June 23 2009

Mission complete!

After 5 weeks and 950km, my Camino has come to an end. Which is quite sad in some ways, but exciting in others.

Santiago de Compestela – the end point for most pilgrims – was in some ways a bit of an anticlimax…..I just wasn’t ready for my journey to end….So, I decided to keep walking :)

Before continuing on we attended the pilgrims mass, hugged Santiago, got our compostela (final proof that you have completed the pilgrimage) and watched a crazy incense thing swing through the cathedral (looking like it was going to knock out one of the priests at any moment). Later I learnt that this was the swinging of the botafumeiro (smoke belcher), a massive silver incense burner said to be the largest in the Catholic world. It was really special and quite emotional seeing many of the pilgrims we had met along the way, in the Cathedral – some of whom we had not seen for a good 2 weeks. We went out for dinner that night to celebrate and funnily enough I managed to get myself completely and utterly lost that night. Until then my sense of direction had been spot on – very surprising really, as my sense of direction in Christchurch is far from hot. After wandering the streets for an hour and a half, and having to use the line “estoy perdido” (the first Spanish phrase I had learnt) to everyone I saw, a lovely couple took pity on me and walked me back to my albergue. I was so lost it took them 20 minutes to walk me back. Gosh, was that a happy moment for me!

The following day I began my walk to Finisterre – The end of the world. It felt good to be walking again, and the following 90km to Finisterre was absolutely beautiful. It was quite refreshing because until then the path had been quite busy and crowded, however leaving Santiago for the coast was very quiet, and I felt like I was the only one walking it. Just me and the occasional lizard and butterfly to keep me company. On the third day of walking, I was joined by an American girl, Maru, and we finally caught a glimpse of the ocean. I never thought I would be so happy to see the sea, but it really was an amazing moment. When we finally got close enough to the beach, we threw our shoes off and ran down to the water. My feet were happier than I had seen them the whole trip. This moment for me was more satisfying than entering Santiage. The group of friends we had made along the way were all there to welcome us - it was time for fun and games! The tradition in Finisterre is to walk to the lighthouse at the point, to burn your clothes and then to swim naked…..as a sign of purification and inward revival….or something along those lines. So that is what we did – and man, it was cold!

Again, the following morning I still had itchy feet, so Maru and I packed our bags and left for Muxia, which was another 32 km away. This is said to be the last section of the Camino. It was well worth the walk (even though it rained a lot of the way). Muxia is a beautiful coastal town with rough coastal scenery and cute hideaway beaches.

Perhaps it was the Camino telling me I didn’t need material belongings…………..on arriving back in Santiago (by bus!) to catch our flight to London, we went to pick up the extra bags we had sent to Santiago (with our normal clothes for further travel) and….mine was not there! I must say for a moment I was pretty gutted! After wearing the same pair of shorts and t-shirt for 5 weeks I was pretty excited at the idea of wearing something different and clean! However, alas – no bag for me…

Maybe that was a sign that I should continue on and embark on a new Camino….that and the fact that I just loved the lifestyle so much and the simplicity of the journey…..so, as of yesterday, I have made a pretty big decision, to begin another – The Camino del Norte, which starts in Bairritz, France and follows the coastline to Santiago. I will start this week and walk another 825km.

Thank you so much to every one for all your support along the way – your messages and kind words have meant the world to me - as has your generous support to Arthritis NZ.

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