Camino de Santiago

In the fall of 2013 I used a B&N gift card to buy a Paulo Coelho book named The Alchemist. It was a good story about a boy looking for adventure so he starts a journey to find the alchemist who lives in the desert (on top of a mountain?) to teach him the magic of his people and to transform his life for good. This actual book is pretty inconsequential compared to the review that was on the back of it for The Pilgrimage. That’s another book by Coelho about journeys, magic and coming of age story, this time on the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino is a way of ancient pilgrimage across the southern part of France and the northern part of Spain. Traditionally pilgrims would start their journeys from their own front doors, but in modern times the peregrinos start from a small town nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains named St. Jean Pied de Port. Naturally it is the border between the two countries and historically was used to house the garrison of soldiers who used this base in the late 18th century to launch attacks against Spain during the French Revolution. In our time it is a small market town that bustles with the pilgrims who are eager to pass through and start their journey over the mountains.

As daunting as the statement ‘I am going to climb the Pyrenees Mountains today’ seems to be, in reality it was nothing like I thought climbing a mountain would seem. The path is mostly asphalt or crunched gravel. It winds its way up the steep hills and grassy knolls with a satisfying regularity that seems to be infinite. Gray rocks and boulders peek out between wide expanses of green, green grass and yellow sandy dirt. For most of the morning, that first day, we walked amongst the clouds. Ever wondered what it would be like to be outside the airplane when its flying? Climb the Pyrenees mountains. Ever wondered how far you can push yourself without failing? Climb the Pyrenees mountains. Ever wanted a perspective so grand and unescapable as to make all your problems fade to gray? Climb the Pyrenees mountains.

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