Distance walked: 11.5 miles
It had rained fairly hard overnight, and the morning sky was a blend of pinks and oranges. A voice in my head kept repeating that old maritime rhyme: “Red sky in the morning: sailors take warning. Red sky in the night: a sailor’s delight.” Once again, I was the only one left in the dorm room when I awoke. My guess is that most of the pilgrims who stayed in Salceda planned to leave early to finish the last 30k to Santiago in one day. That was still a bit far for me even though my hip was feeling OK, so I decided to err on the side of caution and only walk to Lavacolla, which is a mere 10k from Santiago. It would make the next day’s walk -my final one- very easy.
Since tomorrow was going to be such a short and early day, I was very aware that today was going to be full of “lasts”: last coffee-and-croissant breakfast, last “full day” (for me!) of walking, etc. I mentioned this to another pilgrim, who remarked to me, “Wow, you are really sentimental.” Why, yes. Yes I am :). So I took a picture of my last true Camino breakfast while sitting at a bar with John and Vanessa. (Funny note: the bar was playing candid camera videos on their overhead TV. I think I had seen some of these while on a flight once; apparently I found them funnier than the 50-something-year-old Spanish bar patrons did at 7:30am, since I was the only one laughing).
After passing through O Pedrouzo/Arca, the path veered off back into the forests of eucalyptus trees. Somewhere near San Anton, I heard music as I headed down the road past a residential area. Here, it was a motion-sensor audio recording for an upcoming albergue. Clever advertising, but also really funny:
I have mentioned before that I frequently think about all of the other pilgrims that I have met on the Camino. Since the majority of them finished before me, I have no idea of how things went for most of them. So to my pleasant surprise, I saw this message from some of my earliest Camino friends painted on the wall of a tunnel:
I continued on, trying not to get run over by the kamikaze bicigrinos (a nickname for pilgrims on bikes) on the trails. This is another sore topic for some pilgrims who have walked on foot. There is a relatively high number of pilgrims on bikes on the last stretch of the Camino. Sure, there have been cyclists all the way from the beginning; most of these pilgrims would kindly signal verbally or with a bell that they were trying to pass, calling out a friendly, “Buen camino! as they sped by and leaving you with a view of their shell-bearing saddlebags. Again, I have no problem with pilgrims on bikes. I actually think that the difficulty in much of the terrain supersedes any speed advantage that wheels might bring. However, in this last 150k or so, it is much more common to see groups of men (often Spanish) doing the Camino as a weekend bike trip. There are fewer “heads ups” and sometimes your only warning is a short rumbling of gravel before a mini-peloton speeds past you. Maybe they have designed a shell-covered maillot jaune for the fastest Camino completed! (Tour de France joke. Anyone? Anyone?)
The anticipation started building once I could hear the sound of airplanes. Lavacolla, the ancient site of purification before the entrance to Santiago, is also home to the Santiago de Compostela International Airport. I would be done in less than 24 hours!
Upon entering Lavacolla, I saw a path leading down to a natural spring. The surrounding earth was tinted red due to the mineral content of the water. Another pilgrim that I had met in Salceda, Forrest, and his friends were in the water up to their knees. I knew that it was somewhat of a ritual to “cleanse” yourself before entering Santiago, but I didn’t have anything in my daypack to dry off my feet once they were wet and muddy, so I didn’t exactly feel like taking off my shoes and getting into the water. Not really sure what to do, I stepped down to one of the banks and awkwardly splashed some water on my arms. I felt kind of dumb. I said my goodbyes to the other pilgrims and continued to walk. I’ll figure out some other way of doing this, I thought.
And then, less than sixty seconds later and for the only time in my week of walking through Galicia, I felt droplets of water on my skin.
From the ridiculous, the albergue ad sounding way too much like a musical lead-in to a MST3K episode…. to the sublime, Lavacolla’s rain.