BUENOS AIRES – The Spanish navy oceanographic vessel BIO Hesperides has called in for several days at the port of Buenos Aires carrying the first 100 pilgrims on what is known as the Antarctic route of the Road to Santiago, which covers a distance of 14,075 kilometers (8,746 miles) and is considered the longest pilgrimage from the most remote place in the world.
The ship began the pilgrimage on Feb. 28 with the closure of the Spanish Antarctic base of Gabriel de Castilla.
From there it sailed through Drake Passage, which divides South America from Antarctica, to arrive at the southern Argentine region of Ushuaia, the first landfall where it was certified to be on the Road to Santiago de Compostela, and where it took a group of scientists aboard.
Now the ship and crew have docked at Buenos Aires, the second stop where the pilgrims’ credentials will be authenticated before setting sail for Spain.
The Association of Friends of the Route de Buenos Aires certified its passage in an act held at San Ignacio de Loyola Church before an image of St. James (Santiago) the Apostle.
“Originally we just called in to put up a poster, but little by little we’ve seen how the pilgrimage has interested everyone so much that it has been evolving,” the skipper of the Hesperides, Cmdr. Julio Albadalejo, told EFE.
As a consequence, Ushuaia and Buenos Aires are being considered as obligatory stops to encourage pilgrims to make the longest, most unusual pilgrimage ever to the cathedral in the northern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.
The experience of transporting the pilgrims has been particularly interesting for those members of the Hesperides crew who hail from the region of Galicia, where Santiago de Compostela is located.
“Being able to do something like this so far from home is incredible, one feels much closer to home,” Petty Officer Jose Antonio Platas, for whom just the idea of starting out “at the end of the world” is already “something special,” told EFE.
“We feel like we’re on the road,” said Santiago Muras, another native of that northern Spanish region and one of the veterans of the crew.
But the voyage of this first officer also signifies a landmark within the Spanish navy itself, since he is “the only” sailor that has sailed “through the Drake more than 100 times,” the area with the most extreme weather in the world.
“I’ve never walked the Road to Santiago, and now I’m able to travel it from Antarctica no less,” Chief Petty Officer Ruben Peon said.
The Hesperides will weigh anchor this Saturday headed for Spanish waters, where the crew will continue overland the final stretch of the Road to Santiago.