Last day of the Camino and Santiago

I meant to write this two days ago when I had just completed my second Camino. But things always get crazy in Santiago. I say “always”, but really it was only my second time arriving there from a Camino. But I imagine the next time I go it’ll be the same too. 🙂

Anyway, the day we arrived there we had gotten up earlier than usual. We had a 24 km long walk into Santiago and wanted to try to get there before the pilgrim’s mass at noon. According to the official Camino sign posts, we were on target for getting there in time.

The countdown seemed right and seemed like we would actually get in a bit before the mass. All was good until I was expecting to see a Camino marker under 6km. They had been placed about every half kilometer and the closer we got, the distance between them was less. Instead of seeing one starting with a 5, we saw it jump up to 7. Talk about aggravating! We wondered if we had taken a wrong turn and ended up on one of the variations, but we hadn’t. Anyway, we arrived in Santiago as the church bell was sounding off at noon. Since we couldn’t take our backpacks into the cathedral, Rachel and I grabbed all four bags and told Nina and Justine to head in. They only got to see the tail end of the mass and didn’t get to see the Botafumeiro. This only happens once a week, or if someone pays 400 euros for it to happen. Either way, seeing the mass at the end in the beautiful cathedral makes for a good end to your Camino whether you’re religious or not.

After we had all arrived we checked into our hotels and just enjoyed Santiago. It’s a pilgrim city and a tourist city. During the day the streets are packed with both. My favorite thing to see is the pilgrims just arriving…laying on the ground with friends new and old just soaking in the moment.

As my Camino family last time told me, the rooftop tour of the cathedral is amazing. Whether you’re a pilgrim or a tourist I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Santiago. Five of us went on the tour after a day of shopping and exploring.

After the tour it was our last dinner together. The goodbyes are hard, but as I had learned after my first Camino, you stay in touch. Also most of this family was people I already knew, so it’ll be even easier for me to stay in touch. 🙂

Day 9 – Caldas de Reis to PadrĂłn

A member of my family told me I should try liquor 43 while I was in Spain. I hadn’t been able to find it until 8am this morning at our “first breakfast” stop. That was a bit too early to try it, considering we still had 16km to walk. Luckily the bar attached to the pension we are staying at tonight had it, so Maurice and I are blogging/journaling and trying liquor 43. It’s pretty tasty but would make better for a dessert drink.

I’m told John decided to walk despite his three broken ribs and broken toe. At least Rachel and Nina are with him in case he needs any help. We were all prepared for him to take a taxi today and meet us at the pension we booked. But leave it to the stubborn Irishman to sway from the plan. To be honest, this close to Santiago, I likely would have made the same decision. John does live in the part Ireland where my ancestors on my dad’s side come from, so maybe we are related. This would explain the common stubbornness.

Today started off with a misty morning. Luckily it only turned into a real rain one time during our walk. The moment I put my poncho on, it faded to a mist again. Though the mist can be annoying, it’s also a bit refreshing. You must walk on despite the weather, so you just have to decide to make the most of it. Justine and I definitely make the most of it.

Today went pretty quickly since it was only about 20km. It was nice running into our German friends Anna and Markus who we hadn’t seen in a couple days. Always good to see the smile on a familiar Camino face. It doesn’t matter if you only smiled at the person once before, that simple recognition of a face is enough to help a pilgrim light up. There are two women that we’ve never talked to but the smiles on their faces grow each time we run into them. I don’t think they speak English and I’m not sure where they are from, but that doesn’t matter. We are all pilgrims on this journey together.

About 2/3rds of the way into our walk today, Justine asked when the “big hill” was coming. I told her that according to the guidebook we were already on our way down from it. I think she and I both have hit the point of being in shape enough that hills aren’t something you dread anymore. This is good, because in a few days I’ll be climbing the highest “hill” in the United Kingdom (Ben Nevis).

While I’m partial to everyone in my Camino family, I must say that I’m so incredibly proud of my cousin Justine. She has been the ultimate trooper on this walk. It’s not easy to be a teenager walking with a group of adults but she has taken everything in stride. She’s pushed through blisters, long days, random types of shoes and rainy days and always manages a smile even if she’s feeling pain with every step. I’m so glad she choose to join me on this adventure. It’s been so much fun to get to know the young woman she has become. I’ll be so happy to walk into Santiago with her and the rest of our Camino family.

We are staying on the outskirts of PadrĂłn on the Santiago side to help give us a slight advantage on our final walk tomorrow. I believe we are about 24km out from the cathedral in Santiago. As with the last time walking into Santiago, there are mixed emotions. My body feels like it could use a rest even though I wake up each morning ready for another day but I know the bottoms of my feet are longing for a day where I walk less that 13 miles.

Day 8 – Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

There are now three broken toes and three broken ribs among our Camino family. Maurice broke his toe four weeks before heading to Spain. Laurel broke her toe a week before and last night in a very unfortunate incident, John broke a toe and three ribs. He insisted on having a top bunk even though he was offered a bottom bunk. But as I know, us Irish are stubborn people. He missed a step while trying to climb into bed around midnight and I woke up to a very loud thud. We all feared the worst at first, not knowing if he hit his head or had some internal issues. After talking to him, we knew his side was sore and we suspected broken ribs.

Maurice offered to stay behind today to help him at the hospital where he learned the damage. Adding insult to injury and joining the common theme for our group he was told his toe was broken in addition to the ribs. In my mind, John is the fittest of the bunch despite having a few decades on me so to see him in pain is heartbreaking.

My goal for today was to find us a comfortable hotel so John could try to have a better night’s sleep tonight. I know, it’s stepping away from the pilgrim lifestyle, but it’s best we all take a night off bunk beds.

Justine and I started out of Pontevedra with beautiful views of the river. It was quiet, cool and peaceful.

We didn’t stop a lot today, but being a short day we didn’t really need to. We kept running into our German friend Carsten so it was nice to say hello to a familiar face.

There wasn’t anything amazing about today but I really enjoyed the countryside and the forest that was straight out of a fairy tale.

There was a geocaching power trail of about 50+ geocaches so occasionally I stopped to log some along the way. This made the day go quickly for me. The caches were placed specifically to be found on the Camino and most were fairly quick to find so it didn’t set us back time wise.

At the end of the day, Justine and I were ready to be at our destination. The rain started. The poncho came out. By the time we made it to town my feet were soaked and Justine’s crocs just weren’t doing the trick for walking in the rain. We were ready to get into somewhere dry and find food. It took some time for us to locate Maurice and John, but shortly after we did we had our hotel for the night.

I’m now sitting in the hotel restaurant watching Spain play against Russia in the World Cup with a room full of locals. Go Spain!!