Sep 222013
 

September 2013
9.9 miles – 23,500 steps

DSC_5007Today was bitter sweet. My feet are so glad we are done, and frankly I could not have done anymore without a few days rest, but none-the-less, it has been a journey worth it all.

The last leg is really uneventful. Truth is most of it is through exactly the sort of area we had walked before and as you close in on Santiago, the road becomes the entry to a large town. Factories, surrounded by large parking lots and then the suburbs and then town.

We entered the church like any good pilgrim and sat for a while. It is really stunning inside with so much history.

DSC_5164There is a famous botafumeiro in the church. It is the largest censer for spreading incense smoke in the world. It weights 175 pounds and is 5 feet tall. It is hung on a pully system above the altar, requiring 8 men to get it to reach its top speed of 80 kph. It is said the censer was installed to cover the stench of all the unwashed pilgrims – and that is not hard to believe!

After, we headed to the pilgrim office to receive our Compostela. You stand in a long line, fortunately we arrived where our wait was no more than 15 minutes, when we left the line was way out the door. You are directed to a counter by a guide, it feels just like any passport/visa office in the world. The women that were directing were Americans. They are American Pilgrims on the Camino. The one women that put my Compostela in a tube for safe traveling was from Nevada City. You can read more about them at www.americanpilgrims.com.

DSC_4972Once you get to the counter they check your stamps. You are given a sheet where you put your name, city, age, how you did the camino i.e. walk, horse, bicycle, and then answer if you did it for religious purposes or another reason. I was about the 15th person to sign the sheet I signed, I saw Dallas Texas, Bangor Maine, London, Santa Barbara and others I don’t recall. I would love to read just a few of the sheets, they must hold the most interesting collection of travelers.

After a few minutes you are handed a certificate completely in Latin, including your name that says you did it! ( I assume that is what it says, as my Latin is a tad rusty – for all I know it says thank you for spending your hard earned money killing your feet, getting blisters and eating our delicious Galician food).

The line is a fun one to stand in. We were in front of two men from New York that had walked the entire Camino 800 kilometers from St John, France. They took 31 days, which is actually rather fast. As people strolled in and out, people they had started out with would come running over and hug and cry – the Camino creates quite a bond.

Tomorrow Julie leaves out of La Couruna via the train, depending on the weather I may go with her for the morning and then come back via train. I have one more full day to spend photographing Santiago and then home.

DSC_4979A few things I have learned. While it sound so very cliche, you get out of the Camino what you put into it. We have met so very many interesting people, and everyone’s Camino is different. But I found that upbeat happy people had a good Camino despite the hardships, that complainers are complainers and always will be, but I also found that people on the Camino that were looking for something didn’t really find it, my opinion is because what they were looking for was inside them, and they weren’t looking there.

Regarding Spain, and in particular Galicia. Spain has suffered from the world economic slow down as badly, and worse than most. This mornings news had an article about a fellow that posted to his facebook account how he had a Masters degree and yet was forced to go to England to look for work, and there he only found work as a barista. Here is the link if you are interested: http://www.businessinsider.com/benja-serra-bosch-spains-unemployment-icon-2013-10

We were stopped on the road by a woman named Lynette. She was an American, and we think she just wanted to talk to Americans, she works as a health care worker in Santiago. She said that Galicia has lost its spirit and gumption, that everyone has gone underground and is to fearful to do new and different things for fear of loosing even more money, and so the citizenship has become mired in inaction.

DSC_4911I found this particularly true, in that there really was no entrepreneurship on the Camino, many times you would hear Americans (and really only Americans) say if I had a place on the Camino I would do this, and you had to agree with them, there is so much opportunity and yet they have not grabbed hold of it. You can counter that with the fact that it would make the Camino even more commercial, but when you are trying desperately to find work, new ideas are what it takes to get the economy stimulated, and there are approximately 2000 pilgrims that finish the Camino in Santiago EVERY DAY, selling just half of them a decent hamburger would bring in a lot of money :-).

Well if you have read all of my missives, and have gotten this far down each of the pages, you are a true friend and reader and I thank you.

Saying of the Day: Enjoy your successes, but also enjoy the moment!

Buon Camino!