Tag Archives: Magic

The End is the Beginning

Olveiroa to Finisterre
Sunday 7 December

Another long day of walking, as I wanted to make it to Finisterre before sunset. The days are much shorter now so I had to start in the dark (not actually that early, as it was still dark at eight thirty).

There is an option from Olveiroa to walk first to either Finisterre or Muxia. Finisterre was the end of the world, back when the earth was flat, beyond there be monsters. There have been pilgrimages here long before the Christian Camino. Muxia is where the body of Saint James (Santiago, Jacque, Jacob), was legendarily washed ashore covered in scollop shells. Recently you have been able to receive a Compostela for both of these pilgrimages. I wanted to go to Finisterre first, as to me it felt the right order.  I liked the romantic notion of Finis – Terre, the end of the world, to end my original planned route.

©Sally Arnold
A Folk in the Road,  Near Cee.

I was keen to arrive, but today I felt an overwhelming calmness. I was in no rush. It felt like the end. The paths were soft beneath my feet. I was looking forward to seeing the sea. The Atlantic. The first couple of towns I passed had alburgues open, I could have walked a little further yesterday. The rain stopped.  The path continued down, and up, then, there it was… the sea rose ahead. I had a quick intake of breath. I love the sea. I love the mountains, but I really love the sea. I could smell it, I’d missed it.

I was soon in the town of Cee, by the Sea! It was a bustling village, it seemed everybody was out for Sunday lunch, and it was market day. I was hungry, but still had a long walk if I wanted to get to Finisterre before dark. I walked through the town, following the yellow arrows which led up the hill, and down again… Perhaps I should have just followed the coast. As I was leaving town, my stomach got the better of me when I saw a sign for a pizza restaurant. Pizza, that would make a change. It wouldn’t take that long. I entered the bustling cafe, and was directed to the empty Resturant behind. I waited. I ordered a seafood pizza, and a half bottle of wine. The usual ‘free wine’ wasn’t included with this meal. I waited. I drank some wine and waited some more. The pizza eventually came, and it was worth the wait. Fresh seafood, thin, crispy. Just how I like it.

©Sally Arnold
To The End!

Time to get back on track. I was feeling content. It was a bit of a climb for this final stage, and the path was not that well marked, so had to keep an eye out for markers. There was a sudden turn to the left along a red muddy path, and two cyclists came plummeting down the hill towards me as the heavens opened. I jumped out of the way as I fumbled for my rain gear. Up the hill I climbed, and then the view! It was worth waking this direction. The maker had been painted with a message ‘to the end’, so to the end I continued. I felt light.

©Sally Arnold
Fading Light at Finisterre

I arrived into the town of Finisterre, and started to look for an open alburgue. I wanted to put down my pack and walk to Cape Finisterre, another few kilometres. All that was open was the municipal Albergue, it would have to do.  I was in a hurry as the light would soon start to fade. I checked in and deposited my bag. I was issued with my new Compostela, the certificate for the Pilgrimage from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre.

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Lighthouse at the End of the World. Finisterre..
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Sun Setting on the Lighthouse at the End of the World. Finisterre.
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The Bronze Boot at the End of the World. Finisterre.

It was easier walking without my pack, but I had forgotten my trekking poles. I am used to walking with them, but no time to return. The light was dimming. I hurried. I could see the unusual deco style three story pyramid lighthouse ahead, but it was still some distance away. Cars were retuning, passing me in the opposite direction. I noticed a couple in the distance walking towards me. As I approached, they speed up, and crossed the road in my direction. He was grinning. It took me a moment to recognise him, my Brazillian friend! We hugged, and hugged again. His friend was his new girlfriend, whom he had convinced to fly from Brazil to join him on the Camino. We had walked out of Saint Jean Pied Port together, but had lost each other along the way. We had been sending messages, but hadn’t managed to catch up… until now. If it was a movie, it would have been too corny an ending. The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning. They were rushing to catch their bus back to Santiago, I was rushing to catch the last light at the end of the world. We hugged and parted. I grinned and felt the joy of yet again experiencing the magic of the camino. Full circle.

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From Paris to the End of the World! Finesterre.

It was getting dark, but there were still tinges of red in the western sky. I passed the lighthouse and the crowds of day-trippers. The smell of burnt clothing permeated the air. It has become a tradition for pilgrims to burn an article (or all) of their clothing here, and return Phoenix-like to the world. I climbed down the rocky cliff, cautious without my sticks. The tourists were snapping away, but I just wanted to sit and contemplate. I found a comfortable spot on the rocks with the sea crashing below. The red and orange soon turned to black, and the area emptied. I’d made it. I’d made it from Paris to the End of the World.

