|At least I know what all the shells
are for - the symbol of St James of course, but that was not the point.
Why bother to walk with a backpack through the heat of the day for twenty
miles or so, every day for a couple of weeks? (Some do far more and
cover the entire 1400 km from Le Puy in France.) Well why, when
there are so many comfortable hotels to stay and easier ways to travel?
Is it some kind of masochistic penance? Certainly not for me!
Easier to say why I was not doing it. It was
definitely not a superstitious attempt to gain an indulgence for my sins
against my fellow man and go straight to heaven, avoiding purgatory along
the way. Indeed, it could be argued that the flight to Spain with
Ryanair at the start of my journey was in itself a purgatorial experience!
On the other hand it is difficult to avoid some kind of spiritual impact;
the arrival into Santiago alone is awe-inspiring, even to a 21st century
cynic and there is a sense of something more than mere camaraderie along
Many of those to whom I have recounted my
experiences have concluded that my wanderings were little more than an
extended pub-crawl and it is true that I did tend to mark each days
progress by the proximity of the next watering hole. It was a great
opportunity to "get some space" away from the pressures of
"normality", focussing instead on elemental issues like the number of
hills between here and the end of the day's walk.
A pilgrimage is essentially a selfish experience
as it confers no benefit on anyone other than the pilgrim. That
said, at least it inflicts little harm on anyone else, unlike the suicide
bombers' attempts to shortcut to paradise! I determined that
my journey, for that is what it started out as, did not constitute a
pilgrimage, because as I was informed on reaching Santiago, that would
have required me to suffer along the way,