The path of Santiago de Compostela needs no introduction as in recent years it has become well known both nationally and internationally.
As you know consists of a path that pilgrims traveled on foot since the Middle Ages, to travel from France or from Spain to the grave of James the Apostle. There are several routes, but the best known is the French Way, starting from Saint Jean Pied de Port, it comes after about 800 Km in Santiago.
Without going into historical details or path, with this story we would like to give practical information on environment, the difficulties as well as the people you meet along the way.
The Tam Tam also generated web has spread the knowledge and the arrival of low cost flights at major airports present in the localities crossed, have greatly facilitated many travelers who have decided to follow it.
You can do the Way for religious, spiritual, for personal reasons, for a sporting challenge or to make a very cheap holiday.
Which is the reason that drives you to groped reach of Santiago de Compostela, know that you are about to embark on a unique experience that will surely change your perspective on life.
As for us in the spring of 2015 we found ourselves in a difficult time and we realized that we needed to do something that would help us to look forward with confidence.
Not having enough time to complete the whole journey, we decided to just take the last part of the French way, and so we tried to calculate how many kilometers we could go in a week.
Imagining to travel about 150 km, it was easy to decide to leave from Piedrafita to O’Cebreiro and walk along the last 165 km of the route up to Santiago.
Many pilgrims choose the last 100 km from Sarria, cause these are considered sufficient to get the Compostela or proof of pilgrimage place; then we point out that in this last stretch the presence of pilgrims increases dramatically.
The location chosen by us is at high altitude and is one of the few mountain passes of entire route.
Already arrive to the place of departure was very charming.
We purchased a Ryanair flight to Madrid, arriving in the Spanish capital in the morning, we spent the day of exploring the city pending the night bus would leave at 00:05 in the direction of Piedrafita do O’Cebreiro.
Arrival estimated at 5:00 in the morning.
Confident of being able to sleep on the bus and have breakfast when you get off from Coach, atthe arrival we discovered that the town was completely deserted, dark and nothing was open, there were only a stray dog and two shivering pilgrims.
The dirt path we would cross only once up the paved road leading to the hamlet of O ‘Cebreiro, so we had no choice but to start walking.
At the top, at about seven in the morning, the sun began to peep out of the mountains and finally we saw a light inside of one of the stone buildings of the small village with thatched roof.
Upon entering we were greeted by the typical environment of the Way, which is heated by wood fire inn, travelers in sportswear groups that were having breakfast and without hesitation we have addressed the greeting: Buenas Dias y Buen Camino!
The path in the mountain stretch is truly spectacular, with scenic trails, well maintained and crossing the villages of shepherds with stone houses.
With some regularity, along the way you can stop for a rest or to sleep.
Many private houses have mobilized to provide assistance to pilgrims, so get to eat a sandwich and drink a coffee or a refreshing beer is extremely easy.
There are several albergue that give hospitality to pilgrims at a stipulated price of eight euro, so finding somewhere to sleep in the dormitory is never complicated.
Returning to our story, after about seven hours of walking we arrived at the end of the first stage which is located in the locality of triacastela.
Here we started making the first meetings with European pilgrims, American, Asian and Japanese inevitable, as well as to find some results that we then met regularly in the later stages.
The atmosphere was very relaxed and everyone greeted with sympathy.
With the credential of the pilgrim was possible to have a dinner at the restaurant at a more than fair price: first course, main course, dessert, water, wine and coffee always for eight euro!
The next day thinking about making an early rising, we set the alarm clock at 07:00, but with great surprise we found that when we wake up all dorm mates had already left!
All sections were characterized by tranquil vistas, in the company of pilgrims willing to dialogue and with accommodations for meals and overnight absolutely excellent.
In each stop it is critical to stamp your credential to witness the path you travel.
The weather conditions vary greatly with the seasons but also during rain the use of appropriate clothing you can walk dry.
Another important tip is to have a backpack with the right composition and weight of no more than about eight kilograms.
Depending on the season of course, the weight can increase and, if increases in winter due to the sleeping bag and heavy jackets, in summer the light backpack is offset by the greater difficulty because of the heat.
The thing you have to take better care of your feet and the choice of footwear is essential.
Avoid shoes that are too high to be read but also hiking boots. Along the way you should take frequent breaks, every two / three hours, to “breathe” the feet, changing socks and avoid the formation of the infamous blisters.
There are no defined steps, everyone can decide each day how to walk according to your strength or your workout, why not point out other special places to stop.
The advice is to do everything very quietly, enjoying the moment, without thinking about what will happen tomorrow and exchanging a few words with every person you meet; This is because listening to the stories of each one will fill your backpack with unique memories.
The arrival near Santiago will charge excitement and enter the town at all leaves a feeling of unexpected euphoria.
Arriving in the square you realize that he had participated in a business that will remain forever in the hearts and memories.
If you arrive at noon the ideal would directly enter the cathedral for the Mass and, with a little’ luck during the holiday days, attend the launch ritual of the Botafumeiro, a huge censer that the brothers do sway over the heads of the faithful.
Without the photographs of ritual in front of the Cathedral, it’s time to get in line at the Office of the pilgrims and thus obtain the Compostela, the handwritten document with your name in Latin that testifies your pilgrimage.
Legend has it that the first pilgrim who comes every day to opening of office is rewarded with a gargantuan lunch offered by the famous restaurant of ‘Hotel Parador Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos present on the square.
But these earthly needs are certainly not the most important!