Our little group of pilgrims ranges in age from 42-years-old to 80. We have bonded quickly because of our common experience. We no longer need to ask someone to pass the coffee pot in the morning. Instead, we reach for it, pour a cup for our neighbor, break bread in the basket, drop half on our plate and offer the other half to waiting hands across the table. We smell bad. Our clothes smell bad. And we don’t really mind it that much.
Today’s schedule was a little different. We started the morning by visiting the 13th century Santa Maria monastery of Sobrado, whose Benedictine monks welcome pilgrims coming from the Northern Route. We met a charming monk who was eager to share with us the history of the place he calls home, and marveled at the simple beauty of one of the largest monasteries in Europe.
Back on the Camino we easily stepped into our familiar pace although I noticed most pilgrims I met today are walking slower than they were 100 kilometers ago. Their steps are calculated, counted, and measured. Everyone is determined to reach Santiago.
Early on we passed small villages and a group of pilgrims drinking coffee at a Camino bar, but we soon walked deep into eucalyptus groves. For hours we listened to the chatter of a million birds, stepped over nearly-dry creek beds, climbed steep hills, and then a couple more steep hills until we heard the boom of a commercial jet sweep overhead and silence the birds in the trees. Soon after, the familiar milepost markers disappeared and the sound of car engines reminded us that there is a big, loud, and busy world going on around us.
When Jon and I finally emerged from the forest we stopped at a stone sign bearing the scallop shell, gourd, and walking staff—all familiar symbols of the pilgrimage. Etched across the top was the sweetest word I have seen in days: Santiago.
We will sleep in Lavacolla tonight on the outskirts of Santiago with hundreds of other limping, bone-weary, smelly, dedicated and eager pilgrims, and dream of our arrival in Santiago tomorrow.
Kristin Jarvis Adams is a public speaker and advocate for children with special needs, helping to bridge the gap between the outside world and the inner world of autism. Her speaking engagements have included: Seattle Festival of Trees Gala, a benefit for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Seattle Children’s Autism Clinic. Learn More>>