Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Camino a Finisterre (Final Part)

Day 36 (Olveiroa to Fisterra/Finisterre -34 km): The true last day of our Camino de Santiago. What a strange feeling resided in our stomachs as we set off for our last 34 km hike. We walked about two hours through various small villages and shrub-covered rolling hills before we finally encountered a bar with food. We took the opportunity to stop for breakfast and get energy for the rest of the day. About 20 km outside of Fisterra, we passed through Cee, a charming fishing town. We had planned on stopping for lunch in Cee, but somehow managed to miss all the restaurants. However, it was clearly meant to be, because 5 km later we came across a darling restaurant right on the beach on the bay of Fisterra. We enjoyed an amazing lunch of Merluza a la Gallega (a typical Galician dish of white fish and potatos) and wine, and passed a good hour or so relaxing, reflecting on our journey. We finally decided to finish it up, and an hour or so later found ourselves entering Fisterra (the town). What an incredible feeling. But technically, we weren't finished yet; we still had to make it to Finisterre to see the Faro (the lighthouse at the end of the world). At 7:00 pm, after having showered and relaxed a bit, we continued three more kilometers to the Faro, where we sat with three dear friends, ate a picnic dinner, and watched the sun set at the end of the world into the vast, blue, mysterious Atlantic Ocean. As is the tradition on completing the walk, the pilgrims typically burn their boots, walking sticks, clothes or any other items that reminded them of difficulties encountered during their Camino. We each tossed in a few things and enjoyed the fire. It couldn't have been a more beautiful or perfect ending to a Mother and Daughter's journey across Spain.

Day 35 (Vilaserio to Olveiroa - 33 km): We set off this morning and found ourselves surrounded by a dense fog. It made for a very eerie but truly crisp and beautiful morning. It finally burned off around noon, however, once again the rain began making the paths a bit slick. We stopped for a quick bite to eat, and then continued on to Olveiroa. Being the first to arrive, we arrived three hours before the albergue opened...we passed the time sitting in the doorway while it rained, and enjoying the local bar. At one point we decided to stretch our legs and explore the town, but aside from cow barns there was little else to explore. However, we did see some pretty cute cows.

Day 34 (Santiago de Compostella to Vilaserio - 34 km): Once again, we're on the Camino. After a full day of rest in Santiago, and a relaxing morning, we set off on our "short" (90 km) three-day trek to Finisterre, rumored to be the true end of the Camino de Santiago and the end of the world. It rained most of the morning and early afternoon, and we only passed a handful of other pilgrims the entire day, but it was a welcome reprieve from the heat; perfect walking weather and absolutely beautiful. Wihout doubt, this is definitely the lesser traveled path. Once we arrived in Negreira (our intended final destination), we were told the albergue was full (only 20 beds) and they would not let us sleep on the floor. We had the option of walking 2 km back to find a hotel or hostel, or continuing another 13 km forward. Following our philosophy of "always move ahead and never go back" we decided to walk another 13 grueling km to Vilaserio. It made for an incredibly long day, and when we arrived at 7:00 pm (our latest arrival by far!) to the albergue (an old abandoned school building with mats on the floor), we were quite surprised, but quite content to settle in for the night. Afterall, in 34 days we had only been turned away from one albergue, so no room for complaining. :) A little more adventure...that's all. However, with limited albergues along the path to Finisterre, we decided we best leave earlier the next two days (to assure we could get beds).

Check back in a few days/weeks for some more reflections, pictures, and Camino info! :)

Camino de Santiago (Part 8)

Day 33 (Santiago de Compostella...0 km!): For the first time in 33 days, we woke up without an alarm set, had a continental breakfast (compliments of our amazing hotel), and further explored the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostella...without our backpacks weighing us down! And yes, we enjoyed every minute of it.

Day 32 (Arca do Pino to Santiago de Compostella - 20 km): After a mere three hours of sleep, we once again set off before daylight. For our last day, we decided to walk with our group of friends (about 15 in all). After taking numerous pictures together upon reaching the city limits of Santiago, Mom and I took off at a slightly quicker pace in order to make the noon mass at the Catedral de Santaigo (St. James' Cathedral). With only 20 minutes to spare, we made it to the cathedral and found seats in a pew next to a lovely Danish couple that we had met a couple weeks before. It truly was an incredible site to enter the cathedral and see hundreds of pilgrims - many of whom we had encountered along our pilgrimage, and many of whom we had not seen since the very first week of walking. Mom was blessed at the alter by a Spanish priest, we witnessed the swinging of the Botafumeiro (the largest censer in the world, weighing about 80 kg!), visted the catacomb of St. James and in the tradition of the Camino we hugged the bust of Saint James. After mass we went to the Pilgrims office and were issued our oficial Compostelas in Latin, proving that we had in fact walked the nearly 800 km to reach Santiago de Compostela. In celebration of our arrival, we checked into our hotel, took two very long showers...and then caught a taxi - our first car ride in nearly a month - with our dear friend Nacho to get full body massages!!! Mom and I both felt as if we had died and gone to heaven... :)

Day 31 (Ribadiso to Arca do Pino - 22 km): One day outside of Santiago de Compostella. As usual, Mom and I took off bright and early, but with nerves and excitement running high, took off a little earlier and a little quicker than normal. We passed through the small beautiful towns of Arzua and Santa Irene, but there were few towns in between. The countryside continues to be awe-inspiring and beautiful at every turn, and while we are excited to arrive in Santiago, it is also bitter-sweet knowing that our month-long trek is nearing its end. In a moment of craziness, a friend and I decided to sneak out of the albergue (after hours) at midnight to lie under the stars. It was a chilly evening, but we sat in the center of a quiet country road staring up into the sky for over an hour. Every moment was worth it; I saw two shooting stars. The perfect ending to a marvelous journey.

Day 30 (Palas del Rei to Ribadiso - 28 km): For the first time, we left well before sunrise this morning. It truly was a unique and incredible, although slightly nerve-wracking, experience. With flashlights in hand, we wandered carefully along the narrow trail through the forests in an attempt to beat the rush of pilgrims heading to Ribadiso, a small river-side town about 40 km outside of Santiago. The albergue in Ribadiso was rumored to be one of the best and most beautiful albergues in Galicia, and thus we were certain there would be a lot of pilgrims heading that way. While it only has one restaurant nearby, the albergue itself is set right next to the river, and there is truly no reason to leave the serene riverside. It was well worth the hurried and long walk through the winding hills of Galicia. And, as it turned out, we were the first to arrive at the albergue. Once in Ribadiso, Mom and I went immediately to the riverside to soak our feet in the FREEZING cold water trickling by. As our friends began to arrive, we stayed by the river, and cheered several of them on as they braved the frigid water...and went for a dip. The water was so cold, in fact, that one of our friends wedged a bottle of orujo (a typical Spanish liquor) between some rocks in the middle of the river in order to allow it to chill. Of course, we enjoyed the chilled Orujo later on that evening.