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wearing the scallop shell. Some of the “fervor” was soon lost as we began opting for real beds and bathrooms! Also, about three-quarters along, we ditched our back packs - travel was so much easier and more enjoyable after that! We really did take in the wonders of the Spanish countryside then! The trail is beautiful - everything from high mountain passages to wide river valleys. We walked through tiny villages that look like they are still living in the 12th Century! Other towns are modern and industrialized where you can buy anything you like. In all the villages, towns and cities along the way, pilgrims are noticeable with their attire, their shells and back packs, sitting in cafes and walking the streets. In the more remote areas, villagers cater to pilgrims with little cafes and tiny convenience-style stores; some villagers even leave jugs of water outside their homes for the pilgrims. At one place, after a particularly hard five hour trek, we came upon a small house where the enterprising family had installed a Coke vending machine in their front yard near the trail. For two Euros, you could get a can of ice cold Coke! What an oasis! In another town, we ate the famous oc-

topus weel known to be a specialty here. Pilgrims gather at picnic-like tables, drink wine from terra cotta bowls and enjoy the purple/ pink octopus, prepared as you watch, with heaps of their home-made bread! Delicious! The grand finale of the trek is the town of Santiago de Compostela. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of Europe’s most beautiful, medievally preserved cities with a pedestrian old centre and a maze of narrow, cobbled streets and plazas. The central core of the city houses the massive Cathedral which has doors that open to three separate city squares The centre of the Praza do Obradoiro square, beside the Cathedral, marks the end of your journey . Here you line up to apply for your Certificate of Completion. For this you must have obtained a “passport” at the start of your trek. 100,000 people trek the Camino every year and 180,000 in the Holy Years---of which 2010 was one. At the Cathedral there is a Pilgrims’ Mass every day at noon in Thanksgiving for your completion of the pilgrimage. In early days, pilgrims would spend their first night at vigil in the Cathedral. The amazing part of the ritual is the offering of incense at the Mass. A huge censor (botafumeiro) is

dropped from the ceiling of this enormous Cathedral (which dates back to 1075); eight men (tiraboleiros), garbed in mink-like robes, each controlling a rope tied to the censor, swing the censor, exuding incense, as it arcs back and forth across the Cathedral over the heads of the congregation! It is a most spectacular sight! The inside of the Cathedral is truly amazing with its huge gold angels, 13th Century jewelled statue of St. James, and the tomb of Santiago (St. James) where the bones of the saint are alleged to be (much controversy over that!). Like any tourist city, there is much to see in Santiago De Compostela; markets with anything and everything any tourist could want. The entire experience is one of “shock and awe”, but exhilarating. Whether you are looking for a good, solid physical adventure or a soul searching journey, the Camino is the ticket! The whole concept is captured in the Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez film called “The Way” which premiered at TIFF in 2011. I plan to do another section of the Camino in the future and will be looking for companion trekkers! Buen Camino!


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Healthy Living Now - June 2012 Issue  

June 2012 issue of Healthy Living Now