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Arrival – 28 September

2011/10/01

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Rúa to Santiago … The end of the road …

Someone, somewhere must like us … It seemed as though we began this journey, more than a month ago, in rain, and we would end it in rain. This was the weather forecast. However, we were late starting, and our procrastination was rewarded by missing most of the rain, which arrived unexpectedly early, so that we walked through an occasional early shower, but otherwise simply through damp forest trails that smelt wonderfully of wet eucalyptus.

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Although this was the day that we knew would culminate with walking into the city, and although the Camino has taught us by now that this means harder work for our feet on the asphalt surface, the Camino kept us walking for hours along more forest paths that are, as I described yesterday, a combination of very old, native, deciduous trees, such as oak, and newer, introduced trees, such as eucalyptus. And we were still being shepherded on our way by our little friends, successive robins, almost until we reached the limits of the city of Santiago.

Incidentally, we finally have some tangible evidence of the continued use of the little family silos that (uniquely) populate the Galician countryside. We were able to see maize and onions stored safely …

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Perhaps we were not yet ready to rush into Santiago, because we seem to have been drawn to stop at more of the cafés along the way than we might otherwise have done for a relatively short walk. And now I have to reveal a remarkable occurrence. For nearly 800 kilometres, we have walked past what must be hundreds of cafés and bars, most of whom have the same signs illustrating their ice cream for sale. And they are mostly the same. But the signs do not represent what is actually for sale: it is always a subset of what is shown. I have ben craving a particular offering: a chocolate covered, raspberry sorbet – but it has never been available. On this last day, just before we began the final, urban part of our journey, we wandered into a café, and almost indifferently, I wandered over to the ice cream cabinet, expecting nothing, but finding what I had been seeking for weeks. I must report that it did not disappoint me.

Inevitably, though, our trail brought us into the vicinity of Santiago, and we skirted the airport. The trail brought us almost unexpectedly to a stone marker that indicated the limits of Santiago. I was not ready for the emotion it evoked … suddenly, we really were near to the end of our journey (even though it’s 10 or more kilometres to the city from the airport)

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There is no distant view of Santiago to ponder as one takes the long walk towards the city, as there was with Burgos. There is no sudden view, as there was with Villafrance. Santiago just sort of reveals parts of itself, piecemeal, as one comes closer, moving through layers of the city. There is a hill (after what we have climbed, I’m unwilling to glorify it as a mountain!), called Monte del Gozo, which is supposed to be the “mount of joy,” from which pilgrims once celebrated the view of the city before them. But now, it has been covered with trees, and developed into a hillside with recreational facilities and a huge albergue for pilgrims, so that the view is restricted.

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Nevertheless, I found myself reliving the sense of wonder that many generations of pilgrims must have felt entering this city … For eaxmple, after so many days in small Galician villages, we even need to be reminded to use the pedestrian crossing signals properly! Walking into the city, closer and closer to the old centre, this city does finally start to reveal itself, but waits almost until the last minute to disclose its intricate maze of ancient streets and stone buildings that make up the old quarter of Santiago.

Finally the towers of the cathedral came into sight, and then the cathedral itself, and the end of the journey … I suspect that Kate wanted us to find somewhere to stay, but I just needed to sit, quietly, for a while, to absorb the meaning of the end of the journey. I know that for some, there is a sense of achievement, accompanied by a lot of back-slapping or the equivalent, but that is not how I felt at that moment (or since). It was not so much a sense of accomplishment, more a warm feeling of having arrived, and, awe-struck, awareness of the richly blessed path that we have walked, coupled with still a sense of – well, loss, I suppose. No more walking. No more remote, country trails. No more hills and spectacular views. No more new and renewed friendships. No more yellow arrows to follow.

But here we are. We did find somewhere to stay, almost farcically, in the process of looking for something else, we stumbled upon a place that had already been mentioned to us: San Martin Pinario, Seminario Mayor, which in addition to being the second largest seminary in Spain, has a section devoted partly to an albergue for pilgrims and a floor that functions as a hotel. The view from our window is amazing. The location is exceptional: the seminary is across the square from the cathedral.

And now, what follows …? Tonight we will go to obtain our “diploma,” or “Compostela,” the certificate of completion. Tomorrow, we will go to the pilgrims’ mass. And we still have to complete the traditional ritual observed by pilgrims to Santiago.

But for now: we have arrived.

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4 Comments
  1. Anne permalink

    Well done thou good and faithful servants. Much to remember, much to reflect upon I am sure, may you never lose that sense of awe and blessing you have felt. Thank you for sharing this time with me and others. Anne

  2. Ardella permalink

    Thank-you for sharing your journey. I know that it is very time consuming to journal such an adventure and it is truly appreciated. I suspect that any feeling of accomplishment has been replaced with a feeling of absolute awe for the path that you have walked and the reasons that you have walked that path. Blessings to both of you. Ardella

  3. Ann Strudwick permalink

    Impossible, at our advancing age, not to see the comparison with the journey through life. One day at a time, some days harder than others. Pain dealt with, pleasures welcomed. Each day an appreciation of the surroundings and the figurative robins therein. Friends made and sadly left. No going back, no retracing footsteps and wishing it had been done differently. Then arriving, hoping that along the way you have aquired the inner reserves to cope with whatever comes next. Best of all a hand to hold and a companion to ask, ” Do you remember when ….”
    And if you are very lucky they will! Xxx

  4. Julia permalink

    Ah, quel surpris ! … And greetings on this day of Francis of Assisi. The last I’d heard was that you would not be blogging !

