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[Thursday 20th September; Spain Day 9, Camino Day 12. Today’s walking distance 29.4 klms (total journey – 307.3 klms)]

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa said the lovely Spanish nun at the 7:30pm Pilgrims Mass. They were just about the only words I recognised from the whole service, which was in Spanish, and they were rather appropriate given an event earlier in the day. More of this in a while.


We arrived into Santiago de Compostela at around 4pm, after a long almost 30 klm walk. We had left the quaint Hotel Vilagacia a little after 7am, and walked the kilometre or so to the station and caught the 7:47 train to Pontecesures. Because we had sort of squeezed our Spiritual Variation trip into our pre-existing schedule, we didn’t have the time to take the usual ferry ride from Vilanova de Arousa up to Pontecesures/Padron, so we improvised and trained to Pontecesures instead, and then commenced the walk into Santiago.

The day was cloudy and grey, the low Atlantic mist hanging just above us for much of the day. We arrived into Pontecesures a little after 8am, and as almost always the way when leaving an unknown railway station, we wandered somewhat aimlessly until we could find the right direction, eventually guided most helpfully by early morning council worker who could see me walking in circles.


Pontecesures isn’t a particularly attractive city from what we could see – a giant industrial plant on the far side of the Río Ulla seemed to dominate the landscape. Of course as this was the beginning of the last day, we did need to stop for a team selfie on the banks of the river.


We were welcomed into Padrón by the Iglesia de Santiago de Padrón. The church dates back some 900 years, but the interesting thing is the existence under the alter “a Roman altar stone dedicated to the god Neptune: the “Pedrón”, which, according to Jacobean tradition, was the mooring place of the boat that brought the Apostle James’ remains, along with his disciples Teodoro and Atanasio, from Palestine to the region of Iria.”. As with much of the St James mythology the reality of the story has probably been lost over time, but it’s an interesting piece of history all the same.



From here things degenerated for a while. I was taking photos in the church and Janet and Helen decided to walk on ahead, unbeknown to me. A few minutes later Nat and I left. Something didn’t feel right, and so I turned around and went back into Padrón, hoping to find the other two. Nowhere to be seen. So then we turned around again and headed out of town at speed, hoping that either they would wait for us or we would catch them. We went on this way for maybe 30 minutes, and I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier, aware of this but seemingly unable to control it. My concern was that I didn’t know if they were way ahead of us and we should just charge on, or somewhere behind us not able to catch us. I had wanted the day to be perfect, and by them heading off without letting me know where they were they had, in my mind, spoiled the day. By now I was furious, and I’m ashamed to say that my public behaviour was rather less than edifying. Yelling, swearing, tying to throw things – as I said, unedifying. Poor Nat bore the brunt of it. She eventually took hr pack off, sat me down, and ran ahead the kilometre or so to find them, and then back to me. They stopped, we powered ahead. I yelled some more … and now that I have calmed down the team now makes fun of me by doing dalek impersonations of me waving my arms around in anger. It all blew over. Janet knows well how to handle me; this time essentially by “laughing” at my performance. Mea culpa.


The walk was long, and increasingly hot as the fog lifted. But we had a lovely early lunch just before Teo, and the walked the apparently ancient Rua de Francos for a while, and then as we walked through the township of Teo we could not help but notice the community protests at a proposed waste recycling dump – very similar in spirit to the protest we are experiencing in Dunsborough to the Puma petrol proposal.


Our lunch place at Teo (guess which one?)...


And lunch ...


Part of the Rua de Franco ...


One of the most ancient stone crosses along the way ...


Teo Toysal protoest ...


From here we pushed on into Santiago. It was a hilly walk, and by now everyone was hot and tired, and just wanting to get to the end. Which of course we did.


Helen with less than10 klms to go ...


Encouragement ...


Getting closer ...


Our first sighting of the Cathedral ... we are now allowed (and able) to smile.


I didn’t have the same emotional reaction to walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral this time as I recall last time. It was an “I’m glad that’s over” sort of a feeling, but not the deep sense of accomplishment which I had experienced three years ago. I guess that makes sense, and I’m OK with it. But of course that didn’t stop us from just lying in the plaza for quite some time and taking in the surroundings, and of course the obligatory photos.




We went to the 7:30 pm Pilgrims Mass (three years ago we had rushed to get to the midday Pilgrims Mass, but that was never going to happen today), which brings me back to the beginning of today’s post. Those of you who know me and/or have read An Impossible Dream know that I am not a fan or organised religion, and do not have a religious belief in the accepted sense of the word. But going to mass at the Santiago Cathedral to end the journey, is a special event. The same nun who we had seen three years ago again regaled us with her simply glorious singing. The pomp and ceremony was nice, even if I don’t believe in its fundamentals. And they swung the botafumeiro, which is very special.


Showered, boots off, fed ...


So the day ended well, even allowing for my meltdown some hours earlier. Tomorrow we can enjoy some of these ...



A couple of rest days coming up ...

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Peter Campbell is a traveller, photographer, author.  He lives in the south-west corner of Western Australia with his wife Janet and golden retriever Peggy alongside the Indian and Great Southern oceans, in a peaceful rural setting surrounded by tall trees and in the company of kangaroos and kookaburras.  He can be contacted at this email address.

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