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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We done!

Completing the Camino!

Santiago Cathedral

Encountering some of our Camino friends
Monday, May 9 we walked into Santiago at about noon-finishing a walk of 500 miles.  Can't say we had any deep emotional feelings, just relief and gratitude for good weather almost throughout.  We'd intended to continue on to Finisterre (end of land) about 60 miles beyond, at the coastline, which a few pilgrims decide to do, but decided to begin our Portugal vacation instead. 
Santiago is another modern city with an ancient core with about 250,000 people, similar in size and style to Pamplona, Burgos and Leon, any of which is worth days of exploration. But having seen the others and eager to move on, we strolled the winding narrow stone streets, observed a pilgrim mass in the legendary cathedral where the bones of St  James are reputedly interred, enjoyed a final beer with Camino friends, and headed out the next AM.
Pilgrim friends:  we enjoyed a brisk walk on our penultimate day with Phillip and Judy from England, who filled us in on travel in S. America-next year's travel idea.  On our final day we were accompanied by John from Calgary, who walked into Santiago with us, completing his third Compostela.  His wife has completed it four times!  His reason for walking was to lose weight and strengthen his knee for upcoming surgery.  Everyone has their own reason. 
At the beginning of the walk, we heard heart wrenching stories from people hoping to find peace or resolve problems.  Toward the end, we saw fewer familiar faces and had less meaningful contact, as many people entered the walk at about 100 kilometers back, the minimum required distance to receive the compostela.

One other pilgrim story-leaving Santiago we were seated on the bus behind a Korean guy, and he spoke pretty good English.  His name is Simon and his family has been Catholic for about 400 years, with numerous nuns and priests among his relatives.  He left Seoul in mid December on a ship bound for Vladivostok, Russia, then boarded the trans Siberian railway for a 30 day trip across Russia, with an occasional overnight stay in a town along the way.  He then visited Moscow and St Petersburg and made his way to Southern France, where he began his walk on the Camino at the same starting point as Layne and I.  He is one pilgrim who did continue to Finisterre, and at that point he burned some paintings he had done for his ex fiance as an act of letting go and moving on.


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