Camino de Santiago Day 7: O Pedrouzo to Santiago
Sixth Day of Walking the Last 100 km to Santiago
Elevation: 378.78 meters up + 422.35 meters down
After a strangely wonderful night of sleep and a wonderful breakfast in town,
we gathered on the sidewalk for Laura and I to do our readings for our final day of walking.
Mine was from Carl Jung:
My pilgrim’s progress has been to climb down a thousand ladders
until I could finally reach out a hand of friendship
to the little clod of earth that I am.
And this was my prayer for each of us. That we could befriend our true selves, who we truly are.
Laura read from Jeremiah 6:16, a verse that is widely accepted to be especially for pilgrimages:
Stand at the crossroads and look,
and ask for the ancient paths
where the good way lies,
and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
Buen Camino, dear friends.
And with that we were off.
I had asked that we try to stick together on this day, or at least wait for each other before we entered Santiago.
So we took our time.
I think we all were reluctant for the walk to end, so we didn’t mind stopping often.
Sometimes we were stopping to wait until we were all together again and other times we just stopped because maybe this was the last tree or flower or church you might see on your Way.
I was giving thanks all day long for our walk, and for our group of women.
Throughout the pandemic, it has seemed like life (and especially travel) wouldn’t ever be normal again.
But these steps on this journey helped me to see that even though everything has changed,
there will still be a Camino.
There will still be walking.
There will still be travel and laughter and fun.
Even if it looks different, we can move through the world again.
I remembered that there is a lot of road walking on the final day into Santiago, but there are still forest paths too.
There is still beauty.
And of course, there are still cafes.
Because you are counting down to zero on this day, several of the cafes are named by their distance in kilometers from Santiago.
It seemed to me like the numbers decreased so quickly!
We got our first glimpses of Santiago before noon.
There it was in the distance, our destination.
I remembered some of the exact spots from my last walk, and when I reached this church, I went inside to pause in gratitude for each kilometer that each person had walked.
Some of these women had consented to come only because they knew they could take a taxi if their legs refused to carry them any further. They had even expected to need a taxi, but not one of them had taken one. They had walked every step of the way.
It seemed like just a minute ago, we were on our first day of walking and standing in front of the 100 km marker.
Yoshiko and Janine had actually missed the marker and they went back to get a photo in front of it, adding a few kilometers to their count for the first day. It was one of those moments that at the time seemed almost silly, like a waste of time, but that was only because it was the first day.
Because actually, no moment on the Camino is wasted time.
Yoshiko is my husband’s sister, and therefore a sister to me. She and her friend Janine have traveled all over the world together. They used to live just a few minutes from one another but now they live in separate cities and had not seen each other for a while. They had, like so many of us, planned to meet up again on this trip in 2020, so their reunion was all the sweeter because of the delay.
Having them along was such a treat. I’ve heard about Janine for ages, but never had the chance to spend time with her until this trip. And I always welcome the chance to see Yoshiko. Both of them are super independent travelers, so they would search out and find shops, cafes and food ahead of us, texting the rest of us to come join them for whatever treasure they had found. Often Yoshiko would text those of us in the back a picture of a menu in case we wanted her to go ahead and order something for us. And we often took her up on her kind offer.
Now we were stopping just 10 km away from the end.
Over 90 km stretched out behind us.
Onward we went.
And soon we reached Mount Gozo, the park that overlooks Santiago.
The last stop.
We circled the park instead of heading straight on ahead.
I wanted everyone to walk past the statues of the pilgrims who were joyfully looking towards Santiago.
So we made the circle up to the pilgrims and paused until everyone reached this mountaintop.
And then, of course, we made one last stop.
We had some lunch and snacks in a large cafe and park area at Mount Gozo that looked brand new.
There were many shopfronts that were still empty, as I think the space had been built for the Holy Year.
Before the pandemic, the numbers that were expected for the 2021 Holy Year were outrageous. More pilgrims than ever before.
But now this area looked like an Olympic Village after the Olympics have already finished.
The pope has declared that 2022 will also be a Holy Year so that people have a chance to re-schedule their Holy Year walks.
(Traditionally a Holy Year happens when St James Day falls on a Sunday.)
So maybe next year this village will be packed full of pilgrims celebrating their final day of walking.
Buoyed by our refreshments, we moved quickly together through our final kilometers into Santiago.
We were overjoyed to reach the signpost at the edge of town.
Now we only had to follow the arrows a little while longer.
We stayed right together as we walked the streets of Santiago.
We could see the spires of the cathedral almost the whole way.
Our happy little parade of nine made its way.
You never know what will meet you in the cathedral square, especially during a pandemic.
My first time in Santiago, I heard bagpipes.
But I have heard tales of parades and bands and all sorts of music being the welcome on your final stretch of the Camino.
We were still a little ways from the cathedral when I heard bagpipes playing, so I was grateful that there would be some kind of musical welcome at the end.
Almost every pilgrim finds themselves welling up with emotion as the cathedral comes into view.
Whether you have walked 100km or 1000km, you have completed a Camino when you arrive.
So tears were already flowing by the time we reached the bagpipe player.
Words can’t really describe the moment you reach the cathedral of St James.
It’s so massive that you can’t fit it in a photo.
Nor will a photo quite capture the stretch of the large square of pilgrims arriving.
But they were all around.
Some folks were sitting down with their backpacks just taking it all in.
Others were lining up to go inside the church.
We took a moment to hug one another and take a few photos.
Then we went inside briefly.
While wandering around the church, we realized how tired we all were, so we made our way to our hotel next.
It was time for a rest.
That night we ate a beautiful celebration dinner at Restaurant Carretas.
It was recommended to us by the host of our hotel for its seafood.
We had scallops and paella and salads and bread and wine and all kinds of beautiful things.
We laughed around the table and recounted our favorite moments of the journey to Santiago.
And then we headed back to the hotel to rest (and to take our COVID tests so we could fly home).
On the way back to the hotel, we walked through the square in front of the cathedral once more.
The spires were lit up against the night sky, and there was a band playing music in a corner of the square.
What a beautiful sight
at the end of a beautiful day
on a beautiful journey
in a beautiful world.