Favourite photos: 1 - Santiago de Compostella 1999

In no particular order, I'm going to start posting some of my fave pics that I've taken over the years with a little commentary to explain why in each case.

First up, a photo from the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage that I undertook in 1998 with my good friend Bro. Henri Rivoalen.

That summer, I was leading an annual, itinerant, 3-week summer cycling camp around France that Brothers from my order had been involved with for over 20 years. I was due to come up to Bro. Henri's community in Landerneau, Brittany, after the camp and then go hiking with him in the Pyrénées. Whilst I was doing my camp, Henri was cycling to Santiago de Compostella, N.W. Spain with 5 friends from his cycling club in Landerneau. Two days riding from Santiago a member of Henri's group and good friend of his, André, was killed in a collision. Henri was the only one of the group with him. André died in his arms on the side of the road.

The body was repatriated to Landerneau, Brittany for the funeral. I finished my camp and returned to Landerneau just before the funeral, only to discover what had happened. I told Henri that if he wanted to go off on his own or just stay at home instead of going off to the Pyrénées with me then I would understand. He said, however, that he would like to go back to N.W. Spain to the site of the accident and complete their aborted pilgrimage on foot in honour of the dead friend... and he wanted me to come with him. I accepted. We set off by car a few days after the funeral, driving down through France. We stayed the night in our community near St. Jean De Luz in S.W. France, where back in 1990 Henri and myself were together for the year; me a novice Brother, he the Assistant Novice Master. It was during that year (and thanks to Henri) that I discovered a love of long distance cycling (especially in the mountains) and of mountain hiking.

The next day we drove to the site of the accident. On the way Henri took me to visit some of his favourite sites on the pilgrims' route in N.E. Spain. That evening we left the car in Astorga (the nearest big town to the accident site) in readiness to set off on foot for Santiago the following morning. I will never forget the 9 days it then took us to hike the distance to Santiago. It was a most moving, spiritually uplifting, life-affirming experience, full of memorable encounters, wonderful old churches and stunning scenery. For Henri, arriving in Santiago after the death of his friend was an overpoweringly emotional experience, but I think also rather cathartic.

The above photo was taken during the final days of our hike. I love the way you see the path going off into the distance with other people dotted along it.
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