CAMINO DE SANTIAGO Day 1: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Pamplona to Estella, 44 kms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.