Ferry lines
Ferry Heli Pad 
Port of Aberdeen 
Off to the north country!
Aha ha ha! 
Buy plaid from the lion
Edinburgh, Scotland 
North Haven, Fair Isle Shetland

To the End of the World

We went to the pilgrims mass on the day of our arrival and the next. Each time, the service was lovely — chants being led by a nun with a quiet, commanding voice that ricocheted off the stonework. One of the highlights was, each day, if a priest has walked the trail, he is given the opportunity to say a prayer, so sure enough, we see our swimming pool compatriot — who has traded swim trunks for white robes — give a invocation in German. 
The finale of the service is something unique to Santiago and the pilgrim’s mass — in the cross of the cathedral, a gigantic silver incensory called the Botafumiero is hung on a woven hemp rope. Designed to fumigate the church in the Middle Ages when arriving pilgrims hadn’t showered in months and had brought along just one pair of clothes for the journey, the Botafumiero swings joyfully above the congregation in a beautiful curved arc, filling the whole of the cathedral with spiced smoke. Doused in the perfume, Glenn and I left Santiago, having finished our Camino, for the coast. 
At Fisterra, we gathered on the beach and set a bonfire. Then it was time to go home (or, well, to Scotland). 

Into Santiago de Compostela

At 5:30 we were up, headlamps on, and powering through the darkened streets. With the dawn, we realized the trail was streaming with folk! Tour buses of Spanish teens, older hikers, retirees on a jaunt, tourists for the day — all wanted the experience of arriving in Santiago on foot. In a way, it seemed daft — this was the worst day of the trail! It was through the suburbs along roads, the glorious mountains were behind us, and there were crowds. Why join for this day, of them all? It seemed a shame that the ‘real’ pilgrims were lost in the floods of amateurs. That those who had started in France were mixed in with the daytrippers. 
We stopped at a cafe, and as we were sipping our coffee, a compact, feisty Italian lady, about 65 years old, roars into the bar with her walking sticks and pack. Here was a real walker. She’s jabbering away and has a cohort waiting for her at each table. We hike ahead as she gets breakfast, but soon she catches up with us, moving a million miles an hour but slowing to say hello. She is caught off guard when I respond in Italian, and soon we’re in a mad-paced conversation. I’m practically sprinting to keep pace, but am too excited to have someone to practice Italian with to stop. Glenn, seeing that I’m having fun, picks up his pace as well. We keep this up for an hour, until we realize she had led us 7 or 8 km, mainly uphill. We slow, and she starts chomping at the bit and finally breaks away to Santiago, leaving us in the dust. Glenn and I realize we’ve strained every muscle in our legs. We take another break. We’re almost there. 
The last 3 miles were hellish. Our legs ached, the traffic zoomed around us, both on the trail and on the road, and at no point was there the expected majestic view of the city from a distance, the view we’d been awaiting for a month. Instead, the city arrived gradually, the suburbs wrapping us in and the sidewalks leading us around a hill before, quite suddenly, the cathedral with its two Gothic towers was right ahead. We slip in from behind, and enter the plaza. With that, the cathedral rears skyward. We stand near the pigeons for awhile, just staring, then with packs and sticks and sweat and everything, walk up the steps for mass.

The Final Days

he next towns and days passed in rapid succession — Triacastela, Sarria, Portomarin, Palas del Rey. As we neared Santiago, the trail turned into a more streamlined, commercial event. In Sarria, the town closest to the 100 km mark, we were joined by hoards of new pilgrims who, due to time, fitness level or desire, were walking only enough to get their official Compostela. 
Here we fell into the company of a group of American teachers — 2 principals from Florida, 3 art teachers from Texas, 1 elementary teacher from Maryland and her husband. Immediately, Glenn was back at home with this fine group of southerners. Joking and talking sports and pilgrimage into the night, we had a grand dinner in Palas del Rey with pulpo gallego (grilled Galician octopus), steak, salad, and wine. 
All the while, we were getting closer to Santiago itself. With two more days of walking, we found ourselves one day out in Arca do Pino, a suburban strip on the outskirts of Santiago proper. Finding a pensione with a swimming pool, we spent the afternoon splashing about and reading along with a Frenchman from Warsaw, two Australians, a Singaporean journalist and a German priest. Then we were early to bed, to ready for our final push into town. 

O Cebreiro

After a few days of busing, it felt good to be back on our feet the next morning. Our blisters had healed and the deadness in our heels enlivened by the rest, and we powered into the mountains early after breakfast. We were going great guns, chatting and keeping pace with one another as we followed the road along a river valley. We were definitely out of the mundane plains — although the trail had yet to tackle a slope, we were simply more alive in the damp green valleys than we had been around Burgos. At 11:00 am, we made our first stop at a cafe and bakery. As Glenn went inside for beef empanadas and fresh goat cheese and pear cake, I checked our map. In three short hours, we had gone 20 kilometers without even feeling the burn. 
It was a long day on the trail, and the Camino soon ventured off the hard top to a rocky mountain trail zooming straight up to O Cebreiro through the forest. Soon we left the trees behind, and found ourselves at the top of an alpine valley, painted yellow with blooming shrubbery. We skirted the ridge, and 2 kilometers short of our goal, we found a fantastic albergue that smelled of cow and clean laundry. We decided to stay for the night. 
The next morning, fog filled the valley below us like a punch bowl, and we walked out and above it to the O Cebriero, the highest peak of this section of the trail. We were now in Galicia. The gallego x’s, politically spray-painted on roadsigns, were now pronounced like a ‘j’ instead of the Euskera ‘ch.’ With the change in local language and dialect, it was like entering a new country that just happened to still be a part of Spain. Over the ridge, we peered down into what must have been a massive valley, but the thick fog swirled below and the neighboring peaks seemed like islands in a sea. We walked down through the clouds. 

A New Posse

Almost immediately, it seemed, we started to compile a new group. For me, this was the highlight of the Camino — entering a small town and having a collection of folk, from all over the world, ready to chat over a beer or glass of wine. I’ve come to the opinion that the Camino is a fairly mediocre trail, when it comes to the actual hiking. There are spectacular sections of landscape, but for the most part it often hugs the road or rolls through scrubby farms. In general, I often felt like it was overly prescriptive, for a walking trail. But the openness of it’s hikers, and their willingness to chat with strangers, completely redeemed the physical route. 
We began rebuilding our posse almost immediately — on the bus to Villafranca, we met a Canadian named Christine who had been hiking for twenty days, but was leaping ahead to make a deadline as well. We banded together as we walked into town, and after finding every hostel bed in town full, the three of us split a hotel room. Only on the Camino (and with a friendly Canadian), would you go from being complete strangers to hotel buddies in four short hours. 

Skipping by Bus

As someone who likes a bit of topography, it was wonderful sitting in the air conditioned bus rushing out of the flatlands of the Castillian plateau toward Galicia. Between Logrono and Villafranca, Glenn and I had necessarily decided to take the bus as we both had deadlines to meet in the first of July. The highway ran parallel to the Camino, and we zoomed by pilgrim after pilgrim, easy to spot thanks to their hiking sticks and large packs. Most of the Way here was a hot suburban mess. I was very glad we were on a bus.