Carlota Valenzuela walked through France in March and April, then Italy in May and June, where she visited with Pope Francis, who also gave her a letter to secure assistance.
By Algemeiner Staff
A Catholic pilgrim has reached Jerusalem nearly a year and some 3,700 miles after beginning a walking journey from Spain.
Carlota Valenzuela said she was living a happy, professional life in Madrid when, at age 29, she engaged in devout prayer and decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, a network of ancient pilgrimage routes. She took a year-long sabbatical from work and began her trek on January 2 from Finisterre, Spain’s westernmost point, with the aim of reaching Jerusalem by Christmas.
Equipped with a traditional letter from the Bishop of Madrid, containing a request in seven languages that she be granted aid along the way with food, lodgings, and other assistance she may require, Valenzuela walked through France in March and April, then Italy in May and June, where she visited with Pope Francis, who also gave her a letter to secure assistance.
She then crossed Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania, before reaching Greece in October. After flying into Cyprus, she sailed to Israel on the boat of an Israeli man with Uruguayan roots, Claudio, who heard of her voyage and wanted to help her in the final leg.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve dreamed about this moment,” Valenzuela wrote on Instagram, where her journey attracted tens of thousands of followers, after sailing the Mediterranean waters from Limassol, Cyprus to Herzliya, Israel.
While in Israel, she was hosted by Claudio’s family in Kfar Saba for a few days, and also visited Haifa, Akko, I’billin, Nazareth, and Kibbutz Lavi, among other destinations. On part of her journey through the country she was accompanied by Golan Rice, an Israeli hiker.
She completed the final leg of her journey after crossing the Jaffa Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism said. She was greeted and given a certificate by Noga Sher-Greco, the ministry’s director of religious tourism.
“I feel that every place I’ve been has prepared me for here, for Israel,” Valenzuela said in an interview published by Hebrew media earlier this month. “This is my first time in Israel and I had no expectations, but there is no way to imagine Israel.”
“I thought about pilgrims who came here by boat over the years and the history and how they felt,” she added. “And when I arrived here, at first, it was a shock for me, but I stayed with the family from Kfar Saba who gave me a ride on the yacht, and for three days I visited a kibbutz and a moshav of their friends. It was very special.”
When asked about difficulties in her journey, Valenzuela shared that she had not experienced any. “In terms of security, it was fine, and there was bad weather sometimes, like snow in France or scary dogs I met on the way, or I was afraid of not finding a place to stay when night fell. But in the end, everything was fine and I slept every night in an organized place, not in a campsite.”