15 June 2014 | Galicia
The relics of St. James are located at the Cathedral (Se) in Santiago. St. James arrived in Galicia at Padron but returned to the Holy Land where he was decapitated. His followers brought his body (and severed head) back to Galicia where he was eventually lost to history. After the fall of the Roman Empire waves of Visigoths and Moors conquered Galicia. However in 813 AD a celestial light was seen in the hills (the ‘Campo Stellae” or “Field of Stars”)…St. James was re-discovered!!. Pilgrimages began thereafter becoming quite popular from the 10th to 15th centuries.
The “Ways of St. James” are numerous with routes one can follow from points in France, Spain and Portugal. The Portugues Camino begins in Lisbon (over 600 Kms) or if one chooses from Oporto…a mere 240 Kms to Santiago. This would be our chosen route. About one-third of the trails are through natural pathways with much of the route on the Roman military road “Via XIX”. We passed over many original roman bridges built 2,000 years ago. The Roman milestones “miliarios” are still along the way now used to indicate the number of kilometers to go to Santiago.
In modern times the Ways of St. James have become very popular. Numerous ‘Peregrinos’ hike or bike the route following yellow arrows or sea shells. Indeed the seashell has become one of the main icons of the Way. That, and a pilgrim’s gourd and walking stick. Albergues are located in various towns and villages offering inexpensive (typically 6 Euros) accommodations. There are bunk beds in a dormitory room for 20-30 pilgrims.
We covered the distance in 11 days hiking about 20 kms per day. The weather was perfect for the first five days at 20-23 C and sunny. Some rain came along but our gear and luck kept us comfortable.
The friendliness of the folks along the way was truly remarkable. At the very first café break the owner would not accept any money! A bread delivery van handed a warm full loaf to Olga as he passed by. A family picking fruit loaded us up. We ordered half portions of the very large ‘Peregrino meals’ and were given full portions with liqueurs at no additional charge. At many cafes they served us small treats for free. Extra wine or Sangria was given for free as well. A remarkable people with unparalleled generosity.
Upon our arrival in the wonderful old city of Santiago we lined up at the Pilgrim center to have the final stamp placed on our Pilgrim Passport “Credencial del Peregrino”. A pilgrim mass is scheduled for noon of every day where the countries of the arriving pilgrims are read out. Canada was represented much to our delight. Even the famous ‘Botafumerio’ was lit and swung after the mass.
Day 1 to Rates: 20 kms
Day 2 to Tamal: 25 kms
Day 3 to Ponte de Lima: 25 kms
Day 4 to Rubiaes: 19 kms
Day 5 to Valenca: 19 kms
Day 6 to Mos: 24 kms
Day 7 to Arcade: 21 kms
Day 8 to San Amaro: 22 kms
Day 9 to O Pino (Valga): 23 kms
Day 10 to Teo: 21 kms
Day 11 to Santiago: 14 kms