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FREE ARTICLES
The Camino - a pilgrimage (28 May 2004)
By Buzz Gori - a Durban-based Project Management and Development consultant who is presently on a journey of self-discovery.

"Greetings from Santiago De Compostella, Spain, at the end of the Camino.

As background, the Camino is a pilgrimage from anywhere whose paths congregate along several well known routes to Santiago de Compostella. This is the city where the bones of Saint James (or Jacob, Jacobo, Iago, etc.), one of the closest disciples of Jesus, are buried in the main Cathedral. The bones of Saint James are the only remaining relics of anyone who knew Jesus Christ, hence the facination of many religious pilgrims to visit these remains over the last millenia. Other pilgrims also make this journey for spiritual reasons.

The early pilgrims predominantly followed the Milky Way from east to west, hence the name to Saint James under the Constellation´ - Santi Iago de Compostella. Although there are many routes to Santiago, this east to west route has become the major pilgrim thoroughfare, also known as the French Camino, which starts at Saint Jean Pied de Port in southern France, crosses the Pyrenees into Spain and then heads westwards to Santiago, a journey of some 807 kms.

Well, the Camino has been an epic adventure which took 32 days. The body always took a pounding, especially during the first half whilst aclimatising to the heavy backpack which became a personal penance for the journey. The backpack was stuffed with too many unnecessary things as a result of fearing for the worst, which hardly ever happens! When it became physically difficult to put one foot in front of another, the mental body took over and helped maintain momentum. Alas, when the physical and mental became exhausted, the spiritual body kicked in, providing some enlightment and helping complete the day´s journey. However, there were many days when the mental and spiritual bodies did not help at all and one could not decide whether a pychologist or chiropodist was most needed.

The countryside traversed was beautiful in most parts but became spoiled in places by lack of planning and development control on the outskirts of large towns and cities. This marred the original character of the old inner cities with their narrow streets and rustic buildings. This phenomena is not unusual of urban areas all over the world.

Nevertheless, what made this journey unforgettable, was the meeting of people from all nationalities who were on the Camino for their own personal reasons. Many friendships were forged, especially when sharing accommodation, meals, and of course, the good local wines which diluted aches and pains. However, the common thread amongst most pilgrims are the moments of deep reflection and revelation when walking alone, sitting quitely in a church or open countryside, etc. Many of these moments have been remembered by token momentos resulting in environmental art, stone pyrimads and landscape patterns formed from rocks, braches, flowers or sand; as well as, vortices of positive thoughts generated through meditations. If each pilgrim´s momentos could be linked with light along the entire route for all pilgrims over all time, the result would probably blaze a bandwidth of light which would mirror the Milky Way after which Santiago de Compostella is named. This egregore of light and love would herald an inner journey of unconditional love to unite all people and nations towards world peace.
In a way, the Camino has not ended, but instead, its spirit will continue in all future journeys, tasks and relationships. The next Camino is a gentle 90 km hike to the sea at Finnisterra, which is the most western tract of land in Europe. Finnisterra, or ´finish terrain´, has attracted ´seekers´ well before the time of Christ. These early seekers were fascinated by what lay beyond where the sun set and travelled to Finnisterra from all parts of Europe. In remembrance of this journey, the seekers came back with a scallop shell as proof of their journey to the end of the known world in quite the same way that one now collects T-shirts for sporting or other events. However, current reasons are withdrawal symptoms from missing the great beaches back home, especially Durban.

Although it is probably not written as such, it surmises to conclude that after the resurrection of Christ, the disciple James realised that this steady column of seekers to Finnisterra provided a grand opportunity for spreading the word of Christ, hence the eventual establishment of Santiago de Compostella. James spent almost a decade in this area spreading the word of Christ to the seekers and other folk. The seekers in turn would spread the Word along the route back to where they came from. In 44 AD, only 11 years after the death of Christ, James returned to Jerusalem but was summarily executed.

However, his bones were returned to Santiago. Many centuries latter, his bones were discovered and eventually buried in the Cathedral. The initial seekers then became religious pilgrims and the original reason for visiting the end of the world was superceded by the visitation to Santiago de Compostella to seek enlightment from the relics of Saint James and thus become close to Christ. Needless to say, although there are still many pilgrims who undertake the Camino for religous reasons, many undertake this journey for spiritual reasons. More recently, the trade in tourist pilgrims has increased markedly and is somewhat spoiling the Camino in just the same way as commercialisation eventually spoils most good things in life.

Well, enough history news for now. Nevertheless, it suffices to say that if you are at a major crossroads in your life and need some inner guidance, then consider doing the Camino. It more than often reveals your true self and facilitates to find or reaffirm your direction in life. The Camino is also a great test of character - once you start, your ego will not allow you to stop or say ´I can´t´ ever again."

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