The immense beauty of mountains, rivers, villages, churches and community along the way, builds to an intensity at the end point of Compostela de Santiago, where all pilgrims complete their journey and receive their certificate if they have walked the official last 100 kms. Pilgrims from all over the world then attend mass in the stunning cathedral/basilica in Compostela, and if they are lucky will experience the spiritual blessing of the Botaparfumerie.
Roncesvalles in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Neither my buddy Nic nor myself had done any hard training for this walk, but we did meet once a week for a longer walk to get our legs and backs stronger whilst carrying a backpack. We had no idea that we had packed too much for our journey, and discovered all too quickly that walking with over 20 pounds was way too much! As you can see in the beginning we had huge backpacks!
Arriving in Barcelona we were overwhelmed at the beautiful architecture, and radial symmetry in the city which seemed to ensconce old and new in a wonderful sublime reality. Community thrives at the heart of each city, town and village, as cars are rejected for pedestrian walkways and plazas, and families meet to drink cafe con leche, and catch up on the day's events.
After a day's sightseeing we caught the train to Pamplona, and met our first pilgrims en route to Roncesvalles by taxi. We were so excited to get started, but there was a lot to take in in the small town and monastery of Roncesvallez. We were to experience our first Alberghie, our first mass in the cathedral, and enjoy hospitality in the first pilgrim restaurant along the way. Our first night I was transported back to my youth with hostels, sharing bunk beds, and friendship with strangers, all unified by a common cause- a pilgrimage across Spain started by the apostle Mark from the Bible.
I would become immune to sleep deprivation, weary limbs, and outdoor temperatures as the way beckoned me to explore deep within. At that first mass I experienced God saying being still and take in all that you observe, including the blessings, and you will start to understand your Camino. The next morning I learned my first lesson about being observant, when I fell straight from the patio onto the ground before I even started my walk. Nic and I both had a good laugh at my splattered body on the ground and then it was onwards to start our trail. We were to look for the yellow Jacobian
signs that would become our beacons to lead us along the way.
The natural and man made beauty of old Roman bridges, churches, cobbled roads and pilgrim sights including the comedic Stop sign kept us motivated as we examined the reasons we were doing this trip. I was hoping to hear stories and see some of the blessings I had read about in Paul Coelho's book The Pilgrimage, and in the movie The Way. I knew this was a lot to ask when only doing a small section of the trail. Yet we were already hearing encouraging and moving stories from other pilgrims, as we sat around the communal tables at dinner, and enjoyed our pilgrim menu. I was meeting people from all over the world, and loving the camaraderie so quickly established. It did not matter which denomination you represented. Everyone was identified by their pilgrim shell and common goal; to reach Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St James were buried in the Basilica
Zubiri to Pamplona will be shared next week. Thanks for reading my journey. God bless you!