600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

About Camino de Santiago

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Saturday, September 08, 2007
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way, often known by its Spanish name, el Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried. The Way of St James has existed for over a thousand years.

Today tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims and other travellers set out each year from their front doorstep, or popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey. In addition to people undertaking a religious pilgrimage, there are many travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land.

Pilgrims on the Way of St. James walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela. They can follow many routes (any path to Santiago is a pilgrim's path) but the most popular route is the French Way or Camino Francés (which is the way I am taking, coming from France).

The entire journey could be from 100km (which is the minimum to be recognized as a pilgrim, and hence to get a certificate that says you have done it), or it could be 900km depending on where you start from. One could walk on average from 20km/day to 30km/day depending on fitness level. Hence, depending on the distance and speed, you could walk from 3 days to 2 months. I've decided to walk for 30 days, making the approximate distance 600 km, and it depends.

The route to Santiago could be mountainous, uphill, downhill, through villages or big towns, highways or little paths through forests. The route is well-marked with yellow arrows and scallop signs (which is a sign of a pilgrim or pilgrimage).

Along the way, pilgrims get to stay in albergues or refugios for the night. They are present at different points in the journey and one must calculate the journey to plan to arrive at one before dark. In times of high season, there might be refugios which are full.

Most pilgrims have a document called the credencial. The Credencial is a pass which allows (sometimes free) overnight accommodation in refugios. Also known as the "Pilgrim's passport", the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It provides walking pilgrims with a record of where they ate or slept, but also serves as proof to the Pilgrim's office in Santiago that the journey is accomplished according to an official route.

Finally, upon reaching Santiago, a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way.

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