Trying not to be obvious we whispered to each other that we could always follow the people sitting behind us if we don’t know where to go. Because we’re occasionally hopeless and semi-stalkers (even my dad sent us with a GPS tracker to watch our adventure from home).
But that plan gave way to a little motherly trust and a daughter’s navigation through the town and up a hill in search of a monestary albergue.
It was threatened mid hill that if I did not find the albergue my mother would be getting carried back down by yours truly….Seems a little unreasonable considering we planned to walk over 10 miles the next day. But we were rewarded with a view of the sunset overlooking the Camino’s entrance into Sarria and finally the monestary.
We had arrived with just half an hour before the night vigil mass in the church attached to the albergue. Talk about grace! We rushed to drop our bags and joined the few local parishioners for our trifecta of foreign language masses. (Italian, French, and now Spanish). Then we returned through the courtyard and actually looked around the albergue.
We got situated, took our first hot shower of the trip, used the coin laundry, and rehydrated the remaining meal gifted by my godmother for a taste of home on our trip.
With a happy tummy, clean hair, and a blanket from our international flight #sorrynotsorry, I headed off to my bunk bed.
A wonderful sound that someone other than myself was getting a solid rest. Praise Jesus for the pilgrims around us. It did not bother me that morning because an excited restlessness for the trip had me abandon sleep as an option around 4:30am. By 6am most pilgrims were still asleep, a little to my surprise, but by 7am they were all up and moved quickly to get on the trail.
We started amid many pilgrims that morning but as time passes, the pace at which you walk tends to thin out the herd. By lunchtime we saw some of the same faces who passed us earlier resting at a bar/cafe.
By the time we stopped to eat, they were again walking past us with a smiling “Buen Camino!”. It took almost no time for us to join in greeting every pilgrim with those words. Regardless of ethnicity or language, this greeting was universal on the trail.
In order to qualify for the Compestela in Santiago we needed to complete the last 100km by foot or 200km by bike and our pilgrims passport needed at least two stamps per day. Almost everybody along the way had a stamp so filling our “passport” was an easy task.
A scallop shell or yellow arrow marked the way along the Camino. They were on stone markers, drawn on the side of houses or marked on the road itself. They become welcome sights as every stone marker had the number of kilometers left to Santiago.
Although we never missed a direction, it was quite easy to lose ourselves in conversation or watching the ground as we walked. My future advice is to just keep your head up and purposefully look for all the beauty along the trail!
The landscapes were gorgeous and every town we went through had some sort of resting place. Some were trying to sell us things or food, others were just welcoming areas graciously left open for weary pilgrims.
Of course all the walking and constantly “ooooh”ing and “ahhh”ing at the countryside burned a lot of calories. Sooo…of course we had to eat the delicious food along the way.
Natural springs and fountains kept our water bottles filled. However the weight of my water bottle seemed to grow exponentially with every step especially going uphill. Filling that bottle again was a blessing and a burden every single time.
We met up with Alex the night before our last walking day. Going down the trail we passed a note on a stick “I’ll meet you in Arca – Alex”. We were so excited that amid his many world travels he was able to join us in our final steps to Santiago!
The Cathedral of St James has a way of making one feel so small and in awe of the intricacies hidden in the church. I firmly believe that this is the purpose of a church. To remind you the greatness of God through those feelings when you walk inside a beautiful church. I could not just glance and keep moving through the building, it required some study of the details. So it made this fast moving travel junkie slow down, which is always a good thing.
In “ye olden days” pilgrims carried a wooden shell to Santiago and finished their walk at the most western point of Spain at Finisterre. There they would collect the scallop shell. Thus the white shell would go home with them as proof that they completed the pilgrimage. Alex encouraged us to join him at the “end of the world” and so we took a day to visit.
Looking back, this was one of the best trips because it involved hiking in the outdoors, meeting new people, eating many different sandwiches/desserts, and doing all those things in the name of Jesus! I will leave you with some of my favorite moments from the pilgrimage…