Part-time pilgrim to the end of the world

Trip Start Oct 01, 2011
Trip End May 31, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Galicia,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My status as a weekend pilgrim has reached new heights and limits. Thanks to a 5 day weekend, Bridget and I stretched our legs on our longest pilgrimage to date. From Santiago to the end of the world in Finisterre. This 90+km hike winds through Galicia's countryside, full of windmills and wildflowers, thunderstorms and sunshine. 

We started in Santiago, the traditional ending point for European pilgrims. However, in the past and today, some pilgrims choose to continue the trek all the way to "the end of the world" the westernmost point in Spain. For years, before the discovery of the new world, this truly was the end of the world. 

Bridget and I started with fresh legs and sunny skies, trekking out of Santiago towards Negreira, 20 km away. For the first time, our hike is long enough for us to have crendenciales - a pilgrim passport that gets stamped in each town you pass through. A credencial is also your document that allows you to stay in albergues, cheap hostels for pilgrims. We crossed medieval bridges, meandered through impossibly tiny towns, and passed farms and fields. Hiking early in the season, we didn't see many other pilgrims, and we were reminded why not many hikers brave Galicia at this time year. For an hour or so, rain poured down on us, drenching us as we trudged on. Numb fingers and toes gradually regained feeling after a sunny lunch spot, but we were happy to get to the albergue in Negreira for shelter and warmth. There, we were surprised to get some of the last beds - it seems there were more pilgrims on the road than we came across!

Day 2 took us from Negreira to Olveiroa a 33km day that was longer than we anticipated. In an unforeseen calamity, Bridget's boots began to fall apart on the road and we resorted to tape to hold them together. Despite the uncomfortable situation, Bridget was determined to finish the camino come hell or high water. Fellow pilgrims were variously amused or horrified at the state of her feet as I faithfully taped her up several times a day. We (or rather, Bridget's feet) were the stars of many strangers' photo opportunities. Some were equally surprised to see me hiking in sandals, but my faithful Chacos treated me well. Because of our handicaps, we hoped to stay in Santa Marina, only a 20 km hike away, but when we arrived, there was no room at the inn. Tired, we slugged down a wine, filled up our water, and hiked 13 km more to the misty town of Olveiroa where we were again lucky to get some of the last beds in the albergue. By this time, our fellow pilgrims were mostly familiar faces and our life on the road was starting to feel like home.

On day 3, we walked out of Olveiroa towards Cee and Corcubion, two charming seaside cities. Halfway through our walk, lined by windmills, we caught our first glimpse of the sea. We pondered for a moment on the pilgrims of yore, from all across Europe. For those medieval, landlocked pilgrims, this would have been their first glimpse of the sea. Bridget's boots, by this point, were starting to become unwalkable, so we were happy to spend some extra money to stay at a pension in Corcubion, getting a longer rest and better night's sleep. 

Day 4 we awoke with fresh hearts and tired feet. Only 10 km to the end of the world!!! Although the path led us occasionally on a freeway, most of it had a view of the sea. We arrived, exhausted and hungry, but filled with elation at arriving in Finisterre. 

After 4 days of walking, it seemed strange to get on a bus that ate up the distance in just 2 hours. Still, we were happy to be home, ready to re-fuel, for our last and longest Camino in June. 
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