I’ve been pondering what to do. There’s a few things I need to do, somethings that I’d like to do, but one of my plans is, for later this year perhaps, one thing that I’d really like to commit to, is…
…to walk the Camino de Santiago. A pilgrimage.
Over the last couple of years the idea has been ‘bouncing around’ in my mind, and I’ve read umpteen books on it and read the journals of those who have walked it, seen a few videos about it, and even studied one of the few journey-planner books that ‘concertina out’ to show you the route, variations, places of interest on the map, and locations of pensiones (basic hostels for sleeping and for breakfasting along the way, which sounds really ‘rough’) and alternative accommodation (which sound much more ‘me’ and much more appealing).
‘Walking the Camino de Santiago taught me the wonders of physical challenge, the wonders of spiritual freedom, and the wonders of baby powder.’ Christy Hall
The Route: One of the most popular, and the one that appeals to me the most is the route that leads from St Jean-Pied-de-Pont near Biarritz, in the south-western corner of France, along the northern part of Spain to Santiago. Some would say it is traditionally Christian county, and Celtic and Druid land, Basque areas and more, and I dare say all of those and others have walked (and still walk) the Camino because it transcends mere nationality.
It takes about 30-33 days to complete as it’s 800km long, that’s 500 miles (hence the song title in this articles heading, words from that great (umm, well ‘well-known’) Scottish duo, The Proclaimers.
However, glutton for punishment that I am, I’d really like to travel further, at least for another 2-3 days, and arrive at the coast, at a place called Finnisterre, literally, ‘the end of the world’. So-called, because the Romans, from yesteryear, saw it as the end of their empire, the end of their world.
Why do it? I was going to say, ‘because it’s there’, and that’s part of the appeal. The other reasons are that it has a long history. It’s the journey that is really important, and not the destination. It is deeply spiritual. Pilgrims have been walking that route for over a millennia and I’d like to be added to that number, and it’s a route that is full of pathos, meaning and history and wonderful myth (and that’s something for another time); and usually, there are two main reasons for doing it.
‘A beginner’s mind and a backpack is all you need.’
When you arrive at the end of that pilgrimage, you take the paperwork (a sheet that has been ‘stamped’ at major points along the way) to the Pilgrim’s Office desk. They issue a certificate of completion. There are two types of certificate: one is in Latin, and is issued to pilgrims who declare that they did the Camino for religious or spiritual purposes. Your name will also be written in Latin. That’s the certificate I’ll walk for, and I’m eager to see how they ‘Latinise’ my name, Tadhg. The second certificate is for those who did it for cultural or historical purposes. This one is written in Spanish.
It’s usual, when it comes to declaring the walk for spiritual reasons for some to dedicate the walk in memory of a loved-one, and that’s what I’ll do – in memory of my dear late Dad and Mum.
‘Connect with others, nature, and yourself. Throughout the Camino de Santiago, it is tradition to greet anyone you meet with a “Buen Camino.” Everyone becomes a part of your expedition, a part of your story…’
There is a great movie/DVD called ‘The Way’. It stars Martin Sheen as a doctor, Tom, who receives an urgent call from the French police regarding his son, who….well, that would be telling. It’s a great DCD, a good storyline and shows off some of the scenery and meaning of walking the Camino de Santiago, The Way Of St James. Here’s a trailer.
Well, this is my intention. My aim is to do it later this year. I would value your prayers, energy, positivity, and well-wishes for this event, as I want to make it special, and also want to ‘take you with me’, metaphorically, as I’d like to report about the journey on a daily basis as it happens. But, it’s not for a while yet. It’s an aim. And, so back to more Camino research, studying and planning for me.
‘Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking’. Antonio Machado
But, please start sending that much-needed energy. Regards, Tadhg.