A Travellerspoint blog

SANTIAGO – FINESTERRA- MUXIA

storm 10 °C

Another 100 kilometers was what we had agreed to, and it should have been a simple three or four days more to walk from Santiago to Finesterra which was a route done centuries ago by many people and pilgrims. It was thought this place was the End of the World before America was discovered in 1492. Nowadays pilgrims continue past Santiago to the light house in Finesterre and burn their boots and clothes as a symbol of the end of their way. Of course we cannot do that because we have more adventures to experience and we need our few clothes and boots, ha ha ha.

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Continuing on to Muxia is another traditional walk as a way to ending this pilgrimage. It is a beautiful town further up the coast, and it is believed the Virgen Mary appeared to Saint James there to encourage him to carry on wandering. For this reason a stunning church was built on the coast, where many of the pilgrims now decide to finish their walk, and these two pilgrims agreed would be a nice place to call it a journey completed.

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The first day of our walk was raining cats and dogs. So for first time Simon and I decided to take the bus. The short walk from the house to the bus stop, and then in our first stop Negreira from the bus stop to the albergue was great, but we still got really wet, ha ha ha.
Our second day, a red alarm was announced for the area. It meant strong rain and high winds, and was an alert for the pilgrims to avoid to walking if possible because it would be dangerous. I was really upset because I was conscious my long walk had finished but I wanted to walk these last three days as a kind of farewell. It turned out that during the night it was really windy, the noise was incredible, it remained my New Zealand, ha ha ha. We got up with our usual routine around 7am, but the weather was awful until around 9am waiting in the albergue when the weather finally changed and we could walk for most of the day.

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The rain came and went and we were wearing our ponchos all day but in general we were happy and enjoyed the walk. Because we started walking late we arrived really late at the albergue. The next day a gorgeous blue sky was there to greet us, and after a short two hour walk we arrived at Finesterra, the End of the World.
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It is a gorgeous place and we walked across the beach and headed to the far light house to see the sea. It is an impressive view, it is true that you can see from there that the world is not flat. We saw a signpost here that advised we were at kilometer zero of our walk.

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The next day we walked to Muxia, and this place blew my mind. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. To see the power of the sea was scary, the sea here on ‘the coast of death’ was furious, crashing against the rocks with all its power. To experience the sea and the church next to this was absolutely amazing. I could say now that it was the end of this pilgrimage to Santiago, Finesterra and here in Muxia. The wind was so strong that I could not stand up for long, it was a show to see the power of nature and how much energy there is with each wave crashing onto the rocks beside the church.

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This power that I was looking for, the power of everything in nothing, the simplicity created by the sea and the rocks; I had everything in this moment: the sea, the wind, the gray sky, the rain, the waves, the forest, the mountains, the rocks, the birds, the church, God, the universe, the sun, the moon, the stars, the human beliefs, faith, hope, … everything was there for me to see and feel: it was the end of this journey and our Way, and the beginning of a new Camino in our lives.

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Posted by erika_simon 02:47 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

THE LAST DAY - The true Camino begins when you reach the end

sunny 18 °C

Today our big day arrives, our final day of walking to Santiago de Compostela. Five hours of walking remain after 30 days of hiking, with 180 hours walking now behind us, during sunny, raining, foggy, cloudy, a little cold, freezing cold, and occasionally windy days. Firstly crossing the Pyrenees mountains of southern France and into Spain, the flat and rolling masetas areas with the orchards and wineries, and now the green fields, hills, and forests of Galicia. All the way contemplating the colors of autumn and being so blessed to have most of the days with wonderful weather, apart from last week which gave us a memorable day of rain and wind.

I remember the different kinds of tracks we walked: mountains, hills, roads, straight and long paths, up and down hills, across streams, rivers, and deserts. The paths that were paved, stone, dirt, mud, grass and everything in between. The yummy foods the Camino gave to us: grapes, blackberries, raspberries, apples, nectarines, kiwifruit, and nuts. Fields of sunflowers, corn, many vegetable gardens, and it was also the season to plow the fields so we got to see the tractors digging furrows through old crop paddocks. Also the Spanish food was absolutely delicious: tortilla patatas, chorizos, ham, wine, pinchos, tapas, paella, bocadillos, café con leche, croissants, baguettes, freshly made bread, ….

