The End of the World: Can You Go Back Again?

The End of the World, Finisterre, the 00.00 km marker, 2017

Hola Amigos, what busy and unforgettable days for me. My blogs are stacking up, so much to see and do, so little time. I’m now in Muxia, one of my favorite Spanish villages on the Costa da Morte, the treacherous Galician coast.

So much natural and unspoiled beauty here, including the sunrise and sunset, which I’ll share soon. Also I hope to finish my blog on A Coruña, another truly awesome city on this coast.

Last evening I walked around the village asking residents where to wait for the spectacular colors of la puesta del sol. I met such generous people, who were out for a stroll and escorted me to their favorite spots. And we all laughed when I tried to communicate in my very basic Español, but it worked. Finally, I walked to this square, right near my hostal, where I met a few other Pilgrims waiting for the sunset, predictable and unpredictable and never the same.

Four of us stayed at the same hostal in Muxia and said our farewells over a Spanish breakfast, which might be some kind of coffee or drink and bread or pastry. That’s the reason many Pilgrims have a second breakfast each morning. Have to take in enough calories (and good nutrition) for all the energy expended.

We all toasted Buen Camino, the three pilgrims, Nancy from Seattle area and two New Zealand Kiwis, Mark and Rohit and this California peregrina. Every goodbye deserves a picture. Their trip home is days, not hours. Lots of time to process the Camino.

 

Finisterre

Yesterday, I spent a day and a night in Finisterre, The End of the World. This is the Costa da Morte, the wild and breathtaking Coast of Death that has claimed ships and the lives of sailors since maritime history was recorded and before, in legends and stories.

It is an age-old tradition for Pilgrims to go to Finisterre after arriving in Santiago de Compostela, the end of the land, where the sea begins.

In Pilgrim lore, we’ve heard that this is the final place many pilgrims walked to watch the sun disappear into the ocean, then burn their old clothes and toss out their boots. And begin anew. Some pilgrims walked to Muxia, instead, to carry out this ancient ritual.

Don’t try it, friends –it’s now illegal as one fire too many escaped pilgrims’ control. It’s no longer considered safe.

Once in Finisterre, I found a room at the first pension-albergue on Santa Catalina near the bus drop off, which is now right in the village, across from my favorite Frontera Cafe. Last year, there were festivals in both Finisterre and Muxia, so much excitement, noise and revelry that kept me awake half the night.

Even the little harbor was not at all how I remembered. Cars were parked in a lot by the beautiful sea and the daily working life was evident. This is a real fishing village, as well as a haven for pilgrims and tourists.

I ate lunch at Frontera and then walked to the lighthouse.

It was warm and sunny at 2:00 p.m., a jacket-less three km walk. Last year was foggy and rainy. It seems a Pilgrim can only hope to see forever from the lighthouse; there are no guarantees.

For my first Camino in 2016, to save ounces in my backpack, I purposely left a new waterproof at home, bringing a lighter weight jacket I’d worn before. I wore it once, over the Pyrenees, then left it in a give-away box after discovering it was no longer waterproof.

I never needed rain gear again, until weeks later in Finisterre. Then I pulled out my “Just in case,” an almost weightless poncho, essentially a piece of plastic. I used it my first day and last. I never liked the picture of me in that emergency rain gear. So unstylish!

Now with distance between my journeys, I realize what’s important on the Camino. It’s not a fashion show. How much can we carry on our backs? Last year I took more and less than I needed. This year I could have added a few ounces here and there. Yet, we make-do with what we have, the time goes by and we survive. Each pilgrim processes a personal journey.

Going forward, learning what works and what doesn’t. But, going back, even briefly, is part of the process. Tricky to be in two places at once, the past and present.

It was a bonus to have a window of clear weather. However, while I tried, I couldn’t recreate last year’s experience, the gratitude and excitement. Even the village looked and felt different. I wanted to go back, but it wasn’t the same.

I could only think how many times I’ve heard or read that line or a variation. No one stays the same. I’m not who I was last year. Are you?

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again”

“And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward” wrote Paulo Coelho in “The Alchemist”

“We can never go back again. That much is certain.” From Daphne du Maurier, in “Rebecca”

I read the Camino Forum often, and know there are Pilgrims who have walked, not only many different routes, but some, the same route, year after year, half-joking they’re addicted.

I understand that desire. Going back. Again. Trying to keep the Camino alive inside our souls. Can we continue the Camino once we’re home?

Now, in 2017, I walked again to the light house and The end of the World. This had been a goal, a do-over in dry weather, to really see what we missed that foggy day last year. And now I know.

For me, it’s true. I couldn’t go back, even though I was again in Finisterre. What made this Pilgrim ending so unique last year was planning and walking and seeing The End of the World with a new friend, Darlene McKee, a veteran pilgrim from Toronto, who had walked several Caminos. It was a logical conclusion.

This time, I felt like a tourist, watching people celebrating, although I couldn’t really tell who they were among the crowd. And there was a parking lot full of cars. Pilgrims mixed in with tourists, and a busy souvenir vendor. And trash left on the rocks where I wanted to take pictures.


2017 Finisterre Lighthouse

2016 Finisterre

2016 Finisterre, Darlene

Last year’s foggy and rainy day experience, shared with a pilgrim friend, was unforgettable. Surviving the elements, just like on the Camino, you walk rain or shine. It was a meditative and quiet setting, a logical journey after arriving in Santiago de Compostela the first time, a Pilgrim moment.

It doesn’t matter what I wore that day or if I could see forever, I was at The End of the World for the first time only once. For me it was true: You can’t go back again. Not to what was.

But don’t despair, we can return, this time in the present.

Until next time, Buen Camino, Irene

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