July 19:  O Pina to Santiago de Compostela  43,694 steps

And The Group Is Ready for That Last Walk to Santiago de Compostela!!

Today is the final kilometers of the Camino.  It is hard to believe that we have come almost 500 miles on foot.  As the sun began to rise we grouped in the hotel breakfast room for breakfast and pictures.  We had begun in Hondaribba with pictures by the bay and now were poising in a small breakfast room in a inn deep in the countryside outside of Santiago.  The mood was a combination of excitement, wonder and reflection of what we had done.

Each one of us had a plan for the day that may or may not include others.  A couple of us wanted to just walk the last day alone and enjoy the environment and silence.  Others wanted to stay as the group that they had become along the Camino.  We were on the French route now, so being totally alone was not possible as there were so many people walking those last 100 kilometers as their Camino.

The sky threatened rain, but produced only dark clouds so the day was not going to turn to a blistering hot day.  The route took us through a few small hamlets that seemed to have been tied in time.  A man was towing his fat cow up a hill with his wife following with a switch in case the cow had different ideas.  Dogs barked, but with little force, so were almost forgotten.  The villagers along the route seemed anxious to make sure that each pilgrim stayed on course and didn't get lost.  Some just hung out the windows and encouraged you to turn at the next house or stream.

Once again it was the walk through the Middle Earth with moss clinging to the trees and the ferns stretching up to the little sunlight that seeped through.

Kilometer after kilometer the route climbed up those last hills.  About half way there the sight of the Santiago airport brought you back to the reality of real life only to lose it again as you turned up into another woods.  Between O Pina and Santiago there aren't very many places to stop and grab a coke or coffee, so the occasional rock or wall becomes the resting spot.  

A few kilometers out of the city, just as it was becoming visible in the distance stands a huge monument on a hillside guarding the city below.  There is an albuergue here that many of the pilgrims stop at so that they can enter the city by sunrise the next morning.  This pilgrim did not.  The sight of the city that was merely a name on a piece of paper so many days ago was the driving force to continue.  The route takes you down the hillside and into the city through the city Portal.  Then it is the walk that goes on forever through the city to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  It stands proudly in the middle of the historical section dominating the skyline.  It was built in the 10 century by the pope after the discovery of St James remains were found.  The remains that had been buried 900 years before by some monks and forgotten until a light shown over the area long enough to summon the pope for an explanation.  

The last kilometer is probably the longest of the trip.  The mind races as you trudge up the old street and through the large doors of the church.  There in front of you is the magnificent altar and the statue of St James.  The pilgrim tradition is to climb the tiny stairs behind the altar and hug the statue as well as place your hand on the hand print deeply grooved in a column at the entrance, each time giving thanks.  Then descend into the catacombs below the altar to view the crypt of St James.

Immediately following the tour of the interior a pilgrim needs to exit and report to the Office of the Peregrino where the credentials are examined and the Compostela is issued.  The Compostela is the official declaration that you are a true pilgrim!

Then it is off to celebrate the accomplishment!

All Signs lead to Santiago!

Monte del Gozu

Those Last Two Kilometers

The Outer City Limits!!!!

The Inner City Limits!!!!!

The Last "Off Road" Path into Santiago


Portal to Santiago

Closeup of Hand on Portal

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral of Santiago -- side view

Fountain in Front of Cathedral

Student Band at Steps of Cathedral