What do the following have in common?
A: An American father that has lost his only son
B: An overweight hash smoking Dutchman
C: A Canadian chain smoking bitchy woman (with reason)
D: A loquatious Irish author with writers block
They are all on The Way to Santiago! I finally saw Emilio Estevez´s movie “The Way” last night. It was a wonderful movie. Inspiring, reminiscent and captures the essence of the Camino de Santiago splendidly. Watch the trailer here. For those that don´t know, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is the pilgrimage route from to Santiago de Compostela, the captial of Galicia in far Northewest Spain. Pilgrims from across all of Europe (and beyond) have been making the pilgrimage for over a thousand years to honor St. James, whose remains are held in the cathedral there.
Historically made for religious reasons, nowadays people also make the journey for personal instrospection or just as a challenge to themselves. That being said, when you finish it, it´s hard to say it wasn´t a religious experience on at least a personal level (regardless of whether you are “religious” in any way, it is a very moving experience, whatever that means to you as an individual, even if you don´t believe in God or gods or in anything…)
Two of the main pilgrimage routes pass through Northern Spain, the Northern Route and the French Route. This last one is the one that has become known as the defacto Camino, starting in St. Jean Pied de Port, France just over the Pyrennes from Spain and meandering 500 miles to Santiago. The Camino is really the one you make of it, from wherever you start and whatever route you take to get there.
As a Spaniard, the Camino is always something you´ve known about, particularly if you live life in Northern Spain. You know people who have done it. For me it was my unlce, various friends and people you meet. Always sparking your curiosity. St. James is the patron saint of Spain so it has always been an important part of Spanish culture. I´d always thought about it but hadn´t done it until last year.
Two good friends from Austin, Texas, Daniel and Tracie, made the suggestion last year. It didn´t take long for me to say yes since my cousin Carlos and I had begun talking about it around the same time. A friend of ours from our town had recently completed it and kept on saying how we wouldn´t understand it till we did it. So we did…
Daniel and Tracie wanted to do it by bike and and only had about a week. We decided to start in Burgos, a 300 mile pilgrimage to Santiago. I have to say, it is a great experience, I recommend it to any and all, no matter what your age. To get official “credit” for doing it you have to do at least 100km walking or 200km by bike or horseback (yes, some folks do it on horseback and my friend Marino has ridden his horse from our town in Cantabria to Santiago with his daughter…). You see people of all ages and walks of life on the Camino, everybody seems to have their purpose though.
It is what you make of it. We saw wonderful places, met interesting people, ate great meals and drank great wine throughout, were challanged and overjoyed by the end of it. I can´t rave enough about it, and no, you won´t fully understand till you´ve done it…
Emilio Estevez´s recent movie “The Way”, does a magnificent job of trying to transmit all that is the Camino. For those that haven´t done it, I hope the movie inspires you to reflect on your life at least and to maybe do the Camino. For those that have done the Camino, I bet you´ll get choked up as you reminesce while watching the movie and say all the time, “I remember when that happened to me!” The places, the types of people, the incredible scenery of Northern Spain, the instospection, the purposes, the problems, the quirks, the great food and wine, the one of a kind things tha happen to you along the way…in essecne, the experience… if you´ve done the Camino, it will touch you deeply.
I´ll leave you with some pics from last years journey. I am going to do the French route again by bike in May, this time from St. Jean Pie de Port and with the love of my life. It will be a wonderful journey on so many levels and we are both looking forward to it greatly. I´d be lying if I didn´t say that part of my wishes to do it on foot… next time!
Watch “The Way”, you won´t regret it…Buen Camino, pilgrim…