I’ve been trying to process how I feel about this journey coming to an end. I walk around the city of Santiago and left and right I’m seeing pilgrims I know or recognize. I also hear my friends speaking of other pilgrims we know arriving. Lots of hugs, high fives and lots of laughs have been shared over the past day and a half. 

My body was happy to be done but my mind is having a hard time accepting it’s over. When your daily life involves getting up early, walking for most of the day, getting settled into a new place to live and getting dinner with new friends, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I miss my life in Seattle but still it will be hard to leave this beautiful country and all the new friends I’ve made.

We stayed only 12km outside Santiago, so our walk in yesterday morning was easy. Other than singing songs that have become our theme songs, we were all pretty quiet on the walk in. Maybe it was days of exhaustion catching up to us, or maybe we were all trying understand what this day meant. Luckily everyone in our group is staying in Santiago until the 29th, so we have time to enjoy some last meals and last laughs together. 

We arrived at the cathedral around 8:30. Some tears, some high fives and lots of pictures took up the next half hour. Then it was off to the pilgrim’s office to get our Compostella. We collected stamps in our credentials the whole walk. You only need two stamps a day for the last 100km to qualify but the stamps collected along the way show many of the stops I made along the entire walk. 

After a quick breakfast we headed to the cathedral for the pilgrim’s mass. We were fortunate enough to see the Botafumeiro – which is when they swung incense through the church. This usually only happens on the Friday evening mass, but attendees can pay a hefty fee to have it for their mass. 

Tomorrow a few of us will hop into a rental car and drive out to Finisterre out on the coast. Santiago completes the Camino, but many walk on or take a bus to Finisterre to finish the journey. If I had more time I would walk there, but that will have to be saved for another day. 

I am sad to say goodbye to all my new friends the day after tomorrow. But I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to open myself up to all these amazing people. I know many of them have become lifetime friends despite living worlds apart. I know I’ve been forever changed by this experience. But only in the best ways – with a more open mind and a fuller heart. 

Day 32 – Arzua to Lavacolla

In my mind today was the last day. Tomorrow is when we reach Santiago, but we only have 12 km to go. Today was the last major day of walking. It’s pretty surreal at this point to think that I’ll be done walking the Camino tomorrow. 

My body feels ready to be done. I was tired today. My whole body was tired. The leg pain was still bad. As Nicki said, your body knows when the end is near. 

My mind doesn’t really want it to be done though. I’m going to miss my Camino family and friends. I am looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces in Santiago tomorrow. There are several people that I met along the way that have already reached Santiago that I’m hoping to see again before I leave Spain. 

The plan tomorrow is to walk into Santiago by 9am. Our group is planning to walk in together. We will get our Compostella and then attend the pilgrim’s mass at noon. After that I imagine we will be celebrating. We all have a few days left together. We are a random bunch that never would have been friends if it weren’t for the Camino. I really hope I get to see all these people again someday. 

I’m excited to reach the finish line but also very sad to say goodbye to this life that has become so familiar and comfortable. 

Day 31 – Portos to Arzua

It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt. That’s what I was thinking to myself a good part of today. The reality was that it did hurt. Whatever my leg pain is hasn’t gone away and walking another 34 km on it didn’t seem to help. I have to count myself lucky though because in 31 days, only at the end on my journey am I dealing with major pain. It won’t stop me. I will walk into Santiago two days from now. 

Today wasn’t as bad as I made it just sound. Though the last few kilometers I was cursing the guidebook author more than I had in days before. Flat he said. Downhill he said. Sure, some of today was flat and some of today was downhill. He forgot to mention that for every downhill there was a major climb back up. Be looking for my honest review on Amazon sometime after I get back, John Brierley. 

The Camino is a different Camino now. It’s no longer just those in it for the long haul (from St. Jean in France to Santiago…or farther). Now it’s the “Sunday Strollers” Camino. Or the FNG group….ask me in person if you really want to know what that means. They started in Sarria, most of them. They have their little daypack. They are fresh and excited about starting their big Camino journey. They are not the “family” that you meet at the beginning of the Camino. You try not to hate these people, but sometimes it’s a bit hard. 🙂 They’re good people too, but their very chipper “Buen Camino!” is sometimes the last thing you want to hear. 

