Wednesday, June 11, 2014

El Camino, Day 5

Day 5 (Sat June 7) Cruceiro do Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, 19 kilometers Amaya wasn’t feeling well in the morning, so they decided to sleep in, but Kathleen and I wanted to make it to Santiago for the 12pm mass. They have it every day in the cathedral to welcome the pilgrims. We left a little after 6:30, and kept a pretty fast pace. It had rained in the night, so the roads were wet, but we didn’t get rained on much during the day. I had expected to be out of the forest by this time, but that was not the case! We still had beautiful ferns, and dense trees. And still lots of hills and rolling farmlands. I had asked one of the locals what they do there, and was told that they mostly live off the land. Their gardens and chickens provide the food they need, and then they sell cheese and animal products, and sometimes animals to get money. Anyway, the forest did eventually end, and we found ourselves on the outskirts of the city. It felt like we’d walked in the city for a while before I got a glimpse of the tops of the cathedral. It was exciting, but actually not as much as I thought it would be. This was a short day, and we knew we were almost done, so we had really booked it. We left our bags at the albergue on the way in, and then went the rest of the way into town. We stopped and took a photo, and hugged, but we were so anxious to get seats that we rushed into the Cathedral. It was a little after 11 by that time. And, we didn’t know it, but there was a mass at 11, so we got the last half of that, and then the 12:00 mass too. I took a video because it’s really hard to describe, but this Cathedral is famous for a huge bronze incense holder that they swing across the cathedral, right over the crowds of people. I asked some locals about it because I really hadn’t done much research (I didn’t even know I was going until the night before!), and all I really remember is what I’ve seen in my students’ text books. Anyway, I guess it began as a way to cleanse the cathedral because of all the people who came from their farms and fields, or from long journeys and smelled terrible. But now it has turned into a famous ritual the church is known for. After mass we walked around the town a little. It’s such a cute town. With old stone buildings and streets to match. And everyone has flowers in their balconies. We decided to go get in line to get our compostela (our certificate of completion) and that’s where the magic of the camino really happened. One by one throughout the rest of that day we ran into EVERY SINGLE person we had walked with at various times, all along the way. I kept telling people it was like the season finale of your favorite TV show. We all cried and hugged and were just so excited to be reunited and see that they had made it too. Since we’d left before Alvaro and Amaya, we weren’t sure if they’d made it. And Amaya hadn’t been feeling well. But we rounded a street corner, and there they were! And then in line we were talking to our group of college-aged Spaniards when Patrick and Audra walked up. We hadn’t seen them since day 1, and we had heard Audra had injured her foot. She’d done 4 out of 5 days in flip-flops because her heal had gotten so bruised and swollen she couldn’t wear shoes. But they’d made it! And then when we were looking for Kathleen’s hotel, we saw Angie (she’d beaten us by a day!). And the list goes on. It continued that entire evening. Reunion after reunion! That night we went to dinner with Patrick and Audra, and Valerie and Nick (a couple from Oregon who had walked the entire route, 5 weeks, in their late 60’s!) It was a really spiritual dinner. We got there around 8 (too early for Spaniards) so we had the back room to ourselves, and we all took turns sharing our favorite part of the camino. There wasn’t a dry eye at our table. We all talked of developing stronger relationships with God and with other people, finding strength within ourselves, and of how God is the grand instegator of the great camino of our lives. I told how I couldn’t help but think that the reunions we had in the streets of Santiago parallel the reunions we’ll have in the next life as we great our loved ones, and welcome them after finishing their journey. The restaurant got more crowded later on, but the dinner never lost its magic. And it also happened to be some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. Plates of grilled vegetables and fresh cheeses. Avocados and tomatoes, ox tail, olives, and rum-soaked cherries for dessert. I skipped those! :) I didn’t want the night to end.

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