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Santiago the Slow Way (or The Ramblings of an Idiot)

Santiago the Slow Way (or The Ramblings of an Idiot) 1.0

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A book for all walkers (including the armchair variety), tame adventurers, true pilgrims and even doubtful Christians. There are many tomes written about the pilgrimage to the burial place of St. James in Northern Spain but this one is a somewhat different in that it is hopefully a little more humorous and a little less reverential than many other accounts. It is not that religious an account but a journey by a pretty poor believer after a great walking experience but also hoping to find out what it really is all about.

It was a walk from my front door in Southern England to Portsmouth and thence from Le Havre right down through France via Paris and Orleans down to cross the Pyrenees. I then turned right into Spain and across the mountains and table lands of Northern Spain via Pamplona, Burgos and Leon to Santiago de Compostela and then on to the 'End of the World' at Finisterre in Galicia. It was a walk of 1,309 miles (or 2,100 kilometres – which, of course, sounds further!).

The Way is an amazing pilgrim’s path which reached the height of its popularity in mediaeval times with over half a million people travelling the Way each year. It was tackled by great Knights, prisoners in chains, slaves walking it for their masters and normal people with enough belief to tackle the bandits and fantastically tough conditions to obtain salvation on reaching Santiago.

However as I had a wonderful young family at home, each year I was only allowed time off for good behaviour and completed the mileage over nine years in shorter stretches of 150 miles or so. Each time I returned exactly to the last year's finishing point to continue onwards. The last year was truly special when my long-suffering wife Suzy joined me to see what I kept on rabbitting on about and we walked the last 60 miles together to the true end of the World at Finisterre.

I met madmen and truly superb people; saw churches from little stone 'blockhouses' to some of the grandest Cathedrals in Europe; slept in dormitories with anything from 3 to over 200 other smelly pilgrims; walked with giant blisters but also with a soaring spirit which made you feel that you could surely fly; trudged through pouring rain, wind cold enough to freeze your knees and pretty fierce heat; wandered through superb country from the banks of the River Seine to high mountains {plus a fair share of mundane corridors in maize fields}; had felt real doubt and yet experienced those true moments of sublime 'mobile meditation' when absolutely all is well with the world.

I encountered nutty tramps, a mobile French brothel {from afar, honest}, stayed in a Vietnamese opium den of a hotel, places with lumpy beds and superb food, the Pilgrim's refuges with double or triple bunk beds and fellow travellers sleeping on the floor. Almost always ate exquisite French and Spanish food with delights such as Galician pulpo {octopus} and had to endure the ordeals of walking through world-renowned wine regions such as the Loire and the fantastic Rioja. I made some great friends and yet had to fight off characters who wanted to 'borrow' all of my gear.
Come with me on my Way. Of course I cannot be sure you will enjoy the read but I can guarantee you cannot get blistered feet by reading this trudger’s tale. It does come with a health warning though – the Way is a fantastic and truly life-changing experience and once bitten it may be difficult not to get your boots on and have a go!
Andy Hill
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