Walking into Santiago this time was different. As Holy Week approaches the crowd was unreal. Noise, cameras, tourists, youth groups, tour guides with speakers, street performers, trolley trains, peddlars, bagpipes, and more pilgrims than I've seen in 39 days all put together! (the large numbers of pilgrims are mostly from the Camino Frances).
I just tuned them all out and walked across the Cathedral Plaza in tears.
I didn't have to ask where to go. I didn't have to ask where the pilgrim office was. I know the routine.
I could concentrate on the pure joy of finishing, the sadness of it being over, the satisfaction of completing a 1000 kilometer trek with just my legs, and the thankfulness I have for so much more than I deserve.
I'm so thankful for:
Ruth Ann - Thank you so much for supporting this trip in so many ways. The Skype talks. The prayers. The permission to risk so much. Tuesday, Baby, Tuesday!
Health - Not a single illness or serious injury, and just having the ability to attempt such a walk.
Pilgrim friends - I'll just say that without Alan, Anne, Nina, and Ralf, this Camino would have been disappointing. With them, it will be remembered as one of my life's favorite times. That's how important good friends are! There were many other folks with whom I had shorter visits. I enjoyed them all, but a special shout-out goes to Doretta a German lady with a dog named "Hoffmann", and the two men from Holland with whom I walked some in the first week, Peter and Albert.
Weather - Only about 10 or 12 hours of rain while walking for 39 days (several other hard rains in the evening or at night). Temperatures from 26F to 85F, but mostly in the 40 to 70 range, just perfect for walking. Unbelievable.
Hospitaleros - These folks help pilgrims every afternoon and evening, and cleanup after them every morning. What an amazing gift.
Food - I'm especially thankful for the good food on this trip, whether the other pilgrims and/or I cooked it, or it was prepared in a cafe or behind the counter in a shop, or just bought in the store. Food becomes such a passion because a pilgrim must carry the eats for the day, be prepared for tomorrow each afternoon, and find a hearty dinner at the end of each stage.
The Spanish People - So many times on a hot afternoon, I heard a horn honk and saw the driver give a thumbs up. Or I walked by an old woman sweeping her driveway and she says "Buen Camino". These people understand the Camino and the pilgrim experience.
Scenery - The Via de la Plata, and especially the last 300 km (called the Camino Sanabres) is really beautiful country. So much of the time is totally "in the middle of nowhere" with great landscapes: flowers, forests, wildlife, ranchland and farmland.
Peace - I wrote about this a couple days ago. I'll just add a quote: "The Camino is God's dream for how people should be when they are with each other." Hank Leukart quoting a Santiago nun in his film "A Camino de Santiago Story: To the end of the World" - my absolutely favorite Camino film which can be found on youtube now.