Thursday, 3 November 2011

Camino de Santiago (Part 1)

Camino de Santiago  aka  The Way of St. James  aka  Agata off a bike.

I was off the bike for a month and had done only a few spins during the three weeks preceding my trip. I don’t know what effect it will have on my cycling performance but whatever it turns out to be, it was worth it.

Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage route in the northern Spain leading to Santiago de Compostella - a city in Galicia in north-west Spain where the remains of St. James are buried. There is more than one way going to Santiago, the most popular one being Camino de Frances, a 800km path starting close to the border between France and Spain. It has been walked by people from all over the world for over a thousand years and it hasn't changed much in that time. It is one of three big Christian pilgrimages (the other two being to Jerusalem and to Rome), however people walk it for variety of reasons: spiritual, historical, cultural, because they want to get fitter, to think about their lives, to be alone or to spend holidays in sunny Spain. Whatever rocks your boat ;)

Before it became a Christian pilgrimage path, it was a significant route for ancient pagan people who walked it to the western coast of Spain, the cape Finisterre, which in Latin means the end of the land. Finisterre is located 100km west of Santiago de Compostella and also today is the final destination for many of those walking Camino.
Why did I go there? Because it kept re-appearing in my life for years, with increased frequency in the few months before I undertook it, and I knew it wouldn't stop until I go there. I jumped at the first opportunity and set off after only four-weeks preparation (including shopping around for shoes and a rucksack as well as short walks in the Wicklow Mountains; these were without carrying load on my back however and I was soon to discover how great a difference it makes).
(A- St Jean Pied de Port, S- Santiago de Compostella, V- Finisterre)



Four weeks of walking, 800km covered.
Getting up before dawn, putting a rucksack packed with everything I was going to need during a one-month period on my back and going out into darkness to witness the world waking up and to welcome another day, looking forward to what it can bring. And walking, walking, walking… 25km, 30km, 35km a day, depending on the state of the feet and the state of the spirit.



Fighting the heat of over 35 degrees as I begin melting above 25 deg. Every now and then being forced to fight hunger, because it’s not that easy to travel around Spain, where the main food is bread and pasta, when you have allergy to wheat. And the only thing served in bars during the siesta, which is 2pm-5pm, are sandwiches. Struggling with the swelling of the feet which were not used to all-day-long workouts in such temperatures and as a result in need of more space in the shoes than I could provide. Feeling gratitude to the legs at the end of the day for carrying me and my belongings; stretching them, massaging and caring for blisters that were appearing at irregular intervals and in unpredictable places, in this way providing some sort of entertainment. Watching every-day gradual deterioration of the body, which woke up every morning fresh and crispy only to become sore and hardly able to move in the evening. And repeating the same pattern day by day, for a month.
Having time. Lots of time. Thinking. A lot. Re-considering priorities in life. Re-considering the life. Facing previously well-hidden fears, waking up of nightmares at every night during the first week.
Day 14. Fixing my foot in Castrojeriz.
Facing your own demons, standing there just in front of you, undistracted by every-day activities and worries and instead just walking with you, side by side, for long hours. Hiking through idyllic, quiet, peaceful scenery outside you and at the same time through a storm inside. Stirring everything up, shaking it and then… putting it nicely in the right order, everything at it’s own place. And smiling when breathing in the air so clean, refreshing and energizing after all the dirt has been washed away by the heavy rain.




More here:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4




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