Pilgrims' Progress, 18.06.2011 - O Cebreiro to the end of the earth

As we write this we are sitting on the rocks looking towards the end of the earth, Cape Finisterre, which we will explore tomorrow. It seems a world away from O Cebreiro where we battled with a giant. This last week has been busy and eventful. We have suffered shin splints, bed bugs and hypothermia but we are not downhearted!

We arrived at Triacastela, Judith´s treacherous shins revolted against her heroic efforts of the previous day and reluctantly she had to admit that she couldn´t go anywhere without them! We moved on swiftly to Sarria where Judith spent the day with icepacks and Philipa followed the locals around. We arrived at Morgade, a real Casa Rural on a steep hillside a day behind schedule. This was one of the most beautiful places we have seen, however we had a freezing cold, stone walled room and in order to persuade the proprietress that we were in mortal danger of hypothermia, all the pilgrims arrived for supper in every item of clothing they possessed, including outer rainwear. Philipa had her hood up and her gloves on and discovered how to transform her bottle for cold water into a hot water bottle!

We set off again in the morning through gently rolling green and fertile countryside which reminded us of Derbyshire. Only the extreme poverty of parts of the villages and the Galicean grain stores reminded us that we were in fact in Spain. We walked down to Portomarin where we were expecting a large reservoir but found instead a meandering river and the strange remnants of old buildings. The Romanesque church, along with most of the town had been moved up the hill and rebuilt.

In the morning we walked over a very high footbridge into woodlands. After we had been walking for about 7 kms, we stopped for coffee, Philipa took a long phone call about a funeral and Judith walked on. Determined not to be left behind Philipa persuaded a passing Frenchman in a van to give her a lift for the 4km she guessed Judith to be ahead by in order to surprise her by appearing further along the track. However this bit of mischief didn´t go to plan. The Frenchman, following instructions from his satnav became very lost and after a perilous journey on dirt tracks and nearly colliding with a tractor, Philipa found herself 18kms ahead. Even Judith would realise that this speed of walking was implausible so Philipa had to confess! As Judith diligently walked into Palas de Rei she went past the first of the eucalyptus groves which became a familiar sight for the the rest of the way.

Walking through Arzua and Arc de Pino we finally arrived on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela on Tuesday 14th June. We walked through the suburbs singing hymns, choosing them as we thought of friends and family we knew. Among them we were frustrated not to be able to remember the second verse of George Herbert´s hymn, ´Teach me my God and King´ but we remembered Sylvia who certainly would have known it all. We sang a very jolly chorus for Deborah which included lively action in jumping for joy! The people of Santiago are clearly used to the eccentricities of pilgrims and acted as if we were being perfectly normal!

As we approached the entry to the old town we were overjoyed to be hailed by Hilary and Richard - it was an extraordinarily moving moment when our world of home and the camino became one. They had brought us some bread and wine which we shared and then led us to the cathedral in jubilant procession to the sound of Galicean bagpipes. Their extraordinary kindness in welcome and care for us that evening will always remain with us.

We enjoyed two days with Ank who came, bearing provisions for our further journey in the form of Kendall´s mint cake and it was wonderful that a third musketeer was with us in the noonday mass for pilgrims in the Cathedral. After Ank left, we set our faces westward to Finisterre, the traditional end of the camino.

We are both filled with gratitude for the experiences we have had, the people we have met, the support from home and for those who have made it possible for us to accomplish it, especially the ministry team. We have got on magnificently well and have only had one argument in the whole time, over a banana ... Philipa wanted one and Judith wouldn´t stop!