Am I a pilgrim?
For decades I had no idea about the Way of St James, was busy with IT and led a halfway normal life. Then there was this idea to go on pilgrimage to Santiago on the occasion of my retirement. But how does one become a pilgrim? Am I one? This question kept me busy for a long time.
During my first overnight stay after crossing the Pyrenees, I had a conversation with the hostel mother there. She said, "The path makes you a pilgrim". Yes, I thought, but I didn't feel like a real pilgrim.
The decisive experience was in Burgos:
The gears on my bicycle no longer worked, so we went looking for a bicycle repair shop in Burgos. A young bicycle mechanic received us very friendly and even understood what we wanted through our interpretation and the few words of my Spanish. He adjusted my gears, checked the bike and increased the tyre pressure. When I asked him what I owed, he asked if I was on my way to Santiago as a pilgrim. When I answered in the affirmative, he said the service was free. I thanked him and was insanely happy. In his eyes, I am a pilgrim, a real pilgrim. That touched me deeply inside.
After Sahagun, the Way of St James splits on my map and I promptly take the wrong branch, unsuitable for cyclists, and end up on a bumpy sandy track. I scold myself and the thought of cycling back to the fork in the road really upsets me. The other branch of the Way of St James is on the other side of the motorway. No chance of getting across. Nevertheless, I take a chance and head cross-country to the motorway. The path you see in the picture today didn't exist back then. And sure enough, I spot a bridge and drive across the field towards it. The double-lane, asphalted bridge looks brand new. It leads from nowhere, where I come from, over the motorway to the left part of the Camino. My thanks for this bridge go to St. James. Two lanes and two footpaths would not have been necessary, though. The strange bridge was obviously built especially for me. It takes me directly to the Camino. Next to the Camino is a brand new asphalted accompanying road, on which it is wonderful to ride. Now I am satisfied again and enjoy the ride in the Meseta plateau.
Looked it up on Google Earth: The bridge over the motorway does exist. Today (2013) it ends in a dirt road that did not exist in 2004. The bridge still doesn't really make
Green: Way of St. James, Red: My stray path