The Wonderful Untidiness of Humanity
The final 200 km to Santiago went by in a blur. Walking in the pre-dawn darkness is magical. In open country, the path is just visible, in the woods, the branches would stroke my face when I drifted – at least, I think they were branches. However, I missed the kitchen chat and 40 km days were becoming too frequent.
In Santiago, I visited the cathedral and then the Pilgrim’s Office. They presented me with a compostsela. Written in Latin it recognizes that I have completed the pilgrimage – I have traded blisters for air miles in the hereafter.
Heaven is the open road and the next morning I shoulder the pack and follow the yellow arrows to first, Finisterra, and then, Muxia on the coast. It is rugged wild country, reminisant of Scotland. The Galician’s pride is reflected in their food and welcome. Rather than take the bus back to Santiago, I opted to hoof 55 km by road and then the following day it was an easy six hours back to the city. I have walked just over 1000 km in 35 days. My sadness that it was all over turned to joy as I repeatedly met friends who were now en route for Finisterra.
Although I often started out alone on an empty trail, the day is filled with chance encounters with people of all nationalities and backgrounds. Every evening is a surprise; it could be a raucous party overflowing with food and wine or bare bones facilities and cold showers.
Many of us live in a cushioned world, unnoticed our windows and computer screens have become mirrors. On the Camino, we saddled our dreams, laced our boots and joined a thousand years of the wonderful untidiness of humanity that strode under the archway in St. Jean Pier de Port for the 1450m climb over the Col de Lepoeder. We quickly learn two sureties: nature doesn’t negotiate and most folk who are prepared to walk thirty kilometres a day for five weeks are good company. Heavy packs blew knees and ankles while skipped meals left you walking on empty the following day. Blister management becomes high art.
The cognoscenti pierce them with needle and thread, the thread remains in the foot so that the blister will continue to drain. I will darn my sweater, before I darn my feet. Pierce, squish and daub with tincture of iodine works for me. Soaking feet in the cold water of the many fountains along the way puts the spring back in the step. It is all about listening to your body and the senses as they come alive.
Tinkling cowbells, the raucous babble of languages around the dinner table, cockerels crowing in the dawn. The aroma of fresh bread and coffee drifting over the cobblestones. The distant church spire that heralds lodging for the night or a backward glance at misty blue hills and the thought – Wow! I was there this morning. The gimpy gait that comes when you walked too far the day before and have sat for too long. The delight at rounding a corner and there, sitting at the fountain, are your dinners partners from a few days ago – and the stories begin all over again.