I made it to Santiago!! A Camino review post to come, but for now: I’m DONE!! I don’t know that I’ve realized it yet, as I feel a mixture of joy and disbelief. It feels like an absolute blur, but also like I’ve been away for ages. I’m tired, and ready to go home, but sad to be leaving this special place.
Everyone starting walking earlY today, out of nerves, wanting to have more time to be in Santiago, wanting to make 12:00 mass. Spoiler: I did not make it in time for mass. But it wasn’t something I was set on, so I let my feet decide when I’d arrive. So, sleeping in this morning wasn’t an option, resulting in today beginning at dusk, shrouded in mist. It was an easy hike today, 20km and relatively flat. Everyone, despite the morning rush, sauntered. Mostly I assume willing the time to pass slowly-for the first time on the hike. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, but it suddenly felt too soon. There were a lot of people on the trail, but it wasn’t overcrowded by any means, and the walk was much more pleasant than suggested. Again, I felt like the majority of advice you read about this hike applies mostly to the winter, but isn’t so great for the off or shoulder season. But luckily, all that means is pleasant surprises! I walked primarily alone, or, as much as you walk alone with other people? But it felt appropriate, I came on this journey by myself and I wanted to spend the last day walking alone with my thoughts. Soon enough, we hit the city, and the round a corner and there was, without much warning, the cathedral! It’s difficult to describe how I felt. I never doubted my ability to complete this, but I still felt pride, and joy! And of course mild disappointment the scaffolding was still up. Some around me complained it was anti-climatic. But I enjoyed it. And it did feel like an ending of sorts. A few minutes after me Liz and Brandon showed up, and within ten minutes (and virtually no line) we had our compostelas and final stamps. Officially we were done. Santiago de Compostela is an adorable city, complete with winding alleyways, climbing vines, and ample cafes. One could easily spend several days exploring. But I have 36 hours! It is, of course, touristy, crawling with pilgrims and associated businesses. But it also has an air of celebration with people hugging each other in congratulations all over the city. It’s a unique place. I spent the afternoon wandering the city after I checked into my hotel (!!) and checking out the church, which, is definitely grand. I am not a fan of huge churches, they feel cold and judgemental at best. And this one is similar, but it is special in that it’s the destination I’ve been slowly walking towards for the past month! So, what did I learn? That’s the subject matter of a later post. But I will say the Camino surprised me in a lot of ways. I surprised myself as well. At the end I feel stronger, physically and mentally. Through the highs and lows, and occasional loneliness despite being surrounded by others, I’m so glad I did this. And I’m also so glad to be headed home, I miss it dearly, and it’s time.