My Camino family had a photo contest today. We were trying individually to get the best picture of the day. I decided to ask half of Spain to pose with me for my picture…

Day 30 – A Pena to Portos

This is going to be one of the days I want to forget on the Camino. Nothing terrible happened but a combination of small bad/annoying things made it the day that got me closest to having a break down. 

Yesterday was so long and so hot and overall really draining. So today when the alarm went off I still wanted 5 more hours of sleep. Then the start of today my leg was in excruciating pain with every step. Not sure what’s wrong with it but I know it hurts. Then the pain got traded for mugginess, which meant being drenched in sweat and when I sweat the flies decide that I’m fun to hang out with. Nothing could get them to leave me alone. Add that to the never ending hills and I was not a happy camper. 

I’ve been in much worse situations but today was the first day that I got close to wondering why I’m doing this. 

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a determined person. When I put my mind to something, I do everything in my power to make it happen. So coming into this Camino I knew that nothing was going to stop me from finishing it as planned. Even if I got hurt or had pain along the way, I was going to stick it out to the end. That’s just what I’ll do. I’m in the homestretch now, so nothing will stop me. Not even the first blister that showed up at the end of today.

The thing that kept me going today was my group of Camino friends. Knowing that I’d have a great group of people to hang out with the end of the day made me realize that my not-so-good day wouldn’t stay that way forever. I’ll forever be grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met and the bonds I’ve made on the Camino. It’s a community that cares and watches out for you like you’re family. So a big thank you to Eva, Paige, Nicki, Wes, Maurice and John for keeping me going when I wanted to break down and feel sorry for myself. 

Sure, I’ve showed you lots of beautiful countryside and talked about special moments on the Camino, but what I haven’t told you is that it’s really hard. Some people train for half marathons for months before running/walking them. We are out here walking half marathons + a couple miles or more each day. We are doing this on little sleep, and often while not eating the best foods for these kinds of activities. We are facing endless hills, thunderstorms, high temperatures, low temperatures, strong winds. We endure pain and exhaustion on a daily basis. 

Despite having a not-so-great day, I’m still loving every bit of this experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

I would share photos, but the wifi in my albergue is terrible. So this post may be updated with photos later on. 

UPDATE: Photos!


Day 29 – Triacastela to A Pena

Today was a long day. 33km total through more beautiful countryside. Anyone familiar with the Brierley guide for the Camino hates him by now. He is a liar. He doesn’t know how to map things. His guide is mostly valuable as it shows the route, villages, points of interest, cafes/bars, etc. What he doesn’t know is mapping. He mentioned a hill today, but forgot to mention that the WHOLE day would be up and down hills. If I meet him someday I’m going to introduce him to my altimeter app on my iPhone or a GPS device. The words we said about him on the Camino over the last few days are not going to be shared on this blog. 😉

After a morning of beautiful farm country and fighting off bugs, we found a cafe that had pizza! I love having pizza for breakfast so this was amazing. 

We saw a snake on the trail today. It was itty bitty, but it looks scary in the picture. Some people were a bit afraid of it. 🙂

Then we headed off to Sarria where we found an amazing Italian place – more pizza for me! Actually the best pizza of the trip so far. 

The afternoon was long and hot. Really long. Really hot. Still beautiful but really long and really hot. 

Our village, if you can call it that, is right next to the 100km mark. Getting so close to Santiago! 

Day 28 – La Laguna to Triacastela

Scenery wise, today was one of the best days of the Camino. Over every hill and around every corner the views were amazing. It started off with a nice sunrise as we walked from our mountain village. 

We only walked 22km today, so it was a “short” day. However we made it long by stopping in almost every village along the way. 

We also took a break at a cool statue at the top of the mountain. I also took the group to find their first geocache. 

