The final leg – Santiago — 22 km

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My oh my, what a building…… It soars majestically up to the heavens. The stained glass windows hold your eyes captive. Feelings of emotion soaring through my aching body and my mind spinning with mixed thoughts of accomplishment, satisfaction and then the ultimate feeling of PEACE.  I continued to admire this stupendous Cathedral. By far the most stupendous Cathedral I’ve seen, coloured no doubt by the fact that I had walked 800km to see it!!  Santiago is enchanting.  WOW!

I remember these feelings like yesterday, I was in total awe of the cathedral and it took me a while to realise I had finished an 800km walk across Spain in 35 days carrying everything I needed in a back pack.  It has taken me almost two years to finally craft out my closing blog!  For whatever reasons  posting this blog for the final leg to Santiago had an emotional play for me, clearly I did not want the journey to end.  I am finally at peace and ready to end this journey before I embark on my next adventure i.e. to walk 650km’s across Portugal (June/July 2014).

I initially did think the final leg to Santiago might feel like any other Camino day, but it didn’t.  For the first time in all my weeks on the Camino, I woke up feeling energised and not exhausted, a line from C. P. Cavafy’s “Ithaka” described how I felt perfectly: “a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body.”  It was the way I used to feel as a little girl on Christmas morning and not because of the presents, or at least not entirely.   The tingling excitement came from knowing this was a special day, removed from ordinary time.  It was something I hadn’t felt in years before that day, two years ago, when I walked into Santiago.  It suddenly dawns on you that the walk is more about the journey than the destination, however that doesn’t mean the destination wasn’t important.   Reaching Santiago safely, still in “one piece” has been my biggest accomplishment in life thus far.  I was really a pilgrim, I was truly following in the footsteps of so many pilgrims before me to Santiago.  I guess that’s why I have this crazy desire to walk another pilgrimage, the Portuguese Way Camino.

I tried not to expect too much of Santiago.  From my reading I had a picture in my mind of Santiago as not a particularly pretty city, and as I walked the outskirts of Santiago over the bridge with cars speeding by underneath one, I thought this impression was justified.  The last few kilometres into Santiago are along busy nosiy roads somewhat of an anticlimax after the first 15 km’s of the day which were quiet and peaceful.  I spent most of the walk wrapped in my thoughts. Thinking back on the Camino, the last 35 days and I remembered the places I had stayed at, the special people I met and the friends I had made, the meals I had eaten and of course the yummy cafe con leches I drank, the sections of walk that were so beautiful, the tough days and the joyful ones, I thought of how exhausted I was and how badly my feet hurt, the blisters, the doctoring thereof, the laughter, the tears, the fun, the pain, the snoring, the bunk beds, the albergues, but mostly my walk was a quiet, reflective stroll.  Through it all I kept feeling that today was the perfect day to finish.

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Then you finally walk into the pretty medieval centre, and the cars and the speed of the modern city melted away.  I passed through an archway where a bagpiper was playing, walked out into the Praza do Obradoiro, and collapsed in front of the cathedral.  I sat on my backpack, like so many other peregrinos around me and looked up at the Cathedral.   I breathed in and for many moments I thought nothing, I just was. I don’t think I’ve ever been at such peace ever.  I saw so many familiar faces and headed off to the Office of Peregrinos to get my Compostela. The Latin document that certifies I have completed the pilgrimage to the resting place of the disciple James.

I splurged and stayed in a hotel, my first luxurious accommodation in 35 days.  It was not a 5 star hotel but it felt like paradise.   I trudged into the hotel tired, dirty and smelly. A beautiful hotel decorated tastefully and my body thanked me deeply for this gift.  I thought it only fair after all I’d asked of it over the last 35 days.

The song – “I would walk 500 miles”, today I can say not that I would walk 500 miles but that I did walk 500 miles. I didn’t know if I could do it.  Now I know.

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