Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

October 4th, Day 1: Post Camino ‘Mission Accomplished’

Finisterre, the ‘end of the world’

We are supposed to meet Dima and Keren in front of the cathedral at 8am, and I wake up at 7:40. It is pouring outside, but we get up, pack up, check out and store our belongings at the front desk and cruise by the free breakfast area on the way out the door. I grab a banana and chug a coffee – so much for our free breakfast!

As we reach the hotel’s double doors, I see that the rain is falling just as hard as it was yesterday during our walk to Santiago. I want to go nowhere except back to the warm, dry bed I have just crawled out of, but we have one last mission to complete. So, we pull our ponchos over our heads and I put my flip flops on because my boots are too wet to wear, and we walk out into the dark morning.

zero km to go

Dima and Keren are waiting for us in front of the cathedral and we decide to try and take a taxi to the bus station. It’s 8:40 a.m. and we’re hoping to make the 9am bus to Finisterre. I’m becoming more cynical by the minute and as each occupied taxi passes by us, I doubt more and more that we will make this bus. Moments later, though, a free taxi stops in front of us. We pile in, trying to shed our wet ponchos before sitting down.

Enrique, our driver is calm and unphased by the weather and we tell him we want to go to the bus station. He asks where we’re headed and we say Finisterre. Without hesitation, he makes us an offer to personally take us there for 100 Euros for the four of us. I’m already sold. By the time we all pay for a bus fare there and back and add in the time saved, well, this is a good deal.

Keren, me, Tammy and Dima

We inquire about the return trip and how long he will wait for us, and we settle on a price of 135 Euros for a roundtrip fare and two hours to do as we wish while we are there. Just over 30 Euros each.

We begin the 90-minute journey there – the rain still falling hard, but the sun trying to shine through with just as much strength. Enrique finds us some good tunes, but the winding roads are getting to us all a bit. We are all physically and emotionally spent and the sangria and scotch were flowing for some the night before!

When we’re really feeling it, I spot a sign indicating we have 30k to go. It’s so odd to be in a car. 30km is an average day’s walk for us, and now we’re looking at a 30 minute drive!

Moments later, we reach a hill and the ocean sprawls out before us, looking more like liquid gold than blue seas.

Enrique recommends we go to the lighthouse first and we agree. We have definitely fallen into the right person’s hands. We pass a few pilgrims who are walking and we call out ‘Buen Camino’ from the car window.

We park in an empty lot and walk to the cross overlooking the Atlantic. We have the place to ourselves, well before the local and tourist busses arrive. Enrique snaps pictures of us with his iphone and asks us about our Camino.

It is so freeing to see the ocean and smell the salt air. There’s something about seeing the ocean sprawling out before you that makes you feel like going anywhere is possible.

We comment how this is really the end point of our Camino, but we all know what a new beginning this is. The Camino, and what it taught us all, will never fade. And with that, we know there’s one last thing that needs to be done before moving on. We offer Tammy some time, but she says we can all stay. She reaches into her backpack for a small sack and sprinkles her mother’s ashes out to sea. Two handfuls are carried into the ocean air. The four of us hug and I tell them I will never forget this moment.

Enrique our taxi driver/Finisterre tour guide

We walk further out to the edge of the earth and watch as the sun rises into and through the heavy clouds above.

Enrique suggests breakfast in the town and drives us to a cafe near the seaport. He waits for us down the road, and we find a cafe and order coffee with Baileys. Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ plays on the radio and the man running the bar whistles along. We have a small breakfast and finish our coffees and Enrique comes looking for us, letting us know it’s time to head back to Santiago.

Casa Felisa

We all doze on the car ride back, emotionally full, but physically flat from what we have just endured. The reality is catching up with everyone: We have just walked 800 kilometeres in one month.

We arrive back in Santiago and I check into the guesthouse where Dima and Keren stayed the night before, Casa Felisa. I book a small private room for 20 Euros a night. We all dump our bags and go out in search of some lunch. We are mostly incapable of making any decisions, but we wind up at a great tapas joint where we share meats, cheeses and Rioja.

I opt for an afternoon siesta while the others tour the pilgrim museum and wake up when they get back to say goodbye. They are bound for Barcelona, and will fly back to Israel tomorrow. This is a tough goodbye. I met Dima and Keren on day 6 of my Camino. Dima has a heart of gold, and welcomes everyone into the fold immediately. He’s a physicist whose heart is one humdred times bigger than his brain, and he is one smart guy! And Keren – Keren and I took some warming up to each other, but she is a woman of true compassion and warmth. It is so sad saying goodbye and it almost doesn’t feel real. It’s difficult to believe that these people who have become such permanent figures in my life in such a profound and intense way, will be gone now.

Monks with the Fumeria
Catedral de Santiago

Tammy and I have a vino tinto at the guesthouse and head out to attend the 7:30 service at the cathedral. We didn’t think we would be able to see the service and reach Finisterre, so we feel fortunate to be able to see this. We find two seats up front next to the main row of pews. I look around and spot fellow pilgrims during the service. Seamus and his crew have literally just arrived and they look weak and ragged. Bill and Jan, our Camino parents are sitting to the right of the alter, and Peter is to the left.

We listen to the service, conducted in Spanish, and hear the names of pilgrim’s home countries being read aloud.

Sunset over Santiago.

Mass finishes with the swinging fumeria, orchestrated by six monks, and with that, the Camino is officially over. We leave the cathedral at 8:30 and it’s cold and dark, but dry. We head back to Casa Felisa, ignoring the time and ordering one last vino tinto. Tammy’s taxi is due to arrive at 9, but at 9:10 it still hasn’t arrived. We call for another, knowing this one will show up, and we cheers and say one last “Buen Camino,” as the taxi lights shine through the guesthouse window.

We hug goodbye and Tammy gets into the taxi. She rolls down the window and tells me, “You’ll know where you’re going soon.” I feel a deep sense of comfort in this. Yes, Yes, I will.

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