Sunday, July 26
I have reached the end of the known world. The small peninsula called Finisterre in Spanish and Fisterra in Galician is the westernmost spot in Spain. The Romans thought it was the end if the earth, or finis terrae. A lighthouse protected ships from the treacherous rocks that gave the area the name “Coast of Death.” On a sunny day it’s easy to see some of the rocks barely submerged below the clear, cold water.
When I last wrote, my plan was to walk from Santiago toward Fisterra or take the bus if my feet pooped out on me. Given that I had enough time, I was able to walk it over 6 days, going between 13 and 23 k per day, mostly around 15.
It was a wonderful week. Going slowly meant that I could sleep in a little, have a cafe con leche or two and mosey westward after the majority of people had cleared out of the way. I had time to stop and pet the moss. The people I met along this stage of the Camino were for the most part others not in a hurry, and I had some very good walk and talks. There were the Danish woman in charge of law programs at her university, the young Brazilian actress/clown working on her fears, the Dutch chemical engineer who had quit his job to start walking the Camino from his front door. Arriving early each afternoon at the next albergue I often had the pick of beds, successfully avoiding all upper bunks.
There were times when the Camino was immediately on the side of a busy road with no shoulder, but as a veteran of walking our county’s roads, it was second nature to me to always be aware of my jump-to spot in case a car came around a bend quickly. There were many lovely long hilly stretches along paths through eucalyptus forests, scrubby pine and bushes, some small corn fields, stands of fern, narrow paths between rock walls, and villages and towns. And then on my 5th day, the first glimpse of the Atlantic. From then on there was a lot of sea view, until the last couple of kilometers when I tied my boots to my pack and walked barefoot along the water’s edge to Fisterra town.
I love small European towns because they’re like tiny cities. No car is necessary, everything is close together and usually all you need, at least for a few days. So my 3 days in a little hostal here have been relaxing and delightful.
After checking in (room with a view AND bathroom) I rested a while and then walked the 3 more kilometers to the lighthouse to see the sunset over the Atlantic. I saw people there I’d walked and talked with over the past few days, and we took each others’ pictures and shared some rich rioja wine. I spent much of yesterday at a gorgeous beach with a very few other people around, doing what I love best at a beach, watching, smelling and listening to the waves. It was way too cold to swim.
I leave from Madrid on Thursday, so still have a few more days in Spain, but my Camino is over.
What is the take-away of my summer? That is too much to fathom all at once, and for that matter, the effect of experience tends to reveal itself over time. Here are a few thoughts, though, in no particular order.
As a Lebanese Boy Scout and I concluded, there is nothing better than getting out and meeting people to remind us that we are all just people doing the best we can, despite our governments (he was not crazy about his). And after a Swedish woman and I missed a directional arrow while joking about how we’d ever find our way around home without yellow arrows, I think one of them was assigned to keep an eye on me. He was a sweetie.
I am not as strong as I think I am. My foot hurt and I got lonely.
I am stronger than I knew. My foot is feeling better and I learned to put myself forward much more than is my wont to do. I set a goal and made it. Now to generalize that to some of the other tricky bits of life…
I have loved and will miss speaking French and Spanish, and hearing the various Spanish languages and dialects – Catalan, Castilian, Galician, and a really rapid southern Spanish that I never gripped at all.
I will really miss cafe con leche. A lot.
I look forward to being home, with my family.
I will miss tile. Wonderful tile everywhere. Oh wait, I am going home to new tile! The 2 bathroom reconstruction project that has been occurring in my absence is moving along but not complete, so I’ll get to witness the actual laying of tile! But really, the diversity and creativity of tile here has been an aesthetic high point.
I will miss purposeful walking for hours each day. It has been a real pleasure to get up each morning and know that with a little effort I will be somewhere else that night. I could of course walk to the store at home but I’d have to stay overnight and walk back with my groceries the next day.
I will miss the fact that even not counting pilgrims’ albergues, a person can sleep in a clean, respectable room in a hostal for the equivalent of about 30 bucks. Sure puts traveling within the grasp of a lot more people than our $100+ hotels.
Will I do it again? Probably not, at least not the same way. There is so much to see and do in this world that with few exceptions I tend to want to go somewhere new. But this was the summer for me to walk the Camino, and I’m very glad I did.
Many other things will come to mind, but here end the ruminations for now from the end of the earth. The WiFi here is slow so it may take a couple of days for this to post, or maybe not.
I look forward to seeing my local peeps soon.
All the best,