We spent last night in Arzua about twenty five miles from Santiago. Tomorrow we will walk as far as Labacolla, about nineteen miles away.
We have two reasons for stoppping such a short distance from Santiago.
First this is the only place we have been able to find a hotel. The camino is getting crowded.
Second. We want to be close enough to Santiago so we can make it to the Cathedtal in time for the noon Pilgrim’s Mass.
Arzua is the town where the popular Camino Francais and the Camino del Norte converge.
All of the walkers from both routes will walk together for last two or three days into Santiago. Instead of ten people a day we will now see hundreds.
In addition, since it is a weekend, there are even more pilgrims .
To qualify for a Compostela ( the official recognition of a Camino walk) one has only to walk 100km. Thus, it can be done over a long weekend.
All of this means that our quiet days of solitude are over.
We had a foretaste of this last night in our hotel. It was like party central.
I am dreading the rest of the walk and fear it will be like a circus.
Funny thing about life. It never goes the way you expect it to go.
I worry it will be like walking along a horizontal “tower of babel”. Instead it turns out to be Pentecost on the path.
Let me explain.
We start out as usual in the dark but this morning there is a difference.
In front and behind us there are dozens of tiny lights. Like fire flies flying in formation. These are the early risers.
As the fireflies pass us,the air is filled with one language after another. They come up behind us, they chatter and they fade back into the dark.
Gradually morning turns these little fireflies into people.
As I begin to see these fireflies as people I begin to see their faces and to listen to their stories.
The crowds and noise I have been dreading become a beautiful tapestry of humanity and sweet music to my ears.
I think of Santiago who was sent to Spain to spread the good news of Christ.
Here I am two thousand years later and people are streaming through the darkness to get to his shrine.
Each person walking has heard something or felt something to end up beside me on this path.
I think back on all the reasons I have heard people give for making this huge effort to walk to Santiago.
Some have heard the language of the church and walk in faith.
Others have heard the voice of adventure and walk for the thrill of it.
Still others have heard the call to step away from the day to day life and listen to what their heart is telling them.
Still others walk to understand why they walk.
Every one of them is hearing Santiago speak to them in his own language and in his own way.
A family is walking together, laughing about having to eat the pilgrim meal of merluza (hake) and chips for three nights in a row.
A parish group, walking short sections with their priest and collecting their suitcases from the bus each night,is laughing about how tired they are.
A man from northern Italy is walking with his wife, his sister, his sister-in-law and his mother-in-law and they are all laughing.
We sleep in rooms of twenty beds with men snoring in five of them and we laugh about it.
Our feet are covered with every blister remedy sold in every drug store in Europe. The skin is hanging off and we show them off with pride and make jokes about them.
Our backpacks are heavy and overflowing and still we smile and brag about who carried the heaviest one.
The common denominator on this walk is a smile.
Stephen and Ross from New Zealand are smiling .
Fran and Don from Oregon are smiling.
Jo-Ann from Toronto is smiling.
Lisa and Peter from Washington are smiling.
Chris from California is smiling.
Boy have I gotten this one wrong. This is not some penitential procession.This is a Festival of Feet. These people are smiling. These people are happy !
Christians, Jews, believers, non-believers, We have met them all as they have been pulled down the path by a force they may not even be able to name.
Santiago, who died believing he had failed as a missionary, now draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to his shrine.
Watching this motley collection of happy pilgrims, he must be smiling too.
Late in the day, we passed the River Labacolla where pilgrims traditionally washed before arriving at Santiago. We decided to wait.
We rounded the corner of the Santiago Airport which signaled our arrival into the outskirts of the city.
We documented our arrival with a photo and if you look closely, you’ll see we too, are smiling!
11 thoughts on “ A Festival of Feet. ”
Beautiful story! So happy for you peregrinos. Made me teary!
Sent from my iPhone
Hello Fran. So
Glad you approve. I don’t like using people’s pictures or stories without their permission but I was looking through my photos and you all looked so happy I hoped you wouldn’t make be. Also. It was in the middle but f the night and any sane person would have been asleep. Hope you both are enjoying your time in Spain and getting a chance to walk if you want I love your photo. N
And I am smiling too. Love Michael
Moved to tears again, Nancy. Wonderful!
Thank you Sue. Home next tues. I am ready. Xn
I don’t want your blog to end. This had been such a wonderful experience to share your experience.
Thank you Edie. I’m glad you like it. You would laugh if you knew how much time it took to do them. Have not knitted one baby hat. Usually I am good for one a day. Last night when I finished at midnight all the photos went away. This am. They all came back. However I stewed about it until 3am. Ugh cn
These blogs have been truly amazing. I feel as though I’m there with you without doing the heavy lifting. Your gift for writing combined with your love of adventure has knit together a beautiful journey we can all enjoy. Bravo to you and B! Debbie
Excellent documentation. Simple and organized. Loved journeying along with. Glad you are happy.xoxo
Welcome home! Your blog is a well written metaphor for a life well lived. Will miss reading it and at the same time am glad you’re home and can give your feet a chance to heal again. Would you consider printing your blog complete with photographs? See you soon, Sue
Thanks for this, Nancy. I am still trying to make sense out of the experience and why the numbers are climbing for pilgrimages!