Me, sitting in my hotel, yes, an actual hotel, room. It’s amazing how much pleasure a proper towel can bring. More than one plug socket, so you can plug your phone in and not have to rush to the shower and back before someone else unplugs it and puts there’s in.
First world problems, I know, but the things we take for granted in our every day life take on a whole new significance when you are deprived of them. It is one of the things you leave here determined to take back with you, a sense of what really matters, what is really important, but I know from experience that when surrounded with the comforts from home, this is all too quickly forgotten.
What is interesting is that you spend your first couple of days keeping your phone, money and passport on you at all times. In the shower, under your pillow when you sleep, but after a couple of days you just leave it all on your bunk. You feel that you and your belongings are completely safe at all times.
It is strange, the first day of not walking. Waking up with no sense of purpose, wandering the streets in a daze because you feel the need to keep moving even though you have no place to go. Your rucksack abandoned in the corner of the room like an old piece of clothing that you no longer have a use for.
Santiago is filled with Pilgrims, delighted to have reached their goal, greeting fellow Pilgrims they met like long lost friends with the knowledge that for most, this friendship will end as suddenly as it began when everyone had dispersed to every corner of the world when they all go home.
The Cathedral is not currently holding the traditional Pilgrim mass as the interior is being renovated so we went to the new temporary venue, the Inglesia San Francisco for the traditional mass. We sat, with 100’s of others while the service was conducted in Spanish. I couldn’t understand, but it didn’t matter. The service was beautiful and the singing by a single nun, mesmerising.
How do I feel? Like I have achieved my goal, I have walked and carried and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I have endured and savoured, laughed and nearly cried. Actually did shed a tear when I lit a candle for Caroline’s parents in the Cathedral. I have seen 2 beautiful countries and met some amazing people.
The main difference between this walk and the one I did 4 years ago is the difference in time. We have walked for 11 days. I still feel connected to home and the outside world, I feel like I’m on a walking holiday in the same way as The Coast to Coast or Offas Dyke walk I did. My previous Camino, I walked for 34 days, became totally immersed in the life I was living, entirely dependent on the people around me. Home and the outside world were far removed from what I was doing.
This walk is for anyone and everyone. We have seen teenagers and people in their late seventies. A woman with dwarfism, very overweight people, people with leg problems and back problems and a myriad of foot problems. On my first Camino I was quite judgemental. If you didn’t walk every step and carry your pack, to my mind, you weren’t doing it properly. Now, I have understood that the Camino is a personal journey. We all have a common goal, but how you get there is your own way. There is an expression on the Camino, “Hike your own hike”. If that means shipping your pack on the long days or indeed every day, or getting a taxi for a few miles because you can’t walk, so be it. Anna was forced to get a taxi for one leg because her blisters were open wounds. She physically couldn’t walk without every step being agony. A day off made all the difference. That doesn’t mean her journey is any less than mine. She still journeyed from Porto to Santiago, arguably with more to overcome.
We will return home tomorrow having shared our 4th adventure together. More memories and experiences that we will have forever, and what an incredible journey it has been.