Friday 27 June ……… Walking into Santiago de Compostela

This is Giovanni from Italy, Marie from Marseille and Arnick from Avignon, both in France. We met last night and shared a scary conversation which I think neither of us understood, but appreciated.

The first 60 minutes or so of walking today was through woods before I suddenly found myself beside a major road which I found intrusive.

Then I found myself walking around the perimeter of an airport (Santiago?) before being taken back into quieter roads and lanes. Along this stretch, for the sake of something to take my mind of the monotony of near to or on the road walking I once again started reading graffiti.

Villamajor came into view and shortly after I was having a toe wiggle with a coffeeand croissant with the sun on my back.

At 11 o’clock, give or take a minute or two I walk into the outer-reaches of Santiago de Compostela. It seems to take forever to get through the suburbs and into the old city itself.

When I reach the Cathedral there are no trumpet fanfares, no bands playing my favourite tune, no welcome banners, flags or bunting with my name on it. There is only me, with my own thoughts and feelings, one of hundreds who will soon join a queue at the Pilgrim Office to get a Compostela.

As I wait in the queue with the others I hear my name called time and time again. Thee are a lot of people who remember me, perhaps because of my accent who remember my name, but, sadly, embarrassingly for me, unless we have spent more than a few hours walking together I can’t remember their names unless I look back at my notes or this blog. (Is that an age thing?).

I am flattered. I am not for the first time on this Camino humbled. I am above all happy.

I make a big decision for me. I decide to to go to the Pilgrim Mass in the Cathedral. Once inside and before the Mass starts I somehow find myself in a queue to “hug the Saint”, a few minutes later, I have my arms wrapped around the neck of a statue of St James. It could have been emotional but for the priest who didn’t give me a small card like he did with everyone else because I didn’t make donation.

The Pilgrim Mass was as I expected. I didn’t have a clue what was being said, why and who to, although I did hear the word “señor” lots of times. At the end of the service the Botafumerio was swung ( look it up guys if you don’t know what that is), and to be fair, it was a special event, for me, emotionally.

A bed was eventually found.

Steps today 32815

28 June – being a tourist and waiting for folks to catch me up.

There is a startlingly, ice-blue sky with the heat from the sun drying the rain-soaked streets sending up streams of steamy mist to be lost into the heat of the day and forever again not to be seen.

The sun, with its atomic power sends out life-giving rays that reach deep into the corners of the shady streets, dazzling the unprotected eye, warming the welcoming skin, gladdening the saddest of hearts, cheering the darkest of memories and highlighting the promise of dreams from the night to come true, whatever they may be.

At the Church of San Francisco I was led to tears by a young man, committed to God, dressed in the simplest of brown robes with a rope for a belt who asked of me a total stranger, whence I came and what I was looking for in my native tongue and welcomed me to his world of peace and calmness with the voice of what I can only describe as a boy angel. I have heard that voice again many times since then and each time I have wept.

Steps today 17692

Sunday 29 June -Santiago de Compostela to Negreira

Today I can only offer thoughts and observation from the day from the notes as I walked. I hope they make sense to you……….. They do to me.

– a toothless old man sitting at the side of the path watching two cats eat the carcass of a small bird

– a bridge, centuries old, made by hand that has carried countless pilgrims, carts to market and families long since turned to dust

– eucalyptus trees by the hordes

– wild flowers leading me onwards and upwards

– ua small dog that has learned how to beg a meal or a snack from passing pilgrims

– freckles traced and joined in a line using the sun as a guide

– beautiful hill walking

– returning pilgrims retracing the steps I have yet to take

– taking the wrong path and adding an extra hour to a long days’ walk

– pilgrims with an aura of calmness now we are in this part of the Camino, or, is it an emotional volcano about to erupt when they, we, reach Finisterre?

Steps today 33564

Monday 30 June Negreira to Olveiroa

– a forest path soft underfoot

– a silence broken only by birdsong

– a veil of mist hanging like a curtain over a scene that awaits the sun to lift the veil and warm the land and chase away the coldness of a grey dawn

– a silvery dew-drop beaded grapevine with tiny droplets of early morning magic that sparkle, like a diamond encrusted green tiara awaiting the arrival of a beautiful yet to be born princess

– an old road, the cement and concrete dried since decades past that hS the deeply-embedded paw prints of a dog long-since dead

– the splash of a mountain-spring fed water fountain

– a wall of trees with a ceiling of grey , rain-filled clods set against a carpet of tall grass that flows into the distant undulating multi-green hills

– a pilgrim, seemingly at peace with his world who stops at a fountain and drinks deep into his belly with long gulps of cool fresh water then walks on

– a cup of coffee, an apple and a cafe filling and re-filling with a procession of pilgrims

– a multitude of languages

– unforgiving, unyielding and unfeeling Tarmac that takes to soul out the sole of your feet

– rolling green-framed hills

-multi-coloured walking clothes competing with wild flowers

– dogs, dogs and more dogs

– another Albergue, more strangers sleeping in the same room

-rain, rain and yet more rain

-a happy, memory-filled day that no-one can take away

-Kevin, Liz and Chase saying goodbye

Steps today 44505