Two years ago today, I was walking the Camino Frances. While on the trail, I didn’t really post all that often; therefore, for the next 38 days, I will be posting a little blurb from my journal and up to 10 photos (not necessarily the best pictures but more that they represent that day in some particular way). It’s kind of like a little memorial as for me, the season of spring is now irrevocably linked to the Camino experience. Today is day 38 – May 28th. O Pedrouzo to Santiago

Most of us were up and out by 5:30am in order to make it in time for the pilgrim’s mass in Santiago. It was still dark and it was drizzling, so not the greatest start to my final day. But I think sheer excitement powered me through the dark walk through an eucalyptus forest, the light shining from my head lamp marking my way…

Made no stops at all today and I essentially sped walked for 4 hours straight. I came across a few people I knew but I wanted to finish the Camino alone. …

Monte Gozo was huge. I poked around it for several minutes for a few photos but being 5km away from my goal spurred me onwards. Being so close to Santiago meant that the walk would be urban from now on, culminating into the Cathedral of Santiago. …

Following arrows through Santiago was relatively easy considering it is a big city. But it just kept going and going! I saw so many things that I wanted to stop and check out but I was always aware of the time. Every church I passed, I wondered: “Is this it? Is that it?” Eventually, about 10:30am, I passed through some covered stairs and emerged into a plaza. I looked around and saw the lichen encrusted façade of a large church. People were milling around the plaza but there didn’t seem to be many with backpacks. Eventually, I approached a pair of ladies and we had this little conversation:

“Excuse me, did I reach? Is this the Cathedral?”

“Yes! This is it!”

“Really?”

And that was me arriving at the end of an 800km long, one thousand year old pilgrimage. No initial emotion whatsoever. I snapped a photo, though. Then I went to find the pilgrim’s office. Finding this place, oddly enough, was confusing. When I did finally find it, the line of pilgrims wasn’t long so in I went. A lady flipped through my credencial, had me fill out a form that asked me for my reason on doing the Camino (among other things), and soon I was the proud owner of a compostela – the Latin text is the same one that centuries of people took home with them. Unfortunately, my name was not translatable into Latin. Oh well. I bought a carrying tube for 1€ and headed off to my hotel (splurging on a sixteenth century place near the Cathedral) where I checked-in, and dropped off my stuff. …

I went back to the Cathedral for the 11am pilgrim’s mass, arriving a bit before it started so I was able to get a seat. The botafumeiro was hanging down so we were in for a treat! Mass was in Spanish so I pretty much understood nothing. Some guy read out the countries from which pilgrims came that arrived yesterday but read it so rapidly, I barely understood that either! Then there was a nun who sang and she had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Finally, the moment people have been waiting for arrived – the swinging of the botafumeiro. It doesn’t happen every mass anymore, apparently. Someone has to pay (supposedly hundreds of euros) for it to swing. It was filled with smoking incense, pulled up high into the air, and then they let it fly. It was so cool and a privilege to end my Camino with the traditional finish. It was also kind of entertaining to see everyone, including myself, abandon dignity and whip out cameras to photograph it….

I still don’t know how I feel about finishing the Camino. Definitely not one overwhelming emotion – it is a mixed bag for sure. I guess I having a hard time accepting that something I had wanted to do for over 7 years is now over. I’m in Santiago for two more days so plenty of time to figure this out!