Man, my feet, knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders ache but I feel so happy! I’m in Santiago de Compostela!
I can hardly believe it’s done! My feet are still attached and I still have all ten toes! They may never work the same, but they all made the walk. Lucy and I ended up walking the whole way together today. I don’t think either of us would have made it here today without the other one walking beside us. I would probably have stopped short of Santiago if I had walked alone. On the map, the path looked to be about 21km, but it was closer to 24 because you have to walk quite a way once you reach the city of Santiago de Compostela. It was very hard. The last 5k felt like the longest stretch of the entire Camino. Lucy and I took so many rest breaks today, but we have made it and it feels so good to be here. We had more frustration with some locals as we were trying to walk in from the outskirts of the c. Lucy (who has family who live in Spain and has spent much time here and speaks Spanish very well) was asking people how far it was to the cathedral. We asked four people, three of whom had on official government vests, and none of them would tell her. None! Isn’t that crazy? How do you live in that city, with so many pilgrims coming by each day and not be able or willing to help them if they happen to ask you directions? She was astounded at the lack of knowledge of their own city. I’m not sure what the deal is. I don’t know if they’re always this unhelpful, if they really know so little about the place they live (seems unlikely, right?), or if they’re just sick and tired of living along a pilgrim route and dealing with pilgrims. Whatever it is, the lack of consideration that I’ve encountered here has been pretty astounding at times. By this point, we were both so tired and Lucy was having such a hard time walking on her ankle and so we were taking lots of little breaks and just trying to keep each other’s spirits up and hoping that the cathedral would be just around the next corner. And, finally, it was and it was wonderful.
We made sure to get our stamps before we arrived in Santiago so we could go straight to the pilgrim’s office and get our Compostelas. It’s cool. It’s all in Latin, even my name, and includes the day that I finished the pilgrimage. The pilgrim’s office has you write down your information on a piece of paper and they use these lists to announce the arrivals of the pilgrims at the pilgrim’s mass each day. They announce how many pilgrims have arrived from each country and where the people began their Camino. I’m not sure if we will be announced tonight or tomorrow.
Lucy and I ended up at the church around sunset. It’s very interesting to walk in to a city you’ve never been to before and seeing people you know. That was really cool. Lucy is very recognizable with her ankle brace and so many people were excited to see her in Santiago and know that she finished. I’ve seen several of the pilgrims I met along the way and there’s so much hugging and smiling that it feels like you’re part of a big reunion, but it’s in a place none of you have ever been before. None of us know how to navigate this town away from the Camino, but we all walk this same way and so we see each other as we arrive and stay in this city.
After Lucy and I got our certificates, we just sat down in the plaza in front of the cathedral for a bit and then went off and had some victory ice cream. I got mint chocolate chip and stracciatella. Lucy chose strawberry and coffee, which she said was better than she expected together. I’m so exhausted of wearing these shoes and carrying this walking stick everywhere. I’m thinking of abandoning them here when I leave in the morning. I’m actually staying in a pension above the ice cream shop. Since I didn’t expect to arrive until tomorrow, my fancy hotel reservation begins tomorrow night. Lucy walked back away from the historic part back toward where we were coming in to town. She had an albergue she wanted to stay in, so we parted ways and will hopefully meet at the Pilgrim’s Mass tomorrow evening. I haven’t seen Lupe. I did see Alex from Denmark. I met him way back on my second day on the Camino. He said he arrived yesterday and is heading off to Finisterre on Saturday. I think most of the group from those first couple of nights arrived here yesterday. There’s a German couple who I’ve been seeing at the albergues the last few nights and they arrived here tonight, too. They arrived in the plaza as Lucy and I were sitting on the ground in front of the church. They came and sat near us and we all just looked at the church. It’s a mix of happiness and relief. I think most people are glad to stop walking. Glad to arrive. Even those who have not much idea what they’re going to do after this is over seem happy to be here and not have to get up and walk all day tomorrow. We can all relax and enjoy our accomplishments!
I haven’t been inside the church yet, but I think I will go to the noon mass tomorrow. I feel so happy! I haven’t been able to text my Dad, though. Something is wrong with my phone, I guess. It seems like the texts go through but I never receive anything back. I haven’t been able to get texts for a couple of days. I’m hoping it’s just a service gap and will clear up soon.
Tonight is my last night as a pilgrim. Tomorrow I become a tourist more than a pilgrim. I’m glad to have had the experience of this entire pilgrimage. It was very difficult, and my feet and legs are so exhausted, and I’m hungry and ready to find real food and stop carrying this pack so far every day and allow my hips to stop having to go numb from the weight. I look forward to no longer being a pilgrim, but I’m glad that I had this experience.