SANTA IRENE to SANTIAGO de COMPOSTELA — 15 Miles
As I lay in bed in our little attic room, my mind was filled with the fact that this would be my last and final day on the Camino. Today I would fulfill my dream and walk into Santiago de Compostela. So I should have been excited but I was ambivalent. Part of me thought I should have gotten up really early and started walking and the other part of me thought — why?
I put on the exact same trekking clothes I had been wearing every single day since I had started this Camino — the same shirt, same trekking pants, same shoes, same fleece jacket, same scarf, same rain coat, just different socks and under ware.
They were serving breakfast downstairs and I was going to grab something quick and eat it as I walked. But somehow we ended up sitting down with a couple from Australia and they started telling me how rough the Camino had been for them. They were only doing the last 100 kilometers from Sarria but the woman told us she couldn’t wait until today was over because she had just too many injuries on the Camino. Then, for some reason, I heard myself telling her that I couldn’t wait for it to be over and that I was glad this was the last day. Why did I say that? Did I really feel that way? After they left the table I got really choked up and almost burst into tears thinking about this really, truly being the last day.
I slowed down and took my time eating and even had a second cup of coffee. Then Dick and I parted ways. He was going to drive to Santiago and turn In the car and I would walk and meet him there.
The path started out beautiful as usual and there was a lot of downhill. Then it started going uphill and I was getting winded. I expected the trail to be so crowded today but there weren’t any more trekkers than usual. If I came upon a group of them, we all quickly thinned out and I felt like I had the trail to myself again. And that was how I liked it — truly being alone.
It was supposed to rain today but so far it was just overcast and the air wasn’t heavy with moisture like the previous days had been.
This was something I was seeing for the very first time. The couple on the right had their packs on those wheel things but then they could also pick them up and carry them on their backs when the trail got rough. Pretty cool.
There was a ton of uphill today, especially as I got into the outskirts of Santiago and had to circumvent the airport.
Although I was still nestled in the trees I could hear traffic on the road to my right and jet engines on the runway on my left — but I couldn’t actually see any of it. If it hadn’t been for the noise I would have thought I was still way out in the country.
And then as the trail ascended higher and higher we were suddenly shrouded in fog. It started to rain, a light rain and people were stopping to grab their ponchos out of their backpacks. But I didn’t stop. I was hoping beyond hope that the rain was temporary and would clear any minute. And that’s what happened. Things began to clear up and the rain stopped.
I had now walked 10 miles and knew we must be getting close to Santiago. Another way I could tell we were close was that more than ever, guys were stopping to pee at the side of the road. I mean, it was like they were going to wet their pants with excitement that they were getting so close to being finished!
And then I saw it. There was Santiago — I was really going to make it! What I didn’t realize was that I was still a good 5 miles away.
I finally emerged from the trees and entered the noise and traffic of Santiago. And suddenly I was afraid of being alone. Unlike before, I now wanted to be surrounded by other trekkers. It seemed like just as I would see some, they would stop for some reason and I would pass them and have to look ahead for others. “The Way” was not well marked at all and I was forever thinking I was lost. And for the first time on the entire trek, I felt lonely. I wanted to be with someone else. And I kept thinking — the end has to be near — the end has to be near. But it wasn’t.
I had my eye on one lone trekker about a block and a half ahead of me and I kept hurrying along so I wouldn’t lose sight of him. Then he crossed the street and went up around the corner and I was just sure I would lose him. How did he know to go around the corner? There were no yellow arrows pointing that way.
I hurried to follow him into this little pedestrian walkway and I thought, “OK, now I’m really close.” But I wasn’t. The walkway had twists and turns and forks that split into 3 different paths and became more and more congested with people and shops and venders. And I was still blindly following this guy because I didn’t see any signs for the Camino. I wanted to stop and ask someone if I was going the right way to get to the Cathedral but I knew if I did I’d lose sight of my “trekker guide.” So I kept blindly following him.
Then as I was going down some stairs a woman sitting on the ground started playing the bagpipes and that’s when I saw him — I saw Dick waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs and I burst into tears.
I had made it.
Through my sobbing and tears my emotions were all over the place — pure joy, extreme exhaustion, euphoria, sadness, excitement, disappointment, happiness and a pure sense of accomplishment. Through all the ups and downs, the mountains and the hills, the mud, muck and rain, the blister, the hurting foot, the runs, the beauty and serenity of each and every day on the path, the spiritualism I felt each time I passed or entered a church, and all the friends I met along “The Way” — I had finally made it! I had fulfilled my dream!
The square in front of the Cathedral with trekkers lying on the ground, basking in the gory of finally making it to Santiago.
On our way in to Mass.
The Cathedral was big enough to seat 1000 people — but all the seats were taken and it was standing room only for Mass.
I was truly back in civilization, back among crowds of people, shops, vendors, restaurants, cars, traffic and materialism. Life on the Camino had been so pure, so simple, so uncomplicated. My journey was over but would always remain a part of me.