Part five of my Camino blog covers the journey from Santiago to Finisterre and then onto Muxía walking 115km over 3 days. It’s a time for reflection and quiet contemplation after the hectic, commercial, crowded walk into Santiago and is only undertaken by a small percentage of pilgrims. As such – there’s not much adventure and excitement, but I’ve included it as it completes the story of my Camino.
Day 27: Santiago to Olveiroa (55km)
Breakfast isn’t until 08:30 in the hostal so there isn’t much point in starting any earlier from Santiago, the weather forecast is predicting rain for today and the clouds seemed to agree when I leave my Santiago hostal at around 09:00.
Santiago is quiet as I retrace my steps along the Camino Francés, past the Cathedral and out of the city. I’m a bit anxious about how well the way to Finisterre and Muxía will be marked, the markings on the Camino Francés have been amazing, yellow arrows, stone obelisks, scallop shells and other markers have been ever-present on the 800km or-so from St Jean, it’s been ‘almost’ impossible to get lost. However the path to Finisterre and Muxía is a walk undertaken by a small percentage of pilgrims – most finish at Santiago. It’s also not officially a pilgrimage, at least not in this direction as I’m not walking TO Santiago but away from it. Finisterre, (or Fisterra in Galician) literally means “end of the earth” deriving from the Latin finis terrae. There are plenty of pagan rituals associated with this place which make strange bedfellows with Catholicism and Christianity.
But I needn’t worry as there’s a familiar Galician obelisk just outside the city limits with km markers to Finisterre and Muxía which is a relief. There’s various route options, some people just go to Finisterre, some just go to Muxía and some do both finishing in either location. There’s no right or wrong way. I’m planning on finishing in Muxía after visiting Finisterre – just because my guide book recommends doing it that way and it’s been right about most things over the past few weeks so I’ve got no reason to doubt it now.
It’s nice to be back on the Camino and as I leave Santiago behind me and head back into rural Galicia I know I’ve made the right decision, Koos was right – I’d have regretted it if I’d jumped on a plane and rushed back to the UK. I need these few days to collect myself and reflect on my journey.
Shortly after leaving Santiago I realise I didn’t go to the pilgrim mass, embrace the statue of St. James in the Cathedral or see the botafumerio, the giant incense burner which is swung precariously during mass in the Cathedral. And after a bit of contemplation, I realise I don’t mind… My Camino was never about Santiago.
A few kms from Santiago I start running into pilgrims heading West and pass a good 20-30 people heading out of the city, this is a bit worrying. There’s not many albergues and hostals on the Camino to Finisterre, my guide book suggests there’s around 20 beds at my planned stop in Moroñas – and I seem to have passed enough people to fill-up the bunk beds. It’s too late now though, I’m on my way so this stuff will just have to work itself out.
It’s a pretty uneventful day and the scenery isn’t exactly spectacular, there’s a lot of road walking and then it starts raining in the afternoon. To be fair, this is the first rain I’ve seen since Day 4 way back in the Pyrenees on the other side of this country – about 500 miles away. I pick up food from a supermarket in Negreira and have lunch in a church graveyard just outside the town and stop for a beer in a little bar a bit later, same-old, same-old…
Somehow I manage to walk past the albergues in Maroñas which were my planned stop for the day after around 40km. It’s still fairly early though so I keep walking, there’s several options ahead, although I’m now getting very tired and fed-up of walking again. As I walk past a farm a little dog runs up to me and starts jumping at me, I try to wave it away and then it starts nipping and biting. I’m sure it’s only playing but it’s becoming increasingly aggressive and I’m thinking I might need to retaliate with a stick or a kick just as it backs off, wagging its tail as I walk up the road. Phew… I’ve come across many dogs on the Camino and they’ve all been OK so far, though reports abound of wild dogs attacking pilgrims on the Camino.
By the time I get to Olveiroa I’ve walked around 55km and it’s getting late, I find a room at the first hostal I see and eat in the restaurant on my own. It’s a very different feel from the Camino Francés and although there’s quite a few pilgrims in the bar and restaurant, no-one seems to be eager to socialise and, to be fair – I’m the same. After a decent meal I’m back in my room and it’s a fairly early night.
