Arco de Pino -> Monte do Gozo = 16K (3K more and I will be in Santiago for Pilgrim Mass!)
The sweet smell of eucalyptus and the shaded walk make the 10 kilometer walk very pleasant despite the fact I have yet to get my morning coffee and toast. I am grateful for the shade, because the day is already humid and hot, though it is not yet 0900.
As I walk, I consider my plans. I will stop at Monte do Gonzo, just 3 kilometers short of my ultimate destination. Then I may take the bus into the suburbs of Santiago (leaving my pack at the albergue). I can shop for a skirt, a razor and real shampoo. I can also get a camera, since I can’t make mine work. (I am sad that I have no photos of the last half of the trip.) I will take the bus back to the albergue and get cleaned up for my final entrance, on foot, into Santiago.
It seems amazing to me that I will be at the pilgrim office near the cathedral tomorrow morning – I will be there when they open. The past 6 weeks seem like a dream sequence if a movie.
And then, I will go to pilgrim mass.
I was in the cathedral at Santiago decades ago (in the 1970’s) and that is when the seeds for my present adventure were planted. It was during the Generalissimo Franco-era and I found myself unexpectedly living in Spain. I read James Michener’s book “Iberia” and it became my guidebook and my window on the culture. On my visit to the cathedral, like tourists and pilgrims for centuries before me, I placed my hand on the famed statue just inside the entrance. A feeling coursed through me, almost a visceral experience. I knew in that moment, that somehow, someday, I would return to this spot as a real pilgrim.
As I walked along, I continued to consider what else may happen in Santiago. I looked forward to seeing familiar faces of pilgrims I had met on the Camino. At the end of the Camino, pilgrims tend to linger in Santiago. Many continue on to the end of the earth (Finistiere - sp?) and return to Santiago a few days later. So the opportunity to see friends and acquaintances is huge.
I considered just what I would do with the prayer ribbons I carried attached to my walking stick for all those kilometers. Each ribbon represents wishes from a friend and as I walked along, I frequently prayed for these people (and others). I want to make a suitable ceremony for them. I want to light candles. I am not a Catholic, so as I walked along, I pondered on that a bit too – rituals and symbols are not really part of who I am and how I live my life. But in the past few years I find myself surrounded by them. Much to think about as I walk under the Eucalyptus trees, breathing in the perfumes they share with those who walk these paths.
There are bus tickets to acquire, a book for the bus and plane ride home and there are postcards to send…my brain has jumped ahead and now I suddenly realize I am living in the future instead of staying in the now! The proximity to Santiago seems to have that effect. After weeks of walking and living in the now, the old pre-Camino habits are starting to sneak back into my life. Already. Sigh.
I am sitting in the shade of building 29 of the 800 bed, Monte de Gozo albergue (which actually has only SOME beds designated for pilgrims – the rest is a hotel of sorts). There are 30 buildings. The pilgrim reception does not open until 1300. So here I sit, penning my journal and waiting again.
There are many hours spent waiting on the Camino; just part of the many free lessons in humility, meekness, patience and gratitude the Camino experience offers attentive students.
I initially walked past (I should say limped past!) the reception office to the far end of the complex. I was mis-directed by a less than helpful German woman. When I entered the lobby, I was rather un-graciously directed to leave. This area is designated for hotel patrons only. The reception area for pilgrims was back at the other end of the complex where I had originally started.It was clear they wanted nothing to do with mere pilgrims. The facility can hold 800 people. Pilgrims are at the bottom of the pecking order.
I trekked back up the hill (still nursing a shin-splint and a blister). How it drains my energy. Now I really know what it must be like to be very old and uncomfortable.
There are people from all over the world on the Camino. I am convinced that without much effort, one could make the entire walk without actually meeting a Spaniard or speaking Spanish.
Many people travel in “packs” and rarely speak to anyone who is not part of their clique. This seems more true the closer I get to Santiago.
Perhaps because there are so many people on the path who are only walking the requisite 100 kilometers haven’t gone through all the storming and norming experiences that forged bonds among the pilgrims who have logged over 700 kilometers at this point. The pilgrims who join the path after Sarria seem distant. They are fixated on their goal somehow and seem to be uninterested in the other pilgrims.
Many pilgrims walk past as I sit here writing. Santiago is only a few kilometers away and they are eager to get there. They also look at the albergue and find the appearance off-putting. The 30 buildings look a bit Spartan. I see many old walking companions and greet them warmly. I am resolute about waiting till tomorrow to make my entrance into Santiago.
This morning I walked through Lavacolla. The name translates as “wash the loins.” Historically pilgrims stopped there to bathe in the stream before making the last approach to their destination: the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
After their bath, pilgrims would race up Monte de Goza (Mount of Joy) in a version of the child’s game of King of the Hill. From Monte de Goza pilgrims can see the spires of the cathedral. Atop the hill is a large monument to Pope Pious.
I check into the albergue (3E for the night) and find the facilities to be quite pleasant. The shower is hot and I have only 2 roommates. I discover one can stay at this albergue for 3 days. Many pilgrims walk into Santiago and get their credentials and then take the bus back at night. The alburgues in the city are pricier.
I wash my clothes and walk back to the village to dine on the pilgrim menu with the delightful pilgrim from New Zealand.
I abandon my plans to bus into town to shop for a dress. My ankle/foot is swollen and my shin aches. I will walk into the city in the early morning – I want to be at the cathedral before the crowds. I cannot believe I am almost finished with this journey.
I have mixed feelings knowing I will soon be on an airplane heading back to the USA. I will miss this crazy life and the friends I have made on this odd journey. I have learned so much - so many things that I cannot articulate, but important lessons none-the-less.
I watch the sunset on the distant cathedral spires…tomorrow I will no longer be a pilgrim. Or will I?
3 weeks ago