Goals are funny things. We set them before us and make strides to reach them. But it is not so much the goal, but the journey towards it which brings us joy.
Reaching Santiago can be anticlimactic for some pilgrims or a letdown. People often split apart and say their goodbyes. Some go on to walk to Finestera or Muxia – two sacred places on the Spanish coast that are ultimate ways to conclude the Camino.
Others stay for several days in Santiago to eat, drink, take in the sights and enjoy. Most attend a Pilgrim’s Mass. I met one Dutch pilgrim who walks an astonishing 6.4 kilometers per hour and has arrived in Santiago after two months of hiking from his home in Holland. His wife is planning to meet him for a week in Santiago to enjoy the city together.
I stayed up until 1 a.m. at the bar/restaurant/roadside hotel after arriving at 10:15 p.m. and eating a late dinner in the bar, while watching “El Dia de Los Valientes,” a great movie that captures the tensions which pitted neighbor against neighbor in the Spanish Civil War. I forwarded photos for my blog and packed and showered.
In the morning, I hit the road shortly after 6 a.m. It was pitch black, but fortunately there was a full moon and a German couple walking with a headlamp. I have a headlamp – a string flashlight suspended from my forehead by a strap. Unfortunately, it was accidentally turned on several times in my back back and now when I needed it, it’s batteries were dead.So, I followed the nice German couple. As we walked, we spoke about the recent shooting in Munich, where gunned killed ten persons in a shopping mall. What a summer this has been for Europe and the United States. The United States has grown accustomed to mass shootings. We have one every third day. Europe is not accustomed to this. They have few guns. As a result, they have less crimes committed with guns.
Eventually, I can see well enough to walk ahead on my own. After walking for five weeks and averaging 48,000 steps and more than 62 floors and 22 miles per day, 20 kilometers seems like a breeze.
I walk fast. My legs are very strong now. They say that you get in shape for the Camino by walking the Camino. It’s good to arrive in great shape, but some of this only comes from walking the Camino for six, eight or ten hours a day and doing it day after day after day.
I wanted to savor every step. On my final two hours or roughly eight kilometers I joined up with three young, friendly Spanish college students, who are studying criminal law in a university in Madrid. Helena, Rosaria and Maria were wonderful companions with whom to share the final two hours in the Camino.
Arriving in Santiago at 10:30 a.m., we separated to go to our respective albergues. Helena hopes to come to the U.S. for a year after graduating to work as an au pair. I offered to help her, as she longs to perfect her English. She is going to work for a month in Oban, Scotland at a resort in order to perfect her English. I wished her well, as it’s very hard to understand the Scottish residents in Oban when they speak English. It’s the last place I would send someone to learn how to speak English.
Finding my albergue was tough. The streets are all listed in Gallego, but the albergue hospitalero gave me the Spanish name for the street. Google didn’t recognize the name. After finally finding it, I showered, unpacked, dressed and headed quickly to the Pilgrim’s Mass.
At the Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago.
Celebrating the Feast of Santiago – a Celtic group plays in a small bar.
Pedro stirs the Queimada – a drink with orujo (like grappa) and coffee
Making Music in Santiago de Compostela.
Simply wild! Explosions above the cathedral in Santiago.
It is good finally to be here. Most of the pilgrim’s have walked the Camino Frances, so there isn’t the great sense of reunion that I experienced when walking the Camino Frances in 2013 and encountering dozens of pilgrims who I had met on the way.
I am so grateful for this sabbatical, for the time to be away, to pray, to walk, to disconnect, to reflect, to read the Bible, to meet amazing people, to see so many stunning sights, to spend so much time in nature, to speak and learn more Spanish, to have so many rich conversations and to listen to what God is saying to me. I will forever be grateful for this time.
With love and prayers from Spain,