We woke to the sound of rain hitting the window in our room. Our luck for sunny weather had run out so it seemed. In a way I was glad as I wanted to experience how it was for so many other Pilgrims of the past. As we approached the end, I realized that I had experienced, heat, humidity, strong winds, fog, frost, and now rain on my way to Santiago.
Another lovely breakfast, we said good bye to new friends and hosts as we put on our rain gear and headed to Santiago. The rain was off and on. Walking was a bit miserable as we were perspiring in our rain gear and yet to take our ponchos off, we were then freezing cold, being so wet. The "Way" had become crowded as this is where a lot of school children join the path for the walk into Santiago. As we let them pass, as they were noisy, we continued on our way. My shirt was uncomfortable under my pack and poncho, as it was wet not from rain but from my perspiration. I needed a better shirt.
Walking through the eucalyptus forest in the rain, the smell was wonderful. We had to smile as somewhere a young Asian couple had joined the walk with an umbrella which was doing no good at keeping them dry. The streams were running full now along the path and I was hoping we would not have to cross the stream on wet slippery rocks. The closer we got to Santiago, we saw small religious shrines where other Pilgrims had left small remembrances of loved ones, wrapped in a prayer I'm sure.
As we came to the top of the hill, there was a beautiful modern sculpture that marks the place from where Pilgrims can see the Cathedral of Santiago for the first time after their long journey. The place is known as "Mount Joy" and I could not agree more that it was a most appropriate name. Standing in the rain, we could just make out the cathedral in the distance. We still had a long way to go. Going back down the hill we continued on with the rain heavy at times. As we crossed the bridge over the motorway we were finally in Santiago. Stopping to get our pictures taken, declaring we in fact were in Santiago, we then headed off to find our hotel and get some dry clothes on.
Our hotel (Hotel A Tafona Do Peregrino) was near the center of Santiago and only 25m from the traditional market. An old home made of stone, and wood was combined with modern materials making it a lovely accommodation. Our bags at the desk, we took them to our room to change into dry clothes. We spread our wet clothes out knowing they would not be dry by morning.
We had learned from one of our hosts that we were going to arrive on the day the Cathedral held the Pilgrim's mass which only happens once a month. We were blessed again to be able to experience this. I also knew that the Pope had declared this was a year of Mercy and that the locked doors to all cathedrals would be opened to walk through. While Charlotte and I are not catholic, this was still a blessing to be able to experience this. We knew nothing of this when we made our reservations months earler. Yet here we were on this special day and year.
Outside the cathedral a young man was playing the bagpipes under a stone archway to stay out of the rain. We entered the church and found a wooden pew to sit on. The cathedral was full of Pilgrims and local parishioners and having gotten wet again walking to the cathedral, sitting in the cold and on the hard bench after walking in the rain for 10 hours had me wondering what were we doing here. The service was all in Spanish and it was amazing to see them swing the silver incense burner (Botafumeiro), high in the air. A memory I will always cherish. Cold and stiff after the service, we found our way back to our hotel, to get warm and dry again as tomorrow was an early day. We were off to get our Compostela.