Yesterday morning at the San Marcos xunta in Monto del Gozo, excitement was in the air among us pilgrims as we sat in the entrance area donning our boots, hoisting our packs onto our backs and grabbing our sticks for the final journey into Santiago.
One young pilgrim, all set to leave, her face beaming with happy anticipation, stopped at the xunta door, pulled in a deep breath, turned to her friends and said, "Let's go!"
I believe she spoke for us all.
As all pilgrims were required to be out of the xunta by 8 am, we left in a more or less spread-out group as the sun was just beginning to rise, all of us headed for the lights of Santiago, 4.5 kilometers off in the distance.
Now, in the movie "The Way" the pilgrims are shown climbing the crest of a hill to see a breath-taking panorama of the great cathedral of Santiago open below them.
That scene was totally video-shopped.
The approach to Santiago is about 2 1/2 miles through a busy urban area, the sidewalks full of pilgrims,
...still following the scallop shells, now in the sidewalks, to our symbolic destination, the cathedral of Santiago,
...And the streets are lined with tour buses.
Tom and I stopped at a bar along the way for some breakfast, our usual, tostadas, coffee for Tom, tea for me, and orange juice for Tom.
Which reminds me that I don't want to end this chronicle without giving a shout-out to the orange juice of Spain.
Now, I'm not an O.J. fan, but I can understand why the pilgrims, including Tom, were loving the orange juice in the bars along the Camino.
Called zumo natural, the juice you get in Spanish bars and restaurants is made in a machine generally located behind the bar. When a glass of zumo is ordered the server tosses several oranges into the machine and presses a button, which causes the machine to commence mashing and squashing up the oranges until a stream of juice sufficient to fill one glass has been caught in the pitcher below.
I've been told by those who appreciate their O.J. that it doesn't get any better than this.
After breakfast we continued on to the old part of town towards the cathedral .
When we arrived at the cathedral area we headed to our final destination of the Camino, not the cathedral, which is, as I mentioned, our symbolic destination, but to the Pilgrim Office,
...to receive the final stamp on our credential - pilgrim passport - and our Compostela, or Field of Stars, as the official certificate of completion of the Camino is called.
At the Pilgrim Office, when your turn arrives, you'll apporach the desk and hand your credential to the clerk who will verify from your passport that you have walked the required distance.
Meanwhile you'll fill out some paperwork which includes a box to check as to your reason for walking the Camino. The choices you can check are for religious, spiritual, or touristic or sport purposes.
As, even after having had 50 days to think about it I still wasn't exactly sure of my real inner reason for