Tonight, Alison Barrett will take you on a journey by bike through northern Spain along El Camino de Santiago. You’ve seen Martin Sheen walking El Camino in the movie: The Way, now see what it’s like to bike the pilgrimage on paths, dirt roads and pavement.
She will talk about her trip and show fantastic pictures at the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association (GABA) General Meeting tonight, January 7, at 7:00 p.m. The meeting takes place at the Pima County Medical Society Building, 5199 E. Farness, in Tucson. The meeting is free and open to the public.
Barrett will offer tips for planning your own adventure on the Camino.
Barrett set out on the Camino in October 2012, after a year of planning. Her goal was to ride a rented mountain bike for 500 miles from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela on a mix of Camino pathways and parallel paved roads and highways, averaging 55 miles per day, over the course of nine days. Across beautiful, diverse landscapes—over mountains, through forests, into valleys, and across plains—with weather ranging from 80 degrees and full sun to 40 degrees and pouring rain, she followed guiding arrows, put her cycling skills to the test, adjusted plans, and experienced the kindness, generosity, and hospitality of wonderful people from around the world.
The Camino de Santiago is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The trip offers a view of Europe that ranges from medieval villages to modern urban life, progressing over terrain that ranges from rough mountain trails to gentle rural lanes.
Originally, the Camino de Santiago was the route that devout Christians followed to visit the tomb of St. James, located in a glorious Romanesque cathedral, completed in 1128 in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. For the original pilgrims, who came from Portugal or France or elsewhere in Europe, it was all about faith; for today's travelers, who come from all over the world, it's also a chance to immerse oneself in European culture, art, and history.
Pilgrims walk the Camino for various reasons. Some to seek penance, others enlightenment, and still others for a sense of adventure, yet all progress toward the Cathedral in Santiago where it is believed the remains of the apostle St. James are held. Most pilgrims choose to carry a scallop shell with them to symbolize their journey in honor of St. James. According to legend, scallop shells are said the have covered St. James’ body after it was found on the shores of the Galician coast.
Even today, some people travel as the original pilgrims did: on foot (it can take 40 or more days) or on donkeys or horses. Others travel by bike.