Yes…. I made it….over 900km and 1.56 million steps to look out across the Atlantic ocean just as Columbus did….. just as millions of Pilgrims have done before me and if the world learns the lessons of this Camino…. that of tolerance, respect, generosity, genuine love for all mankind regardless of race, colour or creed….then the millions that follow will also have the chance to look out across the Atlantic and give thanks for what we have!
Now …. I need to back track. ….to tell you about my journey into Santiago and beyond. I last left you in Sarria…..
But first let me tell you about an Angel I met on the way….I have met many but this one exemplifies the magic of this ancient path, this one sums up the Pilgrim saying that ” the Camino will provide and look after you”. All you have to do is believe and it will happen! Some may call it coincidence….. but it occurs way too often for it to be explained away so easily.
I was in Ponferrada. A large city of over 60000 people. The city with the magnificent Templar Castle I told you about.
Well I got off track looking for a bank and other bits and pieces and was struggling to find the Camino trail and the way out so in best ( worst ) spanish I asked a young girl for directions. In her best english/Spanish she tried to explain! Anyway I set off clearly in the wrong direction because she came running after me…. and smiled (laughted) and said ” I will show you”. We walked together for 15 minutes. Turned out that she was from Venezuela and was living and working here to support her family back home. I told as best I could about why I was walking and about Meg’s. Eventually we found the distinctive Camino signs and arrows.
we smiled and off I went….happy that I was going the right way….. she went back to where we had met ( in all 30 mins out of her way….. can you imagine that happening anywhere else?) .
…..two full days of walking later we ( my Camino family and I) stopped at the small village of Pereje for some lunch.
and who is serving behind the bar? My Venezuelan Angel…. we hugged like we had known each other for years….such is the Camino way.
I went to pay but she refused saying ” give it to the children”….. and such is a Camino Angel!
Now from Sarria……. to Santiago.
Sarria with its Celtic origins was a major medieval centre for Pilgrims. It is now a busy town with a population of around 14000 but the old town and the ancient Camino Real ( way) is still largely intact complete with medieval churches, a monastery and castle.
Recognise this tree????
I was so surprised to see a gum tree here I picked some leaves and gave each of the family one at dinner…… little did I know that I would be walking through eucalypt forests as I approached Santiago! They are harvested for paper pulp here.
….. and of course plenty of bars!
Since they changed the rules around the qualification to receive the Compostela (a certificate to say you have walked the Camino) …. you now only have to walk 100km, Sarria is the starting point for a huge number of Pilgrims….. the way, the Albergues and bars etc would be very crowded from here on…. another Camino lesson and challenge for those of us who had walked over 650 km to get this far. My family and I would learn the real meaning of tolerance over this next 100km!
Clearly some did not learn the lesson!
Next stop Portomarine…. a village, moved stone by stone to higher ground due to the building of a reservoir…. a breathtaking achievement! Similar to Tallangatta but stone by stone!!!!!
And ever closer to Santiago…..
This guys was a busker…. literally in the middle of nowhere! He is playing the Galacian Gaita…. a traditional instrument in this part of Spain. Similar to the Scottish bagpipes or even closer to the Irish Uillearn pipes….. either points to a Celtic influence here.
Mountain Ash….. in the middle is Spain and the beautiful smell of home!
….. to some more Camino magic! I have often spoken about John Lennon’s imagine…. and just how appropriate the lyrics are to this journey…. to life in fact. I have heard it many times here and in the most mystical of places….. well imagine this Camino moment….. coincidence?
Rubbish bins…..200 mts apart! My hope is that one day you will all join us! The world would be a much better place!
Now on to Monte del Gozo and an Albergue that sleeps 600….. interesting! Our last stop before we walk into Santiago. The excitement, an amazing sense of anticipation hangs over us all night!
……that night it is within sight!
Setting out the next morning to walk the last 6km was a surreal moment…… the family was unusually quite and, like me lost in their own thoughts…. but like a Marathon runner not wanting to think too much about the finish line that lay just ahead……one step at a time we reminded ourselves.
On we marched through the Suburbs of Santiago following the now very familiar yellow markers around corners and along busy roads until we reached the edge of the old city. Then like thirsty cattle making a charge for water…. off we went ….. arm in arm, bursting through the crowds and into the square and Santiago Cathedral…. experiencing every emotion all at the same time!
We had done it ….. we had walked the Camino de Santiago….. all 800 odd kms of it. We had met every challenge and embraced every moment. We laughed, we cried, we hugged and enjoyed the most magical moment of all! Just an amazing moment….. and to do it with a family you had grown to love made it even more special!
Our timing was perfect….. a quick breath ( and beer) and it was into the Cathedral for Sunday Mass. Even with a little bit of queue jumping we still had to sit on the floor but that was nothing compared to what we had endured and the joy we were experiencing.
The Pilgrim Mass, complete with organ and choir was very humbling.. but nothing compared to the Botafumerio…. the incense burner that in ancient times was burnt to try and nullify the smell of the Pilgrims. Just simply awesome…. and so symbolic. Not a dry eye I suspect.
Photos of the Cathedral…inside and out( covered in scaffolding for renovations unfortunately!
Saint James slaying the Moors!
St James crypt….. and the stairs leading down…… worn down by the millions of Pilgrims over 700 years.
Then off to get our Compostela
Then loads of beer and cheer and laughter and “wows ” and tears to celebrate! We sat for a long time cheering on, congratulating and sometimes embracing other Pilgrims as they arrived. Pilgrims for the most part we did not even know…..such is the love on this sacred way! Camino moments enveloped us!i
But my job…. my journey was not yet complete. I had another 90km to go….. another 100000 more steps to take before I would get to Finisterre and the end of the world.
Next day I set off…..in the pouring rain and through bush that had been ravaged by bushfire just two days before.
I was cautioned not to go further by 2 Camino veterans…. mud, ash and falling trees would make it quite risky.
So…… a confession. I caught a bus to bypass this but I did walk into Finisterre and the 4km to the lighthouse and the zero km sign marking the end of the Camino and the end of the world…..
….and as luck ( the Camino magic ) would have it the sun came out and I was able to walk there with my two Camino Angels ….. Hilde and Heidi. I am blessed again!
We spent some time there soaking up the moment ….. just as we did in Santiago.
With the bronze boot.
Right on the edge….
There is an ancient symbolic tradition here that Pikgrims burn their clothes …. so they can start afresh. But due to the advent of synthetics this had been banned. Clothes are now just left there as a kind of memorial to the end…… a cleansing…. a restart.
I sacrificed the shirt I walked in the whole way and left two small scallop shells I had found on Moocow beach NSW and had carried with me just for this.
Then down to the beach to watch the sun set into the sea…. again just as millions of Pilgrims had done before me.
I sat there…. alone on a rock and as I watched the sun slip beneath the waves I cried!
It was done….. I had walked to the end of the world!
I’m now in Muxia… time to take a breath…. to relax and to reflect.
It is done kids! I and my beautiful friends who have supported me have walked to the end of the world for you…. we have walked so that you could have a chance to even dare to dream of doing this yourselves one day!
Talk soon from Muxia or maybe Madrid….. I will have time to really reflect by then.
Adios and just “imagine”!