Total distance 971.8 km
Daily average 27.8
Today’s accumulated uphill elevation 208 m
Today’s accumulated downhill elevation 177 m
Yesterday’s hospitalera who I presume is called Chisca, was worth her high charges in entertainment value. She is one of those women who rushes around at full speed but ends up going round in circles. She is very kind and insisted that I call round to the albergue this morning even though I didn’t want the included breakfast. She had made me a package to take with me including a pear, an orange, a kiwi fruit and a yoghurt. And she also gave me a present of a papier-mâché Camino arrow brooch. Much appreciated.
I caught up with Juan a short while out of Sigüero and we had a good chat about all things Camino related, and a few unrelated.
And halfway through this short stage I was very excited to receive a message from American Niki, who started from Irun the same day as me. I haven’t seen her for what seems like weeks, but she will be in Santiago today and wants to meet.
It was an easy stage, almost entirely on track and I arrived in Santiago at 11:00, left my pack at the albergue and walked to Praza do Obradoiro to people watch for a while. I went inside the cathedral at 11:30 and all the pews reserved for pilgrims with credenciales were taken, some by people who were obviously not pilgrims. The system was being policed by the security staff when I was there last year but this was not in evidence today.
I am always surprised by just how very rude some people can be, pushing in front and taking no notice when asked to move out the way of a person in wheelchair; talk when asked to be silent; take photos when requested not to. I couldn’t believe my eyes when one woman walked in wearing racer back vest and short running shorts – not a young woman – who barged her way to the front. The cathedral officials must despair at times.
Despite it being my fourth camino, my joy at arriving in Santiago de Compostela has not diminished. Although I am not religious the cathedral and the pilgrims’ mass never fail to move me close to tears. The same nun was singing as in years past and she has never disappointed with her clear and beautiful voice. I made no attempt to take any photos because I already have as many as I need from previous years. And as has always happened in the past, the botafumeiro was swung. I love the music that is sung during the swing and called into the cathedral shop to ask if I could buy a recording. But there isn’t one – I shall have to take a look online – the piece is called ‘Himno al Apóstol’.
After the service I sat in a bar behind ththe cathedral sipping a glass (or two) of fresh cool white wine, listening to the very chilled guitar music being played by the same guy as always, weirdly wearing a black mask. On reflection perhaps the mask is a guise to make us think it is always the same guy playing, but he is actually interchangeable without anyone knowing. Whatever – the guitar music is excellent and just perfect for the situation. As I was gazing around I noticed Kathleen and Stacy, the two English women who I talked at for so long a couple of nights ago. They joined me at the table and I was able to listen to them for a change.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to return to the albergue and just wandered the streets for a couple of hours. Santiago is a great place for wandering. I was on the lookout for Niki because we hadn’t been able to make contact electronically to organise a meet. I sauntered to the park for a view of the cathedral spires. I am so glad that for my first visit to Santiago in 2013 the repair work on the cathedral had not begun, so I was able to enjoy it to its fullest. Any pilgrims who have arrived in the city since that time must have been very disappointed to see this beautiful building swaddled in scaffolding and hoardings.
Then I went to find the new Pilgrims’ Office to investigate the length of the queue (2 hours – I didn’t wait). On the way, a woman who was walking towards me stopped to speak – ‘Are you Maggie?’ she asked. ‘Do you write a blog?’ She had recognised me from photos on the blog. I was amazed and delighted. She had been cycling the Camino Portuguese and had found the blog useful. Fancy that.
I didn’t find Niki in the end, but now that we both have wifi, we can arrange to meet tomorrow. And in the evening I will be meeting with Alan and Alex from day 1, and with Carsten who joined this group a few days later. I am very much looking forward to meeting all these guys.
I am shortly off to meet Super George for supper. It’s quite a social whirl in Santiago!