Highlights my adventures spent walking across the country on The Longest Walk and across Spain on the Camino Santiago along with other musings.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
So, here I am in Finisterre, an absolutely lovely little fishing village. When I woke up this morning from my room on the third floor, the sun was straining through the morning clouds, sending beams down onto the fishing boats moored in the bay. I could´ve been in Depot Bay, or Trinidad; with the seagulls sounding off their sweet whistly calls I felt right at home. And so, I went downstairs and asked the lady if I could stay for two more nights and there you have it.
I could´ve slept all morning. When I was in Santiago I was talking with a woman who was finished with her walk, and she told me that when her body finally understood that it could really rest, she just crashed. And that´s about how I´m feeling right now.
If you like sheer numbers, here´s a couple for you.
The mileage from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Finisterre, Spain is 549.8 miles. And I walked all of that, every step, except for about the six miles leading into Leon. Both my guidebook and a guy who had walked that stretch before, told me it was dangerous, along the freeway and not much fun. So I took a bus into town. So, let´s say I walked 543 miles total, just to keep it honest.
It took me 41 days, with 3 or 4 rest days thrown in there. I don´t know what the average time is, it doesn´t really matter. It is what it is. I was walking around 15 to 20 kilometers a day for the first half of the walk, and then really ramped it up towards the end and was pushing 30-35 for probably 10 days or so without taking any days off. Just kind of got to moving and didn´t want to stop and my body was used to the movement and enjoyed (well..enjoy) going all day. Let´s say actually that my mind liked being out all day, and my body just kind of had to tag along with it.
And now I´m done and trying to put it all together. How was it, did I like it, did I learn anything...was it fun?
Certainly, walking into Santiago was something. I usually really disliked walking into the cities, the outskirts were industrial areas or suburbs, and they were generally not very pretty and uncomfortable, sloggy for walking. But, going into Santiago felt different, just because it was.
That morning I crested Monte Gorzo, which was pretty much the last green site we would see. At the top was a beautiful modern sculpture, paying homage to the pilgrimage. There was a lovely little altar there, a small church where pilgrims could offer their thanks and prayers. There were about 30 people milling about, taking pictures and getting ready to walk the last 8 kilometers into the city. We were a pretty jubilant bunch really.
As I made my way towards the cathedral I ran into some folks I had met the day before, "you only have about a kilometer left! We just got our Compostela!"
The Compostela is a piece of paper declaring that you have completed the pilgrimage, you get it from the pilgrim´s office at the end of your journey and need to present your pilgrim´s "passport" to verify that you have really walked the miles.
In truth, you only need to walk 100 kilometers or cycle 200 to receive your Compostela, but it feels nice to have received it for going the distance. Oh, and the "passport" is this little booklet that we all carry around. You get a stamp at every alburgue you stay in. A lot of restaurants and churches and shops all have their own stamp, so you can really go nuts if you want to with the stamps. It didn´t really appeal to me all that much, surprisingly...I got them when I checked into places, and at a few churches, but..I don´t know, they´re kinda cool I suppose. Anyway...
So I walked down these streets, the old narrow winding streets of Spain. I couldn´t get all those pilgrims past out of my head. When they first saw the spires of the cathedral from the outskirts of the city...what did they think? I know I was pretty delighted, not that it was over necessarily...but that it exists, this camino, this way; for the millions of people who have made this journey with their own little heart´s desires and piety and penance. It touched me.
And so I´m walking down the cobblestoned streets and I turn a corner and there it was.
Building started on this Shrine to St. James in 1075, and is still being worked on, preserved, restored, in some places. It really is an amazing structure.
Whelp you guys...look, I hate to end there, but I only have 4 minutes left on this machine and there are other people waiting to use it. I´ve been on for an hour now anyway. But, I´ll be back..let you know how my time went in Santiago..I ran into my old friend´s Carlos and Angel which was a blast.