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Camino Santiago...till we meet again.

This is part of a series of posts written on our Camino journey.

Post 7 Read the previous post here

Written by my sister Mary-Lou Navaratnam

8 May, 2019

(Err...this is pretty much my experience too, except that the argument was all my sister Mary-Lou's fault!)


Two pilgrims pose besides a bas relief street plaque with camino symbols

And so we woke early on the last of our walking days, sad that our Camino was coming to an end and that we would have liked to have gone on for a couple more days. The walking notes said that the last 20kms was mainly downhill today but we found it was the opposite. We walked through woods of eucalyptus trees and passed through pretty villages. Sadly on this stretch the cafe/bars are quite commercial, different from those earlier on in the Camino which were family run.

We saw some old faces amongst the peregrinos but a lot of new people too.

After a couple of hours walking we finally saw the towers and steeples of the cathedral. It was a special moment. We knew that it would still be more than an hour before we reached the cathedral.

We passed the lovely monument commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II.

Two pilgrims pose against a monument commemorating the Pope's visit to the Camino

After a little confusion with the entry to the park with the famous statues of the pilgrims sighting their first view of the cathedral (and our first argument of the Camino) we had to walk back about 100 metres. When we found our way back to the statues it was quite special to know that the pilgrims would have stood on this mound or nearby to get their first glimpse of the cathedral more than 1200 years ago. Their faith brought them here and the same faith was bringing us here more than a 1000 years later.

We continued walking and before we knew it we were in the cathedral square. It took us a couple of seconds to realise that we were actually there. Having arrived from the behind we turned round to look at the majestic facade. The sun was shining, the square was full of people and there was just so much joy and happiness. We hugged. For me just being there was extremely precious. It didn’t matter how I had arrived.

Pilgrims in the square in front of the cathedral at Compostela del Santiago

We spent some time watching the joyous reaction of other peregrinos arriving after us. It meant so much to every person there. Many peregrinos were sprawled on the cobbled square just looking up at the cathedral. Many were taking pictures or talking excitedly to each other. A few arrived in groups with matching tops listing their names, dates of Camino, their home towns etc. There was a lot of emotion and lots of tears of joy. We savoured every moment.

It had been my wish to stay at the Parador - Hostal dos Reis Católicos- that is right next to the cathedral. The building is over 500 years old and is the oldest building in the world to house a hotel. It had been built by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand as a hospital for sick pilgrims. The building is stunning! The outside walls are over four foot thick. Our room was simply beautiful with a view over the town. The hotel is also a museum and you can take guided tours.

We were taking a walk when we bumped into Jorge and Daniela from Mexico who we had got to know during the week. As we were chatting the lovely American Camino girls spotted us from a restaurant and came running out to say they had arrived! We were expecting them the next day but they had decided to walk the remaining distance in one day instead of two. We were delighted to share this special day with them.

The next morning we collected our compostelas, issued by the cathedral office with our names in Latin - mine as - Mariam Ludovicum! And a distance certificate stating that we had walked 115kms from the first stamp on our pilgrim passport. As we were amongst the first 25 to collect our compostelas that day we were offered a chance to view the portico of the cathedral that evening. The portico is normally closed with exception of 2-3 times of the year. We visited the cathedral. Even though under refurb the inside is simply beautiful.

Along with other peregrinos we queued to hug the statue of St James and visited his tomb. We rushed to the pilgrims mass which is held at 12noon daily. By the time the mass started the chutchy more crowded than Mt Marys on the first Sunday of Bandra feast. We spotted many of our friends in the congregation. During the sign of peace our French friends came from the rear of the church to give us hugs. We all wept tears of joy.

Funnily the most tiring day was Sunday when we went on a coach trip to Finisterre where the Camino traditionally ended and where until 1492 was believed to be the end of the world. Pilgrims traditionally left their boots here. There was a good number of peregrinos who were walking the additional four days to finish their Camino here.

We also visited Muxia and Murso.

Both Buddu and I left on Monday morning to return to our homes. It was very sad to part but life must go on and we will hopefully see each other soon.

