So here I am sitting in a beautiful apartment Santiago de Compostela knowing that this time last week I was still wandering whether or not we would actually get the ferry at all.
I have lay awake in my sleep pondering how to start this blog as usually I write for myself knowing one day I may publish my work but this is not work it is complete play and it is emotional indulgence and philosophical enlightenment. To understand love, faith, beliefs, death, travel, people, dreams and myself.
I am writing this for my family and friends to read and join me on this journey that I have embarked on. Some of you think that I was crazy and some of you gave me your blessing but all of you are in my thoughts. One quote from the pilgrimage written about Paolos meeting with a Brazilian football player is: "Fans who lack faith can make a winning team lose a game." So please all stand by me during this journey and know I would and will always do the same for you.
By popular demand and I guess because I truly believe that this experience I have been blessed to live will enhance all of you I am going to keep you updated and share all that I am living over the coming 3 weeks. And you better read this I need to read 4 books and travel 1,500km and face all my fears to give you this information!!!
Paulo Coelho had written: When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
Having read this is actually did take a week to review my own personal situation and realise that I was completely ready to take a challenge and to throw myself to the universe not knowing what to expect but wanting something different to what I had or rather I was living.
Tom had called 2 weeks ago to ask what I was doing and how I was. We do speak everyday and have done for the last 10 years we have had many adventures together as well as growing up and understanding the world. This day I was feeling un easy and frustrated with where I was going and what I was doing. He had just returned from Istanbul where we had had several adventures together in the past and had read The Zahir.
The Zahir means 'the obvious' or 'unable to go unnoticed' in Arabic. The story revolves around the narrator, a bestselling novelist, and his search for his missing wife, Esther. He enjoys all the privileges that money and celebrity bring. He is suspected of foul play by the authorities and the press of having a role to play in the inexplicable disappearance of his wife from their Paris home.
Thereby, the protagonist is forced to re-examine his own life and marriage as well. The narrator is unable to figure out what led to Esther's disappearance. Was she abducted or had she abandoned their marriage? He comes across Mikhail, one of Esther's friends. The narrator with his help realizes that to find Esther, he must find his own self. Mikhail introduces him to a tribe who has unconventional ways of living. Through the narrator's journey from Paris to Kazakhstan, Coelho explores various meanings of love and life.
Tom suggested I immediately get out and go and buy a copy as it would help me realise many of the things I was questioning and teach me some lessons I needed to learn. I naturally went and bought the book and started reading it that evening. The following day Tom called again this time he sounded excited and asked me to look online at “The Quest For The Sword!” A journey had begun and is why I am sitting here now. The car is packed with everything from a tent to Bunsen burners to torches and champagne! Dad has just returned from Everest so a lot of the kit was on standby and I have to say I haven’t taken off the Nepal Mountain rescue hat yet!!
So the quest I will try to abbreviate most of this so none of you get bored but:
On 30 December 2009 I stood next to a Celtic monument, pondering over the decade about to come to an end. And I thought: to what extent has virtual reality replaced the taste for adventure?
At that moment I remembered my searching for my sword on the road that had changed my life , and how that pilgrimage had been important in turning me into the person I had always dreamed of becoming, living my personal legend. The moment had come to make the same challenge to someone else, and that is what I am doing here and now: pilgrim, go and search for your sword!
You can start anytime. I don’t know how many will heed my call. Perhaps many, perhaps nobody. In any case, the sword – that is NOT my sword received in “The Pilgrimage”, but a present given by a friend when I turned 60 – will be waiting in the manger until 31 December 2010. The sword has two distinguishing marks, and can only be identified by me or the Guardian.
If no-one fulfils the twelve tasks, in the first days of 2011 the prize in money mentioned below will be delivered to the Paulo Coelho Institute and then immediately donated to charity for the Lar Paulo de Tarso in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Should the sword be found, a donation of the same value as the prize will be made on the day that the winner receives his/her part. In order to find it, you will have to read four of my books: The Pilgrimage, By the Piedra River I Sat down and Wept, Brida and The Devil and Miss Prym. In this way the pilgrim will travel through places where I walked and which have left a mark on my life.
Although it is not difficult to get the information on the twelve steps on the Internet, I proposed the enigma in such a way that the pilgrim will have to take photos of the places marked.
In other words, the journey cannot be avoided.
I reckon that approximately 1,500 kilometers have to be covered, either by car or public transportation. It’s impossible to know how many days it will take, since real people have to be contacted, and these people may just not be in the place indicated – which means you will have to wait for them.
And of course there will be only one winner. Besides the sword and the adventure, this winner will be awarded a prize of US$ 10,000.
