Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

October 3rd, Day 32: Pedrouzo to Santiago ‘The Proverbial Finish Line’

Arriving weathered on the outskirts of Santiago.

I suppose the last day of walking should be memorable, and memorable it is. I enter into today trying to have no expectations. I have heard how anticlimactic the finish of the Camino can be, so I don’t want to have my hopes up for anything earth shattering, plus, how could one day beat the culmination of the last five weeks? I may also be playing down my emotions here – I am shocked at how quickly the time has passed and I am truly sad to see this walk come to an end. I have however done a damn good job of learning to live in the moment and I’ve savored each day on the Camino.

Tammy and I have really clocked some kilometers in the past few days… 75 in the last two days to be exact, and after chilling out after dinner last night, we aren’t exactly jumping out of bed for an early start. I sleep well and barely stir when other pilgrims are waking and packing up to leave at 5:30 this morning.


I finally wake up around 7 — to the sound of hard rain falling outside. I feel bad for everyone who is already out in it. Tammy and I pack up our stuff for the last day of walking and head across the road for a coffee. The cafe is playing long lost 80s and 90s music, and I come back to life with a capuccino and we sit til the rain stops.

The weather is odd this morning, very different to what we are used to. The rain has stopped but the winds are vicious – I think to myself, winds of change.

We set out and besides the odd sprinkle, we are spared the rain showers for a bit. We walk through forests just out of town and have a couple of steady climbs. It is actually a pretty morning.

An hour in, the rain begins, at first a steady rain but one that grows in strength with each hour that passes. We stop near an airport about 15km from Santiago and get our ponchos on. I am so lucky my poncho was replaced in Sarria because my thin yellow sheet of plastic would have never weathered this storm.

We stop at one of the only places open for a bite to eat, and they are offering a hot breakfast special: toast, eggs, bacon, fresh orange juice and a cortado. We are damp and cold and order one to share. The place is packed seeing as it’s one of the only places to eat and also a way for people to take shelter til the rain passes. It shows no signs of passing, or easing up though.

There is no point in waiting any longer. We are only delaying the inevitable. Ponchos and packs back on, we set out to complete the last 15km. The rain falls hard and the wind whips into us from every direction. My core stays dry for the most part, and my boots hold up for a surprisingly long time, and we keep a good pace, the rain and cold encouraging a faster walk than normal.

The rain begins to fall even harder now, forming little rivers on the hills we’re climbing up and down. Tammy and I laugh – there’s nothing else we can do. I say to her, “Someone told me this quote recently (I think it was Keren)… When you think you’ve got it bad, God will show you worse. When you think you’ve got it good, God will show you even better.” It’s pretty bad, but we know it could be A LOT worse. We don’t let the conditions phase us and that’s because of a combination of things, the last day walking plays an important part in it all.

Catedral de Santiago

Shortly before approaching Monte de Gozo, we make a left turn and we’re walking straight into gale force winds, whipping rain and quite possibly, some hail. We put our heads down and I look over to see bubbles oozing out of the toebox of Tammy’s hiking boots with each step she takes. Our feet are now saturated.

Just after passing Monte de Gozo, we see a sign for 4.7km. I calculate that we have about one more hour to go. After a steady descent on the outskirts of the city, and with a brief break in the rain, we stop for a photo opp at the first sign for Santiago that we see. Tour busses pass by and we know we must look a sight.

We are so close now, but I feel no true sense of excitement to get there, just mixed emotions: admittedly, relief that I don’t have to walk anywhere tomorrow and sadness that the Camino will soon be over.

Celebratory vino tinto.

The rain and wind let up and we somewhat dry out on our approach to the cathedral. I feel weathered, literally, and tired, and with less than 1km to go, a sense of drunken dizziness hits me. But shortly after, we are walking down the cobblestone streets of Santiago, approaching the Cathedral. We walk straight to it and stand in front of it. We are here. We look around at groups of people congregating in the square.

We have organized to meet the entire group at 7pm in front of the cathedral, so we make a plan to get to our hotel, check in, clean up, get our compostellas and have some celebratory vino tinto.

We have arranged to stay at San Martin Pinario – a four-star hotel that has a separate floor for pilgrims. I think my expectations are slightly too high and I’m a little disappointed in the stark, basic room. Still, we have clean towels and soft bed linens and the shower is the best thing ever. I wring out my walking clothes, but there’s no hope for my boots…they will take days to dry out!

With Laura and Adam in Santiago (Woodstock)

We set out to get our compostellas and begin running into familiar faces. Before we’ve made it out of the hotel, we run into Russ from Atlanta. He is leaving tomorrow and is off to mail some things home. We exchange info and promise we will get together in Atlanta when I return home from my travels.

En route to the compostella office, I run into my friends from Woodstock, Laura and Adam. I haven’t seen them since the meseta. I’m still sporting my tee shirt and we get a photo in front of the cathedral and exchange info as well. It’s like the Camino is coming full circle!

We arrive at the pilgrim’s office and have to wait in line for about 20 minutes. I get to the desk, and I’m asked by a fellow pilgrim and volunteer for my name, my starting point and my reasons for doing the Camino. He fills out my compostella and gives me my last stamp or ‘sello’ in my pilgrim passport. And that’s it.

The crew before our final dinner in Santiago

Just outside of the pilgrim’s office, we look up to see Lynne sitting at an outside cafe table. She has only hours before she will leave Santiago. We haven’t seen her since week three. We hug her hello and goodbye all at once, and it starts to sink in… there are about to be a lot of goodbyes.

We are delirious, hungry and full of mixed emotions, which makes for an interesting afternoon. We wonder aimlessly, looking for the perfect place to have a vino tinto, and we wind up in a dingy cafe with two bar tables. I am emotional – one minute I’m fine and the next, my eyes are welling up with tears. We head to a market, pick up some snacks and head back to the room for a rest before dinner.

At 7pm, we head to the square and our whole group is here – Dima, Keren, Ramon, Kyle, Jennifer, Tammy and me. Plus Peter, Julia, Eric and Serge, and Logan – who I unfortunately only meet on the last day of the Camino.  I see Gerogie’s mum, Penny. She will leave tomorrow morning and miss Gerogie’s arrival in Santiago. We bid farewell, and then our crew heads to dinner.

Tapas and Vino to celebrate the finish of the Camino.

Despite it being our last official night together, spirits are high. The tapas are endless and delicious, and the wine and sangria are flowing, everyone well aware that we don’t need to be up to walk tomorrow. Everyone is in the mood to let lose, but for some reason, after dinner, when everyone is making plans to bar hop in Santiago, I feel like being by myself. I head to one bar with the crew and then make a quick exit. I need quiet, contemplation time, time to reflect and decompress. I say my goodbyes, knowing that I will see everyone again tomorrow and I walk back to the hotel, passing the cathedral and cutting through a side alleyway where street musicians play. As I pass by, “What a Wonderful World” is being played. I sit and listen a little while longer before going inside.

As much as post-Camino emotions flood my head and heart, I have an indescribable feeling of deep peace, a sense of ease and relaxation in my whole being that I’ve never quite experienced before. It trumps my heavy heart and minimizes any thoughts of ‘what next?’ that come creeping in.

I crawl into bed and scroll through the photos from tonight. It is all smiles all around. I know the Camino isn’t over. It’s far from over. To begin with. we have an important mission to cover tomorrow, and with each new day following, I know my experiences from the last five weeks will shape every step I take moving forward.  I fall asleep, waking briefly when Tammy returns in the wee hours of the morning, and then sleep until the alarm goes off. Despite not having to walk today, we have somewhere very important we need to be.

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