A yellow arrow on a green dustbin with the words '...I hope some day you'll join us...'

I learnt a lot from this Camino -

You only need a little in life to survive Kindness to others is so important Family and friends are essential Our lord and our faith is central to everything. If you have a good foundation just like good boots you can do almost anything Never underestimate yourself Good values are an asset A few kinds words go a long way

For those interested in some trivia and memories -

Clothing - had carried far too much. Hairdryer - was available in three of the eight hotels we stayed at. Most useful item - Electric kettle as none of the hotels provided one Handbag - got used every evening - knew I was right to take one Blisters / sore feet / aches and pains- amazingly none! Medicine - did not need to use Favourite Camino stamp - that of Jesus on the cross with one arm stretched downwards - to give a helping hand to the peregrinos.

An assortment of stamps on a camino passport, including a stamp of Jesus leaning down from the cross to help a pilgrim

Favourite food on Camino- Galician pie Favourite treat - undoubtedly Santiago tart Surprise foodie discovery - Arzúa cheese eaten with quince jelly Most like East Indian food - filling of Galician pie (like chilli fry) and quiche jelly similar to guava cheese Favourite drink on Camino -fresh orange juice and yes ok the lovely wine

Least enjoyable activity- packing and repacking our bags Most fun on the Camino- the Camino girls from California

Seven women sitting around a table, smiling at the camera .

Effortless walkers- the saunterers from Mexico who just glided on the Camino and were always faster than most other peregrinos Most inspiring - the 80 plus year old man from Wales who had walked the entire 850kms with his back pack and stayed in the hostels enroute Wish we had met earlier - the amusing Aussie guy from Sydney who we met when leaving who used ‘gentle’ expletives to describe the Camino and who showed us pics of him on Camino walking through snow in his shorts Most blisters - the chap from Folkestone with England flags and England peregrino shell who could barely walk to the aircraft - but was still most cheerful Most adventurous- the well travelled young French couple who are returning to do the Camino Primitivo in the summer.

Best book - Shared Solitude by Walter and Flan

A man sitting on his haunches in front of a small table with books and a sign with the words 'El Libro del Camino'

Book I wanted but did not get - ‘Sweets and Deserts of Melide! As only available in Spanish - such a shame Real coincidence - Suzanne the Lutheran pastor from outside Seattle who knew about East Indians (the community we come from) Buddi’s secret in Camino - eating stashes of Dairy milk chocolate Loudest on Camino - Val from Toronto and some Italian peregrinos who face timed whist walking! Best meal - the tapas in the small tapas bar in Santiago Secret indulgence - consumption of numerous ice creams The prettiest flowers - so many on Camino but think the beautiful arum lilies growing wild in the villages and forests

Strongest willed - the handicapped young chap who did the Camino in a specially adapted wheelchair with help of friends Close to our heart - the blind Chinese woman who walked the Camino with only the aid of her white stick Gravity defying - the petite young Japanese girl carrying two enormous backpacks easily weighing more than her total body weight Most polite - the Japanese lady who so gently complained about her tour guide telling her off for chatting on the Camino Most bland food -Galician soup Most entertaining - the blind Knight Templar in the tiny chapel Most beautiful view - all views were fabulous but the view on the second day with the clouds in the valley below us Annoying on Camino - the narrow, long pillows in each hotel Buddu’s obsession- the horeos- the traditional outdoor structures used for storage of grain etc

My obsession- the yellow Camino marker signs Favourite dog on Camino - Coco Danger on Camino - having to cross equivalent of A roads with no defined crossing points, cars whizzing past Amusement on Camino - seeing other peregrinos carry their washing to dry, hanging on hangers from their backpacks Fights with sister- one - on her part - not me References to Mother Teresa since finishing Camino - two in less than 24 hours - is the saint trying to tell me to go on another Camino like she did with the first ?

Thank you for all your words of encouragement and for your support. I thought and prayed for each of you. And yes I just cannot wait to go on a Camino Santiago again..........

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