Here’s the thing, when you accept that there are alternative transport options, walking becomes a choice. I know there is a bus going straight into Santiago and where it stops (assuming it is still running), but even though the fog hung heavy and wet outside the windows when I woke up, I wanted to walk. Looked forward to walking. The sky looked promising, it would be a good day.
I went in search of coffee, but everywhere was too full, too empty, too bakery-y, too bar-y, or closed. In the end I left Pedrouzo at eXACtly the right moment and had the first bit of trail through the eucalyptus woods almost all to myself. I didn’t get coffee until Amenal, and I even managed to hit the first café at eXACtly the right moment, while there were still tables to be had and before anyone stole all my chairs … I celebrated my good fortune and the wonderful day with Santiago cake and the promise of a campsite albariño*.
Along the way I kept passing a man I knew I had seen walking before Sarria, and I think he thought the same, because we ended up falling into an easy conversation, though we hadn’t actually met or spoken before. At this marker, 11 kms before the cathedral square, we ended up photographing single and double pilgrims – it is notoriously difficult to catch with a selfie.
Then around the airport, slowly closing in on the city. At the campsite bar – San Marcos – I was due a celebratory *albariño but decided to have a refreshing clara instead. Knowing that the Monte do Gozo monster albergue was just a hop, skip and a jump away made it easier to start on the last stretch. From there you can see the city and you know you are almost there. I just wish people would stop leaving stickers, hats, photos, signatures, even T-shirts on the big Santiago sign! It’s not a bitter sweet memento thing, it’s littering! (Moving swiftly on:) At one point the camino was diverted because of roadworks, so I got to see and enjoy at a new route down to the old city walls. You still enter through the Porta do Camiño and follow the same path into the Cervantes square, where every first timer loses the trail and just goes with the flow (just veer right and keep going straight down to the arch). Below are some new finds on this new route. Some things never change though, I was still really excited to get the first glimpse of the towers!
My mum wanted to see me arrive on the Obradoiro webcam (link on the bar on the right), so I called her just before I appeared and stayed on the line until she saw me waving from the middle of the praza. I must admit it felt a little disappointing arriving alone this year knowing that so many of my new camino amigos were far ahead of me and I’d probably not see them again. I was amazed at the sheer amount of people though! It wasn’t early either, I think it was about two o’clock when I went through the bagpipe arch. My dad took a screenshot of me on the webcam on the Plaza de Praterias, how cool is that? I am glad I had my pink skirt on, it made me easier to find. When I walked past later, there was a massive concert, no doubt to celebrate my arrival.
After arriving, I went straight to Pilgrim House to see if Faith was at work – where better to celebrate/recalibrate/mourn the end of my long walk. I stayed there for a while chatting, told them my stories and asked them about the not-yet-post-covid camino, pilgrim impressions and who had been and was still in town – apparently I had just missed one of the forum veterans. The desk at Pilgrim House (in Rua Nova, not the pilgrim office) is literally where my weeks of momentum crashes to a stop. That’s it, it is over, and when I leave this camino oasis, I am in a city; no longer a pilgrim, just a dusty walker in need of a shower and a meal. I got the meal first, in the bar next door, where the staff are friendly, the wine is good and the tapas are generous. Then I checked in at San Martin Pinario, where I had the great fortune to have snapped up a room!
After a shower, change, laundry, part unpacking and general resetting of my camino mind, it was time to go out to get some tapas and a drink. Only one thing missing – company. I had run out of data so I checked messages and Instagram while I was in range of the wifi. Vegan smiler Laura was in Muxia, the Irishman and the millionaire were in a taxi heading for Finisterra, most of the young people I met in the early meseta were probably back home already, Maria had walked off towards Negreira that morning, the Musicians were stopping in Lavacolla … I decided to go out on my own, maybe back to the nice bar with the massive tapas, and just relax and reflect and write the last blog posts.
And then, just as I was literally leaving the hotel and the wifi, my mobile pinged. I checked, and it was lovely Nicole, she was in town! I sent her a quick message to say where I was planning on going, and then left the hotel. As I crossed the street, outside the side entrance to the cathedral, a familiar face with a big beaming smile just popped up – there she was! She was going to mass, so we agreed to meet at my quiet little bar after. Which we did, and shared a bottle of albariño, and talked about our journeys since we last saw each other – she had been only 10 kms in front of me the whole time! – and ate all the big tapas, and met others who joined us … camino magic put its spell on the night as it so often does, and all was well.
Then when it was time to go, we walked through the quiet streets together and said goodbye on the same corner of the cathedral where we had met one last time. Nicole was walking out towards Finisterre the next day and I was looking forward to a nice lie-in!