Getting to the Camino Ignaciano

 Atocha Renfe Station, Madrid

Atocha Renfe Station, Madrid

As with the Camino de Santiago, there's no easy, direct way to arrive at the starting point for the Camino Ignaciano, Loyola,  in the Basque Country (Northern Spain). To complicate the journey, I was first flying into Paris, on the same day there were strikes for the trains. So, after a 3-flight journey from San Luis Obispo, I got on a plane to Madrid and hurried to the Atocha train station to catch the last train to San Sebastián. 

Luckily, I am familiar with San Sebastián, so it wasn't difficult getting from the train station to my favorite hostel (well, the only hostel I've ever stayed at in San Sebastián), Kaixo. After more than 30 hours awake and travelling, I made a quick change of plans and decided to stay an extra night to visit San Sebastián for a day.

 Playa de La Concha,San Sebastián-Donostia. 

Playa de La Concha,San Sebastián-Donostia. 

 Sunset from Zurriola Beach, San Sebastián-Donostia.  

Sunset from Zurriola Beach, San Sebastián-Donostia.  

Maybe that was my first mistake. As enjoyable as it was, that got me to Loyola on the weekend,a weekend in which there was a youth soccer tournament. All of the accommodations were completely booked. This was a disappointment, because I had hoped for some extra time in Loyola for some spiritual preparation, but without guaranteed accommodation, I decided to go anyway, even if it meant starting the first stage the same day.

Saturday, June 9

To get from San Sebastián, it was really easy to catch the bus (UK01 from Urraldebus) - on Saturdays it leaves at 5 after every hour from the station (a much better bet than trying to get it on Avenida de Las Americas, but if you do - the exact stop is across the street from Zara, which I realized only after watching the first bus drive right by me further down the street). 

The women working at the reception of the Casa Natal de Ignacio (the house where Ignatius was born, and experienced his conversion) were especially helpful and called Hotel Larramendi in Azkoitia, just three kilometers away on the first stage of the Camino Ignaciano. They had been fully booked, but by some miracle, a guest had left early, leaving one room open that night.  

 Sanctuary of Loyola, Azpeitia.

Sanctuary of Loyola, Azpeitia.

After visiting the house and the basilica, both of which I highly recommend, I started a pleasant 30-min walk along a paved path to Azkoitia - taking the first official steps of my pilgrimage on the Camino Ignaciano.

 The start of the Camino Ignaciano next to the Sanctuary of Loyola

The start of the Camino Ignaciano next to the Sanctuary of Loyola

I can already see this Camino is different. So far, I am the only pilgrim around. I know I'll meet ones from the Camino de Santiago in Navarette ir Logroño but they'll be going the other direction so I won't stay with them long. Unless I catch up with someone, or someone catches up with me (more likely), this will be a lonely one. Perhaps loneliness is something I need to feel for this pilgrimage. 

*In 1521, Ignatius of Loyola was severely injured when he was hit in the legs by a cannon in ball in battle in Pamplona, Spain. During a long and difficult recovery in his home in Loyola, in the Basque Country, he passed the time reading about the lives of the saints, and what he learned drastically changed his aspirations. In 1522, he undertook a pilgrimage to Montserrat and Manresa. The Camino Ignaciano, designated in 2011 and which received its first pilgrim in 2012, follows this journey, which changed Ignatius life - a life which changed the world. These are my reflections as I attempt the same pilgrimage, in an answer to the call to take a solitary walk and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

If you are interested in making this pilgrimage, visit www.caminoignaciano.org