October 31, 2019

Today’s Walk (The Final One on the Camino): Cee to Fisterra

Our hike across Spain will soon be history.

While it’s 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) to the official End of the World at Cape Fisterra, the place J’Nell and I are staying tonight is 12 km away.  We leave our albergue in the morning to dry weather and amble around the bay, and head up into the neighboring town of Corcubion (which Napoleon conquered, along with Cee, in 1809).  After appreciating the 14th Century architecture of Iglesia de San Marcos de Cadiera, we begin a steep ascent up a narrow path.

Just before the top I turn around and admire the view of the mountains we had climbed and came down yesterday.  Like when I first saw the ocean, I am stupefied by how incredibly far we have come on this journey. I close my eyes and think of September 12th, when J’Nell and I started our trek back in France.

It begins raining, and we come upon a cemetery in San Roque up in the hills. The fog is thick, and a little spooky on this Halloween day.  After descending to the next town, we stop for coffee and a Santiago cake at the very cool Restaurante Playa de Estorde. 

We would have been happy to rest anywhere and get out of the rain. But very glad it is here as the owner is welcoming, the décor of stained glass seascape behind the bar is vibrantly colored, and the place is right on the ocean.  J’Nell and I eschew the patio to eat inside due to the inclement weather (we’re the only patrons), and then go outside to enjoy the seaside views.

After a brief walk through another tiny town, we follow the main road to a forested path.  The ocean, barely visible in the heavy fog, is hundreds of feet directly below us. We look through the trees down to the rocky coast, thinking of Lands End in San Francisco, and the sound of the surf and the smell of the sea is clean and wonderful.

We hike toward the bottom of the hill and the sand gets closer and closer.  We are now at Praia da Langosteria, which translates to Shrimp Beach.  It is foggy, misty, windy, and cold, but we are now standing at the ocean at the western edge of Spain! 

Once we reach the sand, in my heart it feels like the end of the Camino.

The waves rush right up to my feet.  There are maybe three other people on the entire beach. While J’Nell goes to hunt for a scallop shell, the symbol of the Camino, I have a moment by myself. 

Breathing in the salt air, only hearing the blustery wind and surf lapping onto the shore, I feel a sense of completion. 

My hiking shoes, which have carried me nearly 550 miles over mountains, valleys, rivers and wide-open plains, are now touching sand and ocean.  I get as close as I can to the waves, kneel down, scoop up some water, and rub it on my face, hair, and neck.  Our hotel is 2 km away, and the lighthouse another 3 after that, but at that moment I feel the pilgrimage is now accomplished. 

This is my finish line, and J’Nell says she feels the same.  We hug and kiss, and it is truly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I do my best to savor and appreciate every second of it.

J’Nell eventually finds a scallop shell, and we walk another 20 minutes to the heart of Fisterra.  Right outside our hotel, down below at the beach, we see Jeremy and Butterfly!  Our friends come up to greet us, we hug, chat for a bit, and make plans to meet up later in the day for drinks and dinner.

We check-into the lovely Banco Azul hotel where we have a window looking out to the nearby ocean.  After showering, getting out of our wet clothes, and resting, it’s tempting to stay in our room and do nothing.  But even though we both had a sense of completion at the beach earlier, J’Nell and I are in agreement we must walk up to the lighthouse, the official end of the Fisterra Camino.    

Putting our wet shoes back on isn’t pleasant, but some booze should help.  We stop at a supermarket for a bottle of champagne, hoping we can do what we couldn’t at Santiago, to toast our accomplishment with bubbly.  I also have a surprise planned that will call for it.

Unfortunately, just as before, they have no cold bottles for sale. I even ask a couple of different people there in Spanish just to be sure. So instead, I buy a carton of box red wine for under 2 euros, which isn’t as classy but is easy to carry. 

We begin our trek up the hill in the fog. 

It’s supposed to be a gorgeous view from the lighthouse looking down to the ocean, but visibility is poor and we know gray is all we’re going to see.  We first pass the 18th Century Capela de Nosa Senora do bo Sucesso Cour (Our Lady of Good Happenings) and then Irexia de Santa Maria das Areas (Our Lady of the Sands) founded in the 12th. Both are pleasing to look at, but closed like all the churches out this way. 

J’Nell and I continue up the narrow path, mostly behind a barrier protecting us from the taxis racing up and down the road, eventually coming upon our last pilgrim statue on the Camino.  The male figure is holding his staff close, huddled up in the wind and cold, and we can relate to his plight.  At the top we reach a visitor center/gift shop and blow by without stopping.

Then J’Nell and I come upon something magical to see . . . the kilometer marker that says 0.0000.

At that spot you can usually see the lighthouse, and it’s supposed to be a great photo op.  But all we have is fog and a gray blob.  We need to walk almost to the door to see the building.  I take a photo once its discernable in the nebulous void, and we head past the lighthouse to the rocks.

This is the place where people used to burn their shoes or articles of clothing as a ritual to finishing the Camino.  Some actually still do it now, even though it’s illegal, and we see char marks on the rocks.  Super windy with nothing but gray in front of us, we don’t stay long and instead turn back to the side sheltered from the wind.  We sit at a bench, twist open the box wine, and have a toast.

I also take out the diamond ring I have been carrying for 550 miles across France and Spain. 

I had planned to propose to J’Nell in Paris before we started the Camino, but every spot just seemed too crowded and didn’t feel right.  Ditto for St. Jean Pied de Port, the start of our hike west.  So instead, I keep the diamond ring on me at all times, either in my backpack or money belt, for the next six weeks. 

While J’Nell and I have been a couple for some time, I am still nervous.  But I get up the courage and she says yes!  We go to the place next to the lighthouse called Bar O’Refugio to celebrate, hopefully with some Cava or Champagne.

Jeremy and Butterfly, who we planned to meet later on tonight, are there!  I wrote in my journal when we first met them in September that I knew we would become great friends. I’m not sure why, but I felt it. I’m so thankful it came true, and we toast with beer and wine . . . though unfortunately the bar does not have Champagne.

It is raining hard when we leave, and none of us are interested in walking back down the hill.  A cab to town is 5 euros, and it’s money well spent. The bartender calls for us.  

The driver of the SUV hurtles down the sinuous and wet road at top speed, and it’s a thrill ride equal to any roller coaster I’ve experienced.  In the middle row seat, I lean towards the driver and say “we’re not really in any hurry”.  He’s the only one that doesn’t get the joke, but we are all laughing and buzzed and it’s just so much fun despite the fact we could easily crash.

We are, thankfully, dropped off safely at a place close to both of our hotels.  J’Nell and I need to do laundry (we have no clean clothes for tomorrow), and Butterfly asks if we can wash her shirt.  No problem of course. As she is taking it off in a deserted alley and we are looking in the opposite direction, a kid, maybe 10, on a bicycle stops.  He stares wide-eyed in disbelief. 

J’Nell says to Butterfly, “You will be his wet dream forever.”  We all can’t stop laughing. When we’re able to pull it together, we agree to rendezvous in a couple of hours for dinner.

Jeremy and Butterfly pick a restaurant called Los Tres Golpes, and after doing our laundry we meet them there. The place is known for their, according to everything we read, amazing paella.  But unfortunately, once we arrive, they won’t serve it to us since it takes 45 minutes to make and it’s now too late.  Huge bummer.

But Rachel and Terry are there, as well as other new friends from various countries we get introduced to. We have tons of laughs and delicious marisco (shellfish) soup made with alphabet noodles and fresh seafood. 

A group dinner with wonderful pilgrims from all over the world is the perfect way to end the Camino.  I am beyond happy right now. We toast and it cannot get any better than this.