My plan for the final day of walking to Santiago de Compostela was to be out the door by 7 and stop somewhere in town for coffee and some breakfast before getting on my way. I knew the 20 kilometers would take me between 5-6 hours and I wanted to arrived by early afternoon. Alas, no cafes were open so I was thinking I would just start walking. But it was VERY dark and honestly a little scary because I could see so little.
Just when I wasn’t sure I should walk in the pitch black, Andy from the UK and Shawn came up behind me. I asked if I could tag along with them and they graciously said of course.
We got to the Kilometer 15 cafe in an hour and we only had 15km to go!
Andy and Shawn were moving fast because they wanted to make sure she got into Santiago in time to get her compostela. Since she was leaving first thing on Saturday morning, if she didn’t get it on Friday, she wouldn’t have the document commemorating the 500 mile walk she had just taken.
The Pilgrim office in Santiago only issues 2000 compostelas a day. When you arrive you are given a number (like you get in the deli) and the QR code on the ticket takes you to a website that tells you what number they currently are on. Sometimes people get a number early in the day and end up waiting 3-4 hours for their number to actually be called. Rumors abound about people arriving at 10:30am and only to find that all of the tickets for the day are already being gone. It would be crushing to walk all that distance and not be able to get the certificate.
After walking with Andy and Shawn for about 2 hours it was light enough for me to walk on my own. They kicked into overdrive and soon we out of sight.
I was so grateful that these two Camino angels took me under their wings and helped me get a strong start on my last day.
I created a hill and came out near the highway and got my first sight of Santiago de Compostela in the distance. It took my breath away!this is the goal I had been walking toward for over a year when I took my first step out of Saint Jean Pied de Port on September 24, 2018!
I knew from books I have read that the walk into Santiago involves trekking around the far end of the Santiago de Compostela airport. I was there just at daybreak. While it is a relatively small facility, it still felt mammoth.
Just as I was feeling the quaint villages were a thing of my Camino past, the airport faded away and I was back in another ancient hamlet. I was making good time so I decided to follow through of my plan of 2 hours ago and I stopped for breakfast.
More and more pilgrims were now on the Way and it was really foggy. Then the rain started. I stopped to put on my backpack cover and beloved poncho.
Just as I walked past a cafe, Denise and Dave, who I met on my very first day out of Burgos walked out! I hadn’t seen them for a couple of weeks. How fitting that I see my first Camino friends on my very last day! This is how the Camino works!
We walked through the final village of Monte do Gozo and got some pictures of a pilgrim monument that was pretty impressive, but completely missed the famous monument of the pilgrims at the top of the hill looking out over Santiago.
We passed a bar as we got into town and I said goodbye to Denise and Dave because I needed a bathroom break. I was also looking forward to making the final steps into Santiago on my own.
As it the case with the entry to all large cities on the Camino there were a couple of kilometers walking through the outskirts of the city on sidewalks and it was oddly difficult to find arrows to follow.
I ended up walking through the modern part of the city with a Dutch guy, Rudy, who was completing the Camino Primitivo (a five day Camino that comes in from the north and joins the French Way in Melide). When we got to the start of the historic area of town I said goodbye to Rudy and walked the rest of the way to the Cathedral on my own.
And then, there I was!
I immediately called Ray. He needed to share in my joy. He had been with me every step of the way. I was overwhelmed with tears of joy. I had done it!!
After soaking it all in, I made my way to the pilgrim office being fully prepared to not get a number even though it was just after noon. But, to my surprise, I got number 564 and they were calling in the low 500’s.
The wait reminded me of the lines in the hallway at the Alburgue in Roncevalles. Organized chaos.
the system they have set up working incredibly well and in less than a half hour, I had my compostela and a second certificate that you pay €3 for; a distance certificate. Plus a tube to keep them safe.
As I was getting my compostella, I met Andy Byer who is co-organizer with Kerri Daniels of the Sacramento American Pilgrims on the Camino group. I had met Kerri last year. It is a small world this Camino! I should mention that the Pilgrim office is staffed with dozens of volunteers. These are people like Andy, who pay their way to Spain and then volunteer to sit behind a desk for hours on end awarding certificates. Without them, the Camino wouldn’t work.
I headed back out to the square and bumped into several friends who had just arrived.
I made my way to my pension which is literally right next to the Cathedral. I have a balcony that I can almost reach out and touch the building.
I did my usual end of day routine; shower, reorganizing, hanging up wet clothes and a little decompressing.
Then I went for a walk to get something to eat. Suddenly I was starving! I started with dessert!
Angie from California connected with me and we agreed to meet for dinner. When I went out at 7 it was pouring rain so I invested in an umbrella which I would have paid just about anything for.
I had a delicious and comforting mushroom risotto (there’s that “fucking meat” that drive vegetarian Italian Danny crazy). I was in bed by 10. What an amazing day!
Tomorrow I plan to attend the noon pilgrim mass and visit the food market here where I will eat a late lunch. I have to move to a new pension since I couldn’t book 2 nights at the same place. Then I get ready for the “vacation” portion of my trip. I am heading to Fisterre on Sunday. I am actually going to Cee and will walk about 10km to Fisterre and then over the next two days will walk to Muxia which is about 28km that I will break into 2 14km days (remember, I am now on vacation!). But I am still a pilgrim so Jeannie Elias, the shell will still be on my bag!
For today, I drink in the joy of reaching Santiago safely and celebrate my accomplishment!