Bruno, Katja and myself had agreed last night to walk in together at sunrise.
My alarm goes off at 5.30am, I’d been sensible and pre packed most of my gear last night. By 5.45am I’m pretty much ready, so is Katja but for once Bruno is the slow one… We leave by 6am, walking in darkness until we find our way back onto the Camino at which point we have occasional streetlights. It’s cold but dry which is lovely, we walk through suburbs following signs towards the centre of Santiago.
As suburbs become city and city then becomes old town, our conversations and humour subside to a more personal inner calm. I’m contemplating how I will feel stood in front of the Cathedral, knowing I’ve walked over 1500km to get to this point, I’ve raising money for an amazing cause, I’ve built websites and written press releases and done so many things to be where I am about to be… I break the silence and make some funny comment just to stop myself from becoming overwhelmed by my emotions.
The plan is, find the Cathedral, then a hotel to dump our packs, then go to get our Compostela’s, before waiting in front of the Cathedral for everyone to meet.
We walk down some steps and turn to our left, there in front of us, stands one of the most humbling buildings ever built. We all take a moment to gaze upon the magnificent structure, and then just like tourists, we all take pictures.
It’s just before 7am and the morning sun hasn’t actually shone across the Cathedral yet so we wander around until it does, it is an amazing sight.
Next job, find somewhere to stay… The Parador stands proudly adjacent to the Cathedral but it’s a little out of my price range. We had passed a couple of smaller hotels on the way in but Katja has a piece of paper with information about rooms from €25 so we check it out. It takes us nearly an hour to find the place, (and yes you’ve guessed it, being 8am, it was closed…), next we find hotels out of our price range, then an apartment, but as Katja inspects the bedding the guy throws us back out?! (A very rude man that is supposedly a hotel manager as well, I think he’s in the wrong trade but instead of telling him I just call him a few names before marching off). My stress levels are rising and the Parador is looking more likely with every step. We find a very trendy cafe who advertise rooms, good prices, oh no, it’s in the same apartment block as the muppets rooms! Katja stays but Bruno and I decide against it. I’m about to give up hope when we walk past a casa something, we go and ask. €50 for a double, it’s nice, really well done out, it’s a done deal. So bags dropped off we go and get Katja before heading to the pilgrims office. It’s nearly 9am and the queue is fairly long already. As the queue moves steadily forward we turn around to see Carlos, Jonathan and Ava. Neville appears a little later (with his war wound…he fell after O Cebreiro splitting his hand open and needing stitches)! We are all happy to see each other and after we are handed our Compostela’s (I begin to realise I’m holding two months of walking in my hand) we go to find breakfast. As a celebratory breakfast we all deserve churros con chocolate, (all the weight I’ve lost may be going back on…!?!).
After breakfast we arrange to meet at 11am for twelve o’clock mass. The place is heaving, we find seats in different areas, I am sat with Bruno, Neville, Nikki and a young Estonian girl. The service begins and to mine & Bruno’s dismay the pilgrims who started furthest away aren’t mentioned (only nationalities walking the last 100km, just to show how commercial the Spanish Camino has become!), also they don’t swing the botafumeiro (worlds biggest incense burner).
After mass we regroup and find a bar to sit outside. The sun is shining and the beer is cold. Protesters march past, the amount of people involved is incredible, some more vocal than others but at least they’re standing up for what they believe in.
The rest of the day is spent with friends made on the Camino, pilgrims who may have only met me fleetingly and others lost back in France. The atmosphere is special and unforgettable, I’ve met such amazing people, some will hopefully stay in touch, and others will probably drift into the night, but they will always be in my memory.
I feel sad as everyone is planning to leave tomorrow to Muxia & Finisterre but I’m leaving on Tuesday as Jaz is arriving tomorrow, (which is going to be amazing as I haven’t seen her for two months, but I’m also a little nervous?!)… I hope I see everyone at Finisterre before everyone leaves, I’d like Jaz to meet them!
Tonight I’m spending in good company with new friends and acquaintances, tomorrow is a new day.