I think about the big cities, the towns and small villages we visited. Small white stone towns where all the houses had matching orange roofs, houses with hanging grapevines, houses made in the old style out of stone or handmade bricks, houses with cows as pets wandering around in the backyard. The animals we encountered like boars, cows, sheep, dogs, cats, birds, insects, fish, deer, and the occasional snake, these were all things that crossed our paths on the Way.

I think about all the great people who are now our friends, and who came from all over the World: my Spanish friends, French, German, Denmark, Austrian, Belgian, English, Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders, Venezuelan, Argentinian, Italian, American, Korean, Croatian, Hungarian, San Salvadorian, Uruguayan, Cuban, …

I also think back to the places we stayed and that most of the albergues were great, some more comfortable than others, some with people who snored, ha ha ha , some with amazing hot showers, fast internet, kitchens, chapels, massage machines for the feet, big gardens, and wonderful common areas to sit and read or make friends with other pilgrims. Some were donation only with communal cooking, most of them were with bunks beds, and in the last few albergues with disposable sheets they handed out when you checked in (which I liked very much because it guaranteed they were clean).

There were experiences which have no words to express and how much they have taught me during these six weeks. I am sure I will miss the routine of a pilgrim: to wake up at 6:30am, do some stretching to prepare my legs, have our coffee, start walking around 7:30am before sunrise for 5 to 8 hours regardless of the weather, stop twice during the morning to eat something and arrive to the Albergue just after lunch, get the passports stamped, have a hot shower, wash the socks and t-shirts, relax, cook or have dinner, and before 10pm go to bed. A simple routine but so complicated to follow some days. As I read in one of the albergues: to do the Camino we do not need to begin as pilgrims, the Camino coverts us into pilgrims along the Way.

The famous expression used often on the Way of “No pain no Glory” is something I will remember forever. The blisters, sore hips, aching shoulders, and fairly rare but always nasty food poisoning are the common problems of this journey. But also the pain in the heart for something meaningful or for others a quiet, calm, and reflective nothingness, it is a strange feeling.

Today we decided to leave early to arrive in Santiago well before lunch time. We left in the dark and we were in the middle of a forest with big eucalyptus trees for the first couple of hours. We could appreciate a magnificent sunrise, fog and mountains. The fog looked like a mattress between the mountains, it was an amazing landscape for the morning.

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It was said that Santiago de Compostela is the rainiest city in Spain, and we had seen in the news how the pilgrims arrived in the city with ponchos on and fighting the wind. But, how we are absolutely blessed, today was gorgeous, with a beautiful blue sky and no clouds. It was one of those perfect days to walk, get warm from the sun and enjoy everything.

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Close to Santiago there is a monument erected when the Pope came 20 years ago. It is an impressive sculpture and just after this stop to take photos and eat something we could see for first time our goal on this journey – the Cathedral in central Santiago. The city is big, with a popular old university and more than 100,000 inhabitants.

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The way to the cathedral took another half hour walking but this half hour was the most exciting time in the last few weeks. Everybody was concentrated arriving at the plaza in the centre of the city, everybody was focused and nobody was talking. I was focused on my walking and the signs, and when I saw for the first time one of the towers of the cathedral I started walking faster. I did not see anything around me, I could not hear anything , I just wanted to arrive to the square and know I had done it.

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We were walking through the small back roads when we crossed the street which takes you to the old city of Santiago and I could hear someone playing the Scottish bagpipes. The unknown source of this music was taking us to our final destination. This music was absolutely gorgeous and after we passed through a tunnel to enter the cathedral plaza and saw the guy basking by playing the bagpipes, there we were. It was the central square, an enormous cathedral overlooking the plaza on one side, grand old buildings surrounding us, a blue sky above, and many pilgrims sitting in the square waiting for other pilgrims to arrive with a friendly ‘Buen Camino’ to greet them.

I could not believe that it took us 31 days of walking to experience this moment, to be here in Santiago de Compostela. According to somebody we met there is a saying that “One only goes to Santiago, one never arrives”. Simon and I were there at 11:38am on the 30th of October of 2013 - this journey was completed, this Camino was done, and a new Camino follows on, the real Camino of life for both of us.

“The true Camino begins when you reach the end”

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I experienced millions of feelings at this moment: happiness, sadness, confusion, feeling proud of ourselves, tears, hugs, smiles, etc. It was really beautiful moment to experience. We sat for a while in this square and appreciated the cathedral and the arrival of other pilgrims.

