In the morning, we packed up our gear and brought our bags downstairs as we had been accustomed to doing so often. We could smell coffee brewing and soon noticed that our host was beckoning us towards the dining room where he had laid out a wonderful spread of fruit, jam, meats and cheese as well as scrambled eggs. Still just the two of us in the whole place. After we had taken some fruit and bread for the walk into Santiago, our host came by the table and gave us a DVD of “Casa da Agua” in English for which I thanked him and then packed it away in my backpack. A half hour later we were on our way back to Arca where our host stopped the car at the entrance to the Camino. We said goodbye, and as we watched him drive off, I wondered if I had ever experienced a more interesting 16 hours filled with so much intrigue and delightful surprises.
Within a few minutes, we were deep into a beautiful Eucalyptus forest as we headed towards our final destination. As I walked along, I was thinking that today I would be in Santiago without a doubt. In other words, I was definitely going to make it all the way. I felt as if I could crawl there if need be and still make it. Up until this point in time, the question was in doubt. Something could always happen that might prevent me from completing the trip. I could now say with confidence that nothing would stop me from reaching the end of the journey. Greg got out ahead soon, as usual, and I lagged along enjoying the forest. In the little village of San Anton, I met two young girls from America who worked for the Peace Corps and were on a holiday and decided to walk the Camino from Sarria to Santiago. They were delightful young women and I enjoyed a ten-minute walk with them before they stopped to have a snack. At the end of the forest, before it opened into the fields surrounding Amenal, I stopped to take care of some lingering business.
Getting back underway, I took the tunnel under the N-547, emerged, and started the long, slow climb up to the Santiago Airport in Lavacolla. For the most of the morning, I was alone on this trail that was similar to the California foothills with pine trees dotting the landscape.
After maneuvering around the airport, the trail took a sharp turn to the right. It was here I found Greg waiting for me, and we walked through the little hamlet of San Payo before crossing under the N-634a via a tunnel. The Camino then led us through the environs of Lavacolla, and shortly we crossed back over the highway that went directly through the main part of town to head up to Vilamaior.
That was a steep climb in many sections until we got to the TV station and a sharp turn to the left and a campground that had a snack bar. We stopped here and ate the fruit and snacks that we had accumulated. While sitting there, it occurred to us that this would likely be the last lunch of this type we would have on our trip.
By this time, there appeared to be a non-stop flow of pilgrims that walked past us as we sat there, and I found myself wondering how crowded the city would be. After lunch, we took a short zig-zag and then down a long paved street to the little village of San Marcos. At the end of the town and up a small hill we arrived at Monte del Gozo which overlooks the city and has a monument that has become iconic. There were tour buses, school children, and bicycle clubs here swarming around the monument, and it seemed a bit like Disneyland.
We spent about ten minutes at Gozo and then took off down the hill towards Santiago. On the way, there were many local walkers who had joined up, so it was a rather jovial walk down. When we reached the end of the hill, we crossed over the RR tracks via an old wooden walkway and into the city environs.
From there it was a matter of winding our way through the city streets, past the statue of the Knight Templar, all the while keeping an eye on the Camino markings in the pavement, until we reached the Porto Do Camino and eventually made through the narrow streets to Prazo Obradoiro and the magnificent Catedral. An unusal street band, playing semi-classical pieces greeted us as we entered the plaza around at the side. We stopped for a while to listen to the accordion, mandolin and bass and soak in the atmosphere.
Then we dipped down the steps to the main square fronting the Cathedral. I was flooded with emotions, realizing that I had longed for this day for quite a while now. Pilgrims were all over the place hugging each other and recognizing those that they had met along the way and from whom they had become separated.
We didn’t see any of our “folks”, but were certain that they would turn up sooner or later. After watching this scene for a bit, we may our way west down rua Hortas and up the steps to rua do Pombal to our hotel for the next two nights. Inside, the desk clerk informed us that we had been switched to another hotel, but not to worry because the new place was even nicer than where we were. She told us that the hotel was owned by the same corporation and that they would call a cab for us and pay for it. That seemed fine to us and we waited outside for the cab which came right away. The new hotel was called Hotel Virxe de Cerca and was really nice. Our room was big and had three beds. It was also just off a beautiful garden area which also led to the dining area and the bar off a pleasant patio.
After stowing our gear, we took showers and then proceeded back to the Cathedral area to find the Pilgrim Office to have our passports stamped and to receive our Compostelas. This was located in the Casa do Dean on Rua Vilar. It was quite crowded with pilgrims lining up to do the same thing.
Again there were many reunions happening as we waited in line. Once inside the door, there was a long winding line up a staircase that led to the upper doors and cubby holes where the officials were to ask questions and stamp our passports. They also wrote out our information on the Compostelas, and handed them to us while congratulating us at the same time.
On the way out, we both purchased tubes to preserve the compostelas properly so we could pack them away in our bags without getting damaged or torn. We left from here and went back to the hotel for a nap and after that a drink at the bar where a very friendly barkeeper gave us some local history. By seven o’clock we were out on the streets looking for a restaurant to get an “early” meal. We found one on the Praza Cervantes, and although it was already packed with a rowdy crowd, there was a small table near the rear of the place that we could snare. The menu was primarily Italian, and we found it delicious. Darkness was now descending on the city, and we returned to our room and got to bed early.