Back to basics walking to Santiago de Compostela.
15.09.2011 - 28.09.2011 23 °C
Tradition tells us that the apostle James (Santiago in Spanish and Galician, Jakob in German, St Jacques in French) was transported from Jerusalem to Galicia in Nothern Spain, the city which is now known as Santiago de Compostela. Now a holy destination, pilgrims for over a thousand years have been walking to the city on pilgrimages.
I walked from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, a total of approximately 230 kilometres. Each day varied between 15 to 30 kilometres, with each day bringing at least one mountain to climb over.
My motivations for completing the walk were originally:
- to do something "big" before leaving Europe
- to challenge myself physically and mentally
- to experience Portugal and Spain on a more local level
What I didn't expect was to experience personal changes and learn in a spiritual sense. I didn't expect to make amazing friends either.
I went alone, but I was rarely alone. Some days I had to quickly shuffle ahead of the group or laze on behind, just so I could collect my thoughts on an individual basis. On the days that I walked with my new amigos, I laughed the entire time. In the evenings at the hostels ("albergues", or hostels for pilgrims), I continued laughing, had communal meals, talked to new people and discussed our feelings on the Camino and life.
Most of the ideas, thoughts, knowledge and learning I had in a spiritual and emotional way can't be put into words here. It's all in my head, I know what I learnt, but I can't describe it in a way that makes sense. On my second day of walking, I thought of a quote in the movie "V for Vendetta". Finch, one of the investigators into the "terrorist" named "V", says:
........I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It's like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back....I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we're all part of it, and all trapped by it.........
For those of you who have seen the movie, you should understand that the message extends far beyond a man in a Guy Fawke's mask. If you haven't seen it, see it (not to understand what I'm saying, but simply because it's one of the best films ever made).
It's like when I was walking, I could feel the connection between things, I could understand why people have walked this pilgrimage that has extended back hundreds of years, I could see my life up until that point, and my life ahead, I could understand why I'm living, why I'm here. I could understand how simple things in life should be, rather than being trapped by the money driven society we live in today.
I don't expect you to understand my reasonings on this at all, as it was in fact, somewhat a personal revelation, and, well, that is the best way I can describe it.
The Way is marked by yellow arrows, directing you where to go. It was difficult to get lost. If you missed an arrow because you were so involved in your personal journey, you just figured it out and got back on the Way.
It's the same in life. The arrows directing us where to go are invisible though. You can get lost, but if you do, you just figure things out, get yourself back on your feet, and get back on the path. Maybe you realise that this new path that you got lost on, is actually a better way that makes you happier. There is no wrong way, it's just the fear of going the wrong way. Follow the path YOU want, the path YOU choose, and enjoy the ride along the way.
What's following is a selection of the best photos that I took of my journey to Santiago de Compostela. The remainder of the photos plus an edited video of my Camino experience will find their way online at some point.
Working in the countryside
"Fevers Bridge", where a pilgrim died of a fever in 1252
One of the delicious water fountains along the Way with fresh cold water
This German man is on a 4 year pilgrimage to Jerusalem
A glimpse into a pilgrim during medieval times perhaps?
An odd pair of extremely happy dogs along the Way
Where is the path taking me?
Morning sun on the lake
Some new friends
A cat soaking up every glorious minute
The 1st yellow arrow out of Porto
Myself on the Way
Border crossing into Spain
A pilgrim decided to go barefoot?
Stones that pilgrims have collected and placed along the Way
Myself after arriving at the end of my journey Santiago Cathedral
The group of new friends after arriving in Santiago
My collection of "sellos"
0.0km at Finisterre, Galicia, Spain, the place which people thought was the end of the world.
Paulo Coehlo has written a book on the French route of the Camino de Santiago, and there is a new movie coming out produced by the Sheen family (Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez), releasing in October in the States.
I didn't allow myself to read Paulo Coehlo's book until I had finished the Camino, as I didn't want it to create any sort of expectations, but I am thrilled now to be able to, as Paulo Coehlo is one of my favourite people on the planet.
I have made two big lifestyle choices since arriving back home. Probably if I hadn't experienced what I had the last few weeks, this wouldn't be happening.
The Camino didn't change me, it just made me realise who I really am.
But the man, and still more the woman, who can be accused either of doing "what nobody does," or of not doing "what everybody does," is the subject of as much depreciatory remark as if he or she had committed some grave moral delinquency.
- John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty", 1859