The white concrete walls and lichen-covered facades of Santiago de Compostela are a heady contrast to my view of days past. As I sit here, looking across the window-framed historical centre, listening to church bells call the city to mass, I am filled with a quiet sense of accomplishment. To get here, I walked for weeks, for hundreds of kilometres, along a wise old pilgrimage trail and through some of the best landscapes Spain has to offer.
Last time I wrote about my Camino, I was still feeling blistered and broken after a four day solo slog in the Meseta. Further hindsight has added more value to that experience, especially now that I have finished my Camino, here in Santiago, and can appreciate the time and space afforded along the way. Of course, the Camino continued to offer new delights, lessons, places and people throughout the final weeks of the journey.
After reuniting with Dave in Carrion de los Condes and finding his knee was still barely able to carry him to the bar, let alone to Santiago, we drove day-by-day along the Camino to regain the injury time, hoping that each new morn would bring him a shiny new knee. The charming town of Sarria, which sits a little more than 100 km from Santiago, was where we finally resumed our pilgrimage. From there, we plodded along the final stretch, walking shorter days with gentler steps, meeting some friends from home, and taking more time to soak in the joys of food, wine and silliness along the way.
As we walked out of Sarria, it quickly became apparent that the Galicia region had a new set of words, foods, plants and landscapes to occupy our pilgrim days. The arid flats and mountainous passes gave way to hilly green, wet ferns, purple bell flowers, pine plantations. Long, fragrant paths were shadowed by silver gum trees that remind me of my faraway home. The air woke thick with a soggy fog, brewed dramatic clouds and often took delight in raining on us. Farmers grew jersey cows instead of cereals and tractors occupied more road space than cars.
Cervesa had become cana and sidra was sweeter. Suddenly tortilla meant omelette, as well as the familiar potato and egg cake, and lentil soup could be gleefully found on almost every menu. Vegetable gardens grew in scale and impressiveness, as did the rose bushes in full, delightful bloom. And, each house was accompanied by peculiar stilted huts, which we eventually realised are designed to store corn and built to show status.
In that final 100km, I rediscovered the joy of singing out loud and let go of my urge to find internet in towns where phone reception was a push. I also realised that one of my favourite things about walking the Camino was finding myself somewhere new everyday. I often stopped along the trail, caught by the sight of a red tiled roof or rickety farmyard and thought, ‘I am in Spain’, how wonderful’. As I fell asleep each night with a weary body and refreshed mind, I marvelled at being somewhere that I’ve never heard of before, somewhere that pilgrims have passed through for hundreds of years, somewhere with a group of strangers who are also journeying somewhere. As each new day brought little lessons and bits to grit my teeth through, it also showered me with delights, taught me more about simple pleasures, and a nurtured a deepening calm to steady me through the harder moments.
So here I am now, sitting by a window in Santiago, slowly reintroducing myself back into the non-Camino world and willing myself to continue that Camino brand of open, light-hearted simplicity as I continue my journey to other places, through other challenges, and towards other wondrous experiences.
There are so many Camino moments and tips that I’d love to share with you and just not enough time to write them all up while I’m on the road… but, keep an eye out for my posts about my lessons from the Camino and my Camino packing guide, as well as stories about towns I loved along the way.
From here, I will be spending a couple of weeks exploring other parts of Spain, like San Sebastian and the southern regions, so stay tuned for more Spanish delights.
28 thoughts on “Walking the end of my Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain”
Beautiful. It sounds like a hell of a journey and I envy you it. I too hope you carry the lessons learned forward in your life and that we, your readers, can glean something from them too.
Hi Catherine, Thanks for reading along. It was certainly a hell of a journey and something that has impacted me on more levels than expected. You are right – the trick is to now keep those lessons fresh and active as I take on the whatever comes next. – Nic
Brilliant – Well Done – I am going to do it one day!
Thanks Andrew. Judging by your love and knowledge of Spain, I think you would love it. The beauty of the Camino is as much in the landscape and people as it is in the challenge of the journey.
Thanks for all your wonderful A-Z Spain articles that served as such wonderful inspiration to see Spain. I’ll be referring to them as I make my way south over the next week and explore more of this dynamic country.
Wow, my husband and I, really dream on doing this together either before or after we have children. I am just curious were you inspired by Paulo Coelho to do it? I do want to know more about how you made the decision and how you put everything together.
Hey V Sichalwe,
Thanks for reading. It is a beautiful journey that I recommend to anyone who likes walking and travel. I was actually inspired to walk the Camino by my sister, who walked it a couple of years ago, solo and in winter, a feat that puts her courage and will far above my own. It sounded like such a wonderful experience and a great personal challenge.
For me, preparation was a matter of reading blogs and articles and talking to others who had walked the Camino. To be honest, I didn’t prepare much in the way of kit / gear before the trip, as I already owned a lot of the essential things and had done a fair bit of walking / outdoor adventuring before. I am slowly putting together a packing guide to help others prepare, with the key message of less is more. I will also publish an article about the best logistical lessons from my journey, so keep an eye out.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com
I will def keep your email and ones we are close to making it all come true will get in touch. i am very much looking forward to your other post, it will really helpful. Thank you for sharing.
Congratulations on finishing the trip. Looking forward to hearing more!
Loved it! xx
Thanks so much Patti. xo
You did it – I do a little dance of joy for you. I’m sure you will carry the experience in your heart.
Thanks MountainMae I’ve been doing a little dance for me too 🙂 The Camino certainly affected me deeply and will be an experience that stays with me all of my days. Appreciate your support.
Do so envy you the walk, though not the blisters. Quite an achievement!
Hey Jo. The blisters were tough but I still wouldn’t trade my Camino experience. Only been off the trail a few days and already I’m missing the walking, the still peace of the trail. Thanks for reading along.
What made you take thhis path?/ these pictures are unbelievable dear! Spain is my stomping grounds. Deborah
Hi Deborah. I’ve been dreaming of Spain for as long as I can remember, and when my little sister walked the Camino a couple of years ago, her stories inspired me to walk the same trail. So glad I did! The views, the people, the villages… all so amazing.
congrats again sunshine, hope d’s knee continues to heal. Still so much to do!! I too am inspired to walk the pilgrims way, how better to heal the heart and restore the soul. Send much love
Thanks Kath! You would love it! You would also love the wine and cheese and company that revives after a long day of walking and thinking! xo
Thanks for allowing me to travel vicariously through this blog. Much appreciated, and far cheaper than airfare! Is Dave back to full strength yet? Glad you guys and Bec and Fraz are having so much fun! Jealous as always! BIG LOVE!
Hey Josh. Thanks for travelling vicariously with us! Sorry you couldn’t be here in person but understand you have important author-ing to do back home.
Dave is getting there slowly. Not walking everyday is certainly helping the healing process but he still looks like someone 3 times his age when he gets to stairs.
In Granada now and taking the drink-more-sangria-in-the-sun remedy as supported by the now 3 doctors we have travelling with us (we picked up a Rob en route).
Stay awesome and keep up with the comments – always great to have you here.
Your observations hit home for me. My wife and I walked the Camino last spring and it transformed our views about travel.
Thanks for reading – I hope you and your wife had positive travel revelations on the way?