dimanche 10 octobre 2010

Now in (still) pictures

I've finally finished processing and uploading all these pictures I've taken on my road to Santiago (and a few more beyond that).

You can find them here.

samedi 4 septembre 2010

Epilogue: The ball gets to Finisterre

As promised, here is the story of the ball, for the part that I know
On the Northern path, aka Camino del Norte, there was a Basque guy (the Camino starts from Irún, in the Basque Country). I did not meet him, I don't even know his name, but I know a bit of his story, and it is a beautiful one.
Every pilgrim has his reasons to go on that crazy and beautiful journey. One of his was to honour the memory of his late brother. Unfortunately, he could not walk all the way to Santiago, but he wanted the memory of his brother to keep on walking towards there, through the solidarity of his fellow pilgrims. To represent that, he used this yellow ball, and asked for it to be passed from pilgrim to pilgrim, travelling a bit with each of them, with each pilgrim carrying it writing his name on it, to tell the story of the ball, like the credencial tells the story of a pilgrim, with the stamps of all the places he went through.
So I was honoured, partly by chance, partly because I forgot about it for a few days in my backpack, to be the one carrying it for the final part to Santiago. I carried it around the streets of the old town in my pocket. I made it visit the cathedral, and symbolically put some holy water on it, to mark its passage there.
Then, I brought it to the end of the Earth, to Finisterre, where pilgrims traditionally burn some of the belongings that went with them on the path. Nowadays, forest fire hazards prevent you from burning things in Finisterre, but there is a tower where pilgrims attach these objects that made it all the way across Spain, or even Europe. This is now the new place of rest of the ball, of the memory of the brother of that pilgrim, and of a symbol of solidarity among pilgrims.
The tower, at the end of all things
The ball, attached high up on the tower

24th of August: Arzúa - Santiago de Compostela

Santiago, baby!
In the end, I didn't take another video from the cathedral square, I wasn't too much in the mind.
Arriving there as a pilgrim is quite impressive, when it is the end of a journey of several weeks. From the path, through the old city, you don't get much of a glimpse on the cathedral, but just before arriving on the square you know - I knew for sure.
I was going down an old street, when I noticed the series of old buildings were changing to something else, bigger, more beautiful, more everything: the buildings were morphing into a cathedral, into THE cathedral. When I realised that, I knew. I knew from the sight, I knew from the music. That guy under the arch in front of me was not playing bagpipes in a random place. He was adding solemnity to the last corridor towards the end of my adventure. I slowed down. I almost stopped. I wanted to enjoy every second, every step, every muscle movement, to take my time. It had lasted two weeks and a half that I will never forget, and as much as I was happy to get here, part of me did not want to finish yet. I wanted just a bit more. An hour, a day, a week ...just a bit more. I had walked about 40km that day, but I was not tired. I was more in shape, more awaken, fresher than ever, because I was happy, and thankful, to have lived that adventure. That gave me the motivation to end that path, end that adventure. With pride, peace and happiness, accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes, I took these last steps that got me out of the corridor into the big Cathedral square. I went towards the middle, contemplated the Cathedral. It was beautiful. It is the most beautiful it can be: when you have walked around 500km to see it, when you deserve to appreciate its beauty.

Then I congratulated a fellow pilgrim from the camino del norte, who arrived a few tens of seconds before me, we each took a picture of the other with his phone, to capture that moment.
Me, shortly after my arrival

Then, I went towards my friends Nerea and Paola (and Txirimiri) who arrived a bit earlier, and we stayed there, in a timeless bubble, chatting and contemplating the cathedral.
There was no way to get that smile off our faces. Note the cathedral's reflection in the sunglasses.

The ball did get to Santiago, it even visited the cathedral, but its path did not end there. More about that in a later note.

23rd of August: Sobrado dos Monxes - Arzúa

Not that much to say about this day where I forgot to shoot a video. Weather was quite grey, and when arriving in Arzúa, the madness started: we were merging with the camino francés, meaning there were loooaads of pilgrims everywhere. And even though there are many Albergues there, getting a bed was not an easy task (Nerea and Paola, who got lost, had to sleep in a gymnasium).

The huge backpack queue at one of the Albergues in Arzúa (you cannot see the end of it on the picture, but believe me, there is more).

22nd of August: Miraz - Sobrado dos Monxes

Another nice stage from Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes. We arrived there at the time of the big yearly festivities of the town, with bagpipes and all!

We got to sleep in there:
And in the evening, there was a nice band playing, the festicultores:

It was quite funny when they had to relocate under the Arch that made the entrance to the monastery, and to the monastery parking lot. Each car that wanted to get out had to interrupt the concert and get booed by the whole merry assistance.
Also, when they were rehearsing, Agnieszka gave them a hand:

All in all, lots of fun was had in Sobrado dos Monxes!

21st of August: Vilalba - Miraz

A quite long stage we had on that day. The first part was quite misty, but with some nice views and colors:

Then after Baamonde, I didn't take many pictures, but it was gorgeous, mostly woody, and passing through a few nice little pueblos, with various wildlife encounters:

Then we arrived in Mirazat what might have been the best Albergue of the trip. It was managed by an English guy and an Australian couple, who were all very nice and gave a unusual touch to the camino. There we had great pasta cooked by Paola, then tea offered by our hosts:
That day ended in apotheosis with Nerea, Javi and the famous basque chef Coldo cooking great stuff for us:

vendredi 3 septembre 2010

20th of August: Gonzán - Vilalba; queue at the Albergue

A small video with a typical pilgrim scene in August: the queue to get into the Albergue, at its opening time. If you arrive hours before the opening, you simply put your backpack in the backpack queue, and go have a drink at the nearest bar ;).
The discussion you can hear behind is a French "back pilgrim" giving some cheese to Paola. What I call a "back pilgrim" (probably not the correct phrase) is a guy that went to Santiago, and that then keeps on walking, going backwards on one of the paths (generally a different one than the one he took to arrive to Santiago, so that it doesn't get too boring).

Also, I suspect it's in that Albergue that I managed to lose my nice merino T-shirt (that I'm wearing on the video). I hope some other pilgrim found it and had a good use of it.

There was a quite nice restaurant next to the Albergue where I ate both lunch and dinner; didn't see much more of the town, since we spent a good part of it in the waiting room of the hospital, since the girls (Nerea and Paola) were sick (or toothsick) and had to see a doctor. That's how I realise the places where you most easily meet other pilgrims are:
  • the albergue
  • the decent bar/restaurant nearest to the albergue
  • the waiting room in the hospital

Bonus track: some more wildlife