I have the art of sleep on lock down out here: I shamelessly rock silicone ear plugs and an eye mask every night. And even with my commitment to a good night's sleep, Wednesday's sleep was mediocre at best. In Arco, I stayed in a narrow room with quadrants of eight beds separated by half walls (customary for the camino), and I would say one out of three people in the hostel were snorers. Loud snorers. Combined with hacking and bubbling and gurgling and flapping cheeks. Oh the symphony of sounds in that room!
thoughts on arriving.
The gentleman across from me was an alarm clock going off at random intervals, and had me awake for good at 4:30. I eventually got out of bed and started packing my backpack for the last walk of the camino.
We were on the trail just before 6am, and it was dark outside. This finally gave me an excuse to use my very bright head lamp as we walked through forested trails in the dark for about an hour. It was a little rainy and a little misty, and very quiet and beautiful in the morning.
The last few days have been a challenge for me as there has been a very obvious shift in the atmosphere of the camino; a lot of people start 100km's out from Santiago for more of a tourist experience than a pilgrim's experience, and it left me feeling defensive of my experience and maybe (admittedly) a little judgy. There are many more people on the path in the last three days and, yesterday, I felt crowded and squished by what we call "day packers". I was also in a rush to get to pilgrim's mass, so instead of enjoying the last 18k I was sleep deprived, claustrophobic, soggy and a little grumpy.
When we got into Santiago, an incredible wave of relief and amazement came over me; the realization of this great accomplishment and flashes of the incredible highlights of the last month. I snaked through the streets to get to the open square across from the cathedral. I heard church bells. I turned the corner, and there I was: at the end. In a stone plaza, with a giant church. There were tourists and people in matching ponchos huddled under the building across from the cathedral steps. I dropped my walking poles. Reed comically said, "Well THIS was worth the walk." It was a strange feeling, and I thought: I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery of my life on this trip, the mountains, the valleys, fields that go on forever, birds singing me along for hours, tiny towns that aren't even on maps that have fed me and kept me warm, met the most amazing people, and now here at the end I am surrounded by stone. Something about it didn't feel quite right.
We went to mass and we were shivering and it felt cold and my eyes drooped. I took communion and didn't feel the solidarity of the pilgrims; people were walking around and answering their phones during the service. So different from the mass in Roncesvalles where everyone, despite language barriers, were bouncing with excitement and expectancy. So different from the countless dinners on the trip where people shared their stories and their experiences and lessons, and encouraged one another (communion).
I am relieved to be finished, I am unbelievably proud of myself. I am humbled and grateful for all of the beauty that I have seen, in nature, in the faces and hearts of others. And I have seen, now more than ever, how true this cliche statement is: that it really, truly is about the journey, not the destination.