So after hours of flying we safely landed back in Jacksonville. It was a long, but fun-filled 20 days of traveling throughout Spain. I had a great time, made new friends, and had experiences that will be with me for the rest of my life. The people we met were so wonderful. So many stories were told to us that I can’t even remember them all. Not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Our group faced health issues, financial troubles, occasional infighting, and general fatigue, but none the less we made it through. That’s what the experience of the Camino is all about. It wears you down, beats you up, but you keep on trekking. It’s a learning experience that tests your limits and teaches you about yourself. I think this pilgrimage helps people who are struggling by offering a chance to escape it all for a brief period. But more importantly, it helps them deal with their problems. Everyone has turmoil in their life, nothing can stop that. But turmoil need not define a person. While you encounter others on the walk, at the end of the day it’s just you. Your own personal journey on the Camino de Santiago. Doesn’t matter if your initial reasons for taking the journey are religious or secular, this pilgrimage is about finding out who you are, and who you want to be.
The Romans believed that Finisterre was the “end of the world.” If you ever have the opportunity to visit on a foggy day, it is easy to see why they thought that. This is how our jolly band spent our last day in Spain, exploring the ends of the earth. Finisterre is located on a peninsula that stretches far into the Atlantic. It is cold and mountainous country. The group took a bus, up the long windy roads that led to the spot. Once there we disembarked and began to walk. The first thing you see coming out of the fog is a gift shop — shocker there. It sells you basic touristy stuff, for a cheap price. It is pretty standard. After the gift shop one must walk into the fog to find El Centro Agentino de La Coruna, a small square with only one large building next to it. The building is an art museum of some kind and is a nice place to take a break from the fog and wind.
If one goes past the square, they run into the cliffs. There is pilgrim debris everywhere; shoes, pens, pencils, ashes, jackets, sticks, etc. Our group gathered on one of the ledges and we burned our personal talismans. Afterwards, I decided to walk farther down. I went until I felt I could go no farther without endangering myself, and then I took a seat. From where I was I couldn’t see the ocean, but I could hear the monstrous waves pounding the rocky shore. On a peak a few feet away from where I was sitting I could see a lone Texas flag waving in the breeze. It was a calming moment; sitting there watching the Texas flag fly and listening the Atlantic Ocean crash. I could have sat on the cliff forever.
After completing the pilgrimage, we stayed in Santiago for a few days. Santiago is an amazing city and we were able to see some incredible sites. The last day of being in Spain we went to Finisterre and saw the end of the world, as far as the medieval ages knew. It was a cold and foggy day and we could not see much, but in the small town of Carnota we were able to see some really interesting sites, one being the longest granary (Hórreo) in Galicia. It was created in the 1700s. There were two towns that had a competition to create the longest granary and neither said they had the longest.
I love history and seeing this huge granary was interesting to me because it showed me the competitiveness hundreds of years ago and these people were very proud of their accomplishment. Something as small as building a huge granary can be an outstanding feat for some and it is amazing to me. In Finisterre, we could not see much due to the fog but I still felt as if I was at the end of the world. That last day was purely stunning with each of the beautiful sites we went to. I hope many people take it upon themselves to go see these beautiful sites and walk the pilgrimage after reading our blog postings.
I stare into the void, and it stares back into me. On the cliffs of Finisterre I could hear the ocean, but I couldn’t see past the shroud of thick fog. It’s a fitting end to my journey. After seeing so much, it’s a reminder that there is a lot of mystery left. I’ve accomplished a goal I set back when I was seven, seeing Europe. My future now is unclear. A new mountain has to be surpassed.
I look back to the radio tower behind me. It’s covered in shoes, locks and graffiti. The words “No Mas. No Mas” are painted on it in deep red. Other cries of joy and labor accumulate on this tower in different colours. I feel it, the essence of the journey. I recognize the writing of the graffiti and have a sense of relief that these familiar strangers had made it as well.
I lacked this fulfillment in Santiago, even after receiving my compostela. I watched two women weep in front of the pilgrim’s office and wondered what was missing inside me. At the time, I wondered if I was really a pilgrim. Had I not been truthful in my endeavor? I thought not walking from Saint Jean Pied de Port had robbed me of my finale, which I still think plays a role somewhat in how I perceived the experience.
I just haven’t walked far enough.
The coast of Galicia and Finisterre feels like an ancestral home. It reminds me of my hometown Saint Augustine mixed with the mountains of North Carolina. The Celtic music haunting the air gives the experience an even deeper ethereal feel. It’s a fugue. The duende of the journey had finally produced the sound I wanted. Its sad tone was finally met with its inspirational counterpart to make a palpable dream state. So moved, I kneel down onto the rocks of the cliff and carve into a post a message for every pilgrim now and later.
Sic Itur Ad Astra.