Day 31 – Santiago de Compestella
We left Arca late this morning (late for the Camino that is) at about 7:30 or so. Things started badly as after about a kilometre on the road I noticed that I had left my satchel somewhere. My satchel not only carries the wide-angle lens for my camera, but my maps, guides, voice recorder, etc. I had to jog back and retrace my steps before I finally found it. I had to really move to catch up with Peter and Morag. I had no chance of catching Keith.
Once I caught up with Peter and Morag, we continued in the sunny weather. We entered Lavacolla and the local church bell rant twice. We are not sure why, it was ten minutes to the hour. Then it rang a few more times. We think that perhaps someone was ringing it whenever a pilgrim went by the church. We then stopped and sat on a small bench in front of a mercado for soft drinks and snacks.
As we were leaving Lavacolla, we found the stream that pilgrams had been using to cleanse themselves since the middle ages. Traditionally they washed their privates, but we settled for rinsing our hands.
Peter and Morag both rinsed their hands. I decided to splash some water on my face and I almost fell in. Then as I tried to stand I almost fell in again. The water nice and cold though and it was worth it.
Rain had been expected, but I figure Morag pulled some strings on high and the weather held at mostly sunny as we walked around the airport and up to Monte do Gonzo, which is on a hill overlooking Santiago. There we met up with Keith as planned. At one point you would have been able to look down towards the Santiago Cathedral but due to development in the city the view no longer exists. We did have a chance for a quick drink and time to look over the large statue placed to mark the Pope’s visit.
The four of us finally headed on, and shortly after entering Santiago, we met up with Keith’s wife Alice who had flown in from Scotland. It was lovely to met her after hearing so much about her from Keith along the way.
Alice, who had investigated the town the night before, led us right to the Cathedral de Santiago. When it came into view, it hit us that this was it. It was the end, and we had finished the Camino. We walked numbly around from the side to view the front of the Cathedral.
Once we saw the beautiful facade, a flurry of hugs and congratulations erupted from us. Several eyes, including mine were teary. We stood for several more minutes unable to really process it, I guess, and then Alice took some photos of our group in front of the Cathedral.
Slowing coming out of it, we then moved to the pilgrim’s office, presented our credentials, and received our Compostelas. We staggered out into the streets, and we all set off to our respective hotels. No more albergues for us!
I checked into my hotel (Hotel Pazos Alba) (getting lost only once along the way) and settled in. I will be staying two nights so this is an opportunity to go through my stuff. I had a bath for the first time in a long time and soaked the trail away. I felt clean, really clean!
After resting and calling Sandy, I set off into the streets with my trusty hotel-supplied umbrella. I wanted to get to the train station to get my tickets to Madrid. The walk felt nice and the train station was a nice piece of architecture. I picked up my tickets and then stopped for a snack and cerveza. I happened to enter the same café that two Spaniards who I met my second day were sitting. They spoke no English and my Spanish is rudimentary at best. But they always smiled and greeted me warmly and inquired how my knees were doing. Strangely, I have never learned their names, but now I finally have a photo of them.
So, here I sit in my hotel, writing this in clean clothes, well bathed for the first time since April 28, and looking forward to Mass tomorrow at noon. I hope the day is nice as I haven’t had much time to photograph the cathedral.
Well, that is it for now. I’m going to get ready for my second last dinner with new friends that I may never met again. We will meet at the cathedral and then walk the streets in search of our meal.
As for what the Camino has done for me. I really can’t process all it yet. It may be a while. I do know that I have learned a lot about myself, my family, and what things in my life are good and what may need improving. But so much is abstract and hard to put into a check list of any sort. I think that finishing the Camino is not the end of something for me, but rather the beginning.
Soundscape: Walking Onwards
Soundscape: Walking with Music in the Streets of Santiago