My second Camino initially took the same route as the first. I started in Seville in the south of Spain and walked the Via de la Plata pilgrimage route north to Astorga. However, instead of walking west from Astorga to Santiago along the Camino Frances as I did the first time, I traveled by train and bus to St. Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees in France. There, with my friend Bill, we walked the Camino Frances from its starting point. My journey ended at the Cruz de Ferro about 25 kilometers past Astorga.
Ironically, while I walked approximately 1,000 kilometers on the second Camino, I never made it to Santiago. On a simplistic level, it was a case of “been there, done that.” Santiago just didn’t call to me the second time. But nothing is simple on the Camino. Several months before I left for Spain I felt a growing call to take a scallop shell to the Cruz de Ferro to remember Denise Thiem, a pilgrim who was murdered near Astorga in 2015. I carried the shell across Spain each day wondering about the reason for the calling. On its own, a scallop shell is not heavy, but carry that shell with all its memories and metaphor for three months over a 1,000 kilometers and the shell takes on a tremendous emotional and spiritual weight. Each day I wondered why a pilgrim on a spiritual quest like Denise was horrifically murdered. It was not until the final day of my Camino while I prayed for guidance in the Ermita del Ecce Homo chapel on the outskirts of Astorga that I heard the words, “It’s not supposed to make sense.” A tremendous burden from the shell and from a lifetime of trying to figure things out was lifted from my shoulders. I stepped outside the chapel and raced up the mountain to Foncebadon and the Cruz de Ferro where I left the shell at the foot of the Cross. That was the defining moment on this second Camino.
I took approximately 3,500 pictures on my second Camino of which 700 were worth reproducing (I’m not a very objective editor and I love PhotoShop). To simplify navigating all the pictures and my comments, I’ve grouped the photos into the following general categories:
- Really Good Stuff – I’m assuming no one in their right mind would want to wade through all 700 of my pictures. So for those with Internet Attention Disorder or little patience, here is the best of the best – just over 40 pictures.
- My Stages on the Camino – The stages from Seville to Astorga on the Via de la Plata (VdlP) and from St. Jean Pied de Port to Foncebadon on the Camino Frances.
- The Religious and Spiritual Journey – My spiritual journey on the first Camino in 2013 focused on St. James or Santiago. On the first day of my 2013 pilgrimage in the rain and the darkness of early morning I prayed to the statute of Santiago at the Cathedral in Seville. On the last day I walked alone into the plaza in front of the Santiago Cathedral at 6 in the morning and thanked Santiago for all he had done for me. On my second Camino in 2016 it was as if Santiago stepped back and let me find my own way. It started with the Easter celebrations of Semana Santa in Seville. Then, as I walked north, I found myself wandering into every open church along the way. By the half way point I had lost count of the masses I had attended and the candles I had lit. When I ended my Camino at the Cruz de Ferro it was clear that the Cross had become my guide.
- Itinerary – A list of the stages covered. The pilgrimage on the VdlP and Camino Frances spanned 1,295 kilometers (805 miles). However, on this Camino I relied on taxis and buses when I was sick or hobbled or the stage was mostly under water from heavy rains (at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). As a result, I actually walked 1,062 kilometers (660 miles).