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Camino de Santiago, Day 47: Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela!!!

Santiago de Compostela

Trying to jump for joy in Santiago de Compostela

We made it to Santiago de Compostela!

It was a 20-kilometer walk to Santiago.  We were lucky that the rain didn’t start until several hours into our journey.

As the kilometers ticked off I found myself recalling many of the trials, the people, the beauty and the experiences that I’ve had in the last 46 days.  And I have discovered that I love walking long distances.  I didn’t really want it to end, nor could I believe that the next day I would not be on the road again, traveling through quaint, albeit deserted villages, eating the same Spanish foods that I have grown to detest for their lack of variety or imagination, meeting new people and reuniting with others, pushing myself past the limits of comfort only to discover that not only do I survive, but I thrive.

At the crest of a hill we see Santiago and now it’s really pouring rain.  Like in Burgos, there is a long walk into the city (and oddly enough, Santiago is the first place in the last 800 kilometers that did not have clear yellow arrows to direct the pilgrim).

We traveled from ugly suburban outskirts to the cobblestone streets of the old city.  We heard the whine of Galician bagpipes and entered under an ancient archway that has received pilgrims for 1000 years.  And there was the Cathedral on the plaza.  I stared at it.  This is the Cathedral that I have only seen in pictures.  In front of me.  We did it.  Lots of mixed emotions although surprisingly, I did not cry.  I was, however, very thankful for having had the opportunity to do this.

Had the sun been shining, I would probably have done what most pilgrims do, which is to drop their pack and fall to the ground in relief and lie in the plaza like a corpse in the sun.  But given the puddles made in the worn cobblestones, that was not an option.

We found a hostel and walked around old town.

Jamie with compostela.

Jamie with Compostela.

We brought our credentials to the Pilgrim’s Office and at the counter a young woman asked us individually where we had started, and if we had walked the whole way, to which I righteously responded “Every single step!”  That declaration was my reward for many, many miles of discomfort.  I felt proud.  Our names were written in Latin on our Compostela with the date of completion.  It’s now official.

We went to the Cathedral.  Its center is a cluster of gilded sculpture and organ pipes.  The all-knowing eye looks down from the center of the ceiling.  Behind the altar is a statue of St. James which is made of gold and emblazoned with jewels like something in Liberace’s closet.  It is the tradition for pilgrims to hug the statue and so one by one, we entered a narrow passageway behind the altar to do so.  I am not one for this kind of stuff so I gave the statue a reassuring pat as if I had just welcomed him to the corporation.  Then I was struck by lightning.  Jamie gave the statue a huge bear hug.

We then saw the tomb of St. James.  In a tiny room, five people stood gazing at an embossed silver box, the size of a child’s coffin.  Hanging above it was a silver star.  Below and in front were perfect fresh roses.  A spotlight shone upon the box.  I stood there looking at the box and thinking about how I wasn’t feeling anything.  Nothing at all.  I was feeling that I SHOULD be feeling something.  And then I felt like a jerk.  And I wondered why I wasn’t feeling anything.  And then I remembered I’m not Catholic!  Other people were clearly moved, and um, … God Bless ’em?  Zap.

In any case, I don’t believe that St. James is in the box (the story of his transport to Santiago is quite fantastical and there was quite a bit of political motive involved).  Even if he is in the box, being physically close to body parts does nothing for me.  Unless they’re living.  In which case, that’s hot.  Ow… Lightning strikes are painful.

So, I left feeling like a jerk or insufficiently spiritual to understand and an alien to my own people.  I got over it.  The fact is that the Camino has been a deeply spiritual experience for me but I have felt that on the Camino, in nature, seeing the grass in the breeze, listening to the birds…

We entered a small understated side chapel and Jamie and I both said silent prayers.  The sound of the rain pouring out of the cathedral gutters added a soundtrack that was both beautiful and sorrowful.

We headed out into the streets and we ran into many Camino friends, many of whom we believed were long gone.  There were numerous warm hugs.  It seems that Santiago is a place of reunion and celebration.  The wine flowed liberally, as did the stories, the tears and the laughs.

The universal statement in Santiago:  “There is no way to explain this to people at home.”  And the two questions everyone seems to be struggling with: “What’s next?” and “How will I go back to regular life?”

Pictures of the Walk from Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela:


  1. I really enjoy this, and now I want to do it, thank you for sharing your experience.

    • My pleasure. Glad it was inspirational Claudia. Go for it!

  2. Dear Laura,
    I read your CDS diary in 2-3 days and I enjoyed it so very much! Thank you for sharing the details with us readers. Congrats on walking it all the way! The entry when you couldnt find an empty bed in several hostels and kept walking brought tears to my eyes and I just want to say – you rock! It really is a testament how much we can actually accomplish if we push ourselves.
    I myself want to walk CDS so much but if I do go I will have to do it in 3 separate stages during my vacation time of 2 weeks each year – I know its not the same as most people walk it and its kind of “cheating” – walking only 2 weeks at once, but it would still be a wish come true.
    Good luck to you in your future endeavors!
    Best wishes!

    • Mima, Thank you so much for writing and letting me know you enjoyed reading my Camino story. Comments like yours are like fuel for a writer like myself. Please do not minimize your idea of walking the Camino in sections as “cheating” as we all have to follow our dreams in the capacity that we can and within the limits we have. The important thing is that you are following your dream. Many people walk for one week over four or five years so you will not be alone. I would love to hear back from you after you’ve completed your first section. I also wish you the best of luck and feel free to write if I can be of any guidance. Buen Camino!

  3. Laura, I just read your entire journey in one day. Thank you for sharing. I am an American currently teaching English in the south of Spain, and have been wanting to do the Camino for years. I decided yesterday that this summer it’s finally my turn.

    • That’s awesome Melissa! Thank you for reading and I wish you the very best!

  4. Yay! You did it! Read your whole Camino journey and followed along rooting for you along the way. You have inspired me to plan my own Camino journey next Spring 2015. Thanks, Laura.

    • That’s awesome Lois! Thanks for reading and I would love to hear about your journey too. If you have any questions before your Camino, please don’t hesitate to use me as a resource. Best to you.

  5. Thank You for a wonderful blog… I read it all with a great deal of interest and understanding. I loved the walk! The spirituality was found in the walking not in the Churches and Religion. I am desperately wanting to walk the Camino again, likely from Le Puy this next time. I have a wandering soul as well.
    Anyway, thanks! That was a wonderful read and a wonderful experience journeying with you on the trail for an hour or two and, now, in this blog.

    • Thank you Stephen for reading and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I can relate to the desperate feeling of wanting to walk again. I am having a bad case myself. Maybe we’ll meet again on the trail! Would love to hear about the Camino from Le Puy when you do it.

  6. Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Congratulations! It’s been so wonderful following your progress!
    Hope your next adventure is as satisfying as this one!

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