We can now say that we have walked to the end of the earth together. And what an incredible journey it has been!
When we arrived in Santiago, we knew we weren’t finished walking yet. We didn’t feel any sense of finality as we sat in the Cathedral for the pilgrim’s mass – probably because we knew the path continued on for another 90 km to the coast. So we kept walking. The Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James has always been about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to see the remains of St. James, one of the twelve disciples. But, pilgrims would often make the one week round trip to the coast to see what was once believed to literally be the end of the earth. And, though we know there’s a little something beyond that point (like the Americas!), it is still tradition for pilgrims to carry on past the city to stand on the rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The last three days were a little bit challenging and stunningly beautiful. We finally felt a completeness to the journey when we arrived at the ocean. We are also happy to report that we raised another $170 for the Canadian Diabetes Association in the last three days! A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who donated money to the cause. If you meant to, but didn’t get around to it, you haven’t missed out. You can still donate by clicking here.
The last week and a half has been a time of celebrations for us… we walked our longest days, pushed ourselves farther than we knew we could, had a fabulous potluck dinner with our favourite Japanese Camino friends, feasted on pizza after our arrival in Santiago (our only meal out all Camino!), and continued to make new friends as we walked to the end of the earth.
Now, we’ve arrived back in Santiago (what took us three days to walk took two hours on a bus… though we much preferred the journey by foot!) and we’re about to catch a flight to Barcelona. There, we have our second chance of this trip to sleep on the cold and oh so comfortable airport floor, before hopping on a plane to Vienna, Austria. Why Austria? We’ve found an apartment that fits our budget, where we will be kicking up our heels and relaxing for the next month or so.
But… we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s the numbers summary from the last week and a half, and our final reflections about the Camino. If you’re looking for more stats, the cost of the Camino, and our advice, stayed tuned – those posts are coming.
And for everyone that took our Camino personal challenge, we want to hear your results in the comments below!
Days Walked: 37 (plus one rest day)
Total Distance Walked: 897 km (798 km to Santiago, and 99 km to the end of the earth)
Total Money Raised for the Canadian Diabetes Association: $730
Summary of Weeks 5 & 6:
Day 29: Vega de Valcarce – Triacastelos (34.8 km)
Day 30: Triacastelos – Sarria (24 km)
Day 31: Sarria – Portomarin (22 km)
Day 32: Portomarin – Palas de Rei (26 km)
Day 33: Palas de Rei – Arzua (30 km)
Day 34: Arzua – Santiago de Compostela (40 km)
Day 35: Rest day – pilgrim’s mass at Santiago Cathedral
Day 36: Santiago de Compostela – Negreira (22+2 km)
Day 37: Negreira – Olveiroa (35 km)
Day 38: Olveiroa – Fisterra/Finisterre & Faro (33 km + 7 km roundtrip to Faro)
So that’s it. We are at the end of the earth. We can’t walk any further west. Without floating shoes that is, but even if we had them, I doubt we’d make it much farther. It’s over. And it feels good. Somehow seeing the Atlantic Ocean allowed my brain to accept the finality of it all, something that I just didn’t get from seeing the Cathedral in Santiago. But I feel it here. And it feels good.
This last week and a half of the Camino has been my favourite. Then again, I seem to say something like that every time I sit down to write about the Camino. Perhaps I’m suffering from the recency effect where everything you’ve just seen or done somehow seems better than anything else you’ve ever seen or done. Then again, perhaps this really has been one of the best things I’ve ever seen or done, and the last bit of it really has been the best part. It’s so hard to tell sometimes…
I think my favourite part of this last leg of our Camino revolved around a Japanese couple that we have been crossing paths with, almost daily, since before Burgos (just before the half-way point). Some time ago, they asked if they could interview us for a novel they intend to write about the Camino. We were very touched at the thought of being asked and quickly accepted.
As we made our way closer to our destination, Ashley and I booked an apartment in Vienna, and airfare to go with it. Because of the pricing schedule the airlines have come up with that offers cheaper fares Tuesday through Thursday, we ended up booking a flight a little earlier in the week than we would have liked, and had to boogie if we were going to walk all the way out to the end of the world. That change in pace was enough that we were no longer going to be in Santiago at the same time as our favourite Japanese couple. We thought that we would have to cancel our interview, or just touch base over email.
We crossed paths that day on the Camino and told them our newest planes and time line. We were already planning to walk further than they were this day, and it didn’t look like we would run into each other again. We took some photos of each other, exchanged contact information, said goodbye, and kept walking.
To our surprise, that afternoon, they turned up at our albergue. They decided among themselves to put in a longer day of walking to catch up with us and take us out for a meal. Again we were very touched. As we had already purchased our groceries for the day, we refused their offer to buy us supper, and instead invited them to join us for a meal in.
It was fantastic. We shared sandwiches, wine, cheese, and a lot of information about Canada and Japan. Suffice it to say, it was probably my favourite night on the Camino, and we’re currently trying to figure out how we can get to Japan (and afford to live there for a while). Has anyone had any luck teaching English there?
I truly think that the Camino is one of the best things I have ever done. Walking nearly 900 km, all the while carrying everything I need on my back, is one of my proudest accomplishments. It was challenging, easy, complex, simple, social, and personal all at once. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, I am a different person today than I was six weeks ago. And I have the Camino to thank for that.
Take Day 29, for example. We started the day with a rough plan of climbing the mountain, and staying at the top – unless it was cold at the top, then we would descend and stay at a lower and hopefully warmer location. This meant between 20 and 26 km of walking. Ten minutes into the walk, it started to rain. Within an hour, we were soaked. After about 15 km, our shoes were so far past saturated, they had their own puddles inside of them. And still we walked. After climbing over the mountain, we decided it was cold and wet enough at the top to keep walking (besides, we couldn’t possibly get any wetter at that point). After descending a little ways, we hit our lower elevation target village, which was called Fonfria. The fact that it had the word “fria” or “cold” in its name combined with the chilly weather was enough to convince us to walk 9 km more through the rain to the next place (making it our longest day at that point). And if the wet and cold weren’t enough, we even found ourselves slogging through a river of cow shit, which I’m pretty sure was once a road made of cow shit. Despite what would be called miserable conditions by many, I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of the day. You couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face – I was walking in beautiful mountains, with the man I love, and the rain didn’t damper my spirits one bit. Six weeks ago, it would have been a different story. If you had put me in that situation, I would have been grumpy, miserable, and spitting venom if anyone tried to talk to me. I expect I would have been picking fights with Mike about nothing, and I definitely would have made us stop after less than 20 km. And I would have missed out on so much.
I could go on and on about all the positive changes I see in myself and my relationship with Mike, but I already feel a little like I’m rambling. So instead, I’ll just end with this…
For now and forever, I am part of the Camino and the Camino is part of me. If you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, don’t turn it down. It just may change your life.
Want to read more about our Camino? Check it out…
Our Camino, Your Camino… Our Challenge to You
Camino de Santiago Week 1 – Beautiful Landscapes & Unexpected Challenges
Camino de Santiago Week 2 – Getting Past the Pain
Camino de Santiago Week 3 – Feels a Lot Like Home
Camino de Santiago Week 4 – Easy Walking
Camino de Santiago – We Made It to Santiago, But We’re Not Finished Yet!