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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Home for a week

It is now a week since we returned home and I thought that it would be a good time to look at what has happened during the past six or seven weeks. I cannot speak for the people we met during our journey but for Mary and I the return has been emotional, interesting and physically challenging. After such a long time away it is wonderful and indeed beautiful to spend quality time with our family. We knew that we had missed everyone, especially our grandchildren, but we didn't realise by how much. You would think that after walking five hundred miles you would return fit and strong. Our experience is that since our return we have been tired, stiff and physically sore. I keep wondering if our fellow travellers have experienced the same? I believe that the walk created its own energy and with the  adrenalin rush as the journey neared completion we were swept towards Santiago on a cloud of enthusiastic anticipation but now that we are back it is like someone sticking a pin in a balloon. Have the other members of our pilgrim family all returned home safe and sound? Has the journey made a significant change to their everyday lives? Have the positive thoughts and intentions experienced on the walk evaporated like New Year's Eve intentions or have they grown and flourished? Only time will answer these questions but hopefully the walk has had a positive effect on all of us.  Since our return the generosity of people has continued to amaze us. We are hoping to hand over the money to our charities towards the end of August.  We have had contact from several fellow travellers including Joe and Rick from America.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Finisterre

Unlike the pilgrims of old we didn't walk to Finisterre, our walking days are over, we went by taxi. You have to walk the sands and bathe your feet in the cool water. We have followed the sign of the shell and the yellow arrow for about five weeks and here at Finisterre you can walk along the golden sand and collect your own personal Camino shells. The path from Finisterre, which literally means Finis Terra the end of the earth, finishes at the lighthouse and at that point you can not only feel but can see the vastness of creation, the seemingly never ending sea. This feeling of closure for us was in many ways a relief from the pressure of the journey and like the ancient pilgrim we washed ourselves in the sea. Well Austin, Mary and Pauline went for a paddle whilst I went for a quick swim. Unfortunately you are not allowed to perform another tradition of the Camino when pilgrims burned their travelling clothes before their wash. Traditions are fast disappearing. Last night was the last time our group would meet as pilgrims and even then the Camino threw in a surprise, Philip and Ann arrived from Finisterre and were followed by absent friends Matt and Kielib. I would like to share our blog with one of these remarkable people Philip T Hackett who composed the following :
           Los Peregrinos.
The pilgrim has no country
As he walks along the way.
He belongs to a band of brothers
Worn by stone and clay.
He speaks no tongue, but,
The language of fellowship.
By night or day all roads
Lead the same way.
To the tomb of the apostle
In a starlit field.
When you get there,fellow pilgrim
Bend a knee. Yield.
Offer it up, give it over
Set yourself free.
In the hallowed halls of Santiago
Is where a tired soul should be.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Day after

Since we are coming to the end of our journey I thought I'd use a couple of blogs to fill in the blank spaces. Yesterday was one of the most unforgettable days of my life. Yes it was because we finished the walk but more important it was because of the love and raw emotion shown by so many people.
Everything seemed to fall in to place like a mystical jigsaw that was being pieced together in front of your eyes. The giant incense burner being used for the first time after being repaired, our walking friend the Polish priest concelebrating the mass and infact giving us communion, and most of the people we had encountered on our journey turning up in the plaza. Last night was a night of celebrating the achievements of all these friends. We all met for a drink and then headed to a restaurant where we took over, all twenty two of us. Maybe because we were released from our daily walking schedule there was a high spirited if not giddy atmosphere or maybe it was just due to the amount of wine consumed. Today has been strange. No early start and no walking. It felt strange not carrying a backpack. Since Mary and I have been here before, we chilled out and sampled the cafe culture. Tomorrow we are going to Finisterre, Lands End, to see where the original pilgrims purified themselves after their sweaty walk. Tradition was that you burned your clothes before washing in the sea, a tradition that we will not be following but since you know how this group treats traditions of the Camino I will tell you tomorrow what happened at Finesterre.  C

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

An early start

This morning we left Arca at 5.15 am and by torch light made our way towards Santiago and the end of an incredible journey. It was a strange feeling as we got closer to Santiago and our final destination. Mixed feelings of joy and sadness swept over us in waves as we realised that it would soon be over. It was going up the hill to Monte del Gozo that I came to the realisation that the Camino walk would soon end but the Camino journey would continue. When we entered the Plaza Obradoiro at 10.30 and stood to look at the Cathedral the avalanche of emotions that had been building up finally hit us. This had been my fear but at that moment the Camino took control and swept us to new heights. Within a time period of around twenty minutes almost all our Camino family arrived in to the square. To embrace the finish of a long journey with such beautiful people is a memory that I will always hold and cherish. The full spectrum of emotion was on show and without  any shame as we hugged each other and celebrated each individuals achievement. It was also a privilege to be involved with others and be part of their lives. Special mention must be given to Ruth and Jan who are so humble in their unbelievable 1000 mile walk. If I had or indeed could do what they did I would expect to be treated as Camino Royalty whereas these two ladies have encouraged and praised us lesser mortals. The generosity of the pilgrim has constantly set me back. Generosity with time, help, and with an openness and willingness to look after others physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was very touched yesterday when our very good friend Joe made a generous donation to our charities. This morning we met Catherine and Charlie who again were over generous and later Sandra quietly went to Mary with a donation. We have been been humbled by the generosity and support from home and without your help we would not have made the finish. Equally our Camino family have been the support and at times literally the crutch that got us to the finish. Tomorrow I will tell you about the Pilgrim Mass but I must go now because we are all meeting at 5.30 to celebrate. C

Monday, 1 July 2013

A thoughtful day

This morning we left the most upmarket and beautiful accommodation we have stayed in to date. The meal last night was memorable not only for the food but because of the company and the ambience of the surroundings. We met up with Frank O Connor and the food, drinks and indeed conversation was both enjoyable and enlightening. When you meet people on the Camino it is like bumping into old friends and conversation comes easily. The Camino certainly breaks down any conversational barriers. We left with Frank this morning and after a few hours walk along country paths with the strong smell of eucalyptus heavy in the air we met up with more old Camino friends at our first coffee break. We took time out with Joe, Ruth and Mary and the atmosphere was very relaxed and almost holiday mode. I think because we are all so close to finishing our separate journeys we are slightly giddy with anticipation whilst at the same time dreading the finish. After a journey like this what will the future hold? We have all changed, we have all made new friends. Will the changes and the friendships all stay on the Camino or will they move forward? During today's walk I found it difficult thinking of last years walk with its motives and ambitions and comparing that with what has happened in our lives and why we are here now. Because we are a day in front of schedule we have decided to leave at 5 am tomorrow and make the big push to the finish.  Got word from Shane and will meet him in Santiago. C

It is so hard to believe that we will reach Santiago tomorrow.  It has at times been the toughest journey both physically and mentally.  During the snow, rain, hail and thunderstorms I was sorely tempted to pack it all in but knowing so many people had more faith in me than I did kept me going.  We are truly indebted to all those who have contributed to our charities and are delighted that the donations are still rolling in.  Tomorrow will be bitter sweet, but it is more about our journey, not the destination . M