Llego a Santiago
Jun 25, 2013
|I made it! I arrived in Santiago today!
Sunday, June 23, one month after I started walking in Roncesvalles, I walked from Palas do Rei to Arzúa, 29 km. Started in the dark just after 6 a.m. and was glad I did even though it ended up being a cool, partly cloudy morning. Being Sunday, no businesses were open to speak of and few people out at all. Lucked into being able to see an old Romanesque church with later murals by landing there just as mass let out.
All morning, the walk was pretty and green as usual, but after about 20 km, one can start to get tired and bored. After lunch, put some music on my iPod, and tried singing along, but the combination of a heavy pack, full tummy, warm sun and an uphill path left me winded and tight-chested, so took a break to stretch and rest a couple of minutes at a pilgrim's rest area. These usually consist of a few picnic tables and maybe a grilling area under some trees on the edge of town. I usually skip them, but not today!
It was almost 4 before I reached Arzúa, a town renowned for it creamy sheep's milk cheese. Visited a bit with some American women doing the last 100 km to Santiago; they were eager to hear about the earlier phases of the camino. Having gotten some of that delicious local cheese, I was heading back to albergue when I ran into two pilgrims I had met on the coastal route several weeks ago. We caught up on our respective walks and ended up getting some pulpo feiro, grilled octopus spiced with chili, pretty tasty.
From Arzúa on Monday, I walked to Arca do Pino, a roughly 20 km walk with a good climb right off the bat. Had a trail breakfast (including fantastic Arzúa cheese) sitting on a stump in the woods. Much of the forest here is actually pine or eucalyptus groves grown for the wood and paper industries. You can sometimes see where clear cuts have been made. Not always pretty, but a major economic engine for Galicia, historically among the poorest regions in Spain.
Arca do Pino runs along the highway perched on side of ridge. Lots of sun! I arrived right at noon, so after a few minutes rest, I hopped up and gathered my laundry to hand wash and take advantage of sunny, breezy day to get everything fresh and dry before I hit Santiago. People ask what you think about while walking all those miles: getting clean, body and clothes, ranks up there, but not nearly as omnipresent as calculating the conversion of kilometers to miles (km x .621 to get miles). Oh, and, of course, most important: when is the next population center going to pop up so I don't have to keep scanning for a roadside hiding place to take care of bathroom needs?!
Had late lunch at a pulpería and then went to check out the town. The church was kind of cheesy with a conch shell behind the altar as if we were watching an Esther Williams movie. But, surprisingly moving, knowing that I would be in Santiago the next day, having reached the end of my journey and come to the center of the shell of rebirth myself.
Tuesday morning dawned and I was on the road by 6:30, eager to see Santiago again after 28 years. Would I remember anything? A quick OJ and tortilla breakfast about 5 km along got me going, but the horde of teenagers (about 50) at the next village really jump-started me -- I didn't want to be stuck walking among them the last day of my camino!
Didn't stop again until Lavacolla, a historic camino pilgrim stop. In the olden days, sentries would force pilgrims into the streams here to wash themselves FULLY which many may not have done since leaving home months earlier. Hence, Lavacolla, which translates roughly as "wash your tail"!
Lavacolla now is the site of the Santiago airport, about 10 km from center of town. Passed it and started slow climb up the Monte do Gozo, or Mount of Joy, which is the first point from which pilgrims can supposedly see the spires of the cathedral of St. James. I looked hard, but never saw them. Did see the truly uninspired monument to Pope John Paul II and his pilgrimage to Santiago -- some 'art' just really does not beautify its surroundings.
Got to the edge of the city about 11 a.m. and stopped for a refreshment break. After a Nestea and cheesecake, spiffed up a bit so I could look presentable when I reached my goal. Not sure it made much difference, but at least I felt like I looked better!
Reached the Praza do Obradoiro, the huge square in front of the cathedral, right after noon. Got a couple of photos, thankfully, since I had dropped my camera onto the granite street just a few blocks before! I was not feeling great, so I saved my visit to the cathedral for another day and instead headed off to find the pilgrim's office.
The pilgrim's office is just a block down a side street and offers all sorts of information and assistance. But, most importantly, the pilgrim's office issues the Compostelana, a certificate (in Latin no less) that states you have completed the pilgrimage and are entitled to all the benefits of such status, which, if you need it, apparently includes a reduction in the time you will serve in Purgatory for your past sins!
Although actually receiving the Compostelana was slightly anticlimactic in its bureaucratic ease, I gratefully received this simple sheet with a mixture of joy, pride and humility. What a privilege to walk in the footsteps of so many others who also sought peace, wholeness and a deeper sense of self and God!