El Camino: Day 32
Day #32 El Camino
Saturday 14th October
Santiago de Compostela > Bertamarins
Distance walked: 14km
Wait? That’s it! It’s over right? You walked to Santiago de Compostela? Yes. You got your certificate? Yes. Surely, we don’t have to endure any more of your diary!? Afraid so! You didn’t watch the movie did you!? I thought over the last 30 days of me NOT mentioning the movie, ‘The Way’, that you would have gone out to Blockbuster or VideoEzy or that internet place you kids seem to ‘downblog’ your movies from or whatever it is you do while Chillaxing and Netting and figured out that there is more to the sacred pilgrims journey. Another 100 odd kilometres in fact.
Now, some smart cookies (lazy feckers) will just end it there in the tourist ridden anti-climactic city bearing the name of the way, load up on souvenirs, get on a plane or bus and return to wherever (the USA) they’ve come from. Others who have had enough of walking but still want to finish the journey will take a couple of days to be a tourist and get on a bus to the coast to Finisterre, or as the name translates and suggests, the ‘end of the earth’. Then there are the TRUE (albeit silly) pilgrims like myself who will continue punishing themselves by walking to the coast and even add an extra trip to Muxia just for the hell of it. Because when you’ve walked 800km, what’s another 100 or so?
Muxia is actually the location ‘The Way’ ends in with dead Daniel ashes on the rocks as it is a much prettier setting than Finisterre for filming purposes I assume, but the famous Camino marker that you MUST visit with 0.00km on it for the obligatory photo is situated in Finisterre.
Before taking off on this little stroll I’d mapped out a rough timeline to complete it. And when I say rough, I mean, I had no idea how my body would hold up or how many kilometres a day I’d do, but I’d heard most would average 20-30km per day and I figured I’d stop in some places to explore more, so I gave myself 30 days of walking and 4-5 rest/injury days up my sleeve. With my departure set for the 13th September I’d aimed to finish in Santiago on my birthday, the 17th October. As the walk took place however, I realised a couple of things. I was walking much further some days than I expected and rest days were for chumps. I had one rest day in Burgos and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Others said the same, you get into a rhythm and you just WANT to keep walking each day. It’s a surreal feeling to wake up and WANT to bash out an easy 20km. I was looking at 20km like it was a 10min walk to the shops. If I saw 10km left I was basically finished for the day in my mind. Crazy! I changed my goal towards the end (nervously as I was getting some serious tendinitis) and figured I may as well keep walking at a good pace and celebrate my birthday by concluding in Finisterre. Then, stop on the beach for a couple of days and continue to Muxia, which would take my walking distance up to 930km approximately. I didn’t like that figure. I’m stubborn and have an ego and clearly the idea of walking 1,000km feels much more of a rounded number. But what to do? Do I circle back to Santiago? Do I stop at 930km? How many more times in my life can I say that I walked 1,000km? Probably never again after this experience, so I have pencilled in the plan afterwards to continue to A Coruña, further up the coast to visit yet another friend living in these parts. Let’s see what happens!
So, with that, I was off to the coast. But first, breakfast and a little cheat day of sorts. I’ve had the luxury of an AirBNB, a hotel and a friend’s house to sleep in and as luck would have it, because I’ve been a gypsy for so many years, I of course have another friend living in Spain who offered me a bed and real towel to use. I had one condition. That I walk there.
Even when I stayed in Ponferrada and was picked up, I insisted I be returned to the same start point. Having a friend living 10km out of town meant I could be picked up and taken there, but I said no, I’d rather walk.
It won’t be recognised on any resume or be looked down upon by anyone if I don’t, but in my mind, I want and feel I kind of need to complete the entire walk without skipping any of the distance by bus or car.
Leaving Santiago was beautiful, easily the nicest exit of a city I’ve had compared to the industrial and suburban aspects I’ve been used to, this was a lovely village, rivers and woods. Perhaps made nicer by the fact that there were hardly any other pilgrims walking. Santiago was overwhelming with the tourism and it was nice to be back walking and alone with my thoughts. The path was so nice that I’d gotten a fresh energy to continuing the walk.
The town my friend lives in was slightly off the Camino, so I took a detour and found my way there thanks to following the little blue dot on google maps. It was hilarious passing through villages that were clearly off the main way and having locals rush out to help me find the right way! A little old lady doing her gardening, she must have been about 200 years old sprinted to the fence to see if I was OK. I was after our encounter, this was the kind of local I wanted to meet. And it’s off the main path that you meet them. Again, another tick for the whole, choose your own path thing.
I ended up walking an extra 4km off track and getting myself happily lost in the wilderness. Unfortunately, I fell ill with a small fever/headache as soon as I arrived at my friends house and passed out in a deep sleep/coma. A friend I’d met in Cuba 9 years earlier and maybe crossed paths with once in Scotland since. We didn’t manage a great catch up but such is the life of the traveller. I was grateful for a bed, bath and somewhere for my body to crash. It clearly needed it.