Mi Camino Flashback: Day 6 – The Cathedral, The Cert & The End!

imageSept 20, Armenal to Santiago de Compostela (14km): It’s D-Day today. The last stretch before we enter the city where our final pit stop, the Cathedral of Santiago, stands. The goal of most pilgrims is to reach the city by noon in time for The Pilgrims’ Mass. To do that, one would have to be up real early (like 5am) if you are staying at Armenal the night before.


DARK KNIGHTS: Let me tell you it was still super dark at 0700 hrs after breakfast! We stayed at Hotel Armenal – the first on our tour that felt like a proper full service hotel – and  the Camino is just beside the restaurant. Joanna London joined us from her hotel which was located quite a distance away. Everyone had their torches on and as we walked up the hill slope, we looked like miners trotting up a dark tunnel, a truly surreal sight! I of course felt behind the rest soon after but it was stimulating to walk with just a tiny bright spot in front of you. Amazingly, a few people managed to find a small fruit stand that offers a stamp for the passport! My guide Jesus I swear can see in the dark (above left). He kept track of me every 50m or so without the need of a torchlight! By 0800 it was getting brighter and it was nice to see clearly what the fragrant trees look like. You also get a blissful kick seeing the orange sky slowly turning blue and that you are on holiday while people in the cars on the highways that you see once you get off the hill are busy rushing to work….

It’s more cityscape in the final lap to Santiago understandably. Our first pit stop at San Paulo, next to a big church under renovation, about 4km away was closed so we had to drag on to Lavacolla (above right) another 2 to 3 km away before I could have my first rest.
imageHILLS OF SIGHTS: As in previous days, Jesus went on ahead while I carried on at my own pace. Proud of myself as I made good time and managed to make it to the next pit stop, a camping site at San Marcos 5km away, in just 1.5hrs. Thereafter it took me just 30 minutes to reach Monte de Goto or the Hill of Joy where a giant monument in honour of Pope John Paul II aka The Pilgrim Pope’s visit in 1993 stands aloft on the hilltop (above ). Now, it was about 1100hrs when I reached here. IF I had just continued walked on, I’d had made it to the noontime Mass. On time at the finish line for the very first time on Mi Camino but noooooo…
image…I had to go check out these two statutes depicting pilgrims waving deliriously upon seeing Santiago on top of a small hill that was practically a mile away (top of page and above). The good thing is they are impressive and where they stand offers a panoramic view of Santiago and the first glimpse of the Cathedral located in the heart of the city. Still, it was clear I was probably the only pilgrim who made the detour. Enough! Santiago here I come!

CITY OF JOY: Here’s a warning. People will probably tell you that it’s just 5km to the Cathedral from Monte de Goto. Let me tell you, and my tour mates will back me up, it’s a much longer route than that. After a long and winding down slope from the hill, you will enter the city of Santiago de Compostela which although isn’t exactly New York City, is still a bustling self-contained capital of the province of Galicia. And the Cathedral, located in the Old Town – is literally on the other side of town, and the distance is probably at least 8 to 10km! This is where the bronze scallop shells on the cement pavements really come in handy. As well as any resident here who probably get asked for directions to the church by gazillions of pilgrims every day, year on end! So just carry on walking and try to be at peace cos you will notice that your emotions just seem to tense up in a city unlike when one is in the laidback countryside…
L1040864ST JAMES, AHOY!: I was literally walking in circles when I arrived in the Old Town as it’s really like the old Medieval towns you see in those King Arthur and Joan of Arc movies, majestic but very maze-like. There was no time to sight-see as all I want to do was to reach the Cathedral de Santiago. I’d long gave up on the noon Mass. By the time I saw the beautiful sight pictured above, it was already 1pm but still, I thanked God ‘cos I’ve completed my 100km Camino de Santiago! Blisters and all! Woo-hoo!
L1040874The church with its Gothic design is truly awesome, both inside and out. The Mass had ended by the time I went in in search of my tour mates to have lunch together. Thank goodness, there’s an evening Mass every Friday and the botafumeiro ritual will be performed then as well, was so afraid that I would missed it! Once assembled, Jesus took us all to the Town Office where a long queue was snaking up a two-storey building to get our Certificate of Accomplishment to prove that we have at least completed 100km of the Camino de Santiago. 🙂wpid-20130920_171259.jpgSEAL OF APPROVAL: Here’s the cert which now hang proudly on my wall next to my computer at home. The cool 1euro scroll holder on the left – which Irish tour mate Barbara kindly paid for me –  is practically the only thing that the Office sells to raise funds to serve thousands of pilgrims who arrive every day. I don’t think I have ever been that thrilled to receive a cert in my entire life. By golly by the grace of God, I did it!

Next up: The awesome hotel that was once a monastery, the stunning Cathedral and its amazing botafumeiro ceremony, and last but by no means least, The Last Supper with Jesus…


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