Good greetings to you!
Here I sit in Finnesterre, my final destination for the Camino. It has been a long but wonderful past two months covering 2000km across France and Spain, 57 days of surprises, trials, errors, excitment, and meeting many interesting and amazing people from all across the world. Here the trail opens people up, you pass people and say hello, where perhaps at home you´d just keep on walking by. We´re all walking the same way, and at times I fell into stride with other pilgrims, sharing the trail and learning of who they are. It is amazing how much you can learn of a person just by walking with them. You don´t have to ask their name, nor what they do for a living, instead, almost instantly, you fall deeper into the conversation asking things like ¨how do you feel?¨or ¨why are you doing this?¨ there is no hesitation out here you just become bold and fearless. In a way the camino teaches you to reach out to your neighbour and take the time to learn of them.
My final weeks on the camino were both the loveliest and the hardest. Hard not in the sense of terrain, but hard knowing that the distance to the end was drawing near. So much wanting the last days to last forever, taking in each moment. But also hard because there are SO MANY PEOPLE! No it isn´t the people but the change in objective. Out here, we call them the tourist pilgrims. They arrive 100km before Santiago...and many of them get up very very early (5am when not even a hint of the sun is in sight) and rush to the next albergue. Such is the way, but I must laugh, as in the towns I pass from around 11:30-1pm there are long lines of people roasting in the sun waiting for the albergue to open. What a way to spend the early afternoon....waiting in line, as if buying groceries. But at these times, I continue to walk, and by 2pm in the afternoon, the trail is virtually empty, except for the crazy long-distance pilgrims. We tolerate the heat, finding fountains along the way, celebrating the cool refreshing water before carrying on. This is the life. Nothing else matters. At night, when at last arriving to the albergue, shoes come off, and it is as though the feet smile to get some air and can stretch out, wiggling in the last hours daylight. You eat with other pilgrims, sharing experiences of the day, or of the other folks we have met along the path. Almost instantly, when your head hits the pillow, you fall into a deep sleep, sometimes being awoken by someone else in the room snoring...(or someones), but otherwise, a long day takes it right out of you. Then true to the day, at 5am, someone stirs, a plastic bag is scrunched, and soon before realizing it, you are back on your feet, blinking in those first morning moments, eating a breakfast and commencing. This I shall come to miss. The routine and rhythm. Each day yes, starts and finishes like the last, but it is never the same.
Yesterday I arrived in Finnesterre. What an incredible moment to first see the ocean and then to stand in front of it, look out and see the whole world drop away from sight as ocean turns to sky. Though I walked alone the past two days, I met up with a few friends I had made along the way once I had arrived in the town of Finesterre. Together, we made the final journey up to Cap Finnesterre to watch the sun set. What a beautiful way to put an end to my camino. Though the day looked overcast and threatening, it had cleared in time to watch the sunset. A vibrant orange hue filled the sky. Once the sun had passed below the horizon, we all cheered and clapped. Other pilgrims and tourists then took their leave, making their way back to town. The four of us stayed to watch the glow slowly fade. We all wanted to savour this moment. As it grew dark, we sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean, listening to the tranquility of the waves below and the distant song of a sea bird. Each of us brought a piece of clothing we wore on the trail. As is tradition for many pilgrims, we stood together in a circle, said a small word to celebrate the distances we each had come and then lit our clothes on fire, letting the salt and moments on the camino float away into the evening sky. Before we left, we sat and talked about our journey home. What would life be like now that we had finished? How do you take an experience like this and not lose the magic as you settle back into home life? Will it all feel a dream? I looked at the faces of my friends. We each held a different experience. The camino affected us all, maybe differently but we all could feel that things would be different.
How strange it was to wake up this morning, knowing that I wouldn´t be walking far. Knowing that in the evening I would be on a new adventure, slowly making my way back to London, and then home. It´s a different camino now. A personal camino back into society. Where I will again have to learn and adjust to a new routine and rhythm. There is much reflection to come from this trip, and I feel that its unravelling will be slow. How does one wrap their head around such a grand adventure?
It has been an amazing journey. I don´t think I will ever be able to put into words this experience...some of it is too incredible to make sense. But many stories to tell and share, pictures to pour over and who know what else may come spilling out along the way!
Next stop: London and then on to home! I´m looking forward to a change of clothes (and maybe truly washing the ones I´ve been wearing, admittedly not once did my clothes make it into a washer!)