Like Mecca to the Muslims, the Catholics have 4 major pilgrimage sites where they can win the Jubilee: Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and the Santo Toribio de Liébana Monastery in Cantabria, the last two in Spain.
In 2007, on one of the every 7-year pilgrimage celebrations to Santo Toribio’s Monestry , a pilgrim friend and I decided to walk from Santander to Santiago de Compostela. A 26 day trip that covered part of the northern coast of Spain, crossing the Picos da Europa mountain range to Potes, where the Monastery is located, over the Fuente De mountain ridge down to Mansilia de Las Mulas to meet up with the traditional French Camino (traditional French Saint James Way) to Santiago de Compostela. In all it was almost 780kms of pure wonder.
When one walks for so many days carrying all ones belongings on a back pack and stepping through routes that have been trodden by so many pilgrims for centuries is a life time experience – one feels the energy of these lives that have passed these paths creep up ones feet.
Really, all one does is imposed meditation, and that’s a fact – from dawn to late afternoon one is pretty much alone walking from a pilgrim hostel to the other in a time and energy-consuming activity and there is not much more to do other than appreciate the scenery that unrolls upon each step. One has time to truly “see” the people, taste the local food, learn to respect the weather and finally learn to accept life itself on an everyday basis – a very simple and addictive way to live.
I have been to the different Caminos to Santiago de Compostela since 2002, when I did the French Camino (Saint Jean Pied de Port, France –Santiago de Compostela) and hope to go back for a refill of my batteries some time soon.
Presented is a small selection of the over 1300 pictures of the Santo Toribio/Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Route of 2007 (26 days gave me more than enough time to register each step) and I hope this might inspire my blogging friends to pack their back packs, cameras, put on their boots and plunge into this world of meditation, challenge and self-knowledge. Just living and exchanging thoughts, pains and blisters with fellow pilgrims from all four corners of the world – be it for religious reasons or not – is well worth each bit of pain! By the way, I never met anyone who has been there and back that has not kept these days tucked deep in their hearts and memories and somehow have left a piece of their energy on those cobble stone of the plaza in front of the Cathedral of Santiago. Once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim!
As they say in the Camino: Ultreya!*
*”Ultreya” is a Spanish word, derived from the original Latin, meaning rejoice and onward! It was in common use by pilgrims to greet and to encourage one another along the way.