But everyone who takes part in this undertaking will end up benefitting from a beautiful experience.
In the hypothesis of the sword being found, this will be announced immediately, together with the photo of the winner.
As the poet Antonio Machado said: “Traveler, there is no path / the path is made by walking”.
I then looked at THE ENIGMA which is the 12 test that you can only gauge understanding of through reading the books. Tom has even refused the sat nav *he has become the original Tom Tom! So we have to travel on intuition and guidance from others.
I hasten to add this has already working in our favour! Sometimes in life you have to look for signs where you are going, what you are doing, what reason there is behind both. We didn’t book the return ferry and I said to Tom I have no doubt there is a reason for this……………….
On the ferry we won the return trip!
Then when we arrived in Santiago Tom had had a premonition that we would be lead by a taxi driver…………………Guess what we asked directions and he said to follow him! Ask and you will receive. So we are now travelling through Spain and the Pyrenees into France and beyond…… To find our sword!
Less than a kilometer from the Greenwich meridian lies the sword. So, if that were the only objective of this quest, it would not be too hard to find it.
After all, it lies there in a manger, awaiting the hand that will carry it far away. But the sword has its caprices. When it awakens it will ask its Guardian who is arriving, and will only hand itself over to the first one who fulfils all the twelve tasks.
The Guardian will ask for the many images. And the first warrior who fulfils the tasks will gain access to the manger. Yes indeed, the conquest was above all the journey, but – just as in “The Alchemist” the shepherd discovers the coins – the warrior will receive, in addition to the sword, his or her prize in money.
In the place where Pelayo saw a rainfall of stars, a city was born between the Tambre and Ulla rivers. In the middle of this town, an old worksite was transformed into a public square, and in the middle of this square there is a mark on the ground.
The image of this mark is the first test.
On the ferry which I have to say was possibly one of the most surreal experiences of my life we started reading the books and navigating our way through the tests to understand which book was first and which clue would guide us to complete each test and begin the next. Having now read The Pilgrimage I know that at least the first 4 tests are written during this book…… You will understand in due course.
Here is a summary of the book: I don’t want to sound like someone who has just given up smoking and now thinks everyone should do the same, that said if you have a chance do read it. It takes 7 hours and I am quite slow and often get distracted especially with a casino and bar on a ferry for 3 days!
In 1986, Paulo Coelho sets out for The Pilgrimage towards Santiago de Compostela. "In those days' Paulo's spiritual quest was linked to the idea that there were secrets, mysterious ways, and people who are capable of understanding and controlling things, which would be unavailable to mortals. His journey gave him great insights and experience, to which Paulo was transformed as he learns to understand the nature of truth through the simplicity of life.The Pilgrimage details Paulo Coelho's journey along the legendary road of San Tiago across Spain. In The Pilgrimage, Coelho recounts the spectacular trials that lead him to discover personal power, wisdom, and a miraculous sword that seals his initiation into the secret society of the Tradition. With his enigmatic mentor, Petrus, he follows a legendary road travelled by pilgrims of San Tiago since the Middle Ages, encountering a Chaucerian variety of mysterious guides and devilish opponents. Coelho's experiences and his mentor's teachings impart the spiritual wisdom that reveals itself as the true purpose of their exciting journey.The story shows that love can make us stronger and it is this strength that allows us to make the right decision at the right time. The search of truth is assimilated to a personal search for meaning, for the things that we need in life such as truth, agape, enthusiasm, and spirituality.
Some of my favourite quotes which resonated most with me that I want to share with you are:
"Don't lose sight of your objective. Don't forget that you still have a great deal to learn before you find your sword."
"Time isn't something that always proceeds at the same pace. It is we who determine how quickly time passes." LOVE IT! I am now in a city with no cars and time really has stood still!
"Changing the way you do routine things allows a new person to grow inside you."
"We must not stop dreaming. Dreaming nourishes the soul. Many times in our lives we see our dreams shattered and our desire frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don't, our soul dies, and agape cannot reach it."
"The first symptom of the process of killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to what they are required to do. The second symptom is our uncertainties. Because we don't want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of warriors. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what's important is only that they are fighting the good fight. The third symptom is peace. Life becomes a sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to pay. In this state, we think of ourself as mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. But deep down in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams. When we renounced our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That's when illness and psychoses arise. And the dead spoit dreams make us difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. We need to learn to fight the good fight. We need to accept adventures and challenges that life provides, but we still want to deny anything that is extraordinary. The only way to rescue our dreams is by being generous with ourselves. Any attempt to inflict self-punishment - no matter how subtle it may be - should be dealt with rigorously. In order to know when we are being cruel to ourselves, we have to transform any attmpt at causing spiritual pain - such as guilt, remorse, indecision, and cowardice - into physical pain. By transforming a spiritual pain into a physical pain, we can learn what harm it can cause us."
