Today I leave late, since Sergio an Ana are late. The albergue has to be left by 8 a.m., so I wait for them in the nearby Che Cafe, having breakfast. Here I meet Aziz again and my Spanish bed neighbour Elisabeth. She wants to take a cab to Santiago, since she cannot walk with her twisted ankle. I feel so sorry for her, coming this far and then having to give up. But she's already making plans to come back in October. I met quite a few people who have done the Camino several times, it's amazing. Soon everybody leaves and I still wait for my taxi drivers. At the next table two young men sit and they remind me very much of Alexander Supertramp from the movie "Into the Wild", look just like him. They seem so relaxed, sip on their cups, smoke and say a few words to each other once in a while in american English.
Big Santiago waymark - it's not so far anymore :)
I notice Dostojewski's "Crime and Punishment" on one of their backpacks, and this just strengthens my "Into the Wild" impression. Finally, at 9:30 Sergio and Ana arrive, and after they load my backpack we say farewell. I am so happy to have met these kind people!
It's a sunny and warm day and I enjoy the nature around me. I think I can hear a plane somewhere up in the air. But it could have been a train, too. After a while I bump into a group of French students, and to my surprise find them very distracting. I quickly get ahead of them. It's getting very warm and I stop at a bar to buy some ice cream. Here I meet two women I will be meeting again all along the Way. They are Corinna and Margita from Sweden and we chat a little before we split up again.
After two hours I'm in San Paio and stop at a bar to buy an apple.
I wonder how this happened?
I notice that the closer you get to Santiago, the costlier it gets. In the bar I bump into Alexander Supertramp
and I tease him about not having noticed them overtake me on the road, when they were left behind me in Pedrouzo. The young man laughs, but I also notice he's shy, and I figure he must be on the road for a very long time. Shortly outside of San Paio the Way continues uphill. It's so steep and so long, and I drag myself along like an old woman on crutches. Suddenly, I hear footsteps coming closer. It's the Alexander Supertramps
, overtaking me with a fast pace. "See, we walk", the young man says smiling. "Yeah, and you are fast!" I reply laughing. I will see these young men later in Santiago, and though we never get to know each other, I will learn about their story.
Monte do Gozo monument
They really are Supertramps
, came from Canada to travel Europe. They've been on the road for the last 5 month or so, and met somewhere in southern France. One of them was to go to the Camino, and the other one just came along. Ever since they travel together. The one who wanted to go to the Camino, wanted to walk barefoot. He did for a couple of days, untill his feet were torn. They both weren't really prepared for hiking, which also led to walk through snow in sneakers. But, the point is, they didn't care. They were just enjoying things as they came along. I love such stories and am in awe of people who can do this!
Shortly before Monte do Gozo I meet Aziz again. We walk all the way to Monte go Gozo together. It's a hill 5 km from Santiago with a great view on the city, and the name means "Mountain of joy", relating to the feeling of joy the weary pilgrim experiences when he reaches this point looking straight towards his goal - Santiago de Compostela.
Getting into Santiago! :)
There's a monument and a giant albergue, and I meet quite a few familiar faces, pilgrims who take a last break before entering Santiago. One of them is Biljana. She is lieing down and doesn't feel good at all. But she's confident to make it all the way today. Aziz and I split up, and I go to the albergue's huge self-service restaurant for lunch.
As I start my last stretch of Way, I bump into Biljana, and for the rest of the Way we walk together. She's in bad shape, and fully aware that it's pure exhaustion. It's painful to watch her in pain, and I can't help worrying she might collapse, so I stay with her. As soon as we reach the outskirts of Santiago, the Way leads along the main road, and the traffic is just annoying. After days surrounded with nature and the sounds of silence, the traffic is just horrible! Welcome to the real world.
Walking into Santiago with the cathedral's bell tower in sight
It's about another 2 km to the cathedral in the old town, and soon we see the bell tower. Biljana is holding it up, and The Band's song "The Weight" comes to my mind. I have to take the load of her, and offer to carry her backpack, but she's determined to make it all by her own. Respect!
At 3.30 p.m. we reach the old town. We made it! The sun is shining, the town is crowded with people and you can hear music on every corner. We reach the cathedral to the sounds of a bagpipe player, and standing in front of it I get all teary. It's just awesome!
