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Camino de Santiago

Walking to Santiago

Walking to Santiago

walking to Santiago de Compostela

Hoping to savour my last day on the Camino de Santiago, I left my final pension in Arca rather late.  With the rains of the day before finally past, the trail had an ethereal and misty presence in the morning.  It was the perfect atmosphere for my final day of walking into Santiago.  With such soft light, I couldn’t help but take tons of photos.  I wanted to soak it all in and remember the beauty along my journey.  Was it really over so fast?  It was like I had barely started and I wasn’t ready to be finished!

Camino Frances

The morning walk started through the eucalyptus forest.  A drier continuation of the day before.  Everyone was jubilant – today was the big day!  Today we were all walking our different journeys to Santiago de Compostela.  For many, the Way of St James was coming to an end.

I was filled with mixed emotions as I walked along.  There was a party atmosphere amongst those walking in groups, everyone was stopping for photos along the way.  In some ways, this was the destination that I was walking for – the end goal was in sight.  But was it really?  After all, it is about the journey – not the destination!  Had the Camino changed me?  What had I learned?  Did I know why I was walking?

philosophy

These thoughts were quickly eaten up with excitement as I left the tranquil forest setting and walked towards Santiago.  Civilization started to rear its head as I walked past the airport.  Another reminder that this journey was coming to an end.  Next milestone - Monte del Gozo.   At 370m above sea level – Monte del Gozo was the highest point of the day.  It had a pic nic feel to it and a huge monument commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit.  Sprawling out for under this vantage point – the suburbs of Santiago lay ahead.

Monte del Gozo

The last 4.7K (there was a sign posted just past the crest of the hill) were the longest 4.7kms ever!  Perhaps it was the excitement and anticipation of arriving in Santiago, but this stretch just seemed to take forever!  My mind was playing tricks on me – would I ever get there already???  Did I want to actually get there?  I didn’t necessarily want it to end.  Walking the Camino had become a way of life for me – each day packing my backpack and moving on to the next village, the simple daily rhythm moving only to the pace of my feet.  Slowly, I wound my way through the suburbs, mingling with locals and tourists out on their national holiday under I finally saw them….the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago.

The excitement I felt as I set eyes upon the church is hard to describe.  How do you describe it?  I read somewhere that the Camino de Santiago takes approximately 15 million steps (although I can no longer find that quote online to double check).  The culmination of 43 days of traveling the Camino welled up inside me – I had made it!  I was almost there!  My feet felt lighter as they made their way through the final maze of streets…I almost grew impatient with the people I was walking with – they may have actually taken more photos than me!  I wanted to be there!  I could hardly wait to get there – to stand in the middle of the Cathedral plaza (Praza Obradoiro) and soak it all it.  It had been a personal journey, and while I had planned on arriving alone – I couldn’t wait to share it with the people I had walked with.

My heart beat and mind were racing as I walked through the final passageway.  A man stood under the arch playing the bagpipes.  The music was so fitting as I stepped back out into the sun.  Stretched out before me was the plaza.  Then I turned to see the Cathedral – it was so grand, it took my breath away!  I don’t know how long I stood there, but I just stood for a while in the Praza Obradoiro, looking at the Cathedral, soaking it all in!

success

Suddenly, there was noise all around.  People were arriving and cheering, celebrations and reunions could be heard from every corner of the plaza.  We had all done it!  Hugs and excitement all round before cameras went into overdrive.

oficina de pelegrino

Next stop – the oficina del Peregrino to register my arrival and receive my Compostela.  Not far from the Cathedral, I got there to huge lines of pilgrims and the volunteer suggested I come back later when it was quieter.  With that, I head off to find my hotel and a well deserved shower.

Marriott hotel near the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

I returned a few hours later to much shorter lines.  Everyone was excited and buzzing as we waited in line, slowly climbing the steps to the office.  My feet were on fire and I could hardly wait….one step at a time, I climbed with my fellow pilgrims until finally, it was my turn.

Pilgrim's office in Santiago

A few simple questions later and presto….I had my shining Compostela certificate in my hot little hands!  I had done it….I had walked 800 Km across Spain, following in the footsteps of millions before me as I made the St James pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela!

