Walking for Santiago, or to Santiago?
A short while back, my cousin and I set of on a walk to Santiago De Compostela. The walk is known as the Camino Ingles.
It was the second “pilgrimage” walk that he and I had undertaken.
Simon, who in reality I have always seen as my brother and not my cousin, makes the perfect walking partner. We know how to avoid the tender points; we have such a rich shared history and so many common interests.
We were both raised to be open minded, meaning that even though our viewpoints have diverged in some ways, we can generally find a consensus on anything.
In 2018 we’d plunged into the lush hills of the Scottish Borders, following St Cuthbert’s Way.
We chose this walk, because it started in Melrose, the town that he and I had been schooled in, had watched and played rugby in, that our parents had lived and died in.
It was a fitting homage to our Scottish roots.
The walk is essentially the brainchild of the local councils along the way.
Whether Saint Cuthbert’s hallowed feet ever followed that path or whether his body ever rested in “St Cuthbert’s Cave” as Monks fled the Vikings with his earthly remains, we’ll that’s lost in the sands of time.
It made for an excellent and beautiful walk, the denouement of which was our arrival at Holy Island.
This stunning weather-beaten little corner of our fair-isles delivered everything that was required; beauty, nature, peace and tranquillity in spades. My short time there was restorative, I’d recommend this healing place to anybody looking for a time-out.
So, to 2022. We had decided that the walk should take place yearly, but a dramatic work change made it more difficult for my cousin to have time off. Shortly after the world was plunged into pain and uncertainty.
We targeted June 2022, to go walking in Spain. Spain’s a country that’s really close to my cousin’s heart, and I had long considered the possibility that I might want to walk the main Camino Francés one day. It seemed like the perfect way to introduce myself to Camino Walking.
Let’s be clear here, the distances can be challenging (35km one day!..) but we are fair-weather walkers, in that we have our main bags ferried from accommodation to accommodation.
We walk with a day pack, and at night all the luxuries await in our pre-booked rooms.
(Is that the sound of the Wife of Bath, turning in her grave?)
Even with these controlled and homogenised elements, it was still a challenging adventure!
We flew to A Coruna in the North West of Spain, and took a Bus to Ferrol.
It was the custom of Pilgrims to walk from all points North and in Ireland, often filtering through Durham Cathedral en route to the South Coast, where they would embark for Northern Spain.
Curiously, for my story, St Cuthbert’s final resting place was Durham Cathedral!
Not sure what to make of that yet!
We rested up for an afternoon and set of for our first day’s walk of 30 kms.
The following days were a further 22km, 24km, 25km and a final 16kms stroll to enter Santiago!
(I was told it was 125km, but my final scroll given to me by the Catedral De Santiago stated 116km! — I wasn’t surprised to discover that the church had taken a cut of this as well..!)
Since the Thirteenth Century, the faithful have been trekking this dusty route.
To be fair, life has moved on a little.
We found ourselves walking through Eucalyptus forests, only to emerge in a Super-market carpark, or setting off through the “Zona Industrial” for our day’s walk.
At one stage we followed a motorway for a good 10 kilometres, and on another afternoon had to pass under a mesh of powerlines that filled the sky, and a huge humming power station!
They say seventy percent of the walk is on “paved roads” — this didn’t mean in built up areas, but it wasn’t “Nature” either. There were long spells in the Eucalyptus forests, that smelled amazing, but also lots of time walking in between small villages, along “B” roads..
There’s plenty of time to ponder the nature of one’s existence when undertaking such an endeavour; not only during walking, but we also managed our time well to allow us to arrive no later than 3pm each day so that we could have time to ourselves.
It may sound daft at this point to mention that the closer we got to Santiago, the more I started to think about Santiago! It took me a little while to decode in my head the word Santiago — Saint Iago — Saint James! Of Course..!
Wasn’t he one of the “Fishers of Men?”
It was time to Google!
