Since I’ve been home, I’ve been measuring time by Camino milestones. As in: “It’s September 27th… three months ago, I started walking out of St Jean Pied de Port!” and “It’s October 4th, two months ago, I was one day away from Finisterre.” Two months since the end of my Camino? Time is a funny thing. So much living was packed into my 5 weeks on the Camino, and it feels like I’ve done a fraction of that kind of living since I’ve been home. Which makes sense, I suppose, because “real life” isn’t “Camino life”.
And yet, my pack sits on the kitchen chair closest to my back door. Ready to go, at all times. I take it with me and wear it when I go out for a hike. I don’t need to wear it, but I like to wear it. The feel of it on my back reminds me of the Camino. And, maybe, part of me doesn’t want to get out of practice. I reason that if I continue to walk, continue to wear the pack, I’ll be ready for another Camino at a moment’s notice. I like to pretend that I could leave for another Camino at any time, even though the reality is that it will take time- maybe a lot of it- before I will go again.
This was a long way of getting around to the real topic of this post, which is, the last days of walking the Camino. I think there’s a part of me that didn’t really want to write about the ending, because it means that I’ve finished writing about the Camino (which isn’t true at all, because so much of the future writing I want to do is about the Camino); but still, putting the ending into words makes it real.
But I did finish, and the ending was incredible. Here are some of the highlights from the second to last day of walking:
Since my friend from home, Sonal, had joined me just in Santiago, we decided to divide the walk to Finisterre into four days. Most pilgrims do it in three long days, but since we had the time, we split up the last 30+ kilometer day into two smaller days. Which was perfect.
On Day 3 we walked from Olveiroa to Cée, which was about 20 km (I think), and it might have been one of my top 5 Camino walking days. It was like the night before had brought the Camino magic back: a good, strong cafe con leche and croissant a few kilometers into the day. A perfectly placed ‘rest stop’: a church with picnic tables under the shade of large trees (Sonal and I were walking and talking about when to take a break, and I think one of us said something along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we rounded that corner and there was a place to stop and take a break?” and then a few minutes later we came upon the church and picnic tables). We ran into some of the people we had talked with the night before, further strengthening these ‘late’ Camino friendships. The walk continued, the sun came out, and as we walked, far off in the distance you could see the ocean.
It’s hard for me to describe how incredible this was for me. On the Camino, my destination had always been Santiago, but I also knew that I would be making the trip to Finisterre. Seeing that ocean gave me a sense, maybe for the first time, of the distance that I had walked. I’d started in France, and now I was approaching the very western edge of Spain, and the Atlantic ocean. I was walking to the ocean! I had just walked across a country and I was going to walk until I couldn’t walk any further.
And it was all so beautiful: the cool air, the sunshine, the green grass and trees, that light blue sky and the darker blue of the water. We stopped to take a photo at a marker that read: ‘To The End’, and then we found a spot nearby, took off our packs, and settled down on the grass to take it all in. Mo-mo, a girl from Japan who we’d met the night before, came over to join us. We stretched our legs out in the sunshine and snacked on cookies and looked towards the ocean. Then we continued walking, that ocean getting closer and closer.
We stopped for the day in Cée, a coastal town about 11 kilometers from Finisterre. As we approached the town, we talked about finding an albergue. Jokingly (somewhat), I said, “We need an albergue with a kitchen. And a view of the ocean.” Guess what we found? Not only a clean albergue with a kitchen and a view of the water from our bunk beds, but we also found Emma, the friend we’d made the night before. She was making her bed in the albergue as we walked in, and we looked at each other and laughed. “Of course I’d see you guys here,” she said. “It’s the Camino.”
The three of us went to the beach, sat outdoors in a square and drank coffee, made a big salad in the albergue kitchen and later smuggled glasses and our bottle of wine outside to sit on a bench along the water. I ran to a pastry shop we’d seen earlier in the day and arrived 5 minutes before they closed. I came back with Tarta de Santiago- an almond cake famous in Galicia- and we ate pastries and drank wine and looked over the water as the sky darkened.
What a great day. But the last day was even better. Stay tuned.