Arriving in Santiago yesterday could not have been more anti-climactic. After a brief hike, up the hill to Monte de Gozo, the hill of joy, the descent was quick and only slightly longer than our usual morning hikes to get coffee…
The City bustles with pilgrims and locals alike, mixing and going on each other’s nerves. It’s here, at the steps of the side portal, that long separated friends meet again, hug, and attend mass.
But before all that, there’s the matter of one’s Compostela, the letter certifying one did indeed walk the Way. An hour in line, a few quick questions, and a 2€ payment later, all sins are supposedly forgiven.
The mass itself was just as one would imagine one in a pilgrims’ town: announcements in several languages, a Spanish sermon, people talking or taking pictures, and then it was all done.
I spent the remainder of the evening shopping for a new sleeping bag, socks (the 1900 kilometers on the oldest pair did a number on it, the others started to go, too), a poncho, and a second backpack to be sent home with stuff in it.
Said my good byes to hiking acquaintances, and retreated into my hostel, a room of seven bunks, none of which is inhabited except for mine.
Tomorrow I’ll post my bag, have a long breakfast, and then start the hike to Muxia and Finisterre, another six days to the End of the World. My pilgrimage should have ended today, but questions remain open, and new ones opened in the past three days. Where once excitement and certainty reigned, hope and apprehension now fight with each other.
Many of the pilgrims I’ve met in the past weeks won’t ever cross my path again. It feels weird to not have this option, the glimmer of hope to meet over coffee in a remote village or run into each other at an albergue somewhere 30 kilometers away. It feels weird to be the only person in an albergue again.
It even feels weird to be able to sleep past five thirty, or to no longer have the miles count down to Santiago.
I listened to a weird concept album by Italian Progrock Band Randone, titled Ultreïa Santiago, wishing I was back in the Meseta, running from the heat and listening to the guys from Arizona play their guitars and singing Cowboy songs. As rain pours outside, a fitting weather to match my mood, I’m having yet another Cafe con Leche, trying to shake the laziness and sense of finality that lies over the city.
Leaving Compostela will be not unlike starting my Way. Harder, thinner, and with a longer beard, yes, but once again starting anew. The beauty of the Camino is in its ability to bring together the same people, no matter what. Sitting in a cafe today, I ran into the Italians I’d met the second day into the Camino Frances, and the Hemingway loving gentleman from Russia, with whom I drank a beer outside Casa Hemingway in Pamplona. This will end now. The people I’d hoped I’d spend the night to my birthday with aren’t coming, arriving later or not at all, and that’s OK. Loneliness and solitude, one is a curse, the other a choice. I guess I wasn’t and are not as lonely as much as I chose, or was chosen by the way, to be solitary for its duration.
Six more days, six more nights, six more completely different stages, experiences, hopes, dreams, and thoughts. I’m excited.