06.09.2012 - 06.09.2012 30 °C
Casa Rural to Santiago de Compostela - 40 km -749 meters (2,457 ft) of climbing
One might have thought that our last ride into Santiago would be an easy one, but "no" for two reasons. First, the terrain was like the day before (i.e. 'challenging' from our perspective) and second, we had a deadline. There is a pilgrim's mass every day in Santiago at noon. Having been blessed at the beginning of our journey, we felt a need to be blessed at the end of it. This meant that we had to be in Santiago before noon. Most of the folks on our trip had an extra day so it was not a problem for them. We, along with our friends Peter and Colleen, did not have any leeway. This meant leaving early in the morning and 'hoofing' it to Santiago. Peter and Colleen made it easily - we did it, but barely. Climbing that last hill into Santiago had me at my limit.
The effort was worth it.
The contrast between the tiny church in Roncesvalles where we started this journey and the magnificence of the cathedral in Santiago was almost overwhelming. The cathedral was jammed with pilgrims. The ceremony included music - led by a nun who had an angelic voice which reverberated throughout the cathedral.
The British know how to do 'pomp and circumstance'. The Catholic church knows how to do religious splendour. As in Roncesvalles, the list of numbers of pilgrims, their starting points and their countries of origin was read out. At the culmination of the ceremony was a blessing of the pilgrims. However, the highlight was the spectacular swinging of the huge Botafumeiro, the famous thurible kept in the cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container and swung over the assembled pilgrims. It was thrilling. If you have seen the movie "The Way" you will have some idea of what I am talking about.
After the Mass, we lined up at the Oficio del Peregrino (Pilgrim Office) to receive a Compestela - proof that we had travelled the Camino. The fellow behind me in line was from Montreal - he had walked the northern route along the coast of Spain.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Santiago. We finished our tour with a splendid farewell dinner. This time, I did try the octopus and have to confess that it was quite tasty!
My lasting memory of the day, however, was coming across a women at the door of the cathedral. She was on her knees and in tears with her pack and walking stick at her side. I resisted the inclination to take a photograph. This was a private moment - the culmination of her pilgrimage.
It was a fitting culmination to our journey.