Talk about excitement this morning! It was a bit of a fitful sleep with a belly of queimada and anticipation for the final leg of my journey.
I would start in Amanal today and called a taxi to take me there. Funny enough, I had the same taxi driver as I did the night before. We joked about the fact that he never sleeps. He must have a pretty captive audience with all these peregrinos coming through town.
Fuelled and ready to go, I continue down the path with more eucalyptus groves. You can feel the excitement on the trail. People are laughing, people are smiling, people are high-fiving each other. The Camino spirit is alive and well.
Along the trail I meet these two lovely young ladies. We chatted about their experience. They had started in Sarria 120 km out. They said it was harder than they anticipated and were a little impressed this young lady started in France. More conversation and giggles and we discovered they were from Canada and went to the University of Guelph. They are twin sisters Katrina and Courtney. Since they were identical twins I was getting them mixed up which I’m sure they are used to. Anyways, Courtney is majoring in Chemistry and close to her Masters. My niece Torie was in Toxicilogy and working on her second Masters so I thought perhaps their paths had crossed. What do you know, Torie presented a report and gave out samples of David’s Tea which Courtney fondly remembered. I showed them a pic of my beautiful niece and the puzzle came together. It really is a small world!
You can probably see the tiredness in my eyes and baby, I am tired! It’s only 15 km to go and I have this in the bag. Believe it or not it seemed to be one of the longest days with the anticipation of arriving in Santiago.
I bumped into Cliff and Holly again and along the way, an occasional Brazilian cyclist that road by me a few times. He always blew me kisses on and we laughed each time. It’s the little things. 😉
At about 5 km out from Santiago, a group of us stopped for lunch and a beverage to fuel us for the final push. Music was playing and people were dancing. The energy was palpable.
The streets began getting busier and more houses appeared in the distance. I could see the city of Santiago. As I drew closer, my eyes searched for the Cathedral. I searched for another 2 to 3 km. It felt like the road would never end. Then I saw the sign and all the days of walking, all the blisters, muscle strains, mediocre food and difficult sleeping conditions all melted away. I was here!
Following the scallop shells embedded in the concrete the sign that you are still on the Camino, I kept walking. There was some commotion up ahead. An elderly gentleman had driven over a curb and his car was balancing on the undercarriage. Three peregrinos stopped to help the grateful gentleman.
it was a proud moment to have witnessed.
Continuing my walk I turn the corner and hear bagpipes coming from a tunnel. This is the tunnel I had heard so much about. The bagpipes welcomed me as I entered and followed other pilgrims into the light at the other end. My eyes adjusted to the daylight and I looked around at this immense square and standing proudly looming over the square was the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
What a moment it was. I literally released my backpack and let it fall to the ground dropped my sticks and sat in the middle of the square just staring at it. I don’t know what I was to expect, There were no tears, no real emotion, just awe. This picture had been in my mind for so many years and to suddenly be standing in front of it after the journey I had taken, made me feel so proud and at peace.
It was fun watching other pilgrims enter the Square. Some were crying, some running across the cobblestones into the arms of those they recognized, and some knelt in prayer. The scaffolding and netting from the renovations did take a bit away from the outside view but I hear inside is pretty impressive. I missed the Pilgrim’s mass today but will catch it tomorrow – Pentecost Sunday.
First thing was to find a place to stay. If you have watched the movie The Way, Martin Sheen stays in a Parador hotel and sips champagne. The Parador in Santiago de Compostela is considered the oldest hotel in the world. Well, why not me too? I walked up to the front desk fully expecting it to be full and was delighted to hear they had a room for me. Yippee! I jumped on the bed and kicked my feet up in the air and off came the socks. You never saw anyone jump into a soaker tub so fast! My tired, aching knees, damaged toes and feet splashed and played until the water got cold. No more confining hiking boots for a while! 😜
I went in search of people to celebrate with and quickly found my flight attendant buddies. They got in around 11:30 were well into celebration mode, and it didn’t stop. We headed to the Parador’s terrace and I ordered a bottle of French bubbly to toast our success. The evening continued with wine flowing and food filling plates. Although I had spent many days on my own, it was extra special spending this evening with good people celebrating our journey. It is funny how we have gravitated to each other over the past few weeks. Even as we were about to leave, Stephanie and Bianca (fondly known as the German sisters) and Colorado Tim walked into the restaurant. Out of all of the hundreds of restaurants in Santiago they chose that one. It was meant to be – the Camino provides.