‘I just can’t give up now,
Come too far from where I’ve started from.
Nobody told me
The road would be easy
But I don’t believe you’ve brought me this far
To leave me.’
7.30am – FF shook me awake ‘EVERYONE’S GONE! We have to get out of here before the Spanish boys wake up,’ she whispered. I turned over and looked at our dorm – all the beds were empty and the bags had gone. In the next room, Juan Carlos, Philippe, Angel and Jesus, the boys from the night before, were still sleeping. We fumbled arounda little groggily and set out for Santiago.
Despite the lateness of the night before, I felt an irrepressible joy that meant I kept grinning like an idiot while we were walking. The closer we got to the city, the more excited I got, until we crested a hill and spotted the old city on the hill opposite. With the anticipation of getting to Santiago came a kind of desperation to be there, to not get lost right near to the end. We had to navigate the final section through a building site, past hospitals and the university, flats, hotels and shops, until finally we saw the cathedral spires, climbed the hill and then the cathedral steps, to walk in through the door and stand in the trancept – the end of the journey.
In the cathedral were our fellow caminantes – Ronald and Roland, Jaime, Juan and Juan, and shortly after us, Angel, Jesus, Juan Carlos and Philippe. There was a lot of double cheek kissing and celebration – we’d all made it. We sat down for mass, stinking like the pilgrims of hundreds of years ago of sweat and dirt, and after we took the host, they swung the famous Botafumeiro to get rid of the stench, a kind of absolution at journey’s end. And in that moment, I felt the presence of Christ, whose grace and favour had been on us, like a perfume covering our stench, the whole way.