“Why walk the Camino Frances again? Why not walk one of the other 20 routes to Santiago?”
I say, "Because a year or so after walking the Camino Frances for the first time in the spring of 2002 I realised that I was a rather arrogant, naïve novice and didn’t know enough about the country, the terrain, history, folklore or the architecture of the camino Frances. I thought the terrain would be a piece of old takkie. After all, I was a hiker, an ex-marathon runner and ultra-distance race walker and, in 2002 because we only had 4 weeks holiday, we based our camino on walking 28kms per day for 27 days, which of course meant 13kms one day and +40kms the next.
I didn’t want to read too much about the history, folklore, architecture etc because I thought I would pick it up along the way. I did read Coehlo and Maclaine and thought they were sufficient. Ha!
In spite of all the running, race walking and rambling, the camino has a way of knocking the stuffing out of pompous pilgrims and some days I was just too exhausted to do any detour that was more than 50m off the path.
“There are beautiful archaeological ruins just 1 ½ km down the road,” a local told us outside Atapuerca.” Three more kms – not today thank you!
We didn’t wait for a church to be opened or look for the key.
“Seen one you’ve seen them all”. I heard a pilgrim say, and I agreed.
Then a Confraternity of St James was formed in South Africa and I became our Regional contact person. At St James’ Feast Day celebrations held at my home pilgrims recalled different places, monuments, scenery, their favourite Santiago statues or albergues and I sometimes felt as though they were talking about a different camino.
Over the past five years I have learned a lot from the camino Forums; read extensively on the history, architecture, music, traditions and regions of the camino Frances and have collected over 20 books, DVDs and videos which I show at workshops and at talks given to interested organisations.
Now, I think the time has come for me to revisit the camino Frances, this time at a more humble, leisurely pace with time to include the detours to Eunate, Clavijo, Oviedo and Santo Domingo de Silas etc.
We will go in September, a different season with new landscapes. I am no longer naïve and realise that I still won’t see 1/100th of what there is to see or appreciate all that the camino has to offer. I don’t want to compare this journey with my first camino or even have déjá vu moments.
In “Journey to Portugal” Jose Saramago who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998, said:
'The journey is never over. Only travellers come to an end. The end of one journey is simply the start of another. You have to see what you missed the first time, see again what you already saw, see in springtime what you saw in summer, in daylight what you saw at night, see the sun shining where you saw the rain falling, see the crops growing, the fruit ripen, the stone which has moved, the shadow that was not there before. You have to go back to the footsteps already taken, to go over them again or add fresh ones alongside them. You have to start the journey anew. Always. The traveler sets out once more."
I can’t wait!