|Subject: Re: Tour de France/Santiago de Campostela|
Last summer my son (age 17) did the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, hiking with a mixed group of young adults and teenagers. They were a very determined bunch having committed to not using any vehicular transport along the entire journey, and by starting out relatively early in the summer, they made it to Santiago in time for the Festival of St. James, which I think is July 25th. This seems to be the objective of most pilgrims, since the entire city then becomes a huge celebration of past (historical) and present pilgrimages. There are fireworks, music, ceremonies in the Cathedral and Plaza del Obradoiro and general revelry among the pilgrims who've made it. Along the route hikers are constantly meeting up with and then passing by other hikers, so the arrival in Santiago ends up being not only a culmination of the challenge, but also a reunion of international friends made along the way.
I would say that if the pilgrimage is done in this hardcore manner, it is not an easy walk in the park, literally. In all it took them about 6 weeks of pretty arduous walking to finish the 900+ km. journey, sometimes doing up to 40 km. a day, A mattress on the floor of a refugio was a luxury, since half the time they were just in sleeping bags in a field or courtyard somewhere on the outskirts of a town. The article that Cova linked to however, seemed accurate in its portrayal of the warmth and hospitality showed to pilgrims by those living along the route. My son said he was always made to feel welcome and that his efforts were genuinely appreciated by the locals that he ran into, from bar owners to farmers to shopkeepers. More than once he was invited to join a local family for dinner, after a simple exchange of greetings at a rest stop. He managed quite well with his high-school Spanish.
That said, I also know that many people do the pilgrimage in stages, (much like committed hikers do to accomplish the 2000 mile Appalachian Trail here in the States.) For a few weeks each year, they'll do just a piece of the trail, leave it to go back home, and then pick up where they left off the next time. Others just pick and choose among the stages, so as to maximize the enjoyment of the experience. After resting and partying in Santiago for about a week, my son did a pleasant, shorter trek continuing on to the Galician coastal town of Fisterra, which took another 3 or 4 days. Jumping into the Atlantic Ocean was their catharsis.
Santiago de Compostela is a jewel. One way or another you should try to see it.
Joel, in Chicago
Modīs note : Fanny mentioned first this article :)) I hope to be able to write something about this, before leaving tomorrow for Jaca, one of the French Way stages. Rgds, Covadonga