Day 33, Brea to Santiago, Oct 31

Byron and Melita were quiet as church mice and I woke to the only sound they made – the closing of the door as they left around 6:30. 

What a great feeling to sleep between sheets.
Mats and I are off to a slow start. I let him sleep until 7:30 and we were on the road by 8:15. 
We can either only go 18k to an albergue 4.5 k outside of Santiago  or go the whole way. It’s beautiful day if we can walk all the way today we can beat the forecast for rain tomorrow. We decide to push for going the whole way today. Heck, it is only 22.5k.
The guidebook shows an elevation profile of mostly downhill yet I keep seeing uphill trails. ‘Mats, This is the last hill!’
‘Ja. Then it is all downhill.’
‘Oh, oh’. I spot a watering trough. I have seen a pattern and pointed it out to Mats- whenever you see a watering trough for feet or animals, especially those where humans can sit and recharge, then you just KNOW there is a hill coming up. I have tested this theory for four or five days now and it has never failed. Just around the bend there is a hill.
‘Mats, this is definitely the last hill.’
‘Ja, ja, then the downhill begins.’
At one point Mats stopped and reached behind his head into his backpack to pull out his guidebook.
‘Are we lost?’ I asked jokingly.  Mats does not get lost.
‘No, just checking.  I think this might be our last park-like trail.  After this we come to a busier road, so we should savour this.’
And so we did, but even the busier roadside trail was quiet.

A corn storage unit.

‘Mats, this is the last last hill.’
‘This is not a hill, just a long slight incline.’
‘Mats, the book didn’t say anything about this hill. This is the last last hill’.
And so it went, all day long on what was supposed to be a half day of downhill turned out to be a whole day of ups and downs, with more uphill than downhills. And then we came to the top of the big hill. It is said that the first person to spot the cathedral spires would be king for a day.  We looked and looked but couldn’t see them but we could see that Santiago was down below us. The hill was a big park with fields and paths crisscrossing below. We followed the signs down a road alongside the field and came across acres of row upon row of what looked like old abandoned army barrack blocks. We were taken aback to see the sign that this was an operating albergue and very glad we weren’t here in summer, especially in a year where St. James day fell on a Sunday when crowds easily doubled.

When we got to the bottom of the field a sign pointed uphill! Highway construction had changed the route but why, why, didn’t the detour start at the top of the hill and point us down one of the paths? Why make us go to the bottom and then walk halfway up again?
‘Mats we have come to the final hill.’
‘Ja, that is gutt. I was beginning to not believe you.’
We ended up walking another 6k in this detour and by the end of it we had to walk uphill to the city.
‘Mats, I swear this is the last last last uphill’.
‘This is not an uphill, it is an inner city incline.’
‘Ja, ja’ I muttered back.
It was a long way into the city with many albergues along the way. I kept thinking we should book into one of these because it can’t be much farther, but Mats knew and he also knew enough to stop at a panaderia so we could eat a pastry to give us enough energy for the final (uphill) push.
When we finally entered the old city with the narrow cobbled streets I knew we must be close. We chose an albergue around the back of the cathedral. Five floors up but only four beds per room. The German birthday man and his girlfriend shared our room. We had a view of the roof of the cathedral and the spires. It was the first albergue that had French doors onto a private patio and where the whole room was happy to leave the doors open all night. And the first albergue that would let you stay more than one night. And the first albergue where you could sleep in as long as you left between 11 and noon to allow the cleaners to do their thing.
Mats slept like someone who had just had a load taken off their shoulders.

In the kitchen, where the laundry machines were, I met a young Irish woman who had started in Le Puy, France, an additional 800k before hitting St Jean Pied du Port where we started. I asked her about her Camino. ‘I didn’t get any blisters until I hit Spain. 800k before my first blister. No reason, and to top it off, I got the Camino cough. But the French section was beautiful and the food fantastic.’ I had heard a few times that the food on the French Camino from Le Puy was great. More expensive, but worth it. It is on my mind to do another Camino and I think I would choose this route.

It was all hallowed eve, or the eve of all Saints Day aka Halloween.  It was also we were later to find out the day they drink the Blue Fire, an alcoholic punch with a punch. And there must have been a lot of drinking going on as the party noise went on into the wee hours.
Tomorrow we would get our ‘credential’ (certificate stating we had completed the Camino) and attend All Saints Day mass at the cathedral. Then we would really feel that we had made it.

Time on trail: 8 hours
Weather: Perfect.  Again.

Distance travelled: 26k?

Distance to go: ZERO!
Food: Cafe con leche x 3, croissant, savory pastry with cheese and tomatoes, chips and chicken stew, ice cream.
Lesson learned: everyone has their own Camino
Feeling: complete
Aches and pains: dragging

3 thoughts on “Day 33, Brea to Santiago, Oct 31

  1. Congratulations! I realize I'm reading these a week or so after you actually finished, but I've felt as if I'm walking behind you during these posts (without having to suffer any aches or pains or ugly blisters myself!), so for me, you've just finished here and congratulations need to be offered now. Hoorah! What an accomplishment! Hope someday I can hear about it in person.

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  2. Thanks Frances, despite blisters and aching feet and bedbugs, I enjoyed it! I did get behind blogging but will post my last two posts tonight and tomorrow.Next time I am in Vancouver I will see if we can get together for coffee.

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  3. I'd love that — and we have a bed (in a room with a closed door and a bathroom just alongside) you're always welcome to — Please just email should you even need a place to stay over here for a night or two.

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