Published: July 15th 2012July 15th 2012
Actually I left Santiago today but I´ll be talking about it so that will be close enough
So for those of you playing along at home, on Friday I reached Santiago de Compostela, thereby completing the Camino Frances, receiving my certification, and hence having a whole bunch of sins remitted- purgatory now holds no fears for me.
It was only the second day in which I´d had to walk in the rain, and I´d woken at 2am having been attacked by the camino´s greatest enemy - the bed bug. So I basically walked the final 37 Kms wet and itchy. I walked straight past all the monuments, the cathedral, the lot, so that I could get to my hotel, get showered and changed and head to the pharmacy to get something the ease the bites. Once that was done I looked around and saw a beautiful place. Then I felt I´d arrived.
Santiago was a slightly manic feeling to it for the first little bit - everywhere you look there were ecstatic looking pilgrims. You kept running into faces you recognised but hadn´t seen for weeks and greetings and farewells came in a bit of a rush. For those who weren´t walking to the coast, began to make subtle adjustments back into ´real life´as they made their plans for travel home.
Some quick moments to sum up the atmosphere -
• The Italian guy at dinner breaking out into opera for the entire restaurant. Then singing ´Delila´ (Why, WHY, WHY?)
• Someone at the same meal producing a feather boa... Who brings a feather boa on the camino? Had they CARRIED it all the way?
• A shopping frenzy in which I bought more clothes in less time than at any point in my life
• Actually staying up until it got dark. But still not seeing the stars because I had forgotten which way was up by that stage
• Alberino (a white wine), Oruzo (think grappa), some cream stuff (urk), White Russians (living in 1986 again) and Scotch - how did I get home?
So today I headed off again to the coast to the end of the world - literally. I wondered if, when I arrived at Santiago, I´d feel the motivation to go on to Finisterre or not. Would it be enough to reach the Catholic end of the camino, or would I want to go on to the pagan end of the Via Lactea? I observe that most only do the former. So walking today was both much less crowded than the last stretch into Santiago, but also that it felt like a stroll through the countryside, rather than the race to the finish line that the camino had become in the last few days. I slowed my pace, not conciously, but noticeably and I think the next couple of days to the coast will be a fitting coda to this part of the trip.
And besides which I want to set fire to my hat. In a moment of camino karma, the bar that I stopped in at for breakfast this morning were giving away free cigarette lighters as part of some promotion... There´s going to be one less bad hat in the world in the next couple of days - and I think that´s justification for the whole walk, right there.