I started off at 7:45 from Pedrouzo through eucalyptus forests in the dark, but unlike yesterday, many pilgrims accompanied me on the trail. The sunrise was beautiful. Pilgrims were posing by a roadside scallop shell sculpture, and we took turns taking pictures.
I continued walking through San Antón down into the Amenal valley over the rio Xeimar and under the N-547 túnel. I then walked through a woodland path and then on a wide forest track around the perimeter of the Santiago airport, leading eventually into the ancient hamlet of San Paio.
There, I stopped for coffee with Stephanie and Joann from Connecticut at Casa Porta de Santiago, which marked the last 12 km of the path. Stephanie told me she had been praying for my loved one; I felt so blessed that she had remembered and kept him in her thoughts. I saw a church there but it was closed. Anyway, I was anxious to move on.
Pedrouzo (Centro) to Amenal (túnel) (3.5 km) to San Paio (3.9 km)
At Lavacolla, where medieval pilgrims came to wash (lavar) and purify themselves in the stream before entering the sacred city of Santiago, there was a big Neoclassical-style parish church, Iglesia y Cruz de Benaval, but it was situated such that it was difficult to get photos.
San Paio to Lavacolla (Igrexa) (2.2 km)
I crossed over the access road to the airport, then over the small famous stream, then steeply uphill and then down and over another stream. I walked through endless suburbs and industrial plants, including Radio TV Galicia. I stopped at Camping San Marcos & Café to eat Galician soup.
Lavacolla to Camping (San Marcos) (3.6 km)
At Monte de Gozo there was an enormous monument erected to commemorate Francis of Assisi and the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1992. Gozo means “joy;” the name was given to this high point because euphoric medieval pilgrims wept with joy when they spotted the spires of Santiago Cathedral from here. Nowadays, because of the woods, urban sprawl, and apartment and commercial complexes around the city, the Cathedral is not easily sighted.
I popped briefly into a small chapel: San Marcos. This was 5 km from Santiago. Then I walked by an unsightly sprawling dormitory and recreational buildings — a Xunta (municipal albergue) with 400 beds — but it seemed to be closed.
Camping (San Marcos) to Monte del Gozo (2.1 km)
I entered Santiago over the A-9 autopista and through Santiago’s suburbs and endless businesses. There was a huge monument to notable historic figures connected with the Camino. All of this area was quite ugly.
Monte del Gozo to San Lázaro (2.0 km)
As I approached the medieval part of the town, I fell into step with Helen from Ireland. We followed the scallop shells embedded in the pavement, which seemed to disappear from time to time, to Praza do Obradoiro, the “golden” square of Santiago, filled with tourists, pilgrims, street artists musicians, and dancers. Once we finally arrived at 2:00, we took pictures of each other in front of the dramatic west facing Baroque façade of the cathedral. St. James looked down at us from his niche in the central tower.
I had made it! I didn’t feel those tears of joy that so many pilgrims experience upon reaching Santiago. That would come later. I was exhausted and coming down with a sore throat, so I was happy that I hadn’t been waylaid by what would later become a vicious cold.
San Lázaro to Praza Obradoiro (Catedral) (2.5 km)
I checked into my hotel, PR Libredón. It was a perfect location near the cathedral, and it had a bathtub! After soaking in the tub, I met Darina in the square where she took some pictures of me in front of the Cathedral. Darina had arrived the day before, and she had already figured out the lay of the land.
We went right away to the mass presided over by the German bishop. It was supposed to be at 4:00, but at 3:45, it was already in progress and there were no seats. We stood for the whole long service in the side aisle. The normal pilgrim mass is at noon each day; as I was too late for that one, I would attend the noon mass the following day.
As the mass was so long, I sneaked off into the crypt to see the relics of St. James. I knelt down before the casket and said prayers of thanksgiving for my safe journey.
Because I had arrived late, bathed, rested, and then attended this unusual afternoon mass, I didn’t do the other normal pilgrim rituals, so I would have to finish them up my next day in Santiago.
It was a long sermon, all in German, followed by communion, and then at the end, all the pomp and celebration of the Botafumeiro! Eight men (tiraboleiros) in heavy red robes solemnly put the incense into the giant burner and lit it. As the incense swirled into the air, they pulled in tandem until the Botafumeiro was swinging through the aisles, almost to the ceiling. I took a short video but I stopped because I wanted to experience the emotion of it all. I watched in awe as the Botafumiero arced enthusiastically toward the vault of the cathedral, and to the heavens.
It was an emotional and breathtaking experience after walking 800 km over 44 days (with three days stopping in cities). I wept; Darina and I hugged. Stephanie from Connecticut looked at me lovingly and said assuredly, “All your prayers will be answered.” We hugged each other, as I did other pilgrims — her friend Joanna, and even Ellen from Germany.
The swinging of the Botafumeiro was originally used to fumigate the sweaty and sometimes diseased pilgrims.
After the memorable service – so much pomp and ceremony – and beautiful music by the German choir, Darina accompanied me to buy a ticket from the Cathedral Museum for the rooftop tour, tomorrow at 4:00. She had already booked her ticket for the next morning.
We then took pictures of the German bishop, priests, lay people, and congregation. Of course, we had to jump into the photos.
We met Darina’s friend Dana, who I’d never met before. They had started the same day in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We took a selfie together. I also met Lisa, who was originally traveling with her brother, but after he went home, she continued on alone. I ran into Steffie, who I had met with the Japanese lady Keiko one evening on the Meseta.
I was so blessed to have Darina there at the end. We had started around the same time, but she walked faster and further than I did each day. I was lucky that she had stopped for a week in Navarette for a meeting with her colleagues, so that we could end up finishing around the same time. So many other pilgrims I’d started with or met along the way had finished well ahead of me.
Darina and I went to dinner at Restaurante Camilo. The service was excruciatingly slow. I ordered prawns but they were tiny ones and took forever to peel and eat. I also scarfed down some French fries. In the restaurant, I ran into Janice from San Antonio, who had fallen out with her married couple friends somewhere along the Meseta; she had reunited with them and they seemed to be enjoying their dinner.
Darina and I went back out to Praza do Obradoiro and took some selfies together, then asked a bystander to take a photo. I will cherish these photos forever.
I couldn’t believe I’d finally made it. It was strange to think that I didn’t have to walk anymore, unless I felt like it.
By evening, the irritating tickle in my throat was suddenly accompanied by a nagging cough and general exhaustion. After dinner, I went back to my room and took another hot bath. I was exhausted from the emotion and the physical stress of it all, but it had been an incredible journey.
*Day 47: Saturday, October 20, 2018*
*32,239 steps, or 13.66 miles: Pedrouzo (Arca) to Santiago (20.1 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Aveiro & Surrounds.