On to Madrid


Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Santiago de Compostela to Madrid
Day 50

This was our last day as pilgrims. We weren’t leaving Spain yet— we still had stops in Madrid and Toledo planned—but we would be transitioning from pilgrims to tourists. I wanted to take advantage of these last few hours of the trip that I had thought about, and planned for, for such a long time.

I went back to the cathedral and spent some quiet time in prayer. Then out to the plaza to buy a few things I had spied the previous day but had not purchased. The most significant was a resin statue of St. James as a pilgrim. I had seen it and liked it the previous day, but finally opted for the ceramic St. James.

Over the previous night, I worried that the ceramic version wouldn’t survive the trip home, besides which I liked both statues. So I bought the resin one too. Mentally I placed them in my home: one in my bedroom, overlooking me as I slept, and one in my living room, where it could be admired by my visitors.

Because the shop check-out process went slowly, I had to sprint back to the cathedral to catch the 10:30 am mass in English. James met me there, but spent his time looking around the cathedral rather than following the mass.

After mass, we went back to the hotel to pack our bags and check out, and then caught a taxi to the train station. Adios, Santiago. I’ll be back sometime, I’m sure. Once is not enough.

12,203 steps today

For more photos, go to https://wordpress.com/page/caminoforboomers.com/1801

Land’s End


Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre to Santiago
Day 49

Many pilgrims, having arrived in Santiago, continue on to Finisterre (Land’s End). Some walk there, but James and I took a bus.

We had wasted time after breakfast by going to the Pilgrim’s Office to see if we could purchase discount train tickets to Madrid (we couldn’t), so we felt pressed for time.

By express bus the trip to Finisterre was an hour and a half. I had proposed to James that we perform a time-honored pilgrim custom: burn a set of worn-out Camino clothes on the beach. Judging by the raggedy clothes I had seen drying on lines along the Camino, many peoples’ clothes deserved to be burned. We didn’t have any “holey” clothes, so James declined burning anything.

At a seafood restaurant, I finally found percebes (barnacles) on the menu. I had searched for them all along the Camino, but this was the first restaurant to offer them. I first had a taste of these salty sea delights years ago in Portugal, and I hungered for them. They were every bit as good, though a lot more expensive, than the ones I remembered from Portugal.

We took advantage of the restaurant’s specialties and also had octopus and seafood paella, plus cava (Spanish sparkling wine), all of which we shared. This meal was another splurge to celebrate having gone to the ends of the earth on this journey.

After our late lunch we walked out to the lighthouse and tossed pebbles into the Atlantic. I thought of the rock I had left behind at the Iron Cross, and tucked a pebble into my pocket. We took photos, had a quick look around an exhibit, and purchased a couple of Finisterre souvenirs, such as a lighthouse bottle opener. (How could any‐ one pass that up? Too unique!)

We raced back to the bus station to catch the 7:00 pm express to Santiago.

9,150 steps today

For more photos, go to https://caminoforboomers.com/july-19-santiago-de-compostela-to-finisterre-to-santiago/.


On the Plaza


Monday, July 18, 2016
Santiago de Compostela
Day 48

A day to savor Santiago. After breakfast, we went shopping. I bought a ceramic statue of St. James wearing pilgrim attire. I really like it, but of course buying a ceramic item is crazy. I’ll be lucky to get it home unbroken. I also purchased a number of small souvenir items for gifts back home.

Mass was at noon at the cathedral. I had asked if the famous San‐ tiago Botafumeiro (a thurible, which is a censer that releases incense) was going to swing at any time on Monday or Tuesday. There doesn’t seem to be a regular schedule for the Botafumeiro.

One of the cathedral assistants told me that some groups pay to have the Botafumeiro swing, but such times are unpredictable. Lucky pilgrims just happen to be in the cathedral at the right time. I wasn’t lucky. The assistant suggested that I try again the following morning. There was a large number of African pilgrims in the cathedral, including a youth chorus that sang during mass.

We ate lunch at a café right on the cathedral square. I had sangria and read my book. A guitarist strummed and sang. James went to speak with him and to examine his guitar. This is what I love: sit‐ ting in a Spanish plaza with a beautiful view before me (the cathedral and all the activity on the square), with a jug of sangria and a good book. Heaven. The pilgrims arriving at the cathedral—journey’s end—were all joyous, taking photos and embracing and laughing.

St. James awaited us. When the pilgrim rush thinned out, we went into the cathedral and got in the queue to hug the statue of St. James and see the crypt and tomb where the saint rests.

After paying our respects to St. James, I did a bit more light shop‐ ping, then back to the square to listen to music and watch people. A delightful day.

9,986 steps today

To see additional photographs, go to https://wp.me/P7rs4v-sY.

