are many places with this name... for a while, the sun burned through the thick smog over my right shoulder, but then it was over my left - which should rarely happen on a southeasterly route - so I became suspicious. The din and sprawl of industry was overwhelming compared with the tranquility of the whole rest of my pilgrimage. My happy mood on the threshold of the terminus was soured by the chaotic noise of blaring horns, air brakes, and cargo trains.

I finally felt confident that I was headed toward the right Buenavista, and since all good views require elevation, the last 8 kilometers were nearly vertical through stacked cubicles of concrete block houses, a bizillion minibusses, and occasional cows. But when I got to the parish office of the church, the unempowered young people there told me the only hospitality they could offer was a homeless shelter back down the mountain those 8 kilometers. I lost it. I felt like I was the bunny in the carnival game where kids whack the bunnies as they pop out of their holes. These folks who only knew of pilgrims as highway walkers hadn't been faced with the situation before. I'm a pilgrim, not homeless!! I don't ever want to walk backwards! And all that elevation lost! to be repeated! I sobbed. Tired, dirty, on the eve of completion of such a goal, the idea of retreating to a homeless shelter didn't go down well. In the end, many many hours later, the priest arrived. A lovely man, a Benedictine monk-priest, very well educated, perfect English (the third time since November 9th that I had any lengthy conversation in English... he urged me to go to the homeless shelter for my own safety and comfort and to continue on the autopiste in the morning like other pilgrims. Ensued were details of my adventures in the wilderness, the desert, the mountains... sleeping in the storage room in the basement of the church was my preference and by the end of the long day, that's where I slept, peacefully, sadly still dirty with no opportunity to even rinse out my filthy tee shirt, on a nest of old red velvet curtains with white lace. Argh! but all's well that ends well! The priest signed my credenziale and gave me his St. Benedict medallion to protect me on my dangerous journey.

It was the right thing to do, staying in Buenavista. I set out early and walked up and over a pass in the Sierra de Guadalupe nature reserve. Aside from the municipal landfill that I had to walk by, the mountains are beautiful. An old forester who knew the area well provided valuable guidance for shortening the route by chosing rightly from the myriad of footpaths. I was at the Basilica by noon without much exersion. All this distance asking for help every day... I arrived with 10 pesos in my pocket, never having gone to a bank since leaving Denver. I was ready to spend half of it on some churros, but when I explained to the street vendor that I was about to arrive at the end of such a long pilgrimage, he gifted me the crunchy donut sticks as his contribution.

At the Basilica, I whisked by the suspended Tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the moving sidewalk beneath the altar pretty quickly, getting crushed by the crowd. At the information desk, I asked for Monsignor Chavez, whom I met in Albuquerque in October. He came out and greeted me personally. He took my photo in front of the Tilma . which I'l post as soon as he forwards it - and stamped my credenziale... the very last page. The next hourly Mass was starting, so he took me right up to the reserved front row center to allow me a close view of the Tilma throughout the whole Mass. There was a group of 2,000 highway pilgrims there who walked for three days with all sorts of banners and santos. They hired a mariachi band for the Mass and the priest gave a homily about the perseverence needed for the long pilgrimages by foot. More fitting for me than for the horde, I thought, but to each his own pilgrimage.

Numbers will follow soon, but the biggies: 3,431 km in 95 days... excluding the 2 days of rest, I walked at a rate of 37 kilometers per day (=23 miles per day)...

I've arrived. =)

16 comments:

Timecheck said...

Amazing, staggering accomplishment!

Johnnie Walker said...

"3,431 km in 95 days... excluding the 2 days of rest, I walked at a rate of 37 kilometers per day (=23 miles per day)...
I've arrived. =)"

Yes you have! Congratulations and thanks for your inspiration.

John

Compostelle 2008 said...

Congratulations Ann! Many of us on the "Camino de Compostella" questioned ourselves if we were real pilgrims. You can wear the title with pride!

Michèle, Ottawa (ON) Canada

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ann!! You are truly amazing and inspirational to us all. --Karen

ksam said...

Very happy to hear you've arrived and are well! Funny but thought of you when I woke this morning...wondered where you were! Thanks again for sharing the journey with the rest of the world out there. Like Michele said...you truly wear the title Pilgrim!

Margaret Meredith said...

What a wonderful achievement! You truly are amazing! Thanks for sharing all your adventures during these past years.

OHMV said...

Congratulations Ann! I don't think anyone of us can fully appreciate how difficult a feat you accomplished. It's easy for us to look at those little lines on your maps but hard for us to comprehend just how far you have hiked over the years! God's speed and safe trip home!

Sylvia

MermaidLilli said...

What an amazing adventure you have journeyed, Ann. I have followed it since the beginning and kept looking forward to your next posting. I so appreciate what you have accomplished. Have a good rest! And then let us know what's your next one?
LOVE
Lillian

Anonymous said...

congrats sis. proud of you.

The Solitary Walker said...

Late on this, Ann... Congratulations on a staggering achievement! Truly fantastic.

Anonymous said...

W O W!!!! FELICITACIONES Y BUENA SUERTE! We miss you here in Denver!

Seth DeMoor said...

Ann!!!! Cograts, when do you return to Denver? You are walking back, correct? Can't wait to follow your journey back if that is the case. Blessings
SJD
OneBillionStories.com

Rebecca said...

Been away, and offline, and only just read this post. Much congratulations on an amazing journey, and thanks a bunch for sharing.

Best regards
Rebecca

LDahl said...

I was sitting here looking at your map, and I had to laugh at myself. I realized if I had driven by myself from Denver to Mexico city...I would have found that a great adventure! Hehehe...Congratulations on the completion of your walk south.

Anonymous said...

Wondering - has anyone heard from Ann since January 12? I check this website every few days & frankly, I'm WORRIED!

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

Oh, I can't wait to see you, brave and beautiful one! Thanks for keeping us all in your thoughts..you are always in mine.