A Quick check confirmed that the was indeed a fisherman, brother to John and get this… COUSIN to SIMON! (Wow, all sorts of interesting things there! I didn’t mention this to my cousin Simon in case I freaked him out, and he didn’t want to walk with me anymore!)
Saint James and his head parted company in 44AD, thanks to King Herod who seemed to have a proclivity toward violent slaughter.
His followers escaped with his body, in a “rudderless boat” (which seems like a careless oversight..)
To finally fetch-up in the North of Spain. Hummm…
Whatever the case may be, His body has been venerated by the faithful at this magnificent building for hundreds of years.
Qi field Theory
Let’s just touch into “Qi field Theory” for a moment here.
You must have strolled into a Cathedral or Mosque and felt the Awe?
Old religious buildings have a vibe about them that one can feel immediately.
This is what we call “Qi field Theory” — there’s an ancient Chinese phrase that says “Yi Dao, Qi Dao” — essentially, “Where the Mind goes, the Energy follows”
A building where people have focused their intentions on one thing for centuries becomes palpable.
When we do Zhineng Qigong, we focus on the common Qifield between us to tap into the healing abilities there-in. It doesn’t require a physical place. It’s like tuning into 95.8FM and listening to the music. You could tune into the Catholic frequency of James, of the Qi frequency of Dr Pang and all the people in that Qi field. The choice is yours..
The Peregrinos streaming from all over Europe 700 years ago knew that the power of this collective thought might be able to heal them or cleanse them in some way.
Saint James was one of the biggest stars in the firmament. Practically speaking, where else could you get up close and personal with one of Jesus’ chosen ones?
There was Mathias in Germany, John in Spain and everybody else was in Rome!
Not being funny, but it was a long walk to Rome.
A boat-ride to Spain and a week’s walk, what a bargain. Little wonder James became such a success.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to me slogging through the supermarket parking lots, mulling this all over. Don’t get me wrong, the eventual arrival in Santiago was beautiful!
If I’m honest, I half expected to have the streets lined with Spanish folk, singing that song from Jesus Christ Superstar “Hosanna hey sanna sanna sanna ho — Sanna hey sanna hosanna, Hey JC, JC, won’t you smile at me? Sanna hosanna hey superstar!”
(I guess it’s not escaped the more attentive reader that the “Big Yin” and I share the same initials.. JC… just saying…!)
The trickle of pilgrims had after a few days become a steady stream.
As we arrived in Santiago this turned into a torrent, disgorging us out into the fantastic square in front of the stunning cathedral, with thousands of other happy arrivals.
I couldn’t supress a grin from ear to ear!
It’s great to have such a clear finishing post, and such a stunning one at that!
It became apparent that there was a service at the cathedral.
Footsore we went to our lovely hotel. Later that day we were unable to gain entry because of Evensong.
(On the Sunday, more of the same, followed by massive queues and signs declaring the cathedral full to capacity.)
At this point, the devout would have fought tooth and nail to get into the church.
For me, it was dawning, that this had not been “my pilgrimage” at all.
When Simon too declared that he “wasn’t that fussed” — that put the tin lid on it.
After a little reflection, to see if I felt disappointed to have walked all that way and not had a chance to check in with James himself, I realised there was none.
The walk was designed to bring my cousin and I together, and to offer us a challenge.
Being away for any amount of time gives great pause for thought.
It offered me space to question my motives in wanting to do the main Camino.
I realise now that “Nature” is my church, and that walking is my headspace.
I like the challenge aspect of it, and I like feeling healthy.
If my spiritual heart lays anywhere, it’s in Scotland, and the Scottish Borders..
The path to consciousness may well be through a supermarket carpark, or over a Scottish hill.
I haven’t found it yet, but I’m aware that the looking is making me very happy.
Next? Who knows…
Perhaps Hadrian’s Wall? (I’m sure Ms Sturgeon would appreciate a survey of it’s standing, as partition can’t be far off!) or maybe the Southern Upland way?
Whatever the case, I’ll relish walking it with my cousin or alone, and seeing what “comes up!”
Thanks Saint James, but I’m not sure our paths will cross again!