Camino Diary Entry #40
#40 A Rua to Santiago del Compostela 21kms
The final walk!:
A really good feeling to be donning boots for the last time. The first kilometre was pretty quiet as most fellow pilgrims had gone a bit further than us the day before.Still, there were more than enough heart pumping hill climbs to ensure they were embedded in our memories forever. We ‘reconnected’ with several of our new best friends and at times the last kilometres were really quite social. It was still an awfully long way!
Rain tried to scare us – just enough to have us groping for umbrellas and poncho from the back packs, then cleared again within minutes, I felt as one might wrapped in glad wrap and steamed in a health clinics!
We kept on walking for about an hour from the outskirts of the city.
Feeling we were getting close and by now the sun back on full beam, we treated ourselves to a real icecream and sat on a stone wall above an intricate garden in the old part of the city. As we sat and licked I looked about and there behind us was The Cathedral! ” Gwyn, I think we may be here!”
Treats duly consumed and we charged on down, through an under pass and out into the vast space of the plaza.
We did not cry! We grinned like a couple of Cheshire cats! We had made Santiago! With more energy than we would have predicted we immediately headed for the pilgrim office to get our Compostela certificates.
The lady behind the desk was a little suspicious of Donald having his own passport, and I totally understood he was never going to get his certificate, but she did very kindly stamp his passport and sign it off! ( Quite possibly her first official pilgrim Teddy judging by her face!)
The very helpful man in the ‘friend of pilgrim shirt’ told us on the quiet that they don’t do the ‘Botafumiero’ at every mass, but if we wanted to see it we needed to be at 6 pm Mass. This was a bit of a change of plan as we had imagined we would do the pilgrim mass midday Sunday .
By 5.45pm we were seated front row and to the side of the altar. Coincidently Gwyneth was plucking at each of her t-shirt sleeves just as the moment came for the first ” up, down, left to right” got under way, so hopefully the priest thought we were two of their own flock!
A very brave nun led things off by singing over the microphone – a very beautiful voice it was too! Hundreds of tourists continued to wander about beyond the red velvet cordons and the organ was impressive. The priests wore a lovely shade of bright green and we understood nothing of the service.
One particularly small wizened priest started out to read something then clearly completely forgot what he was there for, turned away, shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands – another stepped in and took over! (we had picked up on a touch of Dementia there, earlier in proceedings.)
As the hour wore on, out of nowhere appeared half a dozen men clad in brown pilgrim type robes and it was all on!
One arrived with a long shovel of glowing charcoal, another a box of ‘stuff’ and the rest grabbed a length of rope each. With much excitement, the botafumerio was lit, smoke billowing in all directions! (Gwyneth thoughtfully leaned over and said ‘ if you start choking I’ll meet you outside afterwards!’)
There was a well coordinated heave downwards from the rope holders who literally bent to their toes and “whoosh” the whole thing went sailing high into the vault of the cathedral! It swung up and down, over our heads and back again, still billowing the incense smoke. It was absolutely, totally amazing! If a little dangerous – Gwyn noting ‘one false move and they’ll wipe out half the congregation!’
While that has been a highlight – so too is our accommodation!
The Parador is 500 years old and started life as a hospital for pilgrims. I can imagine they must have been pretty damned pleased to get to the end of all that walking in their sandals and find themselves in a 5 star hotel!
It is obviously steeped in well preserved history and just beautiful. We pass through 2 amazing courtyards just to get to our wing. Donald sitting up in bed waving his Spanish flag in anticipation of tonight’s football even looks a little out of place!
We extended the whole ‘treat ourselves’ thing and had an exquisite meal in the grandest dining room ever. (That will be fun when it hits the visa card!)
We slept like little lambs, ate the best ever most sumptuous breakfast of all, have ridden on the ‘toy train’ for a city tour, noted that pretty much everyone arriving in the plaza limps and checked out the souvenir shops!
We are about to meet Frances and Catherine to tackle a trip to Muxia by taxi – and then we shall be totally done! All pilgrimed out even!