Day #39: Arco O Pino (Pedrouzo) to Santiago de Compostela, 20.1km

05.25.2010

I woke up this morning at 6a, hoping to get an early start.  Everyone has a different plan to arrive to Santiago.  Some will go to Monte Gozo, spend the night in the Albergue, then go to Santiago the following morning to get their Compostela and attend the Pilgrim Mass.  Others, like myself, will go into Santiago, find an Albergue or Hotel, check in, go to the Pilgrim's Office to get the Compostela and wait until the next day to go to the Pilgrim Mass.

I had some yogurt and juice for a quick breakfast before heading into the rainstorm waiting for me outside.  It was POURING down.  Because of the clouds and the rain, it was also still dark, even at 6:45a.  I finally got the courage up to go ahead and leave the warmth and dryness of the Albergue for the final day of walking the Camino.

I was promptly soaking wet after 5 minutes of walking.  Well, the bottom half of me was wet, while the top half has been well protected by my REI rain shell.  Luckily, the first 6 or 8km was through forested areas, so the rain wasn't that bad.

I stopped about 4km later at the first bar open to get a cafe con leche and a tarta de manzana for a proper breakfast and to dry off  a bit.  I took 15 minutes, then continued.  The terrain was pretty decent, with some ups and downs, but nothing too terrible.

I made good time to Lavacolla and ran into some Americans I had briefly met on the trail a few days ago.  They were a group of four (two men, two women) from San Francisco and had started in Sarria.  I walked with them for a bit and we had a cafe con leche break together before saying goodbye.

I continued at my slower pace up Monte Gozo and down into Santiago.  As I expected, the city noise and chaos of "real" life hit me at full force.  I made my way into the old part of Santiago de Compostela and managed to once again miss the turn off for the Albergue due to some street construction going on.  I ran into some peregrinos I knew and they helped me with some basic directions.

I arrived at the Albergue just after they opened at 1:30p and decided to spring for a private room.  At 15€ a night, it wasn't that much more than a bed in the dorms.

After I got settled, I made my way back into Santiago to get my Compostela.  I found the Pilgrim's Office without too much difficulty.  I got in line and waited my turn to get called.  I handed over my credential and answered a couple of questions.  I was given my Compostela and that was it.  I don't know how to describe or put into words all of the emotions and thoughts and feelings I was experiencing.

Let me put it into perspective.  Imagine you have been dreaming of doing something for 15 years.  You've never had the opportunity to pursue this dream because 1) You always have a job, 2) You don't have 6 weeks of vacation you can take, or 3) sometimes because of #1 and #2, you keep this dream far in the back of your head in the "someday" pile, hoping it will happen one day.  Okay, now, by some kind of miracle, you manage to scrape enough money together and you decide to quit a job you love because NOW is the time.  It cannot wait.  So you quit the job you love, you leave your friends, family and co-workers behind, and you decide to extend your travels to go around the world.  Now, you find yourself almost six weeks into your trip and you have completed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  You have walked (and took the bus/train when you couldn't walk) 800km over the Pyrenees of France, across the Northern part of Spain, across rivers and streams, up and down hills, through valleys and over mountains.  You have experienced the kindness of strangers and made a family out of fellow peregrinos.  Even though you are walking most days by yourself, you are never alone.  You are all walking towards the same goal.  Some days are better than others.  It is scorching hot, soaking wet, and freezing with snow falling down.  And yet, you persevere, you conquer your fears and your pain.  All of this was going through my mind while I was waiting in line and after I received my Compostela.

I left the Pilgrim's Office on cloud nine.  I was heading to the Tourist Office down the street to get a better map of Santiago.  As I was walking, I was taking it all in, looking around, and then all of a sudden, I see a familiar face, someone I have not seen in at least four weeks.

"Ninka!!"

I ran over to her and gave her a big hug!  I could not believe my eyes when I saw her.  I thought we would never see each other again on the Camino.  She was so far ahead of me, but I knew she had planned to walk to Finisterra, so I had a small amount of hope our paths would cross one last time.  It was wonderful to see her and hear how her Camino had been.  We talked for quite a while before one last hug and instead of "Buen Camino", I wished her "Safe Travels" as she makes her way back to the Netherlands.

I went to the Tourist Office and got a new map.  I had to go pick up the packages I had sent to the Camino Travel Center so I made my way there, hoping they were open.  It was like Christmas when I opened one of the boxes.  I had forgotten what was in it.  I put the other box in my duffel bag and set off to the Albergue.  On my way, I stopped at a panaderia and bought two each of ham/cheese and apple empanadas.  My plan was to eat them for dinner later.

I was consulting my map when I heard my name and looked up to see Dominic, my German friend.  He had arrived in Santiago two days ago and had just booked his train home to Germany.  We quickly caught up and I gave him one of my cards so we could keep in touch.  We hugged and said goodbye.

I continued on to the Albergue and it started pouring down rain again.  I was on my way to my room and I saw Lily and Eva, my two friends from Ecuador.  It was so good to see they made it too.  We had all been struggling with foot problems.

I finally took my shower and opened up the other box.  My netbook made it without any damage and so did the rest of my stuff.  It's nice to have it back, but I am not looking forward to the extra weight, having gotten used to having such a light pack.

Bedtime came easy for me and I slept very well.