"Philos is love in the form of friendship. It is what we feel towards others. When the flame of eros stops burning, it is philos that keeps a couple together.
"Agape is both eros and philos. Agape is total love that consumes. The love that consumes makes everything else - absolutely everything - lose its importance. It is the love that consumes the person who experience it. Agape is much more than liking. It is a feeling that suffuses, that fills every spaces in us, and turns our aggression to dust. Whoever knows and experience agape learns that nothing else in the world is important - just love. This is the kind of love that can shook the stars and change the course of history and enables us to accomplish things that kings, armies, and empires could not."
"Enthusiasm is another form of agape Enthusiasm is agape directed at a particular idea or thing. Enthusiasm carries us toward our goal.
"We blame the world for our boredom and for our losses, and we forget that it was we ourselves who allowed this enchanting power, which justifies everything, to diminish - the manifestation of agape in the form of enthuisiasm."
"The messenger helps you, but there is one thing that is beyond the messenger's control, beyond his desires, and beyond you, as well. It is the divine spark, what we call LUCK!"
"A threat leads to nothing if it is not accepted."
"When we sense the presense of something positive, your imagination, concluded that someone had arrived to help you. And this, your faith save you even though it was based on an assumption that was absolutely false."
"When I asked if you wanted to, I was not testing your courage. I was testing your wisdom. But you wanted to be brave, when it is enough to have been intelligent. Wisdom is only valuable if it helps us to overcome obstacles."
"Good teachers only are able to demonstrate how you can deal with problem, and how to win. Teaching only demonstrate what is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself."
"Once a problem is solved, it's simplicity is amazing."
And thus the problem was solved!
The First test: In the place where Pelayo saw a rainfall of stars, a city was born between the Tambre and Ulla rivers. In the middle of this town, an old worksite was transformed into a public square, and in the middle of this square there is a mark on the ground.
Santiago de Compostela is situated in between Tambre and Ulla river. In the middle of the town outside where the cathedral has been built there is an image in concrete in the ground of a scallop shell which is what the pilgrims use to show people along the way for help and to drink from the fountains without using their hands, having spoken to locals we know the site was initially used for work and markets well before the buildings arrived.
We have taken many photographs already as the site is so beautiful and city has stopped in time and the only noise you hear are the cathedral bells.
Walking toward the rising sun. in the mountain that was given the name February, I found my sword in front of the Holy Grail.
Stay there for a day. Talk to the third person you meet.
The image of the Holy Grail is the second test. The image of the third person you meet is also the second test.
This is tomorrows adventure: Towards the rising sun is East. The mountain is O Cebreiro meaning Febuary which is near Lugo about 2 hours drive from here. Below is some info about the mountain I have got from google…..
starting 1,300 metres above sea level and ending at 480m - appears easy but that is not the case. The ups and downs of Galicia are not what they seem and many of the trails and corredoiras (paths) conceal steep slopes.
The village of O Cebreiro affords a wonderful view of the Galician countryside. The saw-toothed ridges to the north stand in contrast to the curved shapes of those to the south. Behind us lie the rich and fertile Bierzo and the Valcarce valley, and to the west, a sharply defined ridge points the way to the giddying descent to Sarria.
From here on the pilgrim passes through village after village; so many in fact that it’s easy to lose your bearings and to know which village you’re actually in. Fortunately, the friendly locals are happy to clear up any confusion.
Here the route runs through stunning woods on the Atlantic coast where the branches of the centuries-old oak forests block the light and streams trickle down through the stones keeping the earth moist.
The Holy Grail
O'Cebriero is a tiny town with one major possession. At their church, Santa Maria, they believe they have the Holy Grail. A miracle was supposed to have taken place at that church in the 14th century. During the consecration, a peasant came into the church out of a snowstorm in order to hear mass. The priest criticized him for coming so far just for a little bread and wine. At that vrey moment the bread and wine were literally turned into flesh and blood. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Innocent VIII in 1487.
It has been said to us that the Holy Grain on the mountain is more significant than any of the jewels in the Vatican. So here to the third person we meet tomorrow and to finding the Holy Grail……
Will keep you all posted as and when although the walk is 30km tomorrow up the mountain so it may now be until the third test. I miss and love you all photos and videos coming soon. Good night or rather Good Heavens! xxx REMEBER IF YOU DONT GET TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN YOU WILL NEVER SEE THE VIEW.