Walking the high peaks of Galicia, surrounded by endless mists, my mind traces back every step and I wonder how far I have come and how much further could I go yet? The Camino opens your mind to a deeper understanding of the self and of everything that surrounds it. But if the Camino merely opens your mind to this, if it is just the first step, then how far can you go? How much deeper can you dig? Every question spawns another, and then another, and so the road to understanding is endless. One could walk it forever.
But how far have I come in this last month? I am now in Portomarin, a beautiful town overlooking an enormous river, 700km from St Jean Pied de Port,. I have crossed mountains, walked through endless hills of vineyards and farmland, crossed rivers and hiked through high forests, learned another language, made new friends and lived another culture, but who am I now standing at the entrance to this city? The answer is I don’t know. Does the answer lie in Santiago or maybe in Finisterre?
No, I know full well where the answer lies, at home. Only returning to your everyday life can you understand how far you have come, by comparing yourself to the life and people you left behind. But the journey is not over yet, I know that there is yet more to discover between here and the end of the world. I am now curious to see what emotions arriving in Santiago will spark. It is our goal, what we have been working towards for so long now. Only a few days separate us from our destination, and the flow of pilgrims heading to the shrine is steadily getting thicker. Can we define as pilgrims those who are walking only the last 100km? Is it right to call to the town ahead and book the hostels? We now find ourselves rushing off in the morning to make sure we find a bed at night. It has become hard to relax into the Camino as we did before; in a way we no longer have any room to think.
Santiago is within a day’s reach. We have just walked past the airport and seen a plane fly right over our heads. We take a lengthy pause at the top of the Monte Gozo looking down at the city bellow us, Santiago de Compostela. We step down from the mountain and into the city, we see many people stopping to drop their bags in the hostels before heading for the cathedral, but we must reach the shrine with the same weight we have carried thus far -a burden which I will drop only when I have reached my destination. We pass through the Porta Do Camino, Gate of the Way, entrance to the medieval town centre, follow the arrows along the winding streets and finally step into the Praza do Obradorio. The cathedral of St James is in front of us, enormous, magnificent, yet under restoration.
There and then I could not explain my emotions. I had been excited by the idea of arriving and was convinced that my soul would be flooded with a whole new energy. And yet I felt quite the same. Of course I was happy, satisfied and amazed at where I was and where I had come to, but I had been expecting something else, something more. We dropped our bags and sat under the arches at the far end of the square admiring the cathedral and reflecting on our state of mind. The conclusion was really very simple and straightforward: in the end it is the journey and not the destination that matters. And furthermore, our journey is not over yet, we have four more days before we have to fly back to Italy, enough time to travel on the Finisterre, Km 0 and the end of the world.