Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela
Dear Friends and Family,
I hope this note finds you, as always, happy, healthy and full of light and love. Wherever you are right now in the world, I hope you are waking to a glorious morning, having a productive and joy-filled day, winding down with a relaxing evening, or enjoying a sound and restful sleep.
As for me, I woke this morning with a great sense of anticipation and joy…we were walking to Santiago de Compostela today! Although I have been grateful for every day on the Camino, I have to say that this day, the day I was going to walk into Santiago with my newfound — and who I am sure will be lifelong — friends, was a an especially meaningful day.
We started walking around 8:45 in the morning, and as we left Amenal we passed a basket of apples with an umbrella over it saying, “free for Pilgrims,” a lovely start to the day!
As we kept on walking through the village, we were singing Italian songs (I have no idea the words but by this time I could hum the tune and even sing a few bars :)), and we crossed a small bridge by a very picturesque house and pond/stream.
Such a peaceful way to start your day on the Camino!
As we kept walking through the fields and forest, we could see the sun slowly rising in the east as it started to shine through the trees.
Looking ahead to our fairly steep climb out of the village, we could see where the trees were starting to thin out and we would soon see the sun in all of it’s glory. As we climbed the 500 meters up, I turned around and gasped at the sun and landscape — it was stunning (my picture doesn’t do it justice):
The morning was truly in its fullest glory on the Camino!
As we continued to walk toward Santiago, we entered the slightly larger town of Arzua. You can always tell when a town on the Camino is going to be a slightly larger one because (1) it has sidewalks and (2) it has a farmacia (pharmacy). On the Camino, the flashing, green cross of the local farmacia is like a clarion call to those in need.
I have to say, the pharmacists in Spain were terrific at dealing with whatever ailments we pilgrims had. Blisters, sore muscles, headaches, upset stomachs or worse, they *always* had something for you and were friendly and helpful. Thank you very much to the farmaceuticas and farmaceuticos who helped me along the Way.
As we strolled along the sidewalk and through town, we came upon Don and Jackie (from Texas) and of course a gaggle of our Italian friends, all having espresso or cafe con leche in the local bar.
After a quick coffee, chat, pats on the back and, of course, Buen Caminos, we headed on our way through town. As we passed a white wall decorated with flower pots (so like the people on the Camino to do this), I saw a sign that reminded me of home:
At the end of town, I saw a nun in her habit on the side of the Camino asking for donations for the poor. After giving I asked her if we could have a photo together. She said, “Si, for 50 euros,” and cracked up laughing! Oh man, she was a hoot!
After saying goodbye to the sister we left town and up ahead was a tunnel of trees on the Way:
I don’t know why I decided to take a short video at this moment, maybe because of the music I could hear playing through the trees, but I wanted to capture this simple moment on the Camino:
As we left the forest behind us, we entered into the small villages located on the outskirts of Santiago. There was a beautiful little chapel, and my friends who I have walked with off and on from Oviedo — Enrique (Spain) and Cleber (Brazil) — stopped to pay our respects at the church, to get a stamp in our credencial, and of course snap a couple of photos! 😉
As we kept walking uphill toward Santiago, we kept bumping into our friends from the Primitivo. This time it was Kevin and his mother from Rome:
Seeing them made my heart sing! They were one of my favorite stories on the Camino, as here was a young man, 24 years old I think, wanting to walk the Camino with his mother to, as he said to me, “I want to create an even stronger connection with my mother.” Awww…love this! He was also very articulate in English about some of the challenges facing Italy. He also shared with me that he was currently a cook in a restaurant and that his dream was to own his own restaurant in/near Rome. I *loved* hearing him share this dream with me and I am going to introduce him to my Italian friends in the Bay Area, Enzo and Tulio Rosano, who had a similar dream and have accomplished them all (and then some). They will be able to give him advice that I cannot. Love this young man!
As we continued to get closer and closer to Santiago, we approached Monte do Gozo or the Mount of Joy, where I had my first glance ever of the Santiago Cathedral. Here is the sculpture on the mount…
…and here is my first view of the cathedral from that spot. Santiago!
While the cathedral was still about 2-3 kilometers away, I felt overjoyed with seeing it with my own eyes for the first time. I was so thankful to be here…and in a very short amount of time I would be in Santiago!
These next two kilometers flew by… I normally walk around 5 kilometers per hour, so 2 kilometers was normally around 25 minutes. I feel like I was there in 5! The first sign I saw was this:
And then I saw a Camino de Santiago street sign with a very pilgrimesque structure behind it, spelling out Santiago de Compostela using various bits of pilgrim flotsam and jetsam:
After passing this sign we started to enter the winding streets of the beautiful city of Santiago. As we passed the newer parts of the city, we began winding our way down to the old part of town and the cathedral. The excitement was building…especially as we walked through the lovely narrow streets and saw other pilgrims and their excitement! I glanced down beneath my feet and saw the first scallop shell in the old part of Santiago:
As we continued to wind our way down to the cathedral, we passed through an arch where a man was playing the bagpipe to welcome the pilgrims into the square:
And now, I was just steps away from the square….and VOILA!!! I was in front of one of the most beautiful cathedrals on earth, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of Saint James the Greater, apostle of Jesus, and patron saint of Spain.
The spirit in that square was palpable and indescribable. Heartfelt feelings of happiness, gratitude, belief, love…the collective feeling in that square from pilgrims and visitors alike was simply overwhelming. There were hugs and high fives, tears and triumphs, friends and families, all a mass of humanity celebrating an accomplishment together. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
After spending over an hour in the square, it was time to walk down to the pilgrim office to get my Compostela, the official certification from the Cathedral of your pilgrimage. While I was waiting for my turn (you get a number and can scan a QRC code to see when your number is up), several of my friends called me over to their table where they were waiting as well. One of my friends remembered that today was my 55th birthday, and started to sing happy birthday in english. Well what happened next was amazing… the rest of these special people that I walked with started to sing happy birthday in their language! So on this beautiful day in Santiago, I heard “Happy Birthday” sung to me in 6 different languages! What a gift…if I had to be away from my family on my birthday, I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day than walking into Santiago de Compostela and being cared for by my Camino friends. God bless them all!
After the singing and hugs and handshakes and eating a Spanish tortilla and having a few beers, it was my turn to get my Compostela. As I went through the process, i showed the man behind the counter my credencial de peregrino with all of the sellos (stamps) from Oviedo to Santiago, and described some of my adventures. He was gentle and kind, listening intently and smiling knowingly as I told my tale. He then, very carefully, wrote my name in Latin on the Compostela — and here it is:
So there you have it: the story of my 14-day journey on the Camino Primitivo. But as you can see from these stories, it felt like much more than 14 days…it felt like I lived a lifetime on the Way. And as I reflected on the final lesson for today, it struck me that this is not the end, it is just the beginning. Although it started as a journey to reach the destination of Santiago de Compostela, think it is actually the beginning of a journey into the rest of my life. I may have reached Santiago and received a Compostela, but the real accomplishment was realizing, deep in my soul, that the Way is just that…the Way…and not the destination. I think the metaphor that the Way is life, implies that the lessons learned on the Camino are the lessons for life: true empathy, joyfulness, gaining new perspectives, remembering that you are never alone, living life, seizing the day, cherishing the moments, taking the time to just be, remembering to laugh, persevering, being grateful, and seeing the beauty all around us. And if I added one more to this list of lessons, it would simply be to love, love fully, love with all of your heart, and know that you are loved back, by family, friends, people you haven’t met yet, the universe, God…there is a lot of love out there and just know that you are a part of it.
Peace and love to you all, and one final, Buen Camino,