To the Editor: For Halloween, I was a pilgrim. On October 31st, I began a five-day, 115-kilometer pilgrimage across Galicia, Spain, in the footsteps of those who’ve hiked to Santiago de Compostela …
To the Editor:
For Halloween, I was a pilgrim. On October 31st, I began a five-day, 115-kilometer pilgrimage across Galicia, Spain, in the footsteps of those who’ve hiked to Santiago de Compostela since the 9th century AD, where the bones of St. James the Apostle lay.
The Camino de Santiago, the “Way of St. James,” is moderately strenuous hiking. It trails through forests and farms, cutting into small villages with cobblestone streets. Each day’s six to eight hour, 20 to 30 km hike has dozens of cafes along the way to grab a hot meal plus a dated stamp for your “Camino” passport booklet. Each major town has hostels catering to hikers for €10 Euros per night, a small Catholic church for the nightly pilgrim Mass, and restaurants offering €12 to €15 Euro “peregrino” menus, three course meals with a bottle of wine.
I traveled solo but wasn’t alone. I met a 74-year-old Australian man hiking the full 700 plus kilometer Camino over 30 days, beginning in France, where he crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, twice a day calling his wife of 40 years back home. I shared dinner and a bottle of wine with a cute Brazilian woman, a PhD in art history hiking the full Camino on a work leave. I hiked two days with a German woman on vacation and, like me, only hiking the final five days, the minimum 100km needed for pilgrimage credit. She hiked for health reasons, not religious, jokingly saying she wanted to firm up her backside, which did not need firming up. We dined together with a bubbly Taiwanese couple on the Camino for their honeymoon, out for a month-long outdoorsy and culinary adventure.
Yes, I should mention the food. Pulpa, or octopus, cooked in olive oil is plentiful along the Camino. Cuttlefish, jamon, patatas bravas, olives, vino tinto and vino blanco. Evening meals brought just as much joy as the beautiful hiking scenery.
The final few kilometers approaching the Santiago Cathedral felt endless, yet also exhilarating. You feel this calm, this sense of peace arriving at the Cathedral. Other hikers laying on the ground, their backpacks sprawled out. Some of us had talked about partying like crazy in Santiago, but my final night was an easy evening in the hostel common room with my Brazilian PhD friend, my Aussie friend, and others, and €1.30 Euro cans of Estrella Galicia beer from the vending machine.