They think it’s all over

The world cup begins today (Russia v Saudi Arabia), but more importantly today is the day we reach Santiago de Compostela. After some extended deliberations and a fair bit of jostling we managed to resist the temptation to conquer the final kilometres in one heroic push, instead settling for a stay in a great albergue with a lovely garden – the sun even shone – which left us with a comfortable ten kilometre walk for our final day.

Each albergue, church and chapel plus a random number of bars, stamp your credencials, a card passport that provides the record of your peregrinations. This document can then be presented at the pilgrims office in Santiago, which will issue you with a Compostela; you are now free to sin willy nilly, or to leave your guilt behind, or be forgiven, or play cards with St Peter, or something along those lines. In medieval times this was at least a six month round trip for which you might risk your life; now, well, the consumer is the pyrrhic king or queen, so it can as painless and safe a journey as you want it to be, for whatever purpose you wish – the form allows for religious, spiritual or sporting/leisure.

The final few days through some still remote seeming Galician countryside, ancient moss encrusted trees even now reeling with spring’s electric greens, way marks ticking down the metres, certainly made me think about journey’s end; the impossibility of imagining distance, both in time and place, except as a simple repeated rhythm, a step, a day; the joy of being outside; the familiar mystery of other people.

Our earliest start of the entire six weeks, meant that by half past nine we were standing, slightly non-plussed, but grinning, in front of the cathedral. We recognised a few familiar faces from the last few weeks, nodded, shook hands, buen buen. Wilkie noticed someone in a guided tour taking photos of us like we were ‘an artefact’.

The growing throng, stalls being set up, Galician pipes being played, the stream of wide eyed and weary travellers, all framed by the ancient stonework gave licence to my mind in its attempts to slip into a medieval fantasy. Briefly.

Time to stop for now. Some say there’s more. Always more.