Day four finds us walking from Mitala Maria Parish Church, to the next stopover, which is Katende Catholic Church. Some people arrive as early as 2am and others as late as 8am. This distance walked is estimated to be over 32km. I am part of one of the slow groups and among us is a Filipino, Willy Vallar, who is also a parish priest at Kimanya. This is the second time he is walking to Namungongo.
“Walking is a way of sharing faith with the people in Uganda and also encouraging them not to get afraid of doing so, so as to improve their connection with God,” Vallar says.
With about 20km to Katende, it becomes a real struggle to continue as my left foot has become swollen and has a blister as well. I am forced to make 72 steps per minute.
A three hours rest at Kamengo somewhat relieves the pain, but when we get up to continue the journey at 1am on Saturday, the pain is awakened. 80-year-old Cosma Mukasa, the elder of the pilgrims who says this is his fortieth time to walk, comments that at the time they started the pilgrimage, they had no idea that the numbers would keep increasing
We finally arrive at Katende. One cannot tell the exact number of pilgrims because several others have joined us along the way. As per the registration forms, the figure is estimated to be over 1,200 pilgrims. The two volunteering doctors helping out at some point get tired, just like any other person. Some pilgrims get help, but not everybody can be attended to.
The good thing is that we are given ample time to rest at every Catholic parish. For easy identification and safety reasons, name-tags showing the parish and diocese where one is coming from are worn around the neck. When someone fails on the road, group members hold the person arm in arm or he or she boards a car to get to the next destination.
The temptation to get onto a car is great, but that really is not an option for me. “I have come so far; surely I can make it to the end,” I convince myself, and stay put.