It was lashing raining in the morning of our 31st day of Camino de Santiago. Leaving Ribadiso we knew that, after nearly 800km walked, Santiago de Compostela was just a stone’s throw away, just over 42km. Still, that was a substantial distance for a rainy day. Therefore, we just focused on walking without worrying too much about the day’s destination.
The more we walked the more it rained, and the more it rained the more we wanted to arrive in Santiago. We were completely soaked and I was just thinking that there was no way that our stuff would be dry and ready for another day of walk so it was probably better to keep on walking as long as we could.
We took breakfast in Arzua which another important spot for pilgrim’s hostels although I found it a quite ugly modern big town, but maybe it was just that the grey day made it duller. And so on we continued under the rain. We we arrived in Arca do Pino which is a theoretical end of stage, the last one before reaching Santiago, we had to assess our conditions and decide whether to continue walking or not. We were truly wretched and we were already feeling cramps in our muscles, in spite of the rain ponchos that we wore all our clothes and bags were soaked. So we just kept walking, dreaming already of a nice hotel room in Santiago. Anyway there would be another pilgrim’s hostel in Monte do Gozo, just 5 o 6km before Santiago de Compostela, in case we couldn’t make it till the end.
The closer one gets to Santiago de Compostela the more urban the landscape becomes. The Camino de Santiago gets to the airport of Santiago de Compostela and follows parallel to the highways towards the city. Finally we got the famous “Monte do Gozo” (The Mountain of Joy in Galician language). From the Monte do Gozo one supposed can already see Santiago de Compostela and the Santiago’s cathedral itself and that’s why the joy comes in. I suppose this hill got its name in the Middle Ages because nowadays one sees nothing but housing and industrial states. Nevertheless, it’s quite an emotive moment cause even not being the beautiful postcard sight that one was expecting it’s still Santiago de Compostela and that means one is very close to accomplish the great challenge.
From now on everything should be a personal experience and I’m not going to tell mine because no one should arrive with preconceive ideas nor having read other’s experiences. Just a couple of final things: try to enjoy Santiago de Compostela as much as you can. It’s an astonishing monumental city with great food, wine and party. It’s great to feel immersed in the Galician culture.
In the Pilgrim’s Office, on one side of the cathedral, you can obtain the diploma that certifies that you have completed your pilgrimage provided that you present your pilgrims’ passport with stamps of albergues within the last 100km. However, I was present when they denied the diploma to a friend who had walked all the way from France because somehow he didn’t get the stamps in those last 100km (although he had stamps from the earlier part proving that he had walked more than 600km before the stamps started missing). He was really upset and he was right in being upset. That episode could actually raise a lot of questions, fairness, society, rules, bureaucracy, and long etc… but hey! It was just a piece of paper!
At that point, in Santiago de Compostela, what really mattered was the journey and we were happy for this life changing journey that, in fact, had just started.
I’ve never found more appropriated words for the Camino de Santiago than this poem “Ithaca” of the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy:
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
C. P. Cavafy.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience, you must already have understood what Santiago means.