Been back for just over a week now, and admittedly I’m enjoying things like couches, private bathrooms, and sleeping sans earplugs. The feet are well on their way to health, and I even managed a quick run on the poor little things.
Our final walk into Santiago was a thing of beauty. After a day of pouring rain, the skies parted and the sun shone brightly. It was just a 20k walk which by now was nothing more than a little jaunt for us, but our bodies were tired, our minds were full of thoughts of the lovely Miss Meggie Newton, and so while it was a beautiful walk, it was definitely meditative and felt quite loaded.
There’s something strange about arriving at the cathedral in Santiago…you think you’re going to be ecstatic, but it’s a bit more confusing than that. First, you stink. Wow, Ireally do stink. When you’re surrounded only by other pilgrims, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you’re no worse than anyone else. However, surrounded by civilization and well groomed and manicured Spanish women only highlights that you yourself are disgusting! My solution to this was to use my remaining rubbing alcohol to douse the straps of my pack in an attempt to cleanse it of just under 600km of back and pit sweat. Yum. Tossed my beloved Merrell hikers in the trash, washed my hair with proper soap and it was so greasy the soap never actually lathered. I am hot.
The second feelings of course were a combination of hunger and fatigue. This was remedied by stopping at a bar and ordering three plates full of food each. As an added reminder that we were of the pilgrim ilk rather than dignified society, those same sweet smelling Spanish women were sitting next to us munching on tiny tapas while we ate like starved beasts and gorged on San Miguel. Hey, you may as well enjoy having a 6000cal/day metabolism while it lasts right??
The third feeling was a combination of relief (that you made it and that there’s no more walking), celebration (that you made it and that there’s no more walking), and disappointment (that it’s over and that there’s no more walking). It just seemed plain old weird to know that there were no more yellow arrows to follow, and that tomorrow we would wake up and not have to walk. In order to deal with our strange cocktail of emotions, Meg and I sat with hundreds of pilgrims through the thousand year old pilgrim mass. We saw friends who we hadn’t seen for hundreds of kilometres, and weeks. It was like a grand family reunion, a celebration that we’d all made it. The priests blessed us in our stinkiness, the nuns sang the most beautiful hymns I’ve ever heard, and yes, they lit up the massive incense burner and swung that baby through the cathedral so high and so fast, that it looked like it would crash and hit the ceiling…and when the incense caught on fire because it was moving so fast, they only just slightly toned down their swinging.
I loved the Camino, struggled on the Camino, got to know myself and my inner demons, made beautiful friends, and celebrated turning 30 with my sis Meg, and my dear friend Meggie. If any of you can spare five or six weeks and care to go for a walk, this is one walk that’s well worth doing.