Biljana goes to sit and take a rest, and I go into the cathedral. Right now I need some me-time, and the cool, quite cathedral is just perfect. After a while I want to find St. Jacob's and Master Mateo's statues.
Waymarks in Santiago. Porta de Camino is the entrance to the old town.
Tradition is, that "at the end of the way" the pilgrims put their hands on the column below St. Jacob's feet, and their head on the statue of the builder Mateo. Then they visit St. Jacob's grave in the crypt. During the Holy Year, if the pilgrim does all the religious acts, like confession and communion, they get total absolution. The cathedral shows both romanic and baroque styles, and has several portals, famous being the Portal of Glory (Portico de la Gloria) from the 12th cent., and the Holy Portal (Portica Santa). Inside it's rich on statues, decoration and a big organ. The main altar shines golden and decadent, and I have to think about the church in O Cebreiro which was made of stone walls with nothing but a stone altar decorated with flowers inside. I liked that better.
Santiago, going towards the cathedral to the sounds of a bagpipe
I try to find my way to the crypt, but somehow there are barriers everywhere, and you cannot exit one door or enter through another as I get directed by the numerous security wards. It's strange, that after all that freedom along the Way, now at the goal there are restrictions all the way.
I leave the cathedral and go find Biljana. Meanwhile, she's find a lady who rents rooms and goes with her. We're sure we will meet later, right now she just wants to lay down. Santiago has several albergues, where you can stay even for more days, pensions and private rooms. The landladies of the private rooms usually stop you in the street and offer their accommodation. I stayed in such a room 4 years ago, and it was worse than the worse albergue. Luckily, I had found Pension de Estrela, a small family-run pension in a residential building on Praza de San Martino, right in the middle of the old town.
Santiago, arrival at the cathedral
But before going there, I first go to the Pilgrim's office. There I meet Elisabeth, who actually did walk the last 3 km and is so happy about it. Inside there are Aziz, Raul, and many more familiar faces. After signing in and presenting my fully stamped Credencial
, I get my Compostela.
Man, am I happy!!! Everyone is all jolly and we make photos ("Patata!!! :)) and arrangements to meet tonight.
It's almost 5 when I finally get to my pension. The landlord seems to remember me from last time, and I get a beautiful room with a view to the Praza. Put some laundry, take a shower, and take off to town again. I want to go to Finnisterre tomorrow by bus, and head out to the tourist office for information. On my way I run into Aziz and we go together since he wants to go to Finnisterre as well.
Got my Compostela! :)
Aziz speaks very good Spanish and English and has helped me out a couple of times. He's a sweetheart and has interesting stories to tell. At the tourist office, the lady is very helpful and nice, and I leave with a bus schedule and a list of albergues. I have to go back to my pension to take my laundry out to dry. The pension also has a fully equipped kitchen guests can use, so I go make some soup. There's no stove but a microwave, and it takes me forever to heat up the soup since I have never really used a microwave. Still cook on an old fashioned gas stove.
At 9 I go out to meet my fellow pilgrims. We have a totally relaxed drink on the terrace of a bar, and then go to have some dinner at a restaurant. These late dinners are something I don't think I would ever get used to, but here in Spain it's normal to go eat out as late as 10 p.
Santiago, Pension de Estrela at the Praza de San Martino
m., and stay up all night. Biljana is here, too, and she informs me that she has a fever but feels much better now. Stefan is here and we find out that we have the same flight to Germany on Thursday. He thinks it is cancelled, but I don't feel like going further into this. It'll be okay, I'm sure. After dinner, the landlord brings out, what else but rocho
, the omnipresent home made herb brandy :) . We have a fun evening, and say farewell afterwards. The Spaniards leave home to Barcelona
tomorrow, Aziz and Stefan will go to Finisterre as well, Biljana wants to stay a day or two here and then walk (!) to Finisterre.
My first plan was to go to Finisterre in the morning and come back in the evening.
Santiago. The gang having dinner at Casa Manolo.
I changed that into staying the night there. But as I'm back in my nice room, and start to pack my backpack, I really don't feel like packing up again and leave this nice room. So, change of plan again: a day trip will suffice.