Day 28: Olveiroa to Finisterre (31km)
I don’t sleep well after the long day of walking and start the day tired and sore but it’s a relatively short walk to Finisterre. The rain has cleared, there’s blue skies ahead and today I’m going to see the ocean for the first time in 4 weeks. Living in Cardiff, I probably walk/run/drive along the coast several times a week and don’t really appreciate it, but now – I’m really looking forward to the sea!
After breakfast I’m back on the Camino and after the disappointing road walk yesterday the Camino immediately redeems itself, taking me up through some stunning scenery on forestry trails to the point where the Camino splits and you have the option of going to Finisterre or Muxía.
From here you can go inland to Muxía or take the coast to Finisterre. My guide book recommends going to Finisterre first, then taking the coastal route up to Muxía. It seems that most people are doing it the other way around, going to Muxía first, and then finishing in Finisterre, but – as usual, I’m not following the masses and going to do things my own way.
Shortly after turning off towards Finisterre, the horizon drops away and the Atlantic stretches out endlessly, I drop down into the town of Cee and amuse myself for a while saying “Sí, Sea, Cee”, all three words are pronounced the same, mean different things but are linked in this place. I stop for a coffee and then pass through the town as it’s not far now to Finisterre,
It’s about 14:00 when I get into Finisterre and I head straight to the municipal albergue to get my Fisterra, a certificate awarded to those who walk from Santiago to Finisterre. The girl at the desk queries my sellos and asks if I walked from Santiago to Olveiroa in one day, I respond “Sí, es lejos – 55km”, “yes, it’s far – 55km!”. She seems to believe me and doesn’t have any problem issuing me with the certificate.
The famous lighthouse at “the end of the world” is a few km out of the town centre so I pop into a nearby supermarket, buy a 4-pack of San Miguel and head off. I figure that I’ve carried my backpack all the way across Spain so might as well carry it to this special place.
I walk past the final 0.0km marker obelisk near the lighthouse, then drop down to the rocks below and the end of the world. It’s a really powerful place, the Atlantic ocean stretches out endlessly in front – you can actually make out the curvature of the earth from here. At sunset the ocean seems to swallow the sun, it must have been terrifying back in the olden days, i.e. before people had Google! I decide not to burn all my clothes as I think there’s still a bit of wear left in them, it’s a bit chilly and also there’s a big (mis-spelt) sign saying “It’s not allow to burn anothing” (sic) – honestly, you’d think that someone would have checked the spelling before commissioning the sign, maybe the sign pre-dates Google Translate. I think about starting a petition to get a new, correctly spelt sign here?
So I sit around for a couple of hours, mesmerised by the ocean and get chatting to a couple from North Wales who are fascinated by the Camino and can’t believe that I’ve walked all the way from France to get to this place. They’ve driven from Bilbao and said that they thought that was a long way! I finish my beers then head back to Finisterre to find my hostal and check-in. Later in the evening I get a message from Koos saying he saw me walking through Cee earlier today – he was on the bus back to Santiago having got to Finisterre yesterday. I wondered if I would see him here in Finisterre, but obviously not.
It’s been a great day, but I’m tired and so I get an early night ready for the final leg of my Camino tomorrow.
Day 29: Finisterre to Muxía (29km)
I’m very, very tired today – my mind and body obviously know that this is the final day! It’s a relatively short 29km walk North to Muxía along the Camino which follows the coast, albeit a few hundred yards inland. It offers glimpses of the Atlantic now-and-again, dropping down to the ocean at around halfway for a couple of km along the beach.
It looks like I’m the only person walking North to Muxía, after the coffee stop at halfway I start meeting people coming the other way, i.e. from Muxía en-route to Finisterre. At one point I’d considered walking back to Santander along the Camino Norte, however now I know that would be a bad idea. If constantly overtaking people was annoying, it’s nothing compared to walking against the flow, it’s very hard to be alone with your thoughts when people are coming towards you all the time, and you know you have to acknowledge them.
There’s nothing special about the walk today, I’m glad to get to Muxía. It’s a quiet, peaceful place and I’m happy I’m finishing here instead of Santiago, or even Finisterre. I spend the afternoon wandering round and get my Muxíanna – another certificate!
And with that, it’s the end of my Camino. I’ve spent 29 days walking and covered around 1000km. Tomorrow I’m heading back to Santiago on the bus, then it’s a 4-day journey back to Cardiff by train and ferry and a muted, quiet end to a long trip. It’ll take a while for the magnitude of what I’ve done over the last month to sink in, but for now – I’m just glad it’s over and I don’t have to walk any more!