Walking the Way of St James


PORT Alfred resident David Boyd addressed the Probus Club last week on his experiences of doing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The Way of St James, or El Camino de Santiago, is the route to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. According to Boyd, the apostle St James, or Santiago, was one of the top men among Jesus’ disciples and his bones are said to be kept in a casket in the cathedral.

In 2010, the total number of people who went on this pilgrimage was 272 000, he said. This is the same year that David and his wife Mary flew to Madrid to begin the pilgrimage route leaving from Salamanca. They spent their first night in the Albergue de Peregrinos hotel before the next 23 days spent walking 340km.

CERTIFIED: Port Alfred resident David Boyd recently completed his second pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and shared his stories with the Probus Club last week Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD

David undertook the pilgrimage again this year without Mary. On the first day he did 36.5km.

“My body asked me: ‘What the hell do you think you doing?’” he joked.

After that he stuck to between 23km and 25km a day.

On this trip he met Klaus Himmler, who became his walking companion.

David said the pilgrimage routes took them through very rural spaces and mostly away from the main road. He showed Probus Club members photos of beautiful landscapes and some of the hostels he stayed in.

“The most interesting part was the people you meet on the way,” he said.

His fluency in Spanish from the time he lived in Colombia was an asset in this regard, as the residents in the small rural towns do not speak English.

He said passing motorists were very courteous and cars moved over when they passed the pilgrims.

“I have nothing but praise for the drivers,” he said.

His only preparation or training for the walk was to buy a new pair of Hi-Tec hiking shoes and walk about 6km around the block.

David’s breakfasts consisted of bread and cheese with chocolate biscuits and for lunch he usually had a bocadillo which is found in pubs and restaurants and consists of a large loaf filled with ingredients like ham, cheese or bacon.

The first time the Boyds heard about the Way of St James was from an article Mary read in a women’s magazine. They decided it looked interesting and contacted the author for more information. This year he felt he was running out of time to set himself a challenge, and so decided to go it alone.

“I did it to see if I could,” he said.

When he finished the 270km he said he felt good about it.

At the end of the journey, those who walk at least 100km receive a compostela or certificate to say they have completed the Way of St James.

In 2010, the cathedral held a mass for pilgrims four times a day while it is usually only once at noon. David said that when July 25 falls on a Sunday, it is deemed a holy year and this attracts a lot more pilgrims, which is why 2011 only saw 180 000 pilgrims.

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