Today was the day. We rose with the sun to get a head start on our last 20 kilometers to Santiago. Everyone was brimming with excitement, but there was something else: a kind of somberness under the surface. This would be our last walk on the Camino that we grew to love. As the pilgrims say, the way began to walk us.
The 20 kilometers provided us ample time for reflection. I was personally astounded at how far I had made it. There were times when I thought I would never reach Santiago on foot. But as I pounded pavement, dirt, and rocks, I could not stop. We were so close to our goal. So on we trudged, walking the last five kilometers together.
As we entered Santiago, we expected to see the Cathedral looming in front of us. Instead, we got a bunch of highways and apartment buildings. Where the heck was St. James? We walked further into the city, each step harder than the last; we were losing momentum. But suddenly, we rounded a corner and there it was! We headed into the Cathedral to hug the apostle’s statue and see his tomb. As I hugged him, I said a silent thank you for helping me get here.
Afterwards, we lined up outside the Pilgrim’s Office to receive our Compostelas, or certificates of completion. During the hour and a half wait we saw some pilgrim friends we had made along the way, and watched other pilgrims reunite. The spirit of joy and camaraderie was strong, and amplified by the traveling Spanish ska band making the rounds. Soon enough, we all were standing outside the office, excitedly clutching our Compostelas. Our legs and feet were a collective wreck, we did not smell very good, but we were proud.
We made straight for the hotel once everyone received their certificates. I know I immediately collapsed on my bed for some rest, roused only by the thought of dinner. And believe me, it was worth it, with a surprising and interesting dessert of ice cream, pineapple, and dill sauce!
We are settling into Santiago, with weary bodies, but agape for everything we’ve seen and done. The next few days will be a much needed respite, so we can reflect on what we’ve accomplished.
Michelle Reichman – Political Science & International Affairs