Arrival – Santiago

 

Some have also wished, that the next way to their Father’s house was here, that they might be no more troubled with either hills or mountains to go over; but the way’s the way, and there’s an end – John Bunyan.

 

From a certain point of view there is nothing particularly special about Santiago – the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The point of the pilgrimage isn’t arriving at Santiago, it is the journey. Without the trials and tribulations of the journey, arriving at the end would be meaningless.

The way is the way, and that is an end in and of itself.

The point of the pilgrimage is to find the strength to persevere through exhaustion, delirium, getting lost, disillusionment, doubts, pain – to find strength from within, in the support of others, hope, connection with and inspiration from the past, friendship. It is right then, that our pilgrims started and ended their pilgrimage in the same manner – together, having overcome and achieved so much.

Still smiling.


 

Our pilgrims started the final day in fine spirits, excited and optimistic about what lay ahead for them. 17.5 kilometres, all that remained of the official 100 km of the pilgrimage. All in all our pilgrims walked a rather showy-offy 160+ km.

A quick stop to admire the beautiful sunrise and an equally quick prayer and they were off. The new-found spring in their step propelled them forward at speeds hitherto unknown to man.

 

The long and not very winding road. The way’s the way and Santiago is a ways away.

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Hover over these images for captions. Or click on image for a slideshow.

Our ever-dutiful and diligent pilgrims celebrated Holy Communion on top of Mount Gozo, from which the last 5 km, and their destination could be surveyed.

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Tradition dictates that upon ascending Mount Gozo, the last hill and last stop of the journey, pilgrims cry out in rapture at finally seeing the three spires marking the end of the road. I see no evidence of them upholding this tradition however… perhaps for the best.


 

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Mandy has sent me a number of pictures of laundry hanging on washing lines over the course of the pilgrimage. I haven’t understood her fascination with them, but now, at the end of all things, this last picture at least makes a modicum of sense. For the last few kilometres it is tradition for pilgrims to change into clean clothes. This tradition started originally as pilgrims bathing in the river at Lavacolla (near Santiago de Compostela’s airport today) before entering the city, washing away the dust and grime of their time on the road.

 


 

And here they are freshly bedecked in the cleanest linens.

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Eight days and over 160 km after they started, they have reached their destination. The journey will never truly end however, so long as the memory of the time spent on the trail remains with them, so long as the bonds of fellowship forged through shared experiences of hardship and happiness stay with them, so long as them blasted blisters remain.

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Congratulations to all our pilgrims – a most impressive feet of endurance and perseverance. Here’s to the Via Francigina (Canterbury to Rome) next year!

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