Since the ninth century, Christian pilgrims have been walking this trail across Europe, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain and heading to the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, said to hold the remains of the saint.
The French Route of the Camino de Santiago, one of the most popular, cuts through the Angeles’ town of Pamplona.
Javier Pueyo and Maria Angeles Arias met at the University of Pamplona, he studying medicine, she nursing. After an eight-year courtship, they married June 14, 1997, in a Catholic ceremony. They set off on their religious pilgrimage June 16.
“We weren´t interested in the typical beach and luxury trip,” Javier said. “We wanted our marriage to be blessed by God in this special way.”
Veteran walkers of the Camino de Santiago
Both had walked the pilgrimage path along the Way of Saint James, El Camino de Santiago, before.
“I walked it in 1989 with a group of friends from my church,” Javier said. “I ‘fell in love with’ the Camino. So then Maria Angeles and I walked it in 1996, in two phases: the first part in April and the second part in September.
“Both of us continued to be attracted to and fascinated by the experience, and we decided to make our honeymoon a pilgrimage from our home to Santiago. I proposed the idea to Maria Angeles and it seemed immediately like the best idea to her. There was no hesitation.”
Making friends and receiving help
The couple left from their new home in Pamplona and arrived in Santiago July 6. Along the way, they met pilgrims from France, Australia and England, and became good friends with Mario, “a guy from Zaragoza with a big heart,” and Juan Antonio, “a Benedictine monk who got his calling while walking the Camino. Two wonderful people.”
“It was really nice to receive the help and the hospitality of simple people in the small villages,” Javier said, “and especially from those people who for no gain of their own take care of the inns (refuges) and make your rest more pleasant.
“Each dawn was a gift, the color of nature, the sounds of nature, the water, the rain, the sun, the night.
Arriving at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela
“Entering the Cathedral of Santiago is always an exciting moment. The first thing we did was fulfill the ritual of hugging the Saint, then we prayed in front of his tomb and went to Mass.
“During the Mass, by coincidence at 12 a.m. in Pamplona the ‘chupinazo’ was being launched which opens the festival of San Fermin. After this, we had dinner with Mario and Juan Antonio and said goodbye to them. The next day, we watched the first ‘encierro’ (running) of bulls of San Fermin on TV, and we caught the train back to Pamplona.”
The reality of a 422-mile walk
“We were already familiar with the Camino, so our goal was to enjoy it as much as possible,” Javier said, “to live a forever unforgettable experience and to bless our marriage.
“In our experience, the first time you do the Camino you feel fear: fear of not arriving, fear of being tired, fear of pulling out, fear of sickness. When you start it again, there’s no fear; only the idea of leaving your mind and heart open and ready for what may occur.
“The Camino is a reflection of life itself. Each day is a routine, but you find meaning in that blessed routine. Each dawning day is a new day full of experiences to live, and each passing day will never come again; everything walked remains behind, but that which was lived remains in you forever.
“The pain and the exhaustion will always be compensated: God will help you directly and through man. You learn to help out of love, you learn to receive the help of humble people. You learn how to think and to meditate, how to enter into your own interior, and to know yourself. You learn how to make prayer, to speak with God.”
Walking the Camino as a model of married life
Javier, 47, and Maria Angeles, 43, now have three children: Pablo, 15, Marián, 13, and Diego, 10. “Diego means St. James,” Javier said, “and that is why we named him that. We may walk the Camino with our children one day.
“Married life is not an easy road. We continue walking together, overcoming the difficulties and sharing the joys. Our goal is not the Pórtico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago, but rather Heaven – the House of God.”
Would they recommend a Camino de Santiago honeymoon for other couples?
“Of course we would,” Javier said. “Be it for spiritual reasons, religious, humanitarian or naturalistic ones. May they go with open minds and hearts, so that all the experiences lived will mark their lives.”
When you go