Batch. Meeting with Georges Jougla: “from a walker I became a pilgrim”

Georges Jougla, a hiking enthusiast who went from walker to pilgrim. (©A. Décup / Actu Lot)

There are thousands of adventurers setting off on the paths of France and the world. In the age of speed, the walker is undeniably resistant. The Quercynois Georges Jougla, from Gourdon in the Batch, is one of these. From his journeys of 2,000 kilometers a year, he shares his joy and happiness with us.

Our humanity, too seated in its offices and its cars, now has ants in its legs. Philosopher hiker or motivated pilgrim, what is the walker looking for?

A path on oneself

If the pilgrim of the Middle Ages walked to gain his paradise, the hiker of today rather makes a path on himself drawing a new spirituality. Men, women, young or retired, they have all the profiles. Some walk to take stock, to mark a turning point in their life, to push the limits of a lazy body, to surpass themselves, to look a personal ordeal in the face.

Walking, isn’t it above all, literally and figuratively, to lighten up, empty your bag and along the way declutter an existence to find the thread of the essential? Isn’t it also the commitment of body and soul?

And if walking was also praying. Alongside empty-hearted strolling, we must learn fruitful walking, which is like a retreat in itself. At random on solitary walks, we discover more treasures.

Walking, the commitment of body and soul

Meeting with Georges Jougla, 76 years old who spent “his first 32 years in Cahors and Gourdon” as a physical education teacher and who, in his fifties, decided to walk 2000 kilometers each year. These will be the routes to Compostela from Le Puy-en-Velay, then from Paris and Briançon. It will be Jerusalem from Canterbury (England) via the Grand Saint-Bernard pass via Arles and Toulouse. Always alone.

News: Are you a born walker?

Georges Jougla: I love walking. From my youth, accustomed to hikes and camps in the middle of nature, the steps have been a joy. When I saw retirement approaching, as I was on the move, I applied to myself what I taught my students: try to keep myself in good physical health for as long as possible.

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Why in 2002 did you decide to set off?

GG: In activity, as soon as I had a few days of freedom, I set out to discover the world. When I had more time available, I forced myself to walk at least five kilometers a day in the heat, the rain or in the wind. Or on the snow, where I live part of the year, in Queyras. It is my discipline of life.

What made it click?

GG: The Puy en Velay path held out its hand to me. Thus, on February 1, 2005, I began to survey from the Massif Central the way leading to the tomb of Saint Jacques.

In these winter days, with weight on my shoulders, going up and then down the steps of the cathedral of Le Puy, totally frozen, was a gift from nature, “a gift at risk” which led me to brave my hesitations and worries. Training myself towards surpassing myself. It was the price of freedom.

In loneliness

Loneliness is your great friend…

GG: If you want to discover the world in depth, leave the car in the garage and set off on foot, alone.

I travel alone to build a better relationship with others, to be more available. I receive and I give. Far from the worries of everyday life, the calm of solitude allows me to escape, to dream, to think of something else. To live better.

What are you doing while walking?

GG: I let time pass. On each outing, I walk with my friend the silence that gives me lots of confidences. Without telling each other, we walk side by side, sweating on steep slopes or under the threatening thunderstorm. In great complicity.

Being a contemplative, I admire the beautiful, the good that accompanies me or that arises towards me. These are times of meditation.

You are a communicator. But on the road, the walker “undergoes” silence. Tell us what’s going on inside you…

GG: The media of the modern world, the windows of shopping centers, the boulevards of the cities crowded with passers-by always in a hurry, I avoid them as much as possible. The perpetual agitation in which we move about annoys me. Silence and solitude are real happiness for me.

So many kilometers to brave in the fatigue, the unexpected, the dangers, did you not know moments of doubt?

GG: No, I have only known times of pain which do not affect my morale. After long hours of sleep and a restful night, whatever the weather conditions or the difficulties of the terrain, the miseries are forgotten. For a new beginning.

Have you ever thought of giving up?

GG: When I commit, I have no desire to give up. Sending everything off in the face of any difficulty is not at all my state of mind. Ultimately, doubt is quickly swept away. I say to myself: “Georges, you are going off the rails. You are the happiest of men. And then if you’re here, it’s because God sees no inconvenience. So no worries, we have to go back”.

How to avoid fear?

GG: Maybe I was afraid to see where I was stepping after dark! But that’s all. What do you want me to be afraid of? God is there, very close to me, and he accompanies me permanently.

Santiago de Compostela, Jerusalem…

You went to Santiago de Compostela then to Jerusalem. Why ?

GG: I spent nine days at “The House of Abraham” in Jerusalem, dominating the Old City from its ramparts. From this idyllic place, I walked all over the city, going even, always on foot, to Bethlehem. It was then that from a walker I became a pilgrim.

“God gives himself to be encountered along the way” writes the Assumptionist Jacques Nieuviarts. What do you think ?

GG: God accompanies me permanently in my walks and I discuss with him all day long… Even when at the beginning, I was not particularly aware of it.

“Walking is also mystical” notes in 2017, the writer Franz-Olivier Giesbert. How to remain an atheist after such journeys?

GG: I have never been an atheist. Life without believing does not exist. Personally, I work a lot with Providence. In my daily life as in walking, God is always by my side.

“What amazes me is the hope” writes Charles Péguy. What do you expect after such journeys?

GG: Like everyone else, I will go to Heaven. It is not a hope, it is a certainty. This is called faith.


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Batch. Meeting with Georges Jougla: “from a walker I became a pilgrim”

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