The Way, Day 41

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[Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela]

Total Distance: 16.5 km
Total Time: 3.75h
Total Euro:  77/person
Route:  Amenal to Santiago de Compostela

500 miles, 37 days, three mountain ranges, two days of rain and only one fight later, E and I arrived in Santiago.  A part of me expected vast hordes of pilgrims, palm fronds, rice showers and hosannahs from admiring onlookers, but instead E and I walked almost the whole day without seeing anyone and slipped into Santiago quietly.  Despite the later than usual start and the hangover, we made great time and arrived in Santiago just before the pilgrim’s mass.  Originally, we intended to go to mass tomorrow, but somehow it felt right to drift into the cathedral straight from the road.  A little tired, a little hungry, very dirty and wet (we only had to pull out our rainwear twice on this trip – once on our first day over the Pyrenees, and today.  That, too, felt fitting), we filed our way into the church and found a place to stand in the back.  Sometime around the eucharist, a group of pilgrims sitting on the floor in front of us started pulling snacks from their packs and eating them.  I don’t really connect with Catholicism anymore, but I was still annoyed at their rudeness.  Then, moments later, I saw several priests up on the altar filming the swinging of the incense (Santiago is famous for swinging this giant thing of incense suspended from the ceiling at the end of mass) with their smartphones and I had to laugh when I realized that this was not the super solemn experience that it’s made out to be. 

After mass we went to find our hotel, get cleaned up and eat some lunch.  We spent the rest of the afternoon watching TV and eventually found our way downstairs for a pizza and some sparkling wine to celebrate. 

It’s weird that it’s “over.”  It reminds me a little of the story of the enlightened monk who says that after attaining enlightenment, one simply goes back to chopping wood.  In not sure how it will feel tomorrow to wake up and not walk.  Luckily, the hotel we’re staying in has a treadmill, so if I’m really at a loss as to what to do with myself, I can put in 6h on that thing. 

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