Welcome to the Camino de Santiago!

Camino de Santiago


The first few days of the Camino have been such a flurry that it been hard to even think ofposting a blog entry. But now, three days in, I think I am getting a feel for how things are done; which translates to mean I have quietly slipped out of the room I am sharing with 10 other people and have come down to the albergue (hostel) common room at 5:00 am to share what Gabriel and I have been up to.

We arrived in Madrid on April 1 and then took a 3 hour train ride north to the city of Pamplona (famous for the annual Running of the Bulls). An important note to make is that my 17 year old son has eschewed the traditional (i.e practical) hiking attire normal for walking 500 miles with backpack in favor of his “punk rock” attire. He wants to keep his “identity” he said. The result of that “identity” was that we gathered the attention of police and immigration officers with much less effort.

So no sooner had we stepped off the train in Pamplona than Gabriel was intercepted by 3, very large, Spanish police officers. I suppose I could have kept walking and let him face the full consequences of his “identity”…but he is my son…so I turned around to acknowledge I was with him. After producing passports and explanations the officers seemed convinced we were neither drug traffickers, Basque separatists, or trouble in general, and proceeded to let us go.


We were picked up at the station by istvan, who with his wife Barbara, ran the Pilgrim’s accommodation we would stay at that night. Because the traditional starting point of the Camino de Santiago, the small French village of St. Jean Pied de Port, is not the easiest destination for Internationals to get to, Istvan offers a wonderful service. He picked us up in Pamplona, took us back to the pension for dinner and a relaxing night stay, and the morning he drove us about 45 minutes to St. Jean.

With a handshake and some words of advice, Istvan left us near the Pilgrims Office where Gabriel and I went in to register. We received our Pilgrims Passports, which would be stamped along the way and validate to the officials in Santiago that we had walked the route. We also received our scallop shell, the traditional symbol of the pilgrim making the journey to Santiago, which we affixed to our backpacks.

We stayed that evening at an albergue called Beilari which means Pilgrim in the Basque language. We couldn’t have started our Camino from a better place. Everything about Beilari was designed to infuse a spiritual / reflective start of the pilgrimage with a community feel. Like life, our journey is done both individually, and with others. If you focus to much on one at the expense of the other, life gets out of balance.

Beilari, unlike other albergues, advertises that has NO Wifi. Yes, we were disconnected for 24 hours from the web and it felt great. Instead, prayer and reflection areas were provided outside. Then in the evening all 18 people staying there gathered together to share about themselves, where they were from, and what had brought them to do the Camino. At the table were pilgrims from Australia, Ireland, Germany, Korea, Spain, Holland, Finland, Great Britain, and of course us, two Americans from Hong Kong.

Then around a common table we had a wonderful meal and wine and broke bread together as we wished our new friends a good first day and a Buen Camino!



  • Lauren Chai

    Hey Mr. Hackman!

    Glad to see you are enjoying your holiday. I’m still praying for your safe return! Tell Gabriel I said “Hi”!


    • Steve

      Thanks Lauren, that’s very kind. Thank you for your prayers!

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