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Bursting at the Seams

Leon to Villar de Mazarife
Friday 21 November

I rose late, thanking the Franciscans for the ten o’clock check out. I needed it, I was felling a little seedy from the previous evenings indulgence. I crossed the road for breakfast and sent messages to my friends who had stayed longer in Leon, as I was looking forward to walking with someone today. My Camino Angel was already in the next town, and my Dutch friend didn’t reply. Although I would have enjoyed the company, I has happy to walk alone. As I was leaving Leon my Dutch friend sent me a message to join him for breakfast. I said I would wait for him in the next town.

I enjoyed walking out of Leon, it is a very beautiful city, even the ugly outer suburbs I found interesting. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with joy for seemingly no reason. I’m sure it’s some sort of brain imbalance. The endorphins were working overtime. Bursting at the seams. If I was a cartoon, flowers and hearts would be floating around my head. I noticed a heart shaped puddle on the footpath, then all the graffiti included hearts too, they jumped out at me. Busting at the seams.

My good mood had me arriving in the next town in seemingly no time at all. I visited the important church there, a sixties modern box. Impressive, but extremely cold, both in atmosphere and temperature. I quickly left to find a cafe to wait for my friend. I ordered a menu as it was getting close to lunchtime. He soon arrived and we were shortly walking again.

There was an alternative route today. We had wanted to walk the slightly longer one through the countryside, rather than alongside the highway. It was a little difficult to distinguish the correct path, and we were not sure we had arrived at the turnoff, when out of nowhere on our small deserted road a car turned up and pointed us in the right direction. The Camino magic continues. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoyed the landscape. The weather was sunny and warm. Life is good.

We were both looking for a break from the ‘Summer Camp’ mentality, so decided we would stop in one of the smaller towns, and hopefully stay in a less crowded alburgue. Villar de Mazarife had three alburgues open, so settled on the one at the far end of town, in the hope that the other two would fill up sooner. Happily, we were the only guests. We enjoyed dinner in the bar, then settled down for a quiet night of watching comedy shows on YouTube, in our private alburgue.

The Magical Camino

Sahagun to Reliegos
Tuesday 18 November

My Camino angel was keen to visit the monastery that had a statue of Mary as a pilgrim, but it didn’t open until ten. I wanted to get on the road, as we had wanted to walk thirty kilometers today so we could meet up with our other friends, perhaps in Leon. I said I would have a long lunch, so we would probably walk together in the afternoon.

The day was clear, and I couldn’t bring myself to put on my boots, so thought I would try and walk in my slippers. What a good decision. I was walking on clouds. There was an alternative route today. I came to the direction sign and was trying to work out which path I wanted to take, when a little old lady appeared out of nowhere and showed my the way. This happens a lot on the Camino.

My pace was fast and I soon caught up with an Australian couple I had met the previous evening. I hadn’t met any other Australians on the Camino, and neither had they, the conversation flowed. It was relaxing to not have to explain every little colloquialism. We laughed and joked the morning away. They had cycled from England to Bordeaux in France, then had started the Camino in Saint Jean. They were going slower than I, were having shorter days and longer stops. We soon arrived in El Burgos Ranero, where they were stopping for the night. I had another twelve kilometers for my planned destination, but decide to continue our conversation over a long lunch.

I walked on to Reliegos, and received a message from my Camino Angel – she had met up with our Italian friend, and some others and would be staying in El Burgos Ranero. I had somehow lost Miss Venezuela, and wasn’t sure if she had stopped there also. I happily walked alone, looking forward to a quiet night. I love company, but sometimes a night of solitude is perfect.

Along the path I began to think about all the coincidences and magic that had happened to me on this journey so far. When I need something, it appears. When I get lost, someone shows me the correct path. I thought about all the feet over all the centuries that had carried their wishes, their prayers, their joys, their sorrows, their longing, their questions and wondered had the spiritual path somehow transplanted itself on the physical path. Had it created magic? I am an old hippy sometimes, but I do hope those that are sharing the Camino with me find the answer, the truth or some peace.

There were two alburgues open in town. The first one I came to was a private one, which I usually prefer as they don’t have the curfews of the municipal ones, but I didn’t have a good feeling when I walked in, so went to find the municipal. There was no one at the desk, so I went inside. There was only one other person staying, a Korean girl with very little English. I asked where we paid, and she took me to a house in the next street where the caretaker lived. I paid, and returned to the hostel. She said the shower was good. I took her good advice, and when I returned, she was asleep.

I wasn’t that hungry after my big lunch, but it was cold in the alburgue, so went to find a warm bar. I stumbled upon another relic from the hippy traveller generation, again covered in graffiti. The host was friendly, and played great music. I ordered a vino, which was accompanied with a hunk of cheese, the next one had bread and cheese, and the next a slice of homemade pizza. I didn’t need dinner. The music included all my favorites, and I was enjoying my night alone, but had to get back to the alburgue by the ten o’clock curfew. I returned but the door was already locked. Oh oh. I went to the caretaker’s house, and luckily they still had the lights on, and happily unlocked the door for me.