Huge day… Stay tuned and check back later for an update! And just for the record, we were on the road to Santiago at 5:45am! We weren’t disappointed!
Date: Sat 8th June
Distance: 20 km
Left: A Rúa 5:45am
Arrived: Santiago de Compostela 11:00am
Highlight: Swinging of the Incense (one of many highlights)
The alarm clock was set for 5:00am for a planned 6:00am departure. The plan was to arrive in time for the midday pilgrims mass. This would then give us two opportunities to witness the pilgrims blessing and we were hoping that at least on one of these occasions they would swing the incense (as we were unsure if this was a daily ritual or only performed on certain occasions).
We hit the road at 5:45am, excited and motivated by the prospect of reaching the final destination of this pilgrimage. Once we left the village and were on the trail we had to use our headlight torch to see the way markers and where we were walking! Another couple of pilgrims had the same idea of an early departure and latched onto the back of us as their torch wasn’t powerful enough to help them navigate the trail. Within an hour there was enough light to see and the birds had decided it was morning so we were treated to their morning singing sessions. The added bonus of such an early start was that we could enjoy the walk into Santiago with only seeing a small handful of fellow pilgrims as the track can get quite busy on the final leg of the journey.
We were able to find a hotel with restaurant along the way for a quick rest and breakfast, before pushing on (no lazy coffee and donut crawl today). The weather met all our expectations of Galician/Santiago weather. Cold, foggy and damp! Followed later in the day by a soaking wet drizzle/light rain! This meant that the view over the city and the Cathedral before entering the city was a complete white out!
Before long we had hit the edge of town and successfully navigated our way through due to the well marked Camino trail. We were “pumped” in fact at this point we were humming to the theme song of “Rocky”! A well dressed pilgrim who had obviously arrived a day or so earlier, spurred us on letting us know that we were within 20mins of the Cathedral.
We had arrived! Our emotions would have to wait just a little longer as we dashed to our Hotel, dumped our gear and headed off back to the Cathedral for the midday Pilgrim Mass with just enough time to secure a decent seat!
After the names/countries of all the pilgrims that had officially completed the journey had been read out (ours not included as we hadn’t yet received our Compostela (certificate of completion) and holy communion, with great anticipation the service was finished with the swinging of the incense! I think for the two us us, this was the pinnacle of our Camino. We had been inspired by doing the Camino by the movie “The Way” in which, the swinging of the incense was a very touching and moving scene. So having just completed close to 800km in the footsteps of many, many other pilgrims over the centuries and witnessing the full ritual of the swinging incense we felt our emotions sweep through us as the magnitude of what we had just undertaken started to sink in, but more amazing has been the fulfilment of our dreams and that our expectations have been far exceeded. We have felt truly blessed.
Whilst on this reflective note, we cannot even begin to tell you that a big part of our positive experiences have been influenced by you, our family and friends. The genuine interest, the support and encouragement has been a special part of our trip. Whilst you may all look forward to our next blog instalment, we equally have jumped out of bed in anticipation for your emails and blog comments! We really do appreciate them all and it has kept us in touch, encouraged and humoured.
We had sort of broken all the rules of the Pilgrims rituals one should follow when arriving! But we do intend following them where possible, just not in their proper order! So after attending our first pilgrims mass we headed straight off to collect our Compostela to prove to all that we did actually complete the Camino in accordance with the Church’s requirements. There was a reasonable queue, but a lot of excitement was in the air and we got a buzz from receiving them. Our names written in Latin (Stephanum and Goeneveram).
It was time now to have a wander through the streets and check in properly to our Hotel we had booked many months ago. We hadn’t given it too much attention when booking, other than to be near the Cathedral in the old town quarter. The Parador was out of the question so we booked the San Francisco Hotel Monumento, which is a recently refurbished monastery. Well we think Saint James might have played a part in it, but we nearly fell over when we entered our suite! Awesome! We won’t post any photos of us enjoying the spa bath in fear of any forthcoming comments from the peanut gallery, other than to say we felt like complete pilgrim frauds enjoying the luxury of a spa, whereas pilgrims of the Middle Ages had only the fountain out the front of the Cathedral to bathe in before finding a place to sleep on the upper level of the Cathedral on the cold hard solid granite floor!
Apologies for the delays in getting this post done, but there has been so much to see and experience that we just don’t have enough hours (after factoring a couple spent in the spa!)