Santiago at Last

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June 24th 2016
Published: October 2nd 2017
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Geo: 42.8804, -8.5463

Wednesday, June 15 to Gonzar. A cold wet miserable day. It would have been a scenic walk except I mostly didn't see it – I had my eyes to the ground keeping the rain out and trying not to slip and fall. We passed into the updated 100 km. zone today. Most interesting sight today – 2 pilgrims on horses. It's an option, but we haven't seen many. Lots of frustrations today. We got to our albergue where we had reserved a private room only to find they had given it to another Charlie from the US already and no other rooms were available, so we were back to bunks again. (I know you folks who have already done the Camino are rolling your collective eyes – how spoiled these Copelands have gotten!) At least we had heat. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the communal hangout trying to book a place for the next day (as was everyone else – there are 100s of more pilgrims now in the last 100 kms.). We went on and booked a nice pension, but then discovered it was 6 kms. out of town and no way to get there (note to self – always check the map for the actual location. Their definition of "in the town" is pretty loose). Yikes! After much hassling with the pension and we were able to cancel without a fee. Back to the drawing board. Found an ok place for 40 euro – pretty high for a shared bath. While we were at it we booked a nice hotel for the following day, for the same price in Melide.

Thursday, June 16 to Palas de Rei. A restless night, but at least no one turned on the lights at 4:45 am. It rained on and off, sometimes hard. It was a muddy slog through some pretty areas. Lots more people today, but we again spent some time walking alone. This is a big corn growing area. After we arrived it rained really hard – 50%!c(MISSING)hance for tomorrow again. They told us Galicia was wet. Even though we're just a few days from Santiago, we've decided to take a rest day in Melide after reading the reviews on the hotel. We skipped a rest day last week so are overdue. We've actually gotten ahead of our original schedule. 17 kms today.

Friday, June 17 to Melide. I started out tired and couldn't finish breakfast. There's something going on with my stomach. We encountered our first school group today and had an interesting conversation with their teachers. Many pilgrims complain about the school groups that walk the Camino – usually in July and August. As they passed by, we were infected with their excitement and enthusiasm. They were about 11th grade and typical awkward teenagers, but polite and always responded to our “Buen Camino.” Later when they stopped for a break we asked their teachers about the group. They were from Madrid – these teachers were responsible for 85 of the group (maybe 200 total). They said the entire class was walking, that it would help them to bond, prepare for the next year and “teach them that they can't have everything they want.” A few hundred meters later the group stopped dead, as we came upon what I can only describe as a muddy lake in the middle of the path and no way around. We watched as the girls squealed when their pretty pink shoes went into the mud. Lesson learned? Perhaps. We are impressed with the Spanish school system for helping to instill these values. I think I've coming down with something. Cold? Flu? Stomach virus? Feeling frustrated – we are so close.

Saturday, June 18th Melide, Day 2. Spent most of the day in bed, and Charlie brought me food. This really is a nice hotel that takes care of its guests. It's run by 2 brothers who were educated in London. It's a little disconcerting to be greeted in perfect British English. They made me a bowl of chicken noodle soup even though it's not on the menu. I got an ok massage and managed to get up later, get something to eat and walk to Mass.

Sunday, June 19th to Ribadiso da Baixo. Today was a short day, just 11.3 kms, and thankfully no rain. I certainly didn't feel as energetic in the morning but made it okay. I'm starting to appreciate why some people say Galicia is their favorite part of the Camino.

Monday, June 20th to Salceda. My appetite and stamina are starting to return. We could have made it from Melida to Santiago in 2 days, but we are stretching it out to 3. Still, it seemed like a long day. The scenery is starting to all look the same. I'm think I'm just tired of walking. We're at another of the new albergues – some bunk dorms, some private rooms. But there are no windows in the room – just a skylight that opens up, but you have to go to the front desk to have it opened and closed. The neighbor has decided to run his weed whacker tonight – and it went on until after 10. And then the dogs started (also the neighbor's). It's too hot with the skylight closed so a noisy night, even with ear plugs. And the internet is aggravatingly slow. Feeling annoyed. We have a long day tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21 to Lavacolla (5.7 kms. before Monte do Gozo). A cool morning through shaded woods, but it turned into a rough hot day. – in the 80s, with very little shade. By the end of the day I was beat. Two Polish ladies kept nagging me (in Polish!) to tie a wet cloth around my neck. So to shut them up I did (I knew that kerchief would come in handy for something). Surprise! It really cooled me off. I should have figured that out several weeks ago. I'm exhausted, the internet is lousy, we forgot to call Correos so I might be carrying my backpack tomorrow, this place is overpriced and I've got a customer griping at me. We'll be in Santiago tomorrow. Not sure how I feel about that.

Wednesday, June 22 to Santiago de Compostella. We didn't have far to walk today – a little over 10 kms., but hot again. It's funny, but we weren't in any hurry. About ½ way we came to Monte do Gozo, where many stop overnight in order to make the walk into Santiago in the morning. A little after that we were admiring some deep purple hydrangeas (never saw any that deep color), and an elderly gentleman came out of his gated yard and started telling us all about his hydrangeas. He said they were “Hortensias.” Don't know if that's the name in Spanish or the variety. He was so proud of them. He made sure we knew which way to head and how far we had to go.

Santiago is a large city, around 100,000, and it seemed to take forever to get to the cathedral. After entering the city limits, we walked and walked and walked and still weren't there. I was surprised at how hilly it was. Nearing the city center we somehow took a wrong turn and came in on the back side of the cathedral – only we didn't realize it. I kept saying to Charlie, “This doesn't look right.” And where is the bagpipe player? We finally asked in a souvenir shop (pointing to one of their postcards) where that side of the cathedral was (okay, so I was tired and hot). We found it. And the bagpiper.

We got the customary pictures taken in front and started looking for the Pilgrim Office. The bagpiper started playing “Amazing Grace”, and I started crying. I didn't expect to (although lots of people do). I don't know if they were tears of joy, thankfulness or exhaustion. We had done it, with a little help from Correos, an occasional taxi and a bus, and lots of prayers from you, our friends. 58 days (including 7 rest days). We must have set a record for the longest Camino from St. Jean!) We did find the Pilgrim Office to get our Compostella, but took a look at the line and decided to come back when it opened in the morning. We're splurging on a hotel 1½ blocks from the cathedral that advertised a good internet connection.

And about the bagpipe player – Galicia has some Celtic roots and the bagpipe (gaita) is widely played here.

Thursday, June 23, Santiago Day 2. We had planned on staying in Santiago a couple of days, but wanted to check out the hotel first and also make sure we really did have good internet connection. It's more than we've had to pay for a room – Santiago is an expensive city.

We got up early to get to the Pilgrim Office by 8:00 to get our Compostella. We were second in line! So we had a little time to get breakfast (a croissant smothered in Nutella!) and do a little work before heading out to the Pilgrim Mass at noon. We had been told to get there by 10:30 and sit on the left side in case the botafumeiro swung (you've seen the movie, right?). I didn't have much hope for it. I've been told it only swings on Fridays, Sundays and feast days (unless some group pays a hefty amount for it). I was really moved by the Mass. It went very quickly from being a noisy free for all to being a very reverent and beautiful service. The nun was awesome, settling everyone down before Mass started and teaching us all the songs (she kept telling us how easy it was and how good we were). The church was packed to overflowing with pilgrims and many mentions and prayers were said during Mass about the pilgrims, their journey and their future. I was shocked when the guys showed up near the end of Mass to swing the botafumeiro. I was already thinking of how thankful I was for our safe journey and for Charlie's love and again started to cry. Again. I couldn't believe we were going to see it. An experience of a lifetime.

The rest of the day was full of chores back in the room and planning for the rest of our trip, but I think I was a little less crazy than usual. We go to Finisterre tomorrow (by bus) and to Porto, Portugal the next day.

Friday, June 24th to Finisterre. We took a bus out to Finisterre, In Roman times it was believed to be the end of the world. We could have walked the 90 kms. from Santiago, as many peregrinos do at the end of their Camino, but had neither the time nor the inclination. But we did want to say we'd been to the end of the world! It was a pleasant 2+ hour ride along the coast. After getting there it was still a 5 km. walk out to the lighthouse (the "end"😉. We weren't sure which direction to head and asked a woman with a backpack. Turns out she was looking for a taxi to take her out there, so we joined her and saved ourselves the 5+5 km. trip. After that we got something to eat and waited for the 3:00 bus back to Santiago. Only there was no 3:00 bus. Turns out it's a holiday, San Juan Day (huh?) and the bus is on holiday schedule. So we hang out in a bar drinking tea for the next hour and 45 minutes. Well, it gave me time to work on the blog. On the way back to the hotel stopped at a doner kabob place, then stopped for gelato, and went by the front of the cathedral one more time.

We go to Porto, Portugal by bus tomorrow (from here faster than the train) for 2 days, then hopefully to Fatima for a day, then on to Lisbon to overnight before flying out on the 29th.

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24th June 2016

Dear Charlie & Mary!!! Congratulations!!! Muchisimas Felicidades!!! You did it! We are so happy for you. We would love to hear the insights (that you can share with us) which you gathered during the camino.Love,M&M
24th June 2016

Dear Charlie & Mary!!! Congratulations!!! Muchisimas Felicidades!!! You did it! We are so happy for you. We would love to hear the insights (that you can share with us) which you gathered during the camino.Love,M&MP.S. In Lisbon, in
the old town area, by the shopping street where the H&M store is (upper level of Santa Justa elevator), ask about Honorato burguers... They are yummy! :-)
25th June 2016

Charlie and Mary, your blog has been wonderful and we're glad the trio has brought on Holy Spirit tears along the way. We sure have missed you, especially at the convention. Safe travels and much love, Tom and Micha
27th June 2016

Dear Mary And Charlie,Thank you for sharing your trip with us. We are glad you made it safely. Safe travels home!Hugs,Molly & Tom Johnson
28th June 2016

So proud of y'all!!! Safe travels home!!! L&B!! SamnWayne

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