Camino de Santiago de Compostella

Camino de Santiago de Compostella

The Pilgrims

I'm turning seventy this year; where have the years gone?
It's been an interesting life with all I've been and done,
To mark this event with a special trip was really my desire,
Why not walk the Pilgrims Way and reach the lofty spire.

Of Santiago de Compostella, the Cathedral of St James,
Where yearly thousands come to gather when they're tired of worldly games.
All nationalities and ages, they cheerfully find new friends,
Some last a day, a month, a year, and some that never ends.

From many lands the pilgrims come to walk this sacred road,
Some carry very little, others lug a heavy load,
The Portuguese Camino is quite busy during May,
When spring warms up the countryside and flowers bestrew the way.

We began out walk in Barcelos, after visiting Lisbon, Porto, Braga,
Each city old yet modern, all part of the Portuguese saga,
Barcelos is a market town, famous for its roasted cock,
That rose from a judge's dinner table to give him quite a shock.

Around noon the heavens opened and heavy rain began to fall,
The countryside drank deeply, but over us it cast a pall,
Cobbled lanes grew narrow, not a place to sleep in sight,
Then hallelujah, Casa Fernanda made us most welcome for the night.

Fernanda and her husband Carlos, took in fourteen pilgrims from the mire,
Wine and food flowed freely as our boots dried by the fire,
Next morning after breakfast, we were in a cheerful mood,
Although rain was still falling, we were warm and full of food.

At midday the sun peeped through the clouds, birds sang all around,
The stony path through woodland and growing vineyards wound,
Hills and valleys came and went as our feet trod a well-worn path,
What bliss to find in Ponte de Lima a hotel and a large, hot bath.

A rest day in Ponte de Lima, a sleepy medieval town,
Where, remarkable wrought-iron lamp posts play music up and down
The esplanade by the Lima River where market stalls display,
A selection of local specialities to eat throughout the day.

Travelling north towards our destination over a Roman port,
We walked on to Valenca where we stayed in an ancient fort,
Ramparts all around the town once defended it from harm,
Now international tourists flock to photograph its charm.

Walking over the Minhos River we then entered into Spain,
Thankfully the sun was out, we experienced no more rain.
Brilliant flowers and grasses grew along paths' verge,
Taking us to Mos to overnight in our first alberge.

Pilgrim hostels might be cheap, with rows of precarious bunks,
But twenty snoring pilgrims caused us to give thanks,
That we chose to stay in pensions with a clean and comfy bed,
Where we slept in deep, deep silence like one who's nearly dead.

The seaside town of Arcadie, lying beside Vigo Bay,
Welcomed us most warmly, after walking all the day,
Then through country lanes to Pontevedra, where we found to our delight,
A service that transported backpacks, now our pilgrimage seemed right.

With shining sun and singing birds and roses blooming in the street,
Fresh tilled dark earth for planting that looked good enough to eat,
Granite slabs supporting trellises of vines from which local wine is made,
A fountain of sweet water, a stone seat placed in the shade.

Underneath an avenue of trees, the Way winds through Padron,
Where the body of St James was brought after his execution,
His bones were then placed in a small casket of silver,
Now displayed in the crypt under the cathedral altar.

The great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella stands proud upon a rise,
Towering towards the heavens point two imposing spires,
Baroque gilt, gold and silver cover angels and saints with reverence,
Pilgrims in their thousands end up here for the daily noon service.

The highlight of the service is a large swinging silver botufumier,
Filled with smoking incense, it is a most efficient dispenser
Of fumigating myrrh, frankincense and fire,
A gasping congregation urges the men to swing it ever higher.

After walking all the way to Santiago, why not continue on to Finisterre,
Where the end of the ancient world greets pilgrims arriving there,
Faro lighthouse stands large and proud upon great granite rocks,
Below is an altar and fireplace where pilgrims burn their smelly socks.

But for many Finisterre is not the end of their sacred way,
It's Murcia that calls to us, lying at the end of a sandy bay,
An ancient convent chapel and Mother Mary's old stone boat,
Is the end of the journey of the heart, of that there is no doubt.

To spend a week in Murcia, an apartment seemed ideal,
A time to meditate and write on what was and was not real.
The weather turned a shade of grey that blighted sunny Spain,
Only the seagulls enjoyed several days of misty rain.

The exposed cliffs of Murcia reminded me of Yamba's rocky shore,
I've come to the end of the once known world and asked myself, what for?
All too soon the week of rest was over, time to hit the road,
Back to Santiago and the peregrino crowd.

Why did I walk the Camino like so many have done before?
Why did I hobble onwards when my legs cried out “no more”?
A spasm in my right calf gave me days of intense pain.
I'm happy to have done it but what did my immortal soul gain?

But I know why I love wandering around this earthly ball,
To see, feel, taste and smell the diverse beauty of it all.
For when all is said and done, we are one people, dark or light,
Struggling to live and love to make our future bright.

One thing I've always known is that life's to be enjoyed,
Martyrdom and suffering need no longer be deployed,
The early pilgrims believed that salvation came through pain,
Which torments the soul and body for very little gain.

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