My Camino is finished. I’ve walked 1051 Kms from Weybridge over 45 walking days since 21 April. It has been the most wonderful journey. I’ve had time to reflect on the injustices that have been dealt to me, overcome and buried. But mostly, my Camino has been my opportunity to give thanks for all the good things that have come my way. Many years ago I promised to return to Santiago on a Pilgrimage of thanksgiving and I’m so happy and relieved that the time has now come and that I had the health, time and money to undertake this journey. Back in Navarrette, a couple of Australian girls told me they were walking the Camino to reboot their lives and that is exactly what happens to all the pilgrims on the Camino. It is why the number of pilgrims has increased from hardly any in the 1980s to over 250,000 this year. All as a result of word of mouth.
But most of all the Camino has been the most fun I’ve ever had. Yesterday I was washed ashore feeling quite lonely because so many of my pilgrim friends had already departed before I arrived in Santiago. But today I attended the 12.00 Pilgrims Mass and met up with others who were following behind me. I sat beside a Swiss couple (quite by chance) whom I first met before Leon and to whom I am Mr Chelsea. Manfred walked with me in the early part and is here too; we had lunch together. DJ arrived this morning with the Italian girls from the magic British Albergue in Rabanal. We all had a delicious meal this evening, avoiding the Pilgrims menu. And SG is just 10km away, arriving tomorrow.
Back in Sarria I shared a dorm with a family from the USA and we met several times since then. But on Tuesday I saw them in big trouble and they had to resort to a taxi. They were also in today’s Mass, Mum and Dad both on crutches but no Compostela. It reminded me that the Camino is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (along with running the London Marathon and climbing Mt Kenya).
Our Mass included the unique and bizarre swinging of the giant incense burner which for centuries has been used in vain to overcome the terrible smell of a Cathedral full of pilgrims. And today it was packed! 46 incense burning seconds coming up:
Aside from the opportunity to walk across the beautiful scenery of northern Spain and to delve into Spanish history and culture, and to spend time in reflection and contemplation, the Camino has been the most fun due to the spirit of the pilgrims, the shared suffering and openness, the hostels which bring everyone together and the trivial cost of red wine.
The end of term party will continue tomorrow and hopefully I won’t miss my Easyjet on Saturday.