Dan Zemek arrives in Santiago
by Dan Zemek
This past February I wrote here about my upcoming trip to Spain where I would walk another Camino de Santiago. As you may recall, there are several different routes in Spain with this designation…but the one thing all have in common is that they all lead to the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. This city and cathedral are famous for being the burial site of the Apostle James. In the spring of 2022, I walked the most famous of these trails called the Camino Francés which starts in France and goes west for about 500 miles to Santiago. In March of this year, I went to the south of Spain to start my pilgrimage in the city of Seville. This route is known as the Via de La Plata which follows a famous Roman road that traverses the country north to south. It is far more desolate with less infrastructure than Camino Francés and would take me 600 miles to get to my destination.
After spending an extra night in the city of Seville to get over jet lag and to walk around this beautiful city, I left my lodging early on the morning of March 18, 2023. I felt confident that I was up for the challenge having done the same type of walk less than a year ago. But the reality of one of the final sentences of my last article came back at me with full force. Back then I wrote in anticipation: “As usual, in planning this type of trek, I know there will always be events and encounters that are impossible to predict… some may be very uncomfortable.” How true this came to be!! For whatever reason, for the first two weeks of walking I had a variety of problems with my feet. A big blister was just one of the problems as well as some serious nerve pain. I was shocked when this started on the very first day! And then to add to the pain I was experiencing with each step, I also started having some back and hip pain. However, at least for me, part of a pilgrimage such as this is to encounter adversity and to overcome it as much as possible. So, I kept walking…12-15 miles (occasionally more) each day while trying to MacGyver different solutions for these problems. Fortunately, as I was getting closer to the halfway mark of my journey, the city of Salamanca, I started noticing that things were finally improving. My feet, my hips and my back were all feeling better! And so the last half of the pilgrimage was much better than the first half.
Early on, in the city of Mérida, I took an extra day for rest and to see the awesome Roman ruins in that city. I was enthralled to see well preserved sites such as the Roman theater and amphitheater where the gladiators fought in combat…as well as the aqueducts that dated back to the time of Christ. A Roman bridge, called Puente Romano from the first century, crossed the river as I entered the city. It is 790 meters long and is still used for pedestrian traffic!
One of the joys of walking on the Camino is meeting people of like mind from around the world. I usually would walk by myself, but in the afternoons or evenings when we had reached our destination for the day, we would often eat and drink together. Getting to know people from different countries and cultures is always a very liberating experience for me.
After 48 days, which included 2 rest days, I finally reached Santiago de Compostela! It was a wonderful feeling of fulfillment and I was happy to celebrate with some of the friends I had made along the way.
This only scratches the surface of my story for those 48 days, so, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information or have comments. I always like to talk about the Camino!