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While movies such as “The Way” with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estefan have raised awareness of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (a.k.a St. James Way), only a segment of the population have completed the full pilgrimage which can begin at various points throughout Spain, France, and Germany and end in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
As a curious traveler, I wondered about this personal journey and the committed hikers that walk along the trail for countless days and nights. I wanted to explore a bit of the trail and a visit to San Sebastian offered the perfect opportunity. Although I was able to see a small section of this lengthy pilgrimage, I encountered various hikers along the way, incredible views, and surprises along my small section of the journey.
Personal Reflection Time
Along this particular section of the pilgrimage, the views of the ocean were absolutely spectacular. Within a very short time of hiking from the street level to higher ground, one comes across view of the ocean that are breath-taking and easily inspiring of some serious personal reflection. The path is delineated with markers and quickly one comes across local hikers eating lunch along the path as well as the more long-distance hikers continuing onto the full pilgrimage.
Along the way, one particular spot caught my attention and flooded my heart with emotion. I saw a small memorial with a sea shell and plastic covered note. The note stated the following in Spanish:
“Por favor, cuiden este arbol. Lo hemos plantado en memoria de mi padre Ismael que ha fallecio. Muchas gracias.”
“Please take care of this tree which we planted in memory of my father Ismael who has passed. Thank you very much.”
St. James Way offers different things for diverse individuals. For curious travelers like me, I spent a day in nature inspired by the views and the dedication of those whom I encountered. For those faithfully devoted, the path offers a pilgrimage and a community of like-minded individuals on a shared journey through hiking, reflecting, and community building. For local hikers, the path offers a place of natural beauty that is highly regarded and famous throughout the world.
Hike a Portion of St. James Way
When I traveled to San Sebastian, I looked for various ways that I could be exposed to the Camino de Compostela since I did not want get lost along my section of the hike. Since I also did not know how far I could go before having to return, I decided to search for tours that might be able to accommodate me. Fortunately, I came across a tour offered by Urban Adventures that was perfect for what I needed.
I was the only person on the tour and had a terrific time chatting with the tour guide along our hike. I asked about Basque culture, life in San Sebastian, and about the background of the pilgrimage to Compostela. We hiked from San Sebastian to the neighboring town where we had lunch and then returned on the bus to where we originally started the tour.
My tour guide was a young man from Germany who had moved to San Sebastian and married a Basque young woman. As a result of taking the tour with Urban Adventure, I was able to see much more of the Camino than I would have been able to see on my own. At that time, I would not have known how to get to the next town over and then take the bus back. Also, I would not have had an opportunity to spend several hours talking with someone so eager to answer my questions about Basque culture and the Basque region of Spain.
This was an amazing adventure that allowed me to connect with nature while also learning so much about the culture of the region. Have you visited El Camino or thought about doing the trek?