Its the last time I tell the early morning lie "get up Frances its 8 O'clock" This essential devise has served us well for over a month, letting us get the early starts whilst allowing Frances to hang onto the fantasy that she's not a crazy pilgrim getting up at sparrow fart (God knows its little enough of an indulgence).
I share my wicked midnight plans with her and she stuns me be saying she was a whisker away from suggesting we leg it as well but thought that I would 'veto' such heresy! I can't believe it 5 hours ago we were so close to folding.... phew!
Leave do Pino in the dark and its still grey at Lavacolla. Pleasantly surprised by the walk up to Monte del Gozo we had been prepared for a dull trudge but it's a nice walk actually.
We arrive at the monument from which you have the first view of Santiago. Well of course its our usual 'metaphorical view' as its misty, but who cares-I think I can smell tartes baking and pulpo simmering and Frances discerns a shadow in the mist that could be a towered building - & that's good enough for us.
Besides we now have another shot to add to the snow/mist/rainout section of our photos this contains such luminaries as the view towards the Col de Leopolder, the Cruz de Ferro & O'Ceibreiro. Thinking about it we could just use blank A4 sheet for the section but that may be a bit 'Tate Modern'?
Frances breaks out the last piece of Camino chocolate but we don't take the boots off or hang around this time as something seems to be 'reeling us in' and we quicken in response to the pull of that current. Walk for a bit with a retired french couple who have walked from Le Puy-they both look immaculate and it turns out they crossed the Pyrenees a few days ahead of us-but my goodness are they fit.
Pull in for breakfast at the huge 'Alberguearama' that can accomadate hundreds. Its fantastically organised and signed-though pretty its not. The two of us share a dining room the size of a airplane hanger with a small group of lively Spanish school kids. Its the last cafe con leche/Colacao of the road, a poignant but happy moment. I also know I am Camino crazy as I actually really like this place and wish we had taken a lead from Anne Matte and pushed on here yesterday evening. Though we guess she will probably have made an early start we still keep checking out for her.
Leaving the cafeteria we see some pilgrims descending a flight of steep steps leading down to the main plaza and one girl trips and falls down, hurting herself so badly she won't be finishing her Camino today or any day soon! The thought of this is so traumatic that we morph from the nonchalant randonneurs of this morning with their confident stroll into a pair of fearful octogenarians cautiously shuffling along.
There is terrific signage all through the complex but right at the end as you are leaving it to head onto public road again the signage stops.......where are the multilingual interpretive boards now?....just how do we get out of the place? to get lost now would be killing........then Frances spots it just ahead and to our right, daubed low down on a bit of kerbing, A HAND PAINTED YELLOW ARROW! From high tech to no tech in an instant and we laugh out loud-this is either the most emotionally intelligent signage ever or Camino serendipity working its magic once again.
'King David' from the sculptors garden wall on the way out of the complex
To get into the city we have to walk over some sort of fly over and as the pavement is made of slats you can see bits of the road flashing below you What with the traffic below us and the traffic flying along beside us, we got dizzy and disorientated. It sounds pathetic but it was scary and we crawled along as if on the flimsiest of rope bridges-at one point even holding hands. So much for our image of being tough 'camino veterans'.
Walking up through the modern suburb I stop to retie my laces and as I am bent over a young pilgrim on a bike thinking I am about to pass out kindly stops, pats my back and says "Ultreia we are nearly there"- Well bugger that for a bunch of monkeys my last bastion of prejudice- my hatred for cyclists- is snatched from me within an asses roar of the blooming Cathedral and 15 minutes before my Camino ends.
I see a flash of pink and purple ahead and wonder can it be 'Purple girl' (AKA Sung Hi a korean who has been part of our daily 'walking pack' a good few times since I think just beyond Burgette or Zubiri but who we haven't seen since O'Cebrieiro) It is and I am happy to be walking in along side of someone from the early days. We see the first glimpse of the cathedral towers and I'm off like a shot
Sung Hi and Nell catching the first glimpse of the cathedral
On the Azabacheria we pass a mime group of girls and they are not only talking at a rate of knots they are talking so loud-maybe they need to let off steam before being silenced for the length of their performance!
When planning our journey back home we had agreed that we might want to go into the square separately or together on our arrival and had decided that we would do what felt right in the moment. Despite being excited as we approached we all spontaneously slowed up to 'go in' together-it just seemed right.
So happy to be here - as well as the shared outward expressions of relief/satisfaction at our successful Camino I feel a quiet, intense, almost secret joy at having completed my individual journey.
The icing on the cake is that Anne Matte has come on the off chance she would find us and she does! She had stayed in Gozo and arrived in at 8 with the square to herself. She walked us to the pilgrims office and we will meet up again later for a celebratory meal. The word is Jozefien is due in tomorrow but no one has heard of Gudweg, Liz and John, Steve, Emily and Sean, Johannas, Kate or Gunta for a while.
Anne Matte, Nell and Sung Hi
Nell, Anne Matte and Frances 07.05.09
Well here we are having kept our promise. I am so proud of my Compostela I may get a copy of it tatooed on my back!
After picking up our certs I phone Stephen and arrange to 'meet the boys before mass' (now there's a phrase from my youth I didn't expect to use again) Giddy as schoolgirls at the thought of meeting our partners of decades we try and doll ourselves up before they arrive-but there really isn't that much that can be done with soap and water. They arrive and we jump them - gosh stephen smells good and I nearly choke him with a hug of hugs.
Mr Brierley was right (of course) the front group of pews is reserved for pilgrims and, following his instructions, we boldly walk around the blue barrier and get the best seats in the house. Craning my neck to check out who's here and, oddly, its the 13 faces from that first pilgrims meal at Roncevalles that I find myself looking for-I am puzzled as as I've walked with other pilgrims for far longer and know them better than most in that group yet its still those others I seek out first.
The best seats in the house
The singing nun (well one of them)
Mass over there's only one thing left to do................
.........give Noamh Seamus a hug and a pogue!