    I prayed for you every day, every step of the way, anyway, even though I didn’t know where those steps were at any given time. Day after day, I would check the clock when it came time to say my prayers, count on my fingers the time in Spain, and wonder at your whereabouts at that point, whilst I said a prayer for Jesus to walk alongside you with a hand under an elbow of each of you; and an especial prayer for your poor sore four feet.

    Each Wednesday service there was another prayer for you both in church of course, and then, that last day of your journey, one of the parishioners very kindly told me about this blog and wrote me out this link on the back of my bulletin.

    So I saved it … savored the anticipation … and the next day treated myself to this lovely read … What a treat it turned out to be ! … It was just as enjoyable to read your whole wonderful journey ‘all of a piece’.

    The photographs are beautiful, too.

    Does that one vista where you said the town is farther than it appears look a little like a view that travellers in the Holy Land might have experienced, I wonder … the dusty dry dun-colored earth, with stones, and low shrubs, and a white and sandstone colored city shimmering in the distance.

    And all those sheep … how peaceful. ( I think, altho I may have this wrong, that they only bell ‘certain ones’ as the bell is for the shepherd of course, not for the sheep, and he needs only bell the leader – where the leaders are, there the flock will be. He bells certain known stragglers, as well, so that if he loses one of those of an evening, he needn’t light a lamp and sweep the whole house for it – but that might be mixing a metaphor 🙂

    The beautiful arched bridges; the village under the water piques the imagination like a rare glimpse of a long-lost Atlantis. Who lived there, trod those cobbles, hung their washing after beating it on a rock in that very river back in the day? It almost seems as though, the rare times that the trussed-up river recedes, that they will come back out of the houses and carry on where they left off. ( I despair of dams, and shall send you a link later about a very exciting removal of a century-old dam – the largest removal of its type in the Americas – that is going on right now in the Olympic rainforest, which has all the ecologists and the rest of the world, including the very salmon in the stream, all jumping for joy. The tear-down work began in earnest in August, and every time it has thundered here this summer, I feel like it is God applauding.)

    Those fine old buildings you saw over there; stately and symmetrical still, even after all those years. Were they almost a bit foreboding, though? when one knows they have been standing, no doubt open, for so many centuries, but now so often closed. One can’t help but hear the Wife of Bath gasp. The likening any of the ‘monuments’ to Ozymandias was apt, in that ‘look on my works … and despair’. Those buildings seem a bit ‘proud’ if they’re closed up, but that might not be fair – maybe they’re just forlorn and lonesome; seems a shame they can’t welcome all pilgrims as they were no doubt intended to do.

    The contrast of stone church photographs with the cheery geranium-bedecked veranda that seemed almost Swiss in its buccolic beauty … and the homey cosy wooden ‘silo’ was wonderful. What is so captivating to Wet Coast eyes about that net sack of onions hanging all tucked up in there behind its tidy iron fretwork, ready for winter ? … Is it that the climate is so dry there, we know they won’t spoil ? Or that we realize looking at it that they don’t have bears who will come marauding out one evening and demolish it in one great swat, silo and all !

    The picture looking out at ‘Land’s End’ is poignant and even with that long isata, a lesson against short-sightedness. There was plenty more land, did they but know it at the time – God had also been busy over here.

    I sense it is too soon to talk of ‘here’ to anyone still on such summer hol’s halfway ’round the world – rather like waking a sleepwalker – best not to disturb them but let them dream the dream out to its conclusion … so don’t wish to unravel the reverie.

    Suffice to say that life is proceeding apace, with autumn threatening to arrive suddenly, after the Indian Summer in September – so hot some days that even the Teflon-coated Bernie couldn’t bear to fire up the fire-breathing dragon of a stove, but welcomed the drop-in folks with a coldplate for lunch.

    Thanksgiving is here already on Monday and Rev. Brian was back for his first Sunday in October, so tonight we’ll be sitting down to supper before the first Bible study of the new season with one empty place. It isn’t a patch on local Spanish cheese, but I shall be toasting some good American extra-aged very white cheddar on very black bread … and I’ve no doubt he’ll include you in the pre-dinner prayer right before he polishes off your portion of it 🙂

    I told him before he left that we’d all just sigh and sob quietly to ourselves and stub our toes in the dust all summer while you both were gone, and he laughed, and said that probably, with you both away at the same time, we’d be getting up to all sorts.

    The truth is, we have been, collectively, somewhat subdued . … Quite polite to substitute priests and ministers, maybe a little more polite than usual, or at least a little more quiet – ( or at least some of us were :-). We were akin to that one beautiful blue butterfly that you photographed along the trail. Even temporarily vicar-less we flew bravely on … but, nonetheless, we hugged the ground just a little bit more and didn’t soar.

    Thank you so much for carrying everyone in your backpack along the pilgrim’s path with you. No wonder your shoulders were aching ! It has been extraordinarily kind of you to take so much trouble to inspire everyone with your journey, and very much appreciated by Glen and I as well .

    Cheers Best & God Bless ~

    Julia =

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