Monday, May 26, 2014

Pilgrims' Progress #1: History of the Camino

Many of you have asked about our upcoming trip to hike the Camino de Santiago and, since I can’t talk to all of you before our big adventure, I thought I would write a series of blogs about it.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to check in during our trip for photos and updates of our pilgrimage.

On June 1, 2014, five of the six Haverkamps (Luke will be leading a mission trip to East Asia all summer) will set out on an adventure to hike the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, in northern Spain.  This nearly 500-mile ancient “pilgrimage” gets its name from the apostle James in the Bible. At the end of this long journey lies the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This cathedral is rumored to be James' burial place.  According to Wikipedia, legend states “the apostle Saint James the Great brought Christianity to the Celts in the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD he was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia, Spain. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. According to legend, this tomb was rediscovered in 814 AD by the hermit Pelagius, after he witnessed strange lights in the night sky.  The Camino was one of the most important pilgrimages during medieval times (together with Rome and Jerusalem) and one on which a plenary indulgence could be earned (which means that by completing at least the last 100 km, one’s sins could be forgiven).  Although we know this to be false since only Jesus alone can redeem us, Tess has been having a grand time deciding what she would do if that were really true.  I’m not even going to go there. 

Here is what our route will look like:

We will be starting at the border of France at St Jean Pied de Port.  This French market town is hidden away in the Pyrenees Mountains, which means the first day of our journey will look like this:

Have I ever told you how much I hate don't care for mountains?

As you can see, we will be climbing, climbing, climbing—about 1400 meters up (I don't know how to convert that.  I just know it will hurt), before we start heading down to our hostel for the night.  Day one will be about a 14 mile day. Ugh.  Speaking of hostels, we will be staying in them each night of our trip.  In Spain, these shared sleeping quarters are called “albergues” and usually consist of multiple bunk beds in a big room (can you say earplugs?) with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Sometimes these albergues are privately owned, some are in churches, old school buildings, or community buildings.  Most will have hot showers where we can wash our smelly selves and our laundry. We will all be very happy about this.

A picture of a typical albergue

Since we will be walking an ancient pilgrimage, we will be called “pilgrims” and will need to carry a pilgrim’s passport (or credential, see below) which we have already ordered and received. These credentials will be stamped at the hostels or alberques that we stay in each evening.  We can also get stamps at churches or cathedrals along the route.  If we each finish at least the last 100K (62 miles) of the Camino (which ends in Compostela, Spain), we will receive a Compostela, which is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way.  Fun stuff.

 The Haverkamps are slightly geeky (see my excel spread sheet here) when it comes to planning these types of trips because we have to pack very efficiently and minimally to have successful adventures.  Since we know that ounces add up to pounds and pounds add up to exhaustion, and since we also know that we will be walking between 8-10 hours everyday for nearly a month, we have decided to go as lightweight as possible with our packs at or under 10% of our bodyweights. We have also been wearing, and hiking in, our chosen packs, clothes and boots/shoes so we can pre-experience our intended hike.  On many of those practice hikes, we have taken Neo, which is a true miracle and unexpected privilege for him because he almost died the last time we took him with us. I’m sure those who have seen us time and time again assume that we are “that homeless family” since we are carrying large backpacks on city trails.  Tess will be posting tomorrow to fill you in on the packing/prep portion of our trip.

Because we will only have a little over three weeks on the trail (We will be spending the first 5 days of our trip in Rome, Italy, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary--yea! Remember when I said marriage was like a really long hike? What a great commemoration, huh?)--we will be probably complete about 350 miles, taking a bus or train to gain some distance mid-way. If we were superhuman, we could probably complete it in that amount of time (it takes most folks at least 33 days), but, since we are not, and since we want to sleep and visit a few of the relics along the way, we will probably cover between 12-18 miles per day. This means that we will do part of the beginning of the Camino and part of the end—leaving out a portion in the middle.  Cause, remember, we can’t get our sins removed unless we complete the last 100km of the route. 

Some of you have also asked if I know Spanish.  The answer is no, but I am taking along my interpreters (my own personal Ames High Spanish students) who have had at least 10 years of Spanish combined! Bueno! Since we will be passing through small Spanish towns and villages every two to three hours each day, it will be important to know some of the local dialect since many in rural Spain speak no English. 
Good thing the way markers are pictures.  I can read those.

 That about wraps up the nutshell history lesson of the famous Camino pilgrimage.  We are excited to step away from the trappings of our lives here and get lost on our walk to Compostella.  Leave me a comment with questions that you have and we will try to address them in future Pilgrim’s Progress Posts. 

Buen Camino!

1 comment:

  1. IMO - key phrases:
    - Donde esta el bano? (n with a tilde which I can't figure out how to type) = where is the bathroom.
    - Mas despacio, por favor. = slower, please

    :) Exciting!!