I rose early on this last day of walking, keen to get going by 7am in order to arrive in Santiago at roughly the same time as the rest of the gang.
It had become clear that my walking pace was easily the slowest, counterbalanced only by my determination to complete this Camino in full.
Movement and mobility has been a slight concern for me recently, and walking this route has been my response to a degree of decrepitude creeping in.
What I didn’t need as I began my day was one of those guys who wanted me to guess his age, because he thought he looked far younger than his true years.
When I simply said “I’ve got no idea”, a proud Portuguese “64” was pronounced.
I had actually thought “early 60s” anyway, but I just didn’t want to play along with this early morning hubris.
Escaping the sexagenarian show-off, I left Sigüeiro in the dark, quickly refreshed by a pleasing rain shower that seemed to energise the air around me.
The Dawn Chorus soon replaced the rush of commuter traffic and ahead of me on the path, I saw plenty of early birds collecting their worms.
There was nothing I could do to intervene this time!
Galicia had been very kind to us, but the “once every three days” rain had finally arrived.
But to my mind, this was insignificant rain, barely felt on skin, and certainly not demanding a rucksack rummage for the waterproofs.
Birgitta and Anne were first to catch me up, polythene ponchos keeping the rain off the fast-moving Danes.
Then came Felipe (who still owes me a coffee) and Javier.
Noting that I was walking in shorts, Felipe (who was wrapped in multiple layers of cagoules, hats and gloves) asked me if I wasn’t “afraid of the rain?”
“No, I’m waterproof” was my unthinking response.
I then spent the next hour or so wondering if that was actually true. I’m still not sure.
It didn’t take long before Galician woodland paths gave way to a more urban landscape as I approached Santiago’s city limits.
By now, JT was asking me when I thought I would arrive.
He’s a “forum friend”, a Danishman who now lives in Santiago and a regular on Camino-related Zoom chats with people like me from all over the world.
As I stumbled my way into Praza do Obradoiro, there he was to greet me, actually filming my third arrival in Santiago.
That was nice.
I wish I’d checked my socks beforehand though. Embarrassing…
The rain had stopped by now, making the square shine in reflected light, while my soul leapt at the sight of the cathedral once again.
There had been no bit on a bike this time, nor a skipped stage to make sure of catching a flight home.
This was completely completaro.
No matter the length of this Camino, reaching Santiago is always a significant moment.
It took a few minutes for it all to sink in.
Then it was time to go and get the Compostela, the beautifully inscribed document that confirmed that this pilgrimage had been made.
There was an intriguing contrast between the technology now involved in signing off my Camino, including QR codes and web forms, and the ancient Latin phrases on the certificate.
Old and new, hand in glove.
After checking in at my pension, virtually a neighbour to the Cathedral, it was time to organise another celebratory dinner with my current Camino family.
JT had recommended an Italian restaurant called L’Incontro that appeared to be around the corner.
For the first time this week, I got lost on the way.
No Little Yellow Arrows anymore, and I had quickly lost my compass.
I wasn’t the only one, but soon we were all together again for one last time.
It was a splendid evening, as we swapped our stories and our favourite moments.
We raised a glass to David, 75, walking with his two sons, Scott and Andrew.
They had stepped in at the last minute to support their father, after his walking partner had stepped out.
That was nice of them.
We also sang “Happy Birthday” for Isabella, and finally bade farewell to each other after one more drink at El Patio.
It was time to part. One more “Buen Camino” and it was done.
Such sweet sorrow.
Nearly as sweet as these strawberries…
Sigüeiro to Santiago:
Stage distance: 16km, a mere morning stroll.
Slips, trips and falls: 0 (3) I stayed on my feet today, even after several vino tintos.
Attempt to sing “Happy Birthday” in English: 1
Unexpected Song Played In My Head All Day: Lower Your Eyelids to Die With The Sun by M83.
Pensión Residencia Fonseca
After walking more than 125km this week, I decided on a pensión that was within two minutes of the cathedral, the pilgrim office and the restaurant we’d be meeting at later. María offered a warm welcome and a hot coffee.
That was nice too.