Rua to Santiago 20Km (12.5 miles)
At breakfast people were slowly appearing, just as others were leaving early. The road was wet from last night’s rain but now the sun was breaking through the morning mist. This looked promising for our final day’s walk of the Camino. As we stepped outside the air was cold, but the sun was shining, giving us the feel good factor.
We followed the road to rejoin the Camino Way and as we walked through the first village of the day everywhere was closed as it was still early. Going down the hill, we sighted up ahead the N547 to Santiago that we needed to cross. As we arrived at the side of the busy road, we could see the route in front of us; there were pilgrims ahead on the path and others joining from different directions.
We carefully crossed the road and followed the path, now entering a forest which had a strong smell of pine. We followed the path for approximately four kilometres passing monuments, derelict houses and farms, overtaking slower pilgrims with the usual, and may I say, near perfect Spanish of, “Hola,” “Buen Camino,” “Gracias”!
Now in Amenal, we passed under the N547 along a well used path that borders the perimeter fence of Santiago airport and runways.
We followed the path and arrived at a monument which read ‘Santiago’.
As we walked around and away from the airport perimeter, we entered a small village where there were lots of pilgrims resting and drinking coffee so we joined the masses and had a coffee break. It was interesting here as we met up with other people we had seen, or met, on the way. After a while the sun was becoming a little unpleasant to sit in so we were soon ready to continue the last part of the Camino.
We joined the path which led us up a steep hill and back into the woods. Nearing the top of the hill we met up with the Texan ladies, Cathy & Suzanne, and we all agreed to meet up in Santiago for a celebratory drink. As we left them to continue their walk, up ahead we could just see pilgrims who were either in small groups or by themselves. Some were walking purposefully whilst others seemed to be suffering with tired feet or with other problems.
We caught up with one lady from Australia who was walking with family friends; they had become separated due to tiredness, but she could still see them up ahead. They had started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and she was looking forward to finishing today. As we were walking much more easily than she was, we moved on wishing her good luck and “Buen Camino.”
We continued walking past houses and an industrial compound. The scenery was a little uninteresting which, I suppose, was because we were near a city. On a boringly straight road, two female students came striding past and Steve passed a comment about their speed, to which they replied they just wanted to finish as they were so tired. They told us they were from Australia, both working towards degrees, now on holiday and they too had started from St. Jean Pied de Port. On that point we wished them good luck as they upped their pace.
We passed through San Paio, walking uphill to Lavacolla and then climbed a ramp opposite a church, heading towards Vilamaior. From here we made our way to the Monte del Gozo (Hill of Joy)
where we had the first views of the three spires of our destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At the top of the mount is a modern religious sculpture and there were lots of people taking photos, placing trinkets at its base or just walking around it admiring the structure.
As we looked towards Santiago we could see two people some distance in front of us and recognised one of the rucksacks. Sami and Auntie Alicia
were also admiring the views so we went over to chat before wishing them, “Buen Camino,” and leaving them to their thoughts.
We were now descending the hill to what looked like a school and, as we neared the bottom of the hill, there was a collection of strange looking stones for sale
We looked at them a while before setting off again down some stairs and crossing a bridge over the AP9.
We arrived at the city sign, Santiago de Compostela; it had been covered with sticky labels, trinkets and flowers that people had tied to it.
We did the usual and had a photo taken by the sign. Just as we were about to walk away three Canadian cyclists appeared and asked us to take their photo with their camera, which we did. We crossed the road and were now amongst shops, stores and office buildings,
still following the scallop shell signs on the floor and the kilometre markers along the route to Rua of San Pedro towards the city centre.
We were walking for some time and the surroundings were now very much those synonymous with a city: more and more shops, apartments, offices and a large amount of traffic. As we neared the centre we could see the top of the cathedral on the skyline. The streets were becoming narrower, there were more people. We arrived at the Plaza de Cervantes
to now head downhill to
Praza do Obradoiro and the impressive Cathedral of Santiago. In the middle of the square there is actually an inscription on the ground telling people they have reached their destination. Here, pilgrims were resting on the floor, others were congratulating each other with hugs and smiles of achievement; this was the end of the pilgrimage.
All we could do now was admire such a magnificent building that stood before us, despite the scaffolding for the renovation work, it is a magnificent building.
After a while we decided to go to the offices to claim our certificates of completion of the pilgrimage. As we walked down the street, there were Sami and her aunt sitting having lunch and a beer. Sami told us that the swinging of the orb was to happen this evening around seven o’clock, so after a quick chat and telling us which building was the Pilgrim’s Office, we were off again to claim our certificates, now feeling tired as the day was drawing to a close.
At the Pilgrim’s Office we were guided to the back of a slow moving queue;
there must have been near a hundred people in front of us.
After a good hour and a half we eventually reached the reception desk, showed our passports of the journey and answered a few minor questions before being given our certificate or ‘Compostela’.
Now it was time for a celebratory drink or two.
As we left the office expecting to see Sami and Alicia, they were nowhere to be seen. It had obviously been too long a wait for them so it was off to the nearest bar for a little refreshment. Whilst celebrating with a drink and discussing the walk, we decided it might be very pleasant to come back to this bar / restaurant for our evening meal so we booked a table. We spent some time enjoying the moment and hoped we might see Cathy & Suzanne (the ladies from Texas) before heading off to our accommodation but, unfortunately, they were not around.
After booking into our accommodation, a long awaited shower and a change of clothes we set off to the cathedral. Once inside, we were guided around the pews till we found an ideal spot next to the main isle where the orb, or incense burner, would be swung. The mass began and was fairly easy to follow. After about thirty minutes a priest appeared carrying something which was smoking. He placed it into the orb and the cathedral began to fill with the aroma of incense. More priests (tiraboleiros) appeared at the side and suddenly the orb was lifted and pushed away by the first priest who then stepped aside to join the others. All this time the service carried on.
As the incense burner was swinging, the tiraboleiros pulled down on the rope to create the soaring pendulum effect. As it gathered momentum it swung past the ends of the pews and looked like it would hit the roof of the cathedral, but it didn’t and from this point it was allowed to slow down gradually.
Still filled with awe from this wonderful sight, we went outside where we saw Denise, Heather and Carol, who we first met on day three at Portomarin. We discussed the moving experience before going our separate ways for dinner.
During our meal that evening we talked about the events of the past few days and the people we’d met on the way. This was followed by a walk around the square in front of the cathedral. As we passed the arches of a building there was a traditional Spanish group playing instruments. People had gathered to watch, so we had to take a look. There, in front of the group, were two Japanese gents dancing to the music, and everyone was enjoying the atmosphere.
After a perfect day of meeting fellow pilgrims and being entertained it was time to turn in for the night.