The last 6km I walked pretty fast down the mountain. It’s one of the first times I’ve walked alone on the Camino. While it was nice to walk alone for a bit, I realized how appreciative I am to have an amazing group of people to walk with and share albergue rooms with. The last few days I’ve felt like I had a family on the Camino. Makes me all the more sad that we will finish soon. 

Day 27 – Villafranca Del Bierzo to La Laguna 

I’m in a village up in the mountains, though calling it a village might be a stretch. There are about 5 buildings here and some of them are for only for animals. Some of the locals just took a stroll through town…

Today was a day we were all dreading for a while. It was “big hill day.” Sure we already walked over the Pyrenees mountains, but after days of mostly flat, the idea of a big hill was scary. Though we are not quite at the top, I realize now that it wasn’t worth all the hype and dread. I maybe won’t say that too loudly around my fellow pilgrims though. I still feel really great overall and felt like the big hill wasn’t so big after all. Still no blisters or other major ailments. I think at this point I may feel good all the way to Santiago. (Knock on wood)

The scenery was beautiful today. Going through the mountains always makes for better views. 

The albergue tonight is very new and comfortable. We booked out a room for nine for our group of eight people. Makes a big difference when you know everyone in your room. You are a little less annoyed by the snorers when they are your friends. 

Day 26 – Ponferrada to Villafranca Del Bierzo

I’m sitting at the local bar/cafe with some of my roommates for tonight. Eva and I were lucky enough to be adopted by an amazing group of people. It’s possible we may not stay together until Santiago, but I’m enjoying the now while I can. 

Today was a beautiful day through wine country. One of my coworkers who walked the Camino said this was one of their favorite sections and I can see why. It’s beautiful with all the mountains and vineyards. 

We got a late start today, which was ok because we had reservations at an albergue for tonight. Along with our late start we also took some long breaks. It’s easy to do when you’re meeting such nice people. I think everyone here is using the opportunity to be there person they want to be. And with that, they’re open to meeting new people regardless of age, country of origin, gender, religious preference, etc. You kind of have to be since you may be sharing a bunk with that person tomorrow. I kind of wish everyone in the world could experience this. I think there would be more acceptance in the world if people had to be pushed out of their comfort zone like this. 

Anyway, staying in yet another cute village in Spain tonight. I do think I need to revisit a lot of these villages someday when I’m not walking the Camino. It would be nice to explore them when I haven’t walked 15 miles already. 

Tomorrow will be a hard day. It’ll be nearly 3000 feet elevation gain and 30kms. Hopefully I can find some pasta for dinner! 

Btw, here’s the cat that lives at our albergue tonight. 

Day 25 – Foncebadon to Ponferrada

Today started in a fog. Literally, I felt like I was in the Misty Mountains from Lord of the Rings, the fog was so thick. Though I would have liked to have seen the views from the adorable mountain village we stayed in, the fog was more fitting for the start of the day. 

Cruz de Ferro is an emotional place for many. If you’ve seen the movie The Way, you’ll understand why.

After a short visit at the iron cross, we kept going through the foggy mountains. At different times you could hear cow bells or wild dogs in the distance. It was eerie and peaceful at the same time. 

After some steep downhills, the fog lifted and we could see the mountains. After spending days in the flat Meseta and then through industrial parts of Leon I was happy to see mountains. 

My body, though tired, is happy to have some more variety in terrain. I’m amazed at how good I feel after walking this far. I feel like I could go climb Mt. Rainier tomorrow. With a steep climb ahead, I hope I continue to feel that way.

Ponferrada seems like a cool city but I’m not sure I have the energy to go explore it.

Tonight we are staying in a fancy new albergue with a new group of friends. Having taken rest days twice, we have had to meet all new people twice now. Sure, you meet new people on the Camino every day, but some make a bigger impact or feel more comfortable to be around. 

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned on the Camino is to live in the moment. Amazing people will come and go in your Camino life every day. Your favorite person today may be a village ahead or behind you tomorrow. You hope to see them again, but know you may not, so you have to appreciate the now.