Santiagoed

We came, we saw, we got the certificate.

The last stage of my Camino passed seemingly very quickly although I can clearly remember saying ‘this time next week we’ll be done ‘ and now we are.

The final stage saw us walking quickly and excitedly towards the city. We hardly stopped for a rest and almost had to force ourselves to drink a coffee. The approach to the city started about 10km out of town when signs started popping up and the airport lights were seen in a field. This made us walk quicker, only to find that the outskirts kept stretching. I asked Grace if we would ever smell the pungent, fermenting haystack mixed with cow dung again as the villages had less and less telltale signs. Finally after a long steep downhill from a monument that fooled us into thinking there was a bathroom available , the city started properly. Train tracks, traffic circles, trucks and cars driving round the wrong side of the road all appeared just to continue to confuse me. I began to feel giddy, much like the last 3kays of the Comrades because I know I have done it. We laughed and wondered at how life would feel without our ‘ job’ of walking. We got to the old part of town being guided by the Camino shells and signposts and we continued on the cobblestone streets towards the Cathedral which is the official end of the journey. Just before the last corner there was a lady bagpiper playing out welcoming tunes. I felt my heart swell as the realisation took hold.

It is done.

Well, almost. There was a lack of pomp or ceremony in front of the cathedral and finding the office to get our Compostela (certificate of completion) proved tricky and a little disappointing. But we found it and stood dutifully in line while the reality of no more compulsory movement needed sunk in. The ladies at the very busy counters were efficient and we were soon hustled out of the room to make space for other eager pilgrims. We walked back to the cathedral then decided to go find our hotel and get cleaned up.

We made it to the Mass where the priests swung the Botofiermo and the massive organ played a dramatic tune while the congregation ‘oohed’ as the burner flew higher and higher. I must admit that this somehow moved me and I felt emotional. With a puff of smoke it was all over, much like this Camino. The drama settled down into my body, I had a moment of wonder at my body. Just like after doing Comrades my body says ‘now what?’ I thanked it and for a brief moment I thought ‘what was I thinking?’ Now it is relax time, time for reflection and thinking, for travel and finally the journey home.

After all, that is the symbolism of life. We are all on different paths just trying to get home.

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