It was where I was heading, as was everyone else on this pilgrimage across northern Spain. Each city was different, Leon is a pleasure, Burgos has a dreadful 9km walk through the industrial part of the city. Pamplona was too early to take much notice of, I was only walking a few days and my legs were sore, my feet had blisters, and my rucksack was far too heavy. Before leaving Pamplona I made sure my backpack was lighter.
Looking Towards Santiago
I had no great expectation of Santiago de Compostela. I had become used to thinking less about the future, walking does that to the mind and soul. I came upon Santiago during the early afternoon, a simple sign at a bridge over a river saying only Santiago. Nothing else, no welcome to Santiago pilgrims, no brass band, no bells – what had I really expected?
I dumped my rucksack in an Albergue, I was staying here a few days and did not have enough money for a hotel; anyway I had been walking for over four weeks and had become quite used to them.
Then down into the city I walked the cobbled winding streets of the old town. A feeling of elation touched me for a while that day. I met other pilgrims and we ate together and talked about what was next. We met up that night and had some drinks with other pilgrims, then went home to bed, falling fast asleep very quickly as I had not been out so late for the last four weeks.
I don’t eat fast food often. But, during the last few days before Santiago de Compostela my mouth had been watering at the thought of a Burger King… Yes, that is my poison. I noticed a Tourist Office and they pointed in the direction of Burger King.
The food in Santiago can range, like most tourist cities, from the bland to the great. However, if like me you love seafood then you will be spoilt for choice. From little cafes that provide freshly cooked calamari, to restaurants with excellent lobster. It is an easy place to start putting on the weight you lost while walking the Camino.
You would hardly believe that I have lived in cities most of my life. After one day in any city doing the tourist thing, I am ready to leave. Also, I had just spent four weeks walking in the countryside of Northern Spain and I wasn’t ready for full re-entry and staying longer. So off to Finisterre we went.
Happiness and Sadness, Saying Goodbye
I had met a lot of people during my four weeks on the Camino Frances. We ate together the first night in the city and had breakfast as a group the next morning. And now it was time to say goodbye.
Over a relatively short period of time I felt I knew these people better than I had any right to after only 4 weeks. We had talked a lot, helped each other, slept in the same rooms together and eaten at the same table. The Camino through us together. Now there was some sadness leaving and moving on.
However the next morning was when the “what now?” set in. Yes, what do I do now? I did not get up at six and have my coffee, staying out of the way while other people were getting ready to leave and walk, as I like my quiet time in the morning. I was not going to walk anywhere. I felt a bit lost.
I had to face the fact, that day, that I was finished. I had finished my pilgrimage in Spain, and now I had to take it all home with me: in my mind, in my body, and take it all back to my “normal” life.
After that slight feeling of depression and then the acceptance of what was, I brightened again.
I found out though that my normal life had changed, only a little. I have become quite used to walking and I now take pleasure in walking seeing nature anew, in a way that I had not noticed before, just a little bit more detail to the things that don’t move. I had a tiny bit more confidence in myself and my abilities; I had just walked 780km, not too bad.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.