September 20, 2004
Am almost caught up to today - exciting because Santiago is so intoxicatingly gorgeous its hard not to forget the rest.
Saturday - continued
Once it stopped raining and we got our stuff settled into the albergue - one large room with 20 bunk beds, stone walls with wood beam ceilings and faux wood floors which were a lot softer on the feet than the tile we've mostly been having. (We were joking yesterday that we could tell by feel the difference between dirt, packed dirt, mud, asphalt, cement, and stone underfoot immediately without having to look).
The city of Arzua is pretty and unlike the rest of the places we've been has a strong sense of having a life outside the camino pilgrimage - we saw normal people going about their day to day lives there. The three of us sat at a cafe and had some coffee and then a little while later (there's no dinner available at places until after 8pm usually) Thali and I shared an order of pulpo (octopus). Was a little doubtful - we'd seen an octopus pulled out of a boiling cauldron whole and directly served to a table in Melide and I didn't want any part of *that*. But since pulpo is a regional dish thought I should try it. What we had was fantastic - don't think I need to have it again but was great cooked up with some red pepper and olive oil.
Next morning we left early, petrified that we wouldn't get sleeping space at our next spot in Arca and unable to sleep with the usual albergue noise. When we got out of the albergue it was still full dark so we congratulated ourselves on getting an early start. Then as we got out of the city and realized that while we could see the stars and the milky way we couldn't see the trail we were supposed to be on, well we realized there was a real problem. So we stood there on the trail for a few minutes waiting for a sudden miraculous dawn. That didn't come along but some Spanish pilgrims did, with a flashlight. So we asked if we could walk with them and they graciously let us. Then further in the woods when their light started going out and we couldn't see if the road was forking, a French pilgrim came along with an even brighter light and the gang of us continued until it was bright enough to each go at out own paces.
Don't know what was up that day but SS the SS, Thali and I trekked. We´d planned on an ambitious 4K per hour (ambitious because we were tired and sore and the trail was supposed to be hilly-ish) but managed 5 and got into Arca an hour ahead of schedule.
We waited outside in the strong sunshine, picked up some cafes con leche while we were waiting, the albergue finally opened (they say 1 but it is usually more like 1:30) we put our packs up on our beds and rested up. Later in the afternoon snagged some lunch and coffees (there's little theft in the albergues amazingly - you need to take your money, passport and any other valuables but there appears to be little market value for dirty hiking clothes ; ). Did some laundry (again, an albergue with a washer and dryer), sat out in the sunshine, later on in the day SS the SS and I wandered up to the parish church and then around the nearby farmland. It was a nice time - there's so much of the trip that's been interacting with tons of people that it was great to be ambling out in the countryside quietly talking about spiritual lessons learned on the trip with an old good friend like her.
Woke up with a a ton of mosquito bites and snagged a scalding shower (morning time is the only time you can get a hot shower!) before heading out. We'd called for a hotel reservation in Santiago so despite it being a long day we knew we had all day to do it. Stopped for a cafe con leche and some breakfast and began the long trek (about 22K). Woods (there we ran into Mateo, the Italian From Luxemburg we met in Ferriros, along the way which was great!) a small town that seemed to really dislike pilgrims despite getting most of its business from them, went up over Monte de Gozo (the last big hill before Santiago) and then began the trek into the city.
We were excited when we crossed the bridge into the city but then still had over an hour following the familiar waymarkers until we got into the old quarter of the town and then finally to the cathedral.
Turning the corner to see it... oh my goodness I can't describe how amazing it is. It is baroque madness with saint after saint, finials, delicate ornamentation galore out of stone. Its huge staggering and whether lit up at night or sandy colored form the sun it is really glorious. We went in through the Holy Door (only opened during Holy Years) and visited the Saint's statue and tomb. Then we picked up our compostela (the certificates that said we completed the pilgrimage). It was just wild to have finally finished!
Our first hotel was a standard European Pensione so we decided to see if we could find something better. And we so did - our current place is only a little more a night and has three (albeit small) balconies, private bathroom, and a view of the cathedral, that's right, right from a room a view - just going out there you can hear the sounds of people walking by, of the bells of the cathedral... its magical. Either that or its massive dehydration from the over 113K we walked talking - but I don´t think so.
That's it for tonight - the last couple of days otherwise have been sleeping, touristing, going to confession and attending the Pilgrims' Mass (he last couple of steps we had to go through to get a Plenary Indulgence - very cool that the Prince of Spain and his wife were there!), shopping, walking around the city, taking a million pictures.
We have one more day here, Thursday's the almost 11 hour train ride back to Bilbao, and then I leave to return back to DC on Friday (looking forward to seeing you Demmert and/or Fabian - British Airways, Dulles, about 11pm ; ).
[Later note -- didn't take the train because we couldn't get a hotel in Bilbao because of some conference. So we decided to take an overnight bus as a way to have a place to spend the night. So it was an 11 hour drive, and 11 hour torturous drive through hills that left me ill for four or five hours as we traveled A Coruna's twisty roads. We got into Bilbao at about 5, spent a little time in the bus station, moved to the train station (a little less skeevy), then at 8 was able to move to a cafe. We pretty much slept at the table. Thali and SS the SS had snagged a hotel that let them check in early so we showered, rested, then they came with me to the airport in Bilbao and I flew on out!]
The whole trip's been amazing but am looking forward to heading back home and trying to carry some of the peace and gratefulness I've picked up here back into life there. That and I've missed those of you there... So see you soon and much love!
all text, images (except those noted) copyright 2002-2010 Moryma Aydelott.