Day 27 on the Camino de Santiago. AKA the day I walked into Santiago de Compostela.
My pilgrimage was coming to an end and not a single cell in my body felt ready to give up the past month on the way.
As expected, the way was crowded that morning. It was the final stretch and pilgrims from all over the globe were preparing for their last moments along the Camino de Santiago.
As I joined the crowd I stopped to admire my Camino sunrise – which was particularly spectacular. Thick fog lingered on the path as pink hues filled the sky as I took a step closer to Santiago.
Although Santiago had always been a goal of this very long walk, the reality of finally reaching the city had obviously been pushed far back in my mind and I had no idea how to feel about such an important day.
The day seemed painfully ‘normal’, it was just another days long walk – with a hint of intense anticipation about the end point. Unlike most days along the way when I would start walking with no destination for the day in mind – today had a very, very clear destination.
I had decided that I needed to spend most of the day walking alone. Although I had made such good friends along the way I knew that I craved one last day of alone time with my thoughts before ending my pilgrim lifestyle.
Unlike many of the fellow pilgrims aI had met and gotten to know along the way, I did not have any clear ‘reason’ for taking a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. I was not having a midlife crisis or had recently quit my career to ‘find myself’. I was just keen for a long walk and never expected the walk to be anything too meaningful.
My meaningless stroll plan had definitely backfired and my time along the Camino de Santiago had brought to surface many emotions and thoughts that had been brewing in the depths of my mind. And although earlier Camino de Santiago days had become painful when thinking about certain things, my final day had a feeling of resolution to these lingering notions.
There was one particular resolution that I wrote down, and in fear of being too heavy for a lighthearted travel blog, this is one thought I feel like sharing…
If I had one thing I wanted to work out on my Camino it was how to get over my fathers death, but I just realised – I don’t want to get over it. It is a sadness that I don’t want to ever lose – I want to carry it with me as a reminder of the fragility of this beautiful life. My Camino may be coming to an end but my path in life is winding on and through the ups and downs I want to feel it all, and embrace every minute. Because just like my fathers ashes, my life could slip through my fingers.
With a deep resolution in my mind, and a bittersweet mindset I craved the company of a familiar face and lucky enough for me as I stopped to rest over a coffee and orange, my friend Tom appeared along the path.
Although that morning I felt I needed to end my pilgrimage alone, I had changed my mind. I needed to complete this long walk with a friend by my side. I needed to share the excitement of the first sight of Santiago. I needed Tom to appear at that moment. And the Camino de Santiago has a way of making the things you need to happen, happen.
Soon we were winding through suburbia. Santiago de Compostela is a big city, and therefore requires some city outskirt navigating before setting foot in the old town itself.
We winded our way through, occasionally getting distracted by shops we had not been able to admire for weeks, including organic stores selling vegan cheese and other goodies we had been deprived off through the small towns of Northern Spain.
That afternoon we arrived in Santiago. There were no fireworks. There was no grand greeting. There was simply a beautiful cathedral and a feeling of ultimate success.
I had walked the entire Camino de Santiago.
“27 days ago I left France on foot for a 780km walk to Santiago in western Spain. I crossed mountains, fields, forests, villages and farms. I injured my foot, spent 3 awful days in bed ill and recovered spectacularly. I spent a lot of time alone but made new friends every day. I laughed, I cried and experienced all kinds of highs and lows. I walked until midnight one day but walked from the wee hours of the morning most other days. Today I arrived in Santiago de Compostela where I collected a piece of paper that is a tiny symbol of the pride I have for myself right now. I haven’t set foot in a car, bus, train or even ridden a bicycle the entire journey. My feet have carried me all 780km to this point. But I think the real achievement here is the fact that I walked 780km without getting a blister… Thanks for putting up with the past 27 days body (and mind). And thank you to all the wonderful people who followed this adventure and offered supportive words along the way. Buen Camino!!”