Last Sprint


Sunday, July 17, 2016
Pedrouzo to Santiago
Day 47

Up early to start the final day of walking. I wanted to avoid the heat as much as possible and get to Santiago as early as I could. The weather forecast said it was going to get up to 100 degrees today. I didn’t even stop for lunch, though I did grab a cold drink at mid- morning.

I don’t remember much about the walk other than the relief of finally walking into Santiago. I was heading for the main plaza when who should rush out of a restaurant but our Romanian journalist friend. We hadn’t seen her for weeks, and then suddenly there she was. She said she saw us coming up the street from her seat by the large picture window. She had made it to Santiago several days previously and was winding up her Camino broadcasts. We hugged, and made plans to meet later for drinks.

Later in the afternoon, James and I went to the office dispensing Compostelas. I only took my second Camino passport, not realizing that there was an advantage to taking both. (Having completely filled up one passport with stamps, I purchased a second one about a month into our pilgrimage.) As a result, my Compostela just records the 100 kilometers I walked from Sarria to Santiago, not the whole distance I had walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

James and I later went to the appointed meeting place, but our Romanian friend did not appear. It was fine. There was a lot going on in Santiago. We ran into the New Jersey Six, and all of us high-fived at having completed our pilgrimage.

Dinner was a celebration, with two kinds of sangria. After dinner, we came across some street musicians playing Galician bagpipes and stopped to listen. Of course, we further celebrated while listening by ordering an after-dinner drink.

40,470 steps today

Additional photos of this day can be seen at https://wp.me/P7rs4v-sW.

Why Didn’t I Stop?



Saturday, July 16, 2016
Arzua to Pedrouzo
Day 46

I’m afraid I’ve gotten into the “I want to finish this” mindset. Two days to go until Santiago, and I am ready to do something besides walking for the sake of walking. Truthfully, I found this stretch of the Camino very boring, with little to see. But maybe it isn’t boring, maybe my mind is just so focused on getting to Santiago that I have become like others who rush past everything in their hurry to get where they are going.

I saw the six Americans again and the three Filipinos. We exchanged “Buen Caminos” in passing. Early in the morning I saw three nuns who were giving passersby a stamp and talking to them. I already had my stamp for the day, so I didn’t stop. I regretted it later. I also walked right by a church and didn’t even check to see if it was open. I was too anxious to walk as far as possible before it got too hot.

The road was fairly good, though there was shale. The temperature rose throughout the day until it was scorching.

The only interesting thing I saw was an ultralight aircraft with a man suspended below the wings. I wondered where he came from, and whether there was some sort of commercial concession around to take advantage of all the visitors, like the parasailing you see at beaches.

At dinner, James and I celebrated our last night on the Camino.

35,247 steps today

To see more photos, go to https://wp.me/P7rs4v-sU.

Starting at Your Front Door


Friday, July 15, 2016
Melide to Arzua
Day 45

James’s foot was really bothering him, so we went to two pharmacies to find more foot rub and perhaps new boot inserts. It was after 10:00 am before I could set off down the Camino, a very hot day. I encountered several groups I had met previously: the six Americans from New Jersey, for example, and the three Filipinos, one of them a priest, we had seen at dinner the previous night. I chatted briefly with them all.

The most interesting conversation I had was with an American woman from California. She took seriously the old pilgrimage method in which a pilgrim began her journey when she stepped out‐ side her front door headed for Santiago.

Instead of starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, or Sarria, or some other famous jumping off spot, she began in California. She exited her front door a pilgrim and took three days to walk to LAX airport. She did have to take a plane across the ocean, but otherwise it was walking all the way. She gave me a handmade cloth rosary.

When I made it to Arzua, I was very hot and sweaty. The last six kilometers had been particularly rough. I was too tired to seek out a laundromat, but I needed some clean clothes. I turned a few things over to the hotel receptionist to have washed.

There was a fiesta in Arzua. Two bands struck up at 10:30 pm and played until 4:00 am. Heavy traffic roared by the pension at which we stayed. I found it hard to sleep.

30,922 steps today

For more photos, go to https://wp.me/p7rs4v-iS.

Bastille Day on the French Route


Thursday, July 14, 2016
Palas de Rei to Melide
Day 44

Bastille Day. I’ll have to remember to congratulate any French pilgrims I encounter.

Walking, walking, walking, but with frequent stops for cold soft drinks and then for lunch. Very slow going, overall.

Earlier along the Camino we sometimes went a full day hardly seeing anyone. Now, the streams of pilgrims from various routes, plus all the new pilgrims who started at Sarria, are joining together for the final push into Santiago. The trickle of people has become a river.

With so many more people along the Camino than was true previously, we had more occasions to talk to others. We met a group of six American Episcopalians from New Jersey. Two had already walked from Sarria to Santiago once before. We also chatted with a couple of other groups.

