It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, when an ending feels like a beginning. With the help of new friends, Compeed blister pads, a lot more faith than I’m used to, and trusty three euro bocadillos- I have somehow managed to complete my version of the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage. I walked (ha, limped) the final few kilometres into Santiago de Compostela at around eleven o’clock in the morning on Sunday the tenth of November- crazy! As I gazed up at the iconic cathedral I had one of those reverant moments where your mind is ensnared purely by the spectacle in front of you, and where you just feel like stopping time for a few precious moments. Alas, the moment was broken by a fellow pilgrim hurrying us along to make it to mass, but it was beautiful nonetheless! It was the ending of my Camino adventure, and the beginning of, well, life without walking every day.
After my time at Taizé, I started walking again from Sarria. Sarria is just over one hundred kilometres from Santiago, and because you actually only need to walk one hundred kilometres to get your Compostela certificate, thousands of pilgrims choose just to do that section. It was a very strange experience indeed to start walking again. I’d been walking in lovely sunshine before, and this time it was pouring down with rain as I took my first steps from Sarria. So, it was time to pull out my pièce de la résistance; the heavy plastic rain poncho that my Nanny found buried in the back of her garden shed! This delightful fashion staple protected not only me from the rain, but my backpack as well, and required my lovely British friends to help me pull it on in a process that took about five minutes. Let me tell you, I was scared to stop anywhere for the rest of that first day, as I knew I’d have to take my poncho off and get fifty million people to help me put it back on again. But, it was a good lesson in learning to accept help more readily! Please enjoy the following photo, and try not to be too blinded by my beauty:
From Sarria, I walked twenty five kilometres to a beautiful riverside town with hundreds of whitewashed buildings called Portomarin. I didn’t actually plan to walk that far, but all of the other albergues leading up to it were closed so I guess I had no choice. But, it turned out nicely, as my knee behaved itself in its trusty knee brace, and I stayed at a gorgeous albergue ran by an older couple. The next day I walked to Palais de Rei; again in the rain, and again through beautiful forests and countryside. It was nice to spend these days walking mostly alone, and meeting some new people every now and again. At Palais de Rei I made a gourmet dinner of bread and tuna, and sat down with a lively bunch of fellow pilgrims. One guy, from the Netherlands, was basically John Krasinki’s doppelganger in personality and appearance. It was great to share stories and simply share in one another’s company!
We rejoiced the next day as it seemed sunny and rain-free, but the Galician region had other plans and sent down a massive downpour. In fact, it actually started to hail at one point! I remember trudging into my destination of Melide with blisters forming on my feet, my backpack digging into my hips, the hail pelting down, and, to top it all off, I was offered a free sample of what I didn’t realise was octopus (until I ate it) by a local restaurant owner- I loathe octopus. With a passion. What a day! But, to appreciate the sunshine, we need the rain hey. I just had to laugh! And, in the albergue at Melide, I met Italian Sara who cooked me risotto with some porcini mushrooms she’d picked up along the way. Sara grew up identifying and picking mushrooms with her Grandpa in the Italian mountains, and she made the most beautiful risotto for which I was very grateful!
From Melide, I walked a cruisy fifteen kilometres to a place called Arzua. I checked in to my albergue at around one pm, leaving me plenty of time to journal, relax, and get some washing done. And, in a wonderful turn of events, my German friend Kat caught up to me and stayed in the same albergue! It was such a treat to see her again, and enjoy a lovely pilgrims menu together with some other friends. At this point, my knee was doing okay, but I had twelve blisters on my feet from getting back into the swing of walking- including three on my little toe! But, our little group of Kat, Sara and German Alex decided to do a casual thirty five kilometres the next day to Montes de Gozo, so that on Sunday we only had to walk five kilometres into Santiago. I thought I may as well give it a try, and actually ended up completing the thirty five kilometres- my biggest day yet. I started at eight am and arrived at seven pm, hooley dooley! When I arrived I couldn’t spot any of our little group, and I thought they’d dogged me for a second. But as it turned out, I was just way too Speedy Gonzales and beat them all.
Then, I hobbled the last five kilometres into Santiago and thus completed my journey! Guess how many kilometres my official certificate says I completed? Three hundred and ninety eight– just a measly two kilometres short of four hundred! This factored in my break from the Camino, and added my distances from St Jean to Burgos, and then Sarria to Santiago. To get your certificate, you have to show them your Pilgrim’s Passport- the stamps on which prove you have walked at least one hundred kilometres. Here’s a photo of one side of mine:
I spent a wonderful two days in Santiago catching up with old and new friends, eating yummy tapas and churros, and taking some time to wind down and reflect. I truly do see the end of my Camino as a beginning, where I am hopefully able to see life in a more considered light! I’m so grateful for the lessons I learned and am still learning; both on the Camino and at Taizé. After Santiago, I took a bus to Lisbon in Portugal, where I am currently sitting in my cosy dorm room writing this blog. It’s so lovely to experience Lisbon for a little while before hopping on a plane to head home!
Love from Madeline xx