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Guest Post Series: Pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago: Part III

Photos by Tanya Yuson

Editor’s note: This is the 3rd and final installment of Tanya Yuson’s guest post series about the Pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago she just completed in Spain. There’s the kindness of strangers, the thrill of reaching kilometer 0, and chorizo! You can read Part I here and Part 2 here.  You can follow Tanya on Instagram where she’s @TYPIX – Jen

Day 5 Arzua to Rua

By far the easiest trek of the Camino. The paths aren’t as steep and they wind through lots of forest and small hamlets. Close to the end, we’ve established a rhythm in our little group. We all take turns at the lead – occasionally we stop and wait if we’ve lost sight of any of our team. Late in the game, we take a page from the other pilgrims who stop for a mid-morning coffee or bathroom break at one of the cafes that dot the countryside. We’re not advanced enough though to stop for a beer, as some do, and keep on hiking in the Spanish sun. We do end up stopping for lunch at L’Esquipe – roadside restaurant suggested by our tour coordinator and it’s nice and relaxing. As in the past few days, we opt for the Menu del Dia ( Menu of the day) – usually a  generous 3 course meal with drink ( wine or water) usually for about 8-10 Euro. The food in Galicia has been fantastic so far and L’Esquipe is no exception. Sadly the local clam – Berberechos is not on the menu del dia and needs a more leisurely meal to be enjoyed. We look over with envy at the group of Japanese tourists enjoying their steamed clams with their white wine. Soon, we say to ourselves, that will be us.

We reach Rua at 5pm. The best time we’ve ever done! We are staying at a quaint Casa Rural called O Acrivo– situated in a small hamlet and on the route of the Camino. The sun is still high in the sky when we are shown to our rooms. Our group is placed in connecting rooms that share a patio that faces the huge garden. Fig and apple trees dot the garden. A cool breeze ruffles the washing on the line and our group of 6 is sitting on the patio…checking email. We may be on a pilgrimage, but we still need to update our FB statuses.

Day 6 – Rua to Santiago

The last 19km to the Cathedral of Santiago. This is the home stretch! We agreed the night before that we would start as early as possible so that we could get most of the walking done before the sun got too hot. We ate breakfast before the sun came up – for the first time in 6 days we were served a hot breakfast of eggs and bacon. Not that we’re complaining. Galician bread is particularly good and anytime you can get it, toasted with some good olive oil and salt you should go for it.

The last bit of the Camino before you get to the old part of Santiago isn’t particularly scenic – you go through more modern neighborhoods and wind through paths around the airport. But one pretty spot was the town of Sta. Irene, where you climb up from a tunnel to find a small abandoned chapel and cross a small neighborhood. In this neighborhood, one house placed a small basket of fresh figs and baby pears for the pilgrims to take as they wished. There were many such acts of kindness along the way by the residents – from free water to setting up shady places where people could rest or use the toilets.

Getting to the top of the Monte de Gozo or Mountain of Joy, we were about ready to finish up this bad boy. Instead of lingering to look at the Abbey, we made our way down the side and into the city of Santiago. Just like at Arzua though, we had to stop for a break short of our destination. It seemed ridiculous to break in a city, but the sun was too much. We rested at a bar with some delicious freshly squeezed orange juice and the waitresses, probably seeing the weariness on our faces, were nice enough to give us a plate of delicious Spanish torta de patatas with Chorizo.

Fortified with orange juice and chorizo we made our way into the old city and to our final destination – Kilometer 0 at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! We are joyful, but also exhausted. We take our pictures and go over to the Pilgrims office to get our Compostelas.

We settle into our hotel of Costa Vella in the old city, happy that we could rest a bit in such charming surroundings for the next few days. No more thinking of how many more kilometers we have to go or worrying about blisters on our toes.

The next day we see the fantastic interior of the Cathedral as we attend the Pilgrim’s Mass. It’s great to see some familiar faces from the Camino at this mass, and we wave hello to each other instead of saying the usual greeting of Buen Camino. It feels a bit like graduation – everyone is dressed and freshly showered and a bit giddy with excitement. We were hoping to see the gigantic Botafumiero (or incense burner) swing during the mass, but it was not to be.

No matter. We got what we came for and we never had to call a cab along the way.