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After our arrival, we went to request our certificates for completing the Compostela. Honestly I thought it would not be significant for me, but when they gave us this certificate in Latin, it was another amazing moment. It is a scroll with our names in Latin, but it has a lot meaning, it does not show the hard work of the last weeks but it shows that once in our lives we took the decision to follow the steps of many pilgrims to travel to Santiago de Compostela, looking for something special.

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We stayed in Santiago for two nights, visiting the gorgeous city, attending the mass for the pilgrims where they mention the pilgrims who had arrived the previous day, we also hugged the statue of Saint James (or Santiago, or Jacob) which is another tradition. In one of the five star hotels there is a tradition to look after the pilgrims from centuries ago; they give a free breakfast, lunch and dinner to the first ten pilgrims to arrive at the hotel. It is a tradition that King Alfonso VIII started as a way to contribute to the tradition of the way.

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We went twice and it was a nice experience. The food is nice and simple, and is served in a special room which is decorated with old paintings of the routes to Santiago done a long time ago. We had to pass through many of the rooms and chapels of the hotel, which were luxurious and elegant, until we arrived at the room for the pilgrims.

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After finishing the Camino we decided to walk another 3 days to Finisterra and Muxia which are on the western coast of Spain at ‘The End of the World’. Fortunately before we started our walk we were blessed to be in the celebration of the Saints’ Day on the 1st of November. It was a big mass in the cathedral and the Botafumeiro was swung during the mass. The botafumeiro is the greatest censer for incense in the world. It was used decades ago to clean the awful smell of the pilgrims who had reached the cathedral.

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To swing the botafumeiro requires eight people, tiraboleiros, who pull the ropes and make it swing inside the church. It is really impressive to see this, and the music in the background was very uplifting.

Although we have decided to walk to the End to the World, it felt like we had missed something, knowing our routine is going to change soon. What we have planned for such a long time and now it is over. It was a magical experience, an experience with everything that we could hope for and much more than we could expect. We were blessed to learn to appreciate the beauty of the silence, the quietness, the noise and the power of nature; the life in small villages and in big cities; creating friendship with everybody, to smile for the little things, to share the little that we have without wanting anything in return, and understanding we did not need anything after all, and even joked that if someone was stupid enough to try and rob us we would have given them our backpacks and our boots gladly, ha ha ha.

I dedicate this journey to all of you, the angels in my life, the people who are in my heart, my prayers, and my thoughts. All the people who contributed to this dream and who with a Buen camino gave us the best energy to carry on until our end.

These two pilgrims have not reached the end yet, I think our real Camino starts now, and for all of you who are in my heart I wish you BUEN CAMINO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And carry on reading our adventures on our next Camino.

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Posted by erika_simon 13:57 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

DAY THIRTY – ARZUA TO PEDROUZO

overcast 18 °C

With only 20 kilometers walk this was a very easy day. The fog in the morning for many hours was fun and afterwards a wonderful sun came out to warm the day – and us as well. We decided to walk slowly, to enjoy the day before our last on this journey.

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I wanted to give thanks to this pilgrimage for which this trip that Simon and I are doing was created. Thanks to the Santiago de Compostela journey many dreams came together and many opportunities appeared and doors have opened.

We have 20 kilometers tomorrow to walk, so only 4 hours and we will be in Santiago de Compostela. The landscape today was gorgeous, forests, rivers, streams, little towns, a nice slow walk, it was just wonderful.We stayed in a beautiful albergue at our last stop on the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. This was a big albergue but because we arrived early this afternoon we got some of the best beds that were positioned close to the windows and also the heating. They were not bunk beds which is unusual (something peculiar that we were not used to). A few people were snoring but I can say I am now used to sleeping with some people making noise or snoring away somewhere.

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Most of the pilgrims looked sad and concerned; everybody knows that this beautiful experience is coming to an end soon; these are the last days where we are going to meet with many of the people we have walked with, made friends with, and shared with during our journey. It is likely all of our bodies are happy to know the exertion has nearly ended, I am sure my feet are excited to see the walking stop, but our minds and hearts are eternally grateful for these amazing days that have gone by and we are all worried about the future and the return to the routine of our real lives.

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In the last 30 days every day has been new and unique; we have been leaving the albergues around 7:30am for an early start to a new day; with unknown weather to endure; for an unknown path to leave our footprints upon; for an unknown village, or town or city to visit; for an unknown companion to chat with for a few hours; for an unknown place to eat, sleep and have shower; for an unknown experience to live and enjoy; for the unknown angels and miracles to receive from the universe.

