Day 27: Santiago.

Just the facts
Day 27: Lavacolla to Santiago
Distance: 10 miles / 17 km
Time: 4 hours
Total distance walked: 490 miles / 790 km
Aches and pains: These too shall pass, soon.

Early this morning I went back six kilometers and began walking. Before long, a Korean guy passed me, slowed, then matched my pace. We chatted a bit before he looked closely and suggested I go to the hospital. No thanks, I’m fine. And so it went. I sped up, he sped up. I slowed down, he slowed down. I got lost, he got lost.

I wanted to finish the Camino in Santiago the same way I started it in Roncesvalles — alone. But it just wasn’t going to happen.

Together, we went down a wide flight of steps, past a bagpiper (not just a Scottish thing) and onto the plaza in front of the cathedral. I’d only gone a short distance before a Camino friend, Nina, headed my way. She had arrived the day before and was all smiles and hugs that quickly gave way to “what happened”. Then a man I didn’t recognize came over and asked how I was feeling. Shame on me. It was the bicyclist who had provided bandages yesterday.

Next came the Pilgrims Office. I arrived between waves of people so it was fast and easy. The woman behind the desk scrutinized my pilgrims passport and asked a couple of questions. Satisfied, she gave it the final stamp. Just like that, I had my Compostela. Done.

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Nina and I arrived early for the noon Pilgrim’s Mass in hopes of getting a good seat. Climbing the steps to those colossal cathedral doors was satisfying. Cathedrals are huge and this one was no exception. Even so, it soon packed out with both pilgrims and tourists. We found seats in a pew near the front and chatted quietly waiting the mass to begin. Suddenly, perhaps recognizing my voice, the guy in front of me turned around. Grinning from ear to ear was my Korean shadow. I gave him my best bruised smile.

The mass began with a singing nun (not the Singing Nun) with an incredible voice. Soon a dozen or so priests came in dressed to the nines in a catholic sort of way. To me, the most interesting part was when a priest read out the nationalities of every pilgrim who had checked in since the previous day. Though he rattled them off in rapid-fire Spanish it was clear that most were from Spain, next came the Germans, French and a smattering of other Europeans. There were just a handful from the U.S. — I was lucky to counted among their number.

Thank you all for your prayers and support.

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20130716-215652.jpg Arriving at the cathedral at the end of the camino can be overwhelming.

20130716-221508.jpg My 790 matches the sign for one reason only: I got lost from time to time.