Day 21- Vilanova de Arousa to Santiago de Compostella – boat ride- 28km- walked- 27.6km.
And it’s over.
It has been a big day but we finally made it to Santiago and we have the compostela to prove it. Although I’m not sure which one is mine.
The day began over fifty kilometres away, when we boarded the boat at 8am under the light of the full moon at Vilanova de Arousa. This was the last stage of the three day Spiritual Varient, and the most important as it was believed we were following in the same journey that was bestowed on the body of St James before being laid to rest in Santiago de Compestella. Fourteen other pilgrims rugged up for the journey in the small inflatable that took ninety minutes. It was a fresh 11°C but by journeys end, we were all pretty much walking icicles.
Captain Santiago (no relation) escorted the boat out of the harbour then with daylight almost breaking, we watched the local fisherman trawling for mussels and clams in the Arousa estuary. This is one of the most important fish farming areas in Galicia with the production of mussels being second in the world after Canada.
Then we continued up the Rio Ulla until we reached Pontecesures, two kilometres from Padron and back on the Portuguese Camino. Along the river route we admired a series of ancient crosses used as spiritual guides for many years. At one of these landmarks, Captain Santiago handed out plastic cups of hot tea. This went down very well as we were all freezing under our layers of coats and wet weather gear. Michael was a bit worse off as he had shorts on. His legs were almost blue. It was 9.30am before we disembarked and ran to the nearest bar to defrost with a hot cup of cafe con leche.
We had initially decided to walk to an Albergue in Teo (13km from Santiago) and stay the night, but after our early pilgrims lunch at a cafe around half way, we felt revitalized and continued on. We knew that we couldn’t book into our accommodation in Santiago (Hostel Costa Azul) until 4pm. We estimated that we’d get to the Cathedral by 5.30pm, which was pretty much spot on.
So this was our last days walk of the Portuguese Camino. There was some scary stretches walking beside the highway but about a third of the way was through woodland paths. These are my favorite parts. We even saw the four teenage German girls that we had seen and spoken to way back in Rates. We spent the afternoon going back and forth with them. Whenever we had a toilet or drink break, they would move ahead of us, and vice versa. We ended up getting to the Praza do Obradoiro before them, and ironically they were ahead of us in the line at the Pilgrims Office for the Compostela.
Santiago remains the same. Pilgrims everywhere limping around with smiles on their faces. Plenty of tourist shops selling pretty much the same thing to pilgrims that can now add weight to their bags. The best difference that I noticed straight away was the lack of scaffolding in front of the Cathedral. This is the first time that I have seen this beautiful building in its entirety. And it truly is a gorgeous sight.
So that’s it folks for another Camino. Thankyou for all your encouragement and enthusiasm for our journey. We had toyed with the idea of walking the English Camino from A Coruna to Santiago beginning on Monday, but the forecast is for rain all next week. Never say never though…