For our last day; not only in Zakopane and Poland but also of our official pilgrimage, we headed to the mountains surrounding Zakopane for the morning. So much has happened over the past week; with World Youth Day just happening days ago and now a retreat to conclude our pilgrimage. We started the day off with an early wake-up, and another awesome breakfast downstairs at our hotel; the Mercure Kasprowy. The views from the hotel gave a really stunning backdrop of the Tatra Mountains of Zakopane.
Our bus transported us to the main area of town to catch a ride on the 'funicular'. It took us up to the top of a mountain and enjoyed beautiful panoramic views over the whole of Zakopane. The ride ascended us to the top of one of the lower summits. The views again were breath-taking, and very scenic.
We were able to visit a small church which had remained steadfast through the former oppressive communism of Poland to be etched into the region's history. We explored local markets and tasted the local cuisine with potatoes in any form being a favourite of the Polish.
We were then given an opportunity to check out the street stalls and shops. Plush sheep toys were the order for the day.
Our afternoon retreat session introduced us to the Alpha Program which we hope to continue back in Australia as a means of pondering the questions of our faith. A bus trip to Zakopane's 'Our Lady of Fatima' officially ended the WYD16 pilgrimage; with Bishop-elect Richard Umbers and all our Chaplains celebrating mass with a number of Bus groups at the church.
A night time affirmation session with our bus buddies; organised and run by our ever amazing youth ambassador Victoria (who has made the trip an extremely enjoyable and blessed experience) meant that everyone was able to end our final gathering knowing that Bus 11 was truly a supportive and loving family where everyone was included. There's mixed emotions to the end of our pilgrimage experience with our heads longing to go home but our hearts not wanting to leave behind the new family we've become. We affirmed the great friendships we made with each other, and the collaboration we have now made as a bus group throughout these last 3 weeks.
And so begins our journey back home. We will continue to report about our journey back to Australia; so make sure to keep up to date with ongoing reports here and breaking news on the Twitter feed.
Our bus group will separate this evening due to separate flights. Sarah Dunn will continue to report the journey back home through her flight schedule; while Madison Thompson will continue to report on the journey with her group.