Day 29 – Palas de Rei

Yesterday was an important day for every pilgrim – we passed the 100 km mark. It´s rather unimpressive, actually. In Galicia, the route is marked by little stone pillars every half-kilometer, telling you the remaining distance to Santiago (if I had thought about it earlier, I would have taken a picture of every one for a picture countdown). They´re only about 3 feet high, and often covered in graffiti. The 100k mark was no different, expect perhaps for the fact that it had more graffiti than most. Still, whatever its appearance, it holds important significance. Besides, we pilgrims don´t ask for much, and we usually don´t get much either. It is only fitting that such an important pilgrim monument show such humility. It´s nice when you realize how little you really need – clothes on your back, food in your stomach, and a mat on the floor at night. It makes one appreciate what you do have that much more, and detest the excess as well (I´m already planning on rifling through my room with an eye for next year´s yard sale, or Ebay).

The 100k mark tends to put things in perspective. We only have three days to Santiago now, and many, many days behind us (29, in fact). In a way of course it´s sad that our time here is coming to an end. All of us have gotten into a rhythm here. We are pilgrims now, and we live like it. And for all the walking or run-down albergues, it´s not a bad life at all. I for one will miss it, and take what aspects of it home that I can. It´s a good feeling to go to bed each night exhausted because you have wasted no moment of your day. We don´t often have that back home. Still, I hope that this summer will be a productive one, especially in light of Kenya. Like most things, it seems to take forever to get here, but then once it is it seems like there was never enough time. The Camino is like that too: we´ve been here forever, it seems, honestly establishing a life for ourselves in a strange, nomadic sort of way. But looking back it also seems like it´s gone by so fast. The duality is good, I think. On the one hand, we soak up the fullness of the experiences we have, and when it is over we can put it in perspective with the rest of our lives. And as amazing as this experience has been, it can´t last forever. At some point I need to be home, and I look forward to it. I imagine Kenya will be like that too. A year seems like a long time right now, but when it´s over, it will feel like little more than a blip in my memory. It´s slightly sad, sure, but that´s how we grow and move on. And besides, that´s why we take pictures :) (I´ve got over 800 right now; don´t worry – I´ll post a couple as soon as I´m home).

All that considered, the pilgrims are excited that we´re almost there. And not just our group either. Every pilgrim who has walked from Roncesvalles, or France, or even Germany is relishing these last few days, and feeling that same poignant mix of sadness and relief that the end is almost here. Of course, that´s the best part about the Camino – it doesn´t end at Santiago. An experience like this is something you keep with you forever. Little hints of it show up from time to time, in the new confidence of being able to survive alone, even in a foreign country, for instance, but at the same time knowing you don´t have to because you can always count on someone to be there. Knowing that all you really need is a change of clothes and a toothbrush, and you´re off to see the world. It´s so freeing.

In any case, there is starting to be an excitment in the air. You really can feel it, hovering in the albergue at night. Santiago, the pilgrims are thinking. Three days. To my memory, these last few days were some of the best. And I for one look forward to gazing upon that gorgeous cathedral again :)

I´m starting to regain dates again – I lost days and dates a few days in. If everything goes as planned, I arrive in Santiago on the 20th, and leave for home on the 26th. I´m planning a beach trip for the gang on the 22nd too, which will be fun :) And seeing as how we have three birthdays to celebrate, I imagine there will be much fun and debauchery upon arriving :) Of course, I´ll be sure to add a post or two from Santiago.

So be sure to wish all the pilgrims good luck on their last few days into Santiago. I for one will savor every moment until I lay my hand on the image of Saint James again.