23.11.16 Monte do Gozo to Santiago 4.7 – yes, readers, I got there!
On leaving Monto do Gozo, the roads lead by a sculptor’s garden and workshop: some whole and in tact, others eroded by the seasons and attractively aged.
And a little further on it was a relief to see that the corn had finally been collected in. I had walked through so many fields of maize during the past weeks, and seen it looking daily more bedraggled and sorry for itself. I wondered if it was all going to waste, one of those cash crops which farmers sow for the subsidies. So I was glad to glimpse the shining yellow kernels hanging up for winter storeage.
Then we arrived! On the roundabout at the edge of town is this sign, inexplicably decorated at that time with the French flag, but appropriate seeing as I had walked beside a Frenchman and spoken that tongue for well over a month.
It was not far now to the centre of Santiago de Compostella, but somehow we got lost on the outskirts and so it took a while to find the Cathedral. Having both been there before, perhaps we did not really want to arrive and face the end. We trudged up steep streets and found the bus station (which was unnecessary!), and wound our way back down through the busy metropolis with very uncharacteristic bad temper.
Although I had never planned to get here, and the process was infinitely more satisfying than the end, there was some inevitable elation at standing in the atmospheric, grand square with a few fellow walkers, at this glorified place so many had striven to reach since the Middle Ages.
With my raggedy piece of paper, stamped at every hostal I had visited along the way, I went to the credentials office and got the final seal and certificate.
Then found the delightful lodgings (pre-booked).
And attended the Pilgrim’s Mass.
Before taking our seats, we queued to kiss the statue currently situated behind the altar. I was very hungry (a noon service), and it was cold in the cavernous interior. Like the outside, it was in the process of rennovation, and for some reason the enormous incense ball was not swung, so it was all less impressive than it might have been.
After a warming and celebratory meal, followed by a nap, there were streets to walk, shops to visit, familiar and first-met backpackers to greet. A lengthy but spacious re-visit of the Cathedral with its golden altar, and many side chapels, where worshippers chanted and prayed, seemed apt.
What did I get out of walking the Camino Frances? Untold amounts of glorious things.
Physically, I was feeling so much stronger and leaner. I used to say that I only liked flat walks alongside rivers or canals, but now I could manage the climbs and rejoice in the views that my friends used to tell me about!
I reflected (so much wonderful time for reflection!), that the on-going walking forwards gave me an unexpected sense of achievement. It has always been hard for me to believe I have achieved much, hard to stop towards the end of a project, look back and be pleased with what has taken place. But here on the Camino, walking, the simple effort affords pleasure in achievement, of reaching the evening’s destination, of covering the kilometres, of managing the carrying and the impact.
‘When you set off for the day, and know that it will take so many hours to reach the next stage, there’s nothing left to do but walk, and follow the road.’
‘Serenity…a steady balance in the soul. Walking leads to it, quietly, gradually, through the very alternation of rest and movement. …Serenity comes from simply following the path’.
Pages 145, 146 ‘A Philosophy of Walking’, Frederic Gros