Camino de Santiago Day 1: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Still quite a long way to go....
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CAMINO DE SANTIAGO Day 1: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Pamplona to Estella, 44 kms.

Fixing up the bike which was shipped to my hotel the day I arrived
Fixing up the bike which was shipped to my hotel the day I arrived

Finally, after years of procrastinating, I found myself on the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to fulfill a vow, made nine years ago when we first visited, that one day I would come back as a pilgrim. Biking the whole 750km. route is the fastest way to do so instead of walking and I give myself a dozen days to finish it starting from Pamplona close to the French border across the Pyrenees.

On the outskirts of Pamplona entering the expressway with my 10 speed bike, two backpacks and a bottle of water.
On the outskirts of Pamplona entering the expressway with my 10 speed bike, two backpacks and a bottle of water.
The dirt track where walking pilgrims pass.
The dirt track where walking pilgrims pass.

Like millions of pilgrims before me dating back to 800AD, I would be making my way to a place aptly called “The Field of Stars” where, legend has it, St. James was believed to be buried. he was the first disciple to be martyred (beheaded by Herod of Agrippa in Jerusalem) and his remains are said to have been taken by his followers to a place close by to present-day Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. There he would have lain unknown and forgotten until a hermit had a vision of a star shining in a field resulting to the supposed discovery of his tomb. Hence the name Compostela meaning “campo de estrellas” or field of stars. Upon hearing about this, the King of Asturias Alfonso II declared him the patron saint of Spain and soon stories about him leading the charge against the Moors (who at that time were the invaders) started to circulate. Thus he became known as Santiago Matamoros, the Moor Slayer, and a church was built over his tomb helping to start a trend for people to venerate him by going on pilgrimage.

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Taking a break in Astrain from the heat of the noonday sun.
Taking a break in Astrain from the heat of the noonday sun.
Still quite a long way to go....
Still quite a long way to go….
Camino de Santiago Day 1: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
I kept thinking before plunging into the highway, Why am I here?

As his popularity spread far and wide in Europe in the 11th century (at one point over half a million people came) the number of monasteries and accommodations sprouted along the route to assist the pilgrims and a monk even published a guide – called the Codex Calixtinus – to the pilgrimage complete with descriptions of places along the way. This became known as the Camino Frances since its original route started in the village of St. Jean-Pied-De-Port in France just across the Pyrenees. The whole length covers 789 kms. and the traditional way of doing it is by walking – taking about over a month to Santiago.

I had to stop every now and then to appreciate the beautiful view of the rolling plains in the Province of Navarre.
I had to stop every now and then to appreciate the beautiful view of the rolling plains in the Province of Navarre.


At the Pamplona cathedral where I bought my Compostela Credencial which you can have stamped at the churches you pass by or albergues where you stay.
At the Pamplona cathedral where I bought my Compostela Credencial which you can have stamped at the churches you pass by or albergues where you stay.

Many do the pilgrimage for varied reasons and some may not even be religious in nature. I am doing it for something very personal as well as giving thanks to the Almighty.

The view of Pamplona the day I left on the first leg of my journey.
The view of Pamplona the day I left on the first leg of my journey.
The city walls of Pamplona
The city walls of Pamplona By Miguillen – Own work, CC BY 3.0
The statue downtown of the Running of the Bulls which happens annually in July.
The statue downtown of the Running of the Bulls which happens annually in July.

Anyway, here I am, rented bike in hand with two bags and my trusty Nikon looking forward to some backbreaking rides. I plan to enjoy the whole solo trip and, hopefully, find meaning to my existence here on earth….

Wish me luck!

Note: This was my daily journal throughout the pilgrimage route which took all of 12 days from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.

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