Camino de Santiago: Día 27 (a.k.a The Last Day)

Details of the Day

Trajectory: Pedrouzo à Santiago de Compostela

Distance: 11.8 miles, or 18.8kilometers Camino: Completed Compostela: Begrudgingly Obtained

The Final Morning

Due to a freezing night in a giant, basically empty hostel, everyone struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Most albergues have a mandatory departure time of 8 am, which was probably the thing I disliked most about the trip (the trip, for the record, was great). I understand that in the summer, there are 100 people in each albergue, and people are hungover and the hospitaleros don’t want to deal with vomiting Americans, but in March, I think a little leniency could be displayed to the three or four walkers who are leaving at 8:17. In any case, we all awoke in a slightly petulant mood, ready to yell that we were going to take our time because it had been so damn cold. Of course, no one ever came to rush us out or tap their watch irritatedly (this is a thing), so we lazily packed up and didn’t leave until 9. To continue with the end of school analogy, the last 12ish miles were like that one last two-page essay you need to write but simply can’t. You’ve written 10-page papers all year, and there’s this one stupid assignment that you reeeeally can’t be bothered with. This was the prevailing sentiment on the final morning, so we did the Camino equivalent of watching just one more episode of “Gossip Girl,” which is to go to a café.

Crazy Weather, Yet Again

The weather, no shock, was again insane. I would not have been surprised if a tornado whirled through and lifted us to the Cathedral.

Arriving Slowly

After about 12 kilometers, the “official” Camino ended, and we were now on the outskirts of the city, walking on roads to our final destination. In spite of this, though, we remained on a tree-lined street for a while as we approached the stacked red roofs that are so, so Spain.

Unlike in many of the other towns and cities, the Cathedral of Santiago is not visible from miles away. I thought of the endless walk on the dirt path parallel to the highway into Sahagún, where we could see the cityin the distance for nearly two hours. I thought about the fact that I’d been walking for nearly a month.

We wound through streets that were teeming with bars and restaurants. A menu on the sidewalk advertised a lunch special: A salad with quinoa followed by grilled salmon. We were no longer in the jamón-heavy towns of the north, but a properly modern city. Tourist shops began to pop up, as well as artsy boutiques selling beautiful, non-essential items.

As we approached the historic center and had one little kilometer left, a bar appeared: It was called 1000 Metros, a.k.a. the most genius marketing move on the Camino. How do you not stop and get a beer and tapas to celebrate the imminent conclusion to a month-long voyage?

There was no rush. There was no stress. I felt like a simple tourist in a new city, albeit one who had happened to walk there. As evidenced by the photo below, there were amusing things to see.

Santiago de Compostela

The spires of cathedral barely peeked out over the buildings as we walked down the slick cobblestones. The rain had driven most people inside, so when we turned the corner, we got an unfettered view of the most highly anticipated church in the land. A shiver of excitement and then peals of laughter…because it turns out that Cathedral is currently getting a facelift. There was no holy music; rather, the surgeons were hard at work clanging and banging and drilling at the facade. Of course, the truth is the actual church is as unimportant as any randomly chosen rock, or any border or gate or arbitrary endpoint. 485 miles, 442 of them on foot, over 27 days, through two countries, five provinces, and a couple hundred cities with populations smaller than those of most apartment buildings. Days with sun that peeled my nose off, days with ice that froze my toes off. Unintentional rhymes. Heatless nights, nights where I woke up drenched in sweat from a breaking fever. Countless slices of cured meats, sodas, café con leche, and the occasional piece of fruit. Pain, of course, because walking hurts sometimes, but it was pain that dulled and eventually became nothing more than a slight ache to be shaken out in the morning before continuing on.

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