I did it!

A few interesting Statistics from the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago for Pilgrims finishing October 2012

  • 18,085 pilgrims were received in the Santiago Pilgrim’s office
  • 87.7% of pilgrims arrived on foot
  • 7,767 (42.4%) were women
  • breakdown by age: <30 years old: 19.4%, 30-60 years old: 58.5%,  >60 years old: 22.1%
  • 639 Canadians, including myself, finished in October
  • 3,657 (20.2%), including myself, started in St Jean Pied du Port in the French Pyrenees to complete the Way of St James, also know as the Camino Frances

Statistics on the Camino de Santiago taken from the Pilgrim’s Office website: The Pilgrimage to Santiago

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About Anita Mac

The bucket list just keeps growing! The more I cross off - the more exciting new destinations and activities I find! I have been fortunate enough to travel a considerable distance over the years. My love of many things, including travel, cycling, kayaking and photography fit together like hand and glove. I have to keep asking myself....where to next? I am happy to share my travels and photography through my blogs: http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com and http://anitamacphotos.wordpress.com Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! On to the next adventure!

Discussion

43 thoughts on “Walking to Santiago

  1. You did it!!! Thanks for taking us with you!

    Posted by ashleypaige4 | November 9, 2012, 9:50 am
  2. What an amazing journey! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Janet Darby (Perth, Ont.) | November 9, 2012, 11:11 am
  3. Anita, I had tears taking in and reading your ending story of Walking to Santiago. I feel like I have been there with you on this journey on the Camino. I could sense myself there and arriving at the end of this time on the Camino and being overwhelmed with emotions of this huge achievement in my life… thank you for bringing me there in spirit… maybe one day I will walk it with my sister. I have tremendously enjoyed you taking the time to share with us your amazing journey on the Camino. Now some pampering is in order for you. Blessings! xo

    Posted by Suzanne McRae | November 9, 2012, 11:43 am
    • Thanks Suzanne – that is the nicest thing anyone could say! I am glad you felt like you were there too! It was such an emotional day – a day I had walked towards yet didn’t want to end. I hope you and D are able to go – you will have such an amazing experience. Traveling as 2 sisters, I am sure the experience will be extra special and something you will cherish forever!

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:39 am
  4. Way to Go Girl – Congrats – YAY!!! Time to Celebrate – Have a Wonderful Weekend:)

    Posted by cravesadventure | November 9, 2012, 12:53 pm
  5. Welcome back to the world Anita !!!
    One of your best pictures is the one above asking “why are you walking”.
    You know the answer now !
    Thanks for taking me/us along all the way.

    Posted by pim | November 9, 2012, 1:58 pm
    • My pleasure Pim. You are right – I don’t know who painted “why are you walking” along the way – but it was so well timed and gave me plenty to think about. I think some of the thoughts behind why I was walking evolved as I did along the Camino. There were a lot of life lessons learned along the way!

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:42 am
  6. Congrats Anita! It reminds me of my friend who went on an unforgettable cycling pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

    Posted by Herman | November 9, 2012, 2:06 pm
    • Thanks Herman and Bowie. I would love to do the pilgrimage on a bike some time in the future. I think it would be a completely different experience. I met a number of cyclists over drinks and dinner and learned that their experience was in fact very different. As a cyclist – I think the route would be quite amazing, even if many parts are on the road as opposed to the Camino. Will need to work on my mountain bike skills first!

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:45 am
  7. Alls I can say is WOW!

    The DC

    Posted by disabledcyclist | November 9, 2012, 2:44 pm
  8. Amazing accomplishment! Well done, and thank you for sharing it!

    Posted by Mo | November 9, 2012, 8:28 pm
  9. Wow, 800kms. Amazing!
    Congratulations, what an experience. Im in admiration.

    Posted by drawandshoot | November 9, 2012, 8:40 pm
    • Beautiful pictures, also! I loved ‘following’ your footsteps, Anita.

      Posted by drawandshoot | November 9, 2012, 8:42 pm
      • Thank you. It is a little daunting when we think of it as 800K, but when you break it down day by day – it is a totally amazing experience and the best thing – the amazing is day after day too! Glad you were able to follow in my footsteps and see some of the landscape through my lens. More photos to come – still working my way through as I went a little camera crazy!!!!

        Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:48 am
  10. What a fantastic achievement, Anita – VERY WELL DONE!

    Posted by Marianne | November 10, 2012, 12:43 am
    • Thanks Marianne! I am quite pleased with my achievement – but even more pleased with the experience. I know that I was very lucky to be able to do this journey. The old proverb about the journey being more important than the destination is so true – and I was truly blessed to have taken it! I hope more people who are interested in undertaking this journey are able to do so – it was worth the time investment to learn a little more about myself and the world.

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:50 am
      • I´m sure that´s right about the journey being more important than the destination.

        I have an Australian friend who is coming over to Spain next year to do the whole walk. I´m hoping to join her, but only for the last 100kms. I shall be one of those “tourist walkers”! :)

        So, now that the Camino is finished, what next for you?

        Posted by Marianne | November 10, 2012, 11:17 am
      • That is awesome – you will love it! I am sure, like many others, you will start with the final 100K and wish you could have done more! If you can squeeze in an extra day or 2 – the start from O’Cebreiro at 155K to the finish would also be gorgeous. While you start at a high point – the walk and views are stunning. I also thought the town itself was quite lovely and had a great atmosphere. Many also start at Sarria (115K to go). Fantastic town – we had a sunny afternoon and it was great fun to sit in the busy town square and catch up with friends from the road and watch people come and go.

        As for what is next – I am still working on that – but I will share all the adventurous details once I have it figured out!

        Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 12:02 pm
  11. I have a significant birthday next year and am planning on ‘marking’ it. Walking the Camino is on my short list. I’ve felt so privileged to have ‘joined’ you on your journey and am delighted to see you finish successfully.

    Posted by frugalfirstclasstravel | November 10, 2012, 1:38 am
    • Walking the Camino would be an amazing way to “mark” your significant birthday. Many people that I met along the way were doing just that! Please feel free to drop me a note as you get closer to your journey – I would be thrilled to answer any questions to help you make it happen! Whatever your choice – I hope you have a wonderful birthday of significance next year – enjoy it to the maximum.

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 10, 2012, 9:52 am
  12. Anita, I am so proud of your accomplishment and can only dream of someday walking it with my sister. I, too, feel as though I have been there in spirit with you through this amazing life experience. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes reading about your last steps and seeing those great pictures depicting those last moments of your journey. Congratulations again!

    Posted by Denise | November 12, 2012, 10:23 am
    • Thanks Denise! I have to admit, I had goosebumps reliving the moment. It is hard to imagine setting out across a country like that and such a feeling of accomplishment fills you up when you take that last step! I must admit, I am already starting to dream of the next adventure! Hope you and your sister get to walk the Camino together – you will create some amazing experiences and memories together. That special sister bond will only be enhanced from the time on the Camino.

      Posted by Anita Mac | November 29, 2012, 8:29 am
  13. Yay!! Congratulations, Anita! I imagine it’s going to take a while for it all to sink in. :)

    Posted by Robin | November 20, 2012, 3:38 pm
  14. What a wonderful journey. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by mapsalesdotcom | November 29, 2012, 6:52 pm
  15. That wonderful adventure. You did it fulfill your dream. That makes me very happy.
    Viva la vida…, she always gives us a chance, that makes it interesting.
    Cruz…

    Posted by 1cruzdelsur | December 1, 2012, 11:30 pm
  16. So cool! Have you ever read a book called The Ramsey Scallop? It is a great story about medieval pilgrims.

    Posted by Naomi Baltuck | February 9, 2013, 4:41 am
  17. I just featured a photo of yours on my weekly Camino Photo of the Week. http://wp.me/p2BdSC-jI What engaging and exciting site you have here. Your writing and photos are terrific. Happy trails.

    Posted by Adam Nathan | March 18, 2013, 12:00 am
  18. Anita, I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading thru your Camino experience. I am a solo female and looking to make the pilgrimage before my 30th birthday in September of next year. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Posted by Shirley | May 10, 2013, 9:13 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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