A wonderful experience occurred along the route. There are many high school groups walking this stage of the Camino. They are all faster walkers than I am, so I hear them approaching from behind, chatting and giggling. Eventually they catch up with me, pass me, then speed ahead.

Once, I heard a group far back singing, though I couldn’t distinguish the tunes. As they got closer, I realized they were singing Beatles tunes. As they passed me, I saw a number of them holding their telephones in their hands, the song lyrics displayed on their screens. How great to hear a group of Spanish high school girls on a religious route singing in accented English “Help,” “Let It Be,” and “Hey, Jude.”

We stopped at a church along the way, following my rule never to pass up an open church. It was called San Xulian (St. Julian). There I had an interesting conversation with the man staffing the church. He was a lay missionary in an organization that was founded by an Italian. Mostly the group does its missionary work in Africa, but they also go to Latin America. Now they are trying to get the churches along the Camino open (Hurray!) by offering to staff them.

It sounded like a very interesting group, and I heartily support getting more churches open for pilgrims. I put a slightly larger-than- usual donation in the box.

29,112 steps today

See additional photographs at https://wp.me/P7rs4v-sQ.

Stalked by a Familiar



Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Portomarin to Palas de Rei
Day 43

Today is July 13. My brother, named but never called James, will be celebrating his birthday back home.

This was another hard day of walking—twenty-three kilometers! The day was quite cool, and there was shade along the way. Still, the path was up and down, up and down, which is hard for a flatlander like me.

I finally arrived at Palas de Rei around 6:00 pm, totally knackered, my feet hurting. I wasn’t sure I could even walk another step in order to go to dinner, but at 9:40 pm I finally levered myself up off the bed and we walked several blocks from the hotel to the restaurant. Outside, besides being cool there was a strong wind. We are still at a high elevation. I broke out my jacket for the first time in many days and was glad to have it.

We just made it to the restaurant before closing time. We had to rush in to place an order before the place’s announced 10:00 pm closing time. We had a very nice waiter who obviously saw that we were all done in. He gave us a couple of free soft drinks after he saw how thirsty we were, and then hot chocolate after the meal.

On the way back to the hotel, a Siamese cat followed us for blocks. James, as he had many times on the Camino, again wished we had a pet waiting for us back home. (Our last cat had died and not been replaced.)

49,723 steps today

Check out more pictures at https://wp.me/P7rs4v-sO

Stubbed Toes and Skidding!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Sarria to  Portomarin
Day 42

We are now on the final days of our pilgrimage. From Sarria to Santiago is 100 kilometers, the minimum required distance to walk in order to qualify for a Compostela. As a result, many pilgrims start their pilgrimage at Sarria, and the Camino will be full of pilgrims.

This was going to be a long walk. Despite his foot, James was determined to do it so as to qualify for his Compostela. We were up at 6:00 am, downstairs for breakfast by 7:00 am, and out the hotel door by 8:00 am.

It was a fairly good surface, but uphill, uphill, uphill, which I abhor. We stopped for drinks, and then stopped again for lunch. Boots off, sweaty feet recovering from the slog. After lunch, off again for another ten kilometers. In total, we had to walk twenty-three kilo‐ meters. And once we made it to Portomarin, we still had to go an other 0.8 kilometers from the center of the town to our hotel, not counting the steps we wasted because we couldn’t find the hotel and wandered in circles for a while.

While the road was basically OK, there were a lot of buried rocks, with just their tops peeking out. Since I tend to shuffle along, I stubbed my toes at least six times. (Thanks, Keens, for protecting my toes.) And I skidded once. (Thanks, walking poles, for stabilizing me.) The final descent into Portomarin was horrible, as bad as or worse than the descent into Zubiri.

July 12, 2016: Sarria to Portomarin

42,678 steps today

Last Rest Stop

Monday, July 11, 2016
Day 41

This is our last rest day before our final push to Santiago de Compostela. We spent the bulk of the day doing chores, with me writing in my journal and reading about this part of the Camino while our clothes dried. We lunched in the hotel cafeteria, having salad and octopus. Yummy. Just the sort of light lunch we wanted.

James wished to see the two churches I had visited the night be‐ fore. We walked up to St. Marina, where a pilgrims’ mass was almost over. I went to communion even though I felt guilty for missing most of the service. A guitarist and a group of singers filled the church with music.

I found a shop that was still open and purchased my Sarria pin, which was in the shape of a tiny pilgrim.

Wanting a change from the usual Spanish menu, we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. There was a very boisterous table of pilgrims from a variety of countries—Koreans, Americans, and so forth. They were celebrating someone’s birthday. James began playing his guitar, which he had brought along. The Koreans snapped a photo of us and immediately printed it on some sort of new technology they had. Cool. Sort of like an updated Polaroid camera, dispensing photos immediately, but very small ones.

4,814 steps today