Every time I´ve tried to sit down and write a blog entry about the pilgrimage, I´always find myself at a loss of words to share this experience. Camino de Santiago is the oldest pilgrimage in Europe. Many feet have walked through the path that today supports my journey. And many will follow. It´s a constant stream that keeps moving. Many routes lead to Santiago. Some people even start walking from their home in Europe. All the different routes end in a town called Santiago, the Spanish name for ¨James,¨ one of the main disciples of Jesus Christ whose remains are buried there. Camino de Santiago literally means the ¨Way of St. James,¨ referred by pilgrims simply as ¨the way¨ or ¨the camino.¨
I´ve chosen to walk the five-week long Camino Frances, which starts in Southern France then crosses the border into Spain and goes along the northern width of the country, ending at Finisterra, which opens into to Atlantic ocean. In ancient times, people believed this was the end of the world.
The reasons for why people walk this ¨Way¨ are as diverse as the number of people walking. There are people here from all over the world -- Belgium, Germany, Janpan, Southern Korea, France, Canada, U.S., Brazil, Portugal, India, Switzerland, Australia, Holland, and of course Spain. There are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Multi-Faith, Non-religious Spiritualists, and even a couple of Atheists. And people are of all different ages, surprisingly many over sixty-five.
Generally, I walk an average of about 25 km a day. So far I´ve made it a point to walk alone and in the evenings I end up spending time with others in the Albergues, which are set-up for the pilgrims for a small fee or on a donation basis. It´s interesting to spend a large part of the day in silence and then hear the stories of other pilgrims in the evenings. Albergues so far have had anywhere from 8 to a 100 bunk-beds in a room so you get to know everyone really quickly. And at the same time, it´s not the same people each day since everyone walks at a different pace and might stay in another town. I´m walking alone and at the same time feeling that there is a strong solidarity with everyone else that´s walking. People pass each other on the road with a hearty ¨Buen Camino¨ meaning good journey.
It´s been a lot more demanding physically that I had expected, especially with the coldest May in Spain in the past 130 years. In the last 17 days, I´ve seen snow, hail, and mostly rain with temperatures ranging from 30-40 degrees in the day. However, I think the luck is turning around because the sun´s been out the last two days so it´s starting to get warmer. Regardless of the weather, it´s daylight until around 10 o´clock at night which is interesting since most of the pilgrims are tired and in bed by nine while the light is still out.:-)
Each day feels like a life-time waking up at six in the morning and walking through different towns. There is no concept of time. I have to write down the day and date to have an idea of where I am in time. Sometimes the road seems endless like I´am walking to end of the earth and other times I reach the next town before I know it. It´s a completely different life each day.
Until next time, wishing you all a Buen Camino!