Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Camino Entry 51

There it is!  1200+ km and 50 days later!

Entry 51, January 14th, 2012

A street guitarist outside the cathedral was playing an old obscure standard – “You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To.”  Alright, universe, I can read the signs.

The sprint this morning was beautiful and surreal. It is not often that one finds oneself legging it through the forests of Spain in the dark, path lit by the full moon shining above through the mist. Even less often does this occur while in the company of three Korean men on the way to visit the tomb of a prophet's apostle.  Tolkein was right – you must be careful stepping out your front door, because who knows where you will end up.

We made five kilometers in the first hour, which is insane. Excitement was building as we passed through the old city. Finally we went down some steps past a bagpiper and – we were there!

There is a huge square in front of the cathedral, with a series of stones coming to a point. Kwang-sik turned and hugged me, weeping – I threw down my sticks and bag – and we all collapsed on the ground.

That moment – where I threw down my sticks – I will always remember as one of the best moments of my life. A moment with no cares, worries, thoughts. A moment of triumph, of connection with the center of my being. A moment of pure joy.

The Cathedral

We lay on the cold stones, looking up at the clouds and the spires of the cathedral. I started to laugh – the others joined in – and soon we were all laughing like madmen. “We're fucking crazy. We're all fucking crazy! We walked all the way here! We did it!”

Others looked on, with curiosity. Some took pictures. We didn't care. It isn't often that you get to take part in a thousand-year-old tradition.

See how the stones trace the starburst/shell symbol of the camino on the ground?

The cathedral is neither the largest nor the most beautiful I have seen, but it is the quirkiest. Like the Sagrada Familia, it is unlike any other. Ornate hardy begins to describe it. Of particular note are the giant carved angels holding the huge golden baroque pavilion over St. James's tomb.

The tomb itself is buried beneath the altar. A viewing chamber is accessible by a small set of steps. The sepulchre is of pure silver – some real “Raiders of the Lost Ark” shit – although St. James seems to have been very short.

The cathedral has aged gracefully over the past 800 years. I wonder how many pilgrims have climbed the steps to the image of St. James. They're are worn with the passage of tens of thousands of feet . . . there are deep grooves in the stone. It reminds me of Montserrat.

Louise visited Santiago from Vigo one time. She said that she saw some pilgrims and “they were so happy!” This is a perfect description of us. During the “meet and greet” in mass, all the pilgrims were in the aisles hugging each other. Such a happy, good way to live. If there is an afterlife, I hope it is like this. The locals think we are strange but wish that they could join in.

Marten leaves for Finisterra tomorrow. I will likely never see him again. Our exchange:

See you later, Alligator.”

After a while, Crocodile.”

Okey-dokey, Artichokey.” I'd never heard this before.

How strange it is to be anything at all.


Having paid my respects to Santiago, a great weariness has settled over me. The goal which has animated my bones and muscles for so long is fulfilled, and that power has left my body. 46 days of travel have hit me all at once like a sack of bricks. Tomorrow will be a good day for rest.

We went to a good restaurant in the old town for dinner, a place called Cafe Casino. It's been around since 1873, a high ceilinged, wood-paneled room with strange carvings all around. There are lots of naked people (none of them particularly beautiful) and a bunch of grumpy cherubs fighting dragons . Leaning back in our old leather armchairs, we were “satisfied” as Chan Hee would say.

I opened up my facebook for the first time since Barcelona. Lots of love to be found.

Expenses, Day 51
Donations: 5.00
Internet: 5.00
Albergue (2 nights): 20.00
Total: 30.00
Trip Total: 1183.15

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