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The famous Santiago de Compostela city is waiting for us tomorrow, the place that millions of people and pilgrims have arrived at to visit its cathedral and the tomb of Santiago, by walking, bicycling, driving cars, flying on planes, and in the old time by horses and donkeys. Today I feel homesick for a place that I do not even now yet!!!!

Posted by erika_simon 00:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

DAY TWENTY NINE – PALAS DEL REY TO ARZUA

overcast 17 °C

Three days to arrive at Santiago with around 60 kilometers to go. Many questions being juggled in my mind: what is it going to happen in three days? What do we need to do in three days? Have I enjoyed each day of this journey? Have we experienced everything possible during this journey? How many people have I met? Am I going to see them again? Are my feet going to be soft and lovely like before? Where is my next pilgrimage going to take me?

Three days to go after 29 days of walking and millions of experiences in my head and heart. Many experiences have been lived and learned during this time, and we have three more days to enjoy at the most before we have finished the Way.

Today the weather was wonderful. After our rainy day a couple of days ago, we have only asked for a little sun and a dry day to walk, or at least a few dry hours to walk. The day was cloudy and we had a little rain twice, but nothing major.

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We found two little stalls with food and drinks provided only for donations, like the honesty boxes in New Zealand. It was nice to see how many people stop at these little shops, leave the donation, sign the book and enjoy the food.

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In the albergue we met up with pilgrims we had not seen for a long time. We could chat, remember people and funny moments, share experiences, and share the excitement of arriving in Santiago in three days. We mentioned the rainy day last week, and they told me we were so lucky to experience a day with rain and wind, otherwise we would not have believed that in Galicia the weather is special and it rains all the time. I thought looking at things from this perspective, they were right; now I can mention that I walked in the rain and in the wind and what an experience it was. That my poncho was turning around because of the strong wind and I could not see for the rain in my eyes and my hood flapping around, my boots were waterproof but my socks were not so they funneled water down to my feet and I was swimming instead of walking by the end of the day. Even though I was wet and miserable and on many occasions I was nearly blown away ha ha ha, I look back and am glad we had this experience on our Way.

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During these last days I have remembered many people who I would like to dedicate my days, I have forgotten sometimes to write about them, but they were friendly faces and warm conversations when we shared and laughed and enjoyed each others company. These last days have been long days, instead of walking quickly to reach our next albergue to take off our boots and jump in the shower, we have been walking slower and stopping more often, honestly with the intention of arriving later in the afternoon. It has not helped with my having the time to do my last days blogs and upload them. There has also been the problem that the last few places have been really small, one street towns, and there hasn’t been a lot of access to wifi.

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I have also been thinking of my gorgeous family in Colombia, and my kiwi family, my friends, colleagues, classmates from school and university; all those angels who have made every day of my life wonderful, every person who has contributed to this dream, so many people…

Posted by erika_simon 00:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

DAY TWENTY EIGHT – FERREIROS TO PALAS DEL REY

sunny 15 °C

We knew we had a long day to walk, because of the spacing of the towns and the closeness of Santiago we tried to push ourselves and do around 35 kilometers. We left earlier than normal, however we had a couple of issues to overcome - the first one and half hours we had to walk in the dark; some dogs or wolves scared me (not Simon, who thought me being scared of wolves was funny); the mud and slippery rocks on the trek were really difficult to see, and we still had to see the signs and symbols along the trail to try to locate our way.

But I got a gorgeous gift this morning - a shooting star. I have not seen one of these stars for a long time. I asked my wish and enjoyed the pretty sky.

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We visited a few small towns, an old bridge across a big river and we entered the biggish city of Portomarin. We also found an Australian lady who has lived in a small village for the last two years and in her garden she has organized some tables, seats and donates food to the pilgrims. Her place is called Casa de Susana, it is a small place but has a nice authentic look to it with stone walls and a stone roof and is full of small details that are really impressive.

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Today I again met with some people that I met a long time ago, and it was great to see them again, as well as many new people. From this point, the following days are going to be busy as pilgrims need to walk only 100 kilometers to get the certificate, so lots of people, including locals are starting their camino at about this point and many people are impressed that we have walked the whole way.

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We stayed with a great couple and their puppy in Palas del Rey. They are such happy people who made us feel so welcome at their place and we had a lot of fun with them. Their puppy is so cute, it is like their child, and he is so naughty but they love him so much.

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Posted by erika_simon 15:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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