This morning we awoke with the roosters. No worries, all animals were accounted for; we had salad for dinner. Our final walk began early. We left as the sun was cresting the tree tops. The six-plus mile walk was mostly uphill and mostly anticlimactic. Although the first mile or so continued on country roads, we once again walked close to busy roads and, as we got close to the suburbs of Santiago, it was a city pattern of walking.Eventually we arrived at the historic district and saw the spires of the Cathedral. There are drummers, bagpipes, cheers, tears and clapping as pilgrims from every European route (the French Way, El Norte, Camino Primitivo, the two Portugese variations and more) enter the Obradorio Plaza.In the center of the plaza is a scallop shell plaque. There are a lot of reuniting hugs and emotional tears, giant smiles and lots and lots of photos. Woohoo!The main entrance to the cathedral is under construction which added to our decision to head to the office of peregrinos for our official certificates.
The office for receiving a Compostela certificate has moved outside the cathedral. There are now more than 300,000 peregrinos each year and a special office needed to be set up to greet them more efficiently. The office is a short downhill walk from the cathedral. It is run like the DMV. There is a line of pilgrims that snakes through hallways and outside into the garden. It creeps slowly forward. As you get closer to the front of the line, a monitor is visible that lights up when a window is available. The office is run by volunteers who check your pilgrim passport for the correct amount of stamps, ask you which route you walked (or rode your bike) along with your country of origin and if it was a religious, spiritual or fitness-based camino (a pastry pilgrimage was not an exclusive option and we decided it fell in the ‘spiritual’ category). Even though we arrived at 10am, we waited an hour and a half to complete this process. I can only imagine how insane this office gets at the height of season. The office also offers a personalized certificate with your name and exact kilometers walked for an additional €3. They also sell cardboard postal tubes for damage-free transportation along with a few other souvenirs.From the office, we opted to celebrate with an early lunch. We had soup and grilled pulpo with potatoes. Of course there was a slice of Santiago Tart (almond with confectioner’s sugar) for dessert.It is such a treat to watch the pilgrims enter the Obradorio Plaza that we went back, found a bench in the sun and just took it all in. We even saw some of the people we had crossed paths with a few days ago.Serendipitously, we arrived in Santiago on a special holiday, Ascension Thursday. The city was in a festive mood; there were carnival rides and some costumed singers.We walked through the massive cathedral and stayed for the Pilgrim’s Mass at 7:30pm. We were hoping, especially because of the holiday, that they would swing the botafumero. We were so lucky! A family had paid almost €400 for the special service. I was following the rules of no cameras until everyone else including a nun with an iPad was recording. Then I turned on my phone and captured this. Here are the guys that did that.It does look like the sound system is aided by angels.After, we connected with most of our Spiritual Variant group at a little restaurant near the cathedral. Many are continuing on to Finesterre and Muxia; one is walking between two lighthouses (that has my name all over it) and yet another is going to Italy to pick olives and make olive oil. Some must return to work.
Our Camino finished in spectacular fashion. An experience and memories we will cherish forever.