Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Arrived this morning with mega-hiking Camino friends. Buen Camino. Ultreia. More later.
Update: By the time I left, there wasn’t a soul in the Albergue. Maybe a lot of eager and anxious pilgrims wanted to arrive in Santiago for the Pilgrim Mass and to stand in line for their Compostela. I had no breakfast, just a mushy green apple from yesterday.
I started out in the dark and foggy morning and wasn’t sure which way to go. I didn’t see the sign through the fog. Mistake leaving without other people, but there I was. I walked left instead of right and ended up near the airport, about a Km down the road. I asked someone the directions and they pointed me in the opposite direction. Finally, I found the Camino sign and began my last walk of the Camino de Santiago. I ended up tossing the apple, because it was brown and rotten in the middle. As I continued to walk, my stomach hurt. Then my back hurt. But being the true Pilgrim, I just kept on. I walked through residential, hilly roads and arrived at Monte del Gozo, the Mount of Joy and was so happy to meet up with Sandra, Serena and Fabio.
It was still a little foggy, so we didn’t see Santiago in the distance, but in clear weather, the spires of the Cathedral del Santiago are visible. This would be the first view of Santiago for Pilgrims who have walked kilometers on the Camino through the ages to finally see their destination. We took pictures, stamped our credentials, and walked on.
We walked most of the distance together, but I wasn’t feeling great, perhaps it was the apple, so I urged my friends to go on and we agreed to meet at the Pilgrim Office.
Finally, I walked into the Old Town of Santiago and found the route to the office, thanks to the many pilgrims on the way, and met my amigos in the line at the Pilgrim Office. I stood in line with them and within an hour we each walked up to a window and were welcomed and congratulated on completing our Pilgrimage. We filled out information and had our distance verified by our Pilgrim Credentials. Then I received my Compostela, awarded for successful completion on the Camino, requiring us to choose a recreational, spiritual or religious reason. I walked for a spiritual reason and have written about this in a poem, Walking the Way to Santiago.
My second certificate for distance verifies that I walked 300 Km from SJPdP to Logrono and Sarria to Santiago. Later that week, I added more Km when I walked in Muxia and Finisterre.
My name Irene is written in Latin, Iren. To qualify for the Compostela, a pilgrim must walk a minimum of 100 Km or 200 Km by bike or horseback to Santiago without interruption and have two stamps, sellos on their credential for each day walked. Many pilgrims walk from Sarria, which is about 113 Km to Santiago, because it is the shortest distance to earn a Compostela. Some of the many Camino routes meet on this last section, so it becomes crowded with those walking from more distant points and those just beginning in Sarria.
After receiving our Compostelas and storing our backpacks, we rushed over to the Cathedral for the noon Pilgrim Mass, a standing room only crowd with pilgrims and tourists celebrating. It was so crowded I couldn’t see if the Botafumeiro was swinging, but there will be more masses in the next week for me to sit and listen and think and watch this ritual.
Finally, we retrieved our packs and found a kind of funky private albergue to share a two bunk room on the fourth floor. Off to lunch and a grand celebration, completing the Camino de Santiago and holding our Compostelas in our hands. Salud!
Later in our hours of celebrations we walked around the beautiful and winding streets of Santiago, eating limon gelato. I was now wearing my sandals. There is a box of free shoes, Zapatos Gratis, in our Albergue. I thought about donating my boots, but kept them just in case.
Update; I wore the boots again a few more times in Finisterre and Muxia. I think they were a half size too big. Probably tripped over them more than once. But only two manageable blisters, so my boots served me well over the kilometers of the Camino. After my Camino, except for hiking on the coast, I wore my sandals everywhere. My feet were very happy. And those boots have been retired. New boots for my new walks.
Finished 300+ Km of the Camino de Frances with only two blisters, no bedbugs and more stories and peregrino friends than I could have imagined. And more to come. Buen Camino.