Camino Planning, Antigua-style

Much of the physical Camino de Santiago has its origins in pre-Christian times when people of the Celtic tribes made their way from central Europe to the mountainous region of Galicia on the Atlantic coast in the final centuries before Christ.  Some continued by sea to Ireland, but for Celts who remained in Iberia and called this isolated highland stronghold their home, following the sun and watching it set over the endless waters must have been a spiritual experience.  The Romans, arriving later and controlling the entire region by about 75 BC, built roads to exploit the silver and ore mines in Galicia but could not dislodge or overcome the Celt-Iberians; nor could the Visigoths who came as the Roman Empire decayed, nor the Moors, who never posed a real threat that far north.  

As the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain pondered the Reconquista, legend has it that in the 9th century a Christian hermit saw a glowing light in a forest in Galicia.   He alerted the religious authorities who discovered that the aura was emanating from a spot holding the remains of three men, one of whom was beheaded.  It was revealed that these were the remains of Saint James and two of his acolytes.  After all, when the apostles spread out across the known world to preach the gospel of Jesus, St James apparently came to Galicia.  On returning to Palestine, he was beheaded by Herod.  Thus, the legend was born that the body of St James was returned to Galicia where eventually it was found by the hermit.  A religious shrine was built and dedicated to the apostle.  It was rebuilt after being destroyed by the Moors, and by the 12th century the Cathedral of Santiago was attracting pilgrims from all over Europe, who travelled along the well-constructed Roman highways built centuries earlier. 

With the Protestant Reformation, wars in Europe and the isolation of Spain during the Franco years, the number of pilgrims decreased.  However, since the 1980s there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the Camino attracting those seeking a religious or spiritual experience as well as tourists looking for a new adventure.  I began to give it some serious thought in the years before retirement and after returning to the US after many years overseas, it was only a matter of determining when I would depart.

When my original plan to walk the Camino in April 2020 was ended by the Covid pandemic, I lost some of the passion I had for it.  Sometime during the “lockdown” I mentioned it to Lisa Bartges, who had always been keen to give it a go, and my desire was rekindled.  We decided in October 2021 that we would walk the Camino in September and October of 2022. 

Thus it was, that on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, Paula and I flew into VC Bird International Airport, Antigua, and found Rodwell Henry and his purple black van.  He delivered us to the Antigua Yacht Club for our rendezvous with Lisa and John for the purpose of planning our pilgrimage to Spain in September. 

You would not be out of place to ask why we had to spend 10 days on a sailboat in the Caribbean to plan a journey to northern Spain half a year in the future.  Well, as Lisa said, “It’s more fun to plan a trip when you are on vacation.” 

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