Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? I listened to a documentary on the radio the other day and they were discussing pilgrimages – The Hajj (to Mecca) and The Camino de Santiago (in northern Spain), among others.
This made me wonder whether I had ever undertaken any pilgrimages. I decided that I had, kind of.
The one that first came to mind was a pilgrimage to Scotland I made for my 40th birthday. Scotland is where my mum’s forebears came from and I had always hankered to visit. I decided it would be an ideal place to celebrate that significant birthday because I had been to a friend’s 40th the year before and another mate had arranged one of those Strip-O-Grams for him. Considering there were mums and aunties present it was a little inappropriate, to say the least.
Anyway, I didn’t want the same thing happening at my 40th so I decided to go as far away as possible – Culloden, just outside Inverness, to be exact. This was something of a pilgrimage because it included a visit to the site of the famous Battle of Culloden, which I’d been interested in ever since seeing Peter Watkins’ 1964 docudrama about this tragic battle in which the British defeated and slaughtered the highland clans under Bonnie Prince Charlie.
A pilgrimage needs to be a journey that has some spiritual or moral significance and I think that fitted the bill.
I would count a visit to the famous Abbey Road studios in London and a stroll across the famous pedestrian crossing outside (the one featured on the cover of The Beatles album Abbey Road ) as another pilgrimage, of sorts.
I consider the trek my wife and I took many moons ago on in Nepal another pilgrimage and the one that involved the most actual walking. Real pilgrimages seem to involve going on foot.
We spent 12 days trudging in the Himalayas and high in an alpine valley near the border with Tibet we reached our ultimate destination, the hamlet of Kyanjin Gompa, where we visited and paid homage to the local Tibetan lama who lived not far from a glacier.
During our brief audience with him he told me how much he admired my sunglasses and I got the hint but didn’t want to part with them. Anyway, I promised to send him a pair as soon as I got home and I did although I never knew whether he got them or not. Yak mail is notoriously unreliable.
That was a pilgrimage, wasn’t it?
There have been others of varying degrees of significance but I’m wondering now if there’s something I have missed. I haven’t been to The Vatican yet so I should put that on the list and I would also like to make a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal. I did think about the Camino de Santiago but that’s around 800kms. Yikes. I suppose I could drive it. Does that count?