We wake full of excitement, energy and mixed feelings. We know it is only a relatively short walk to our goal. But we are also walking towards the end of the most wonderful experienced anyone could have. So, we embark into the beautiful day, but not without a false start – we have to back track after a couple of minutes to retrieve my poles which I left at our accommodation – oops.
The day is beautiful, clear but cool, and promises so much. The first few kilometres takes us through forest tracks that remind up us of home – gum trees, wattle, gum leaves, but no koalas, however. Our guide, the cuckoo, follows us and reminds us we are still in Spain.
My foot is nearly healed and presents no problems, however the knees begin their last protest on some of the downhills, but the goal is to close to let them be heard. The emotions begin to play a bigger part in the mind and we sit to rest after about 10km. We connect with other pilgrims at the same stage of their journeys and it is evident that they are feeling the same as us, excitement, interpretation, fatigue, thanksgiving, love – the list would go on forever, but would be very similar.
With less than 10km to go, we set off again. Our pace us brisk – much faster than the last 10 days since “B” Day. The anticipation is filling us with adrenaline, too much to handle. As we pass Santiago airport we watch as planes take off, probably filled with pilgrims who have completed their journeys – maybe some of them are friends we have made along the way – only 5km to go. We enter the outskirts of Santiago de Compostella. I can say I have never felt this way before.
We we are so close to the goal – The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the tomb of St James is located. We know there are people at the Cathedral to meet us so our pace quickens again, the heart begins to race and the tears are harder to fight back. Our walk reaches the “old” part of town and we catch a glimpse of our destination and we know we must be close.
We pass pilgrims who have already reached their goal and receive encouragement and the wonderful call of “Buen Camino”.
Our final approach to the Cathedral square is through the arch and tunnel on the east side of the Cathedral – I didn’t realise I was such a sook as the tears well up and and I am choked with emotion. A bagpipe player is busking in the tunnel as we pass, feeling like it was a special greeting for all pilgrims passing by. As we enter the square, we are greeted by our friends from California, Cathy and David, running across the Plaza, playing the Australian national anthem on their iPhone, giving us an enormous hug, making us feel as though this was where we were meant to be (thanks y’all).
The emotions cannot be contained any more and Narelle and I embrace (me sobbing) in one final moment of completion. I could not believe I could feel this way – so fulfilled, so changed, so completely exhausted, so emotionally drained, so wonderfully happy, so perfectly placed in the world. I believe I have walked humbly with my God, learned a lot about myself, about others, about life in general.
We gather ourselves, then trot off to the pilgrims office to collect our material rewards – our Compostela. Whilst everyone enjoys receiving a certificate for acknowledging one’s success, it will never be better than knowing the inner successes achieved . The rest of the day is spent celebrating with special friends and soaking up the euphoria.