49. There and Back Again

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Last night we stayed in the Hospederia San Martin Pinario.  This place is enormous.   It may not be a luxury hotel but for less than 50 euros we had a comfortable warm private room for two, a piping hot shower, crisp cotton sheets and towels and as much as you could eat buffet breakfast too.  The building and it’s interior would compare well to any Parador and it’s right beside the Cathedral… a great place to stay and we’d thoroughly recommend it.


I got up early this morning.  I had a date with a saint.  For 1007 kilometres I’ve been carrying the hopes, fears, dreams and regrets of a great number of friends and strangers… kind people who have donated to my charities in return for me carrying their private thoughts to St James or Muxia.

It was cold this morning and the square that was yesterday so full of noise, was today very quite.  I crept into the Cathedral and joined two other people who’d had the same idea as me.

I sat in the cold morning grey and took out my list… one by one I worked my way through it.  As I sat in quiet conversation with the apostle a nun came and sat beside me… she left one place between us as if someone else had joined us.  The words I shared with James brought silent tears that rolled down my face.  I couldn’t look up at the nun beside me but I could sense her watching.  Maybe she felt I needed the company.  We both sat there for perhaps 20 minutes… saying nothing but aware of each others presence… before she quietly slipped away.

I folded up my notes and walked down the stairs and knelt alone in front of his tomb. Then I made my way up behind the alter and placed my hands on his shoulders… again totally alone. I wished the same wish… keep us safe… keep us happy.

I bid the Cathedral a buenas dias… I’m so glad I went early.  I left as I arrived… alone and in the grey morning light.

Walking back to our hostel I fought my way through a coach load of arriving tourists.  It broke the spell and brought me back to reality.

I really want to say that I’ve loved my visit to the city but really I am sort of glad that we’re moving on.  It’s too loud… too full of tourists… too full of noise and bustle. Dare I say it feels a little like a Disney park.  Dare I say that even the rejoicing pilgrims with their souvenirs and feathered staffs and shells and songs don’t feel real to me.  I felt lost in the city and I’m ready to go home.

But before we head back to France there was another trip I had to make.  The final stop for my bag of thoughts is the rocking stone at Muxia.

Today the three of us caught a train back to Ourense to find our car… it took just 36 minutes. We drove back to Santiago… or we drove by it on the motorway.  The trip that had taken us 5 days to walk was completed… there and back again in less than two hours.  We saw nothing of the jewels that we had found whilst walking… how easy it is to miss the wonders of our world as we speed by.

We stopped for lunch.  Gerry had wished for eggs and bacon… guess what he found?!

We have an apartment overlooking the sea… just outside of Cee. I unpacked my suitcase and found my civvies… do I want to put my jeans on?  What a ridiculous situation… I know that by changing and swapping backpack for bag I lose my pilgrim identity… I’m almost invisible again.

We drove to Fisterra.  The sky was black and full of rain and we lost hope of a glorious sunset.  We parked and walked to the lighthouse… I had to pay 50 cents for a sello and I’m not sure why that bothers me.   We waited for the rain to ease and walked back to the little cafe for a hot chocolate.  The little room was full to bursting… full of pilgrims.  One chap asked me if he could have the stool… I need it he said proud and loud… I’ve walked 800km.  I wanted to reply I’ve walked 1000 but I gave him the stool and moved away.

We went out to watch the sunset. There was so much cloud that it was really difficult to know when the sun actually dipped but it was beautiful… and it wasn’t raining which I took as a blessing.

There were lots of people doing the same as us… lots of pilgrims.  Many did like we did and found a quiet spot and watched. One guy sat a little to one side… and lit an enormous cigar that he quietly enjoyed. Some decided that it would be ok to pose for photos in front of us all… making lots of noise and generally acting as though the rest of us didn’t exist.  I wanted to lose myself in this moment…but I couldn’t.

We walked back to the car contemplating our mixed emotions.  I’m struggling to come back down… struggling to rejoin normality… I’m looking for arrows… I want to walk. I want to stand at the top of the hill, arms outstretched, and feel the breeze rush by me.  I’m a little lost right now… I dont like feeling like this…maybe I just need to go home?

7 thoughts on “49. There and Back Again

  1. Thank you again so much, Colleen. I remember my time to reflect, be thankful, look forward on the rocks of Fisterra. This last blog made me wonder what you’d write today — some months after it all.
    Two last practical questions: when on the CP, I could normally count on finding a “Chinese” supermarket in the larger places, to buy a cap, scissors, data cable, poncho… Is that something I should forget on the VdlP? Then, my breakfast usually included one or two bananas (for the much needed magnesium). Can I count on being able to get fruit at about every stage?


    • Interesting question… I dont know what I’d write today. On each visit to Santiago I have always felt deflated. I think that says more about how I feel at the end of my walk rather than the city. Perhaps I need to visit when I’m not walking and then I’ll appreciate it more! I’ve been to fisterra as a tourist and it was deserted, even in summer, so I was surprised how busy it was in November. I preferred it at sunrise 🙂 And I loved Muxia and would like to spend another day or two there.

      Q1) we found one of those supermarkets when Maggie left her iphone charger behind.. brilliant little places! There were a few of them And quite a number of the towns were bigger than I had anticipated. I think you should be most things, you might have to wait a day or two but there are bigger towns en route… actually more that I thought there would be.

      Q2) mmm I want to say yes but in reality it wasnt always so easy. I would say that you do need to think ahead for food and snacks (particularly on sundays). Sometimes our issues were more about timings… being in town during siesta or not wanting to eat too late. I used to stock up with nuts/banana/peaches if I thought I might have a problem. Having said that there were perhaps only half a dozen days when it was a real problem… I never really went hungry… and some of the little hostels prepared wonderful homemade food for us.


  2. Well I shall never know that feeling or have that longing to be a pilgrim but me and so many others will have just a little inkling of how it feels how it looks, the magnificent places along the way, the extremities of mountains to forest and the plaines. The vastness and empty spaces, the sun and the rain, the ups and downs because of you and your strong self willed and mental determination of wanting to,
    Thank you for sharing this amazing journey.


  3. I don’t know what to say…..I understand the feelings – when it is over, things may go back to “normal” but the changes brought about by the journey will always be on the inside and untouchable by any outside forces.

    On to the next journey…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bless you Colleen. Give yourself time to relax and look back over what you have achieved. And…. I would have told that guy just how far I had walked and needed the stool more…… 😀 XXX


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