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You either like to walk, or you don't. If you like to walk, you will fall in love with the Camino...
With a UK and US release of Martin Sheen’s latest movie The Way announced last week, I thought now would be as good a time as any to write about the Camino de Santiago.
No idea what I’m talking about? Well, the Camino, or The Way of St James, is both an 780km long ancient pilgrimage trail in Northern Spain and…something you should put on your travel ‘to do’ list right now! Bear with me on this one….
You either like to walk, or you don’t. If you like to walk, you will fall in love with the Camino. If you don’t like to walk, you will fall in love with the Camino. Because whilst it is undeniably a really bloody long walk and you are bound to a develop a blister or two along with an entirely new and improved concept of pain, it is also about so much more than just walking.
It’s about an incredible sense of achievement. It’s about strength, determination, courage and tolerance. It’s about friendship and camaraderie. It’s slow travel at it’s finest through one of the most stunning places in the world. It’s about completely immersing yourself in a different culture. It’s a wake up call. (Oh, and it’s also about eating divine tapas and drinking some of the best wine in the world – which is useful as you’ll need something to ease the pain of walking so far every day!) And even if you try really hard not to let it, walking the Camino will inevitably change your way of looking at things.
The Camino naturally has its historical base in Christianity and while I’m the first to admit that the tale has a few flaws, it goes a little something like this:
St James was one of Jesus’ best buddies back in the day and legend has it that after preaching for a while in Spain, St James returned to Judea and ran into a little bad luck: he was beheaded! His Christian followers transported his martyred body in a stone boat (Yes, ‘stone’! Did I mention there are flaws?) to Padron on the northern Spanish coast and then carried him to the site of the modern city of Santiago. He is now the Patron Saint of Spain and his remains are housed within the cathedral in Santiago. And so the pilgrimage began.
And, in case you are wondering, no you don’t have to be religious or on some kind of Neo-Pagan spiritual quest to walk the camino as a pilgrim. Over a hundred thousand people walk the camino each year, be it independently or as part of one of the many Europe Tours available. On my last Camino I walked alongside a die-hard atheist and a devout Catholic. Go figure. Even the heathens amongst us will find some kind of spiritual side to the Camino however – even if it is caused purely by the pain in your feet!
For a little more adventure, I highly recommend trying this walk in the winter months. Walking the Camino in winter presents a series of different challenges and while the weather is incredibly unpredictable, it is a truly spectacular season to be in Northern Spain. Check out my Winter Pilgrimage blog over on tumblr for a taste of what to expect.
But don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at the trailer for The Way for some inspiration.
The Way is a fictional representation of one man’s unexpected journey along the Camino after his son tragically dies on the first day of his pilgrimage. (Don’t let this put you off though – most people live to tell the tale…I promise!!)
Follow this link for a detailed synopsis of The Way. UK and Ireland release date for the film is May 13th and US release is September 30th. Aussie release date is yet to be announced….