Posted by: knitknigel | June 8, 2009

The Journey Completed

Oh, it´s such fun to wake up at 4:40AM to get ready for a little walk in the dark. But the seven of us peregrinos and peregrinas were ready for this, the last walk of our caminos. We didn´t quite get on the way at 5:00 AM as planned but we did get away at 5:45, after a lot of packing of bags in the dark. We even got to have a little coffee at that early hour because the albergue had a coffee machine that produced a little cup complete with stir spoon.

The first hour of our walk was both in the dark and on the highway. Our albergue was off the trail, so rather than go backwards and through the dark woods, we opted for the highway shortcut back to the camino. If I had been alone I might have missed the way, because it was at a place where the camino went under the road. But right at that point several other pilgrims walked out from under the overpass – perfect timing. But we did finally find a place for coffee after two long hours of walking, too.

Five of my compañeros

Five of my compañeros

The best part of today was that there was almost no rain. The walk did go through some sweet smelling eucalyptus forest, and there were singing birds to cheer us along, but for the last part of the walk, we arrived at the soulless Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy) albergue area (it sleeps 1000 people) although it used to be the place where one could first see the spires of the Cathedral. We walked around the end of one of the airport runways (no planes roaring overhead though), and then through the modern outskirts of Santiago.

But nothing could dampen the joy of the first sign announcing that we were in Santiago. Five of us had stopped at Monte de Gozo and began to walk together into Santiago. And that´s also where the rain started, so along with the rain, there were tears of joy for the people who had walked the entire distance from Roncesvalles.

So in our big rain gear, we all walked the streets, till we reached the historic centre of Santiago, through an arch where a bagpiper was skirling his music to celebrate our arrival, and into the grand square of the Praza de Obradoiro, with the Cathedral, our final destination, rising majestically before us.

The goal of the Camino.

The goal of the Camino.

The group of five in front of the Cathedral

The group of five in front of the Cathedral

Again there were tears of joy for my friends, some of whom had walked this camino for special reasons. One, Rita, was celebrating the completion of her promise to walk the Camino after the successful treatment of her breast cancer. Hugging her, and all the others, kissing each other, and looking in awe at the spires brought the tears to my eyes too. What an amazing accomplishment!

And there were others in the plaza whom I´d been with over the weeks they and I were walking. Four French men who had begun their trip in Bordeaux, the young woman from New York, the two women from Germany who remembered that I usually flew by them with a cheery, Hello, girls as I went.

Some of my fellow Pilgrims. The three men walked 1300 km from Bordeaux.

Some of my fellow Pilgrims. The three men walked 1300 km from Bordeaux.

Geordie did not make it to the city in time for the Mass, but I called him from the square and celebrated my arrival with him. Then I went in when the doors opened at 11:00 AM and secured a seat for the mass. I took out my knitting, and got six rows knit during the hour that I waited for mass. The place was packed, as usual and the same nun I have seen at every pilgrim mass lead the congregation in practicing the songs that would be sung during the ceremony. Meanwhile others were down in the crypt to see the bones of the saint while others were up above the altar hugging the saint.

Santiago getting a good hug from a pilgrim.

Santiago getting a good hug from a pilgrim.

The priest started the ceremonies by announcing the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world.
We had been standing, but the priest stopped after reading a few names, and said, in Spanish, “You might want to sit down – it´s a long list!” Although I had not visited the pilgrim office yet, it was still exciting to hear that there were a number of Canadians who had arrived from St. Jean Pied de Port which was where I had started. All the while I held my knitting in my hands so that it could absorb the air of good feelings that I knew were permeating the Cathdedral.

Once the mass was over, I went out the doors of the cathedral and called Geordie on the cell. He was at the hotel, but had not even taken off his wet clothes, so he left immediately and within 5 minutes was in the square. I could see him coming in his big red poncho and went out to greet him with a hug and a kiss. But it was pouring rain, so we immediatly went back to the hotel where, I swear, after five minutes of undressing, I was in bed and asleep. It had been a tiring morning, and I needed the rest.

Geordie´s walking companions were not with him at the Cathdral when he arrived, but I met them in the evening and got a picture of the three of them at the Cathedral this morning.

Geordie, Andreas and Marlene

Geordie, Andreas and Marlene

In the evening, we went out for a well-deserved glass of wine, and then at 8:00 pm, the others I had walked with arrived so we could have our promised fiesta. It was great to see them, knowing that today they would all be heading off back to their homes. Rosa was going to drive with friends to Madrid, Rita was taking the train to Barcelona, Edouard and Maria fly off to Barcelona too, and Jacinto takes the bus there. And Hortensia will make her way back to Brazil.

What an amazing journey. There´s more to say, so I´ll write another blog soon. To be continued…

¿Ultreia, mis amigos! Onward my friends!

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Responses

  1. And when will we see you back walking the “Seawall Camino?”

  2. Congratulations, Nigel,

    I could feel your joy through your blog! What a wonderful accomplishment! So, where are you off to next? the Ho Chi Minh trail maybe?

    JJ

  3. Congratulations, Nigel. You have worked hard for this and you should be very pleased with yourself! I enjoyed your great description of the last day. Thanks for the photos of the people too. It is nice to see the people you have been walking with (and Geordie’s companions too). I was thinking of you both yesterday as I knew you would be on your last day. I have enjoyed the blog so much, and have passed the link on to lots of people in Calgary who know you. Well done! Now it’s time for some R&R.

  4. Congratulations, Nigel! That is a great accomplishment! How many kms did you walk this year? Have you now completed all the parts of the Camino, or are there still more to lure you back another year? Sterling has started walking this spring, and has decided that he likes it! So… you never know… Maybe one day, we’ll be on the Camino, too…

  5. Reading the account of your arrival in Santiago gave me shivers and brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful accomplishment for you and your fellow pilgrims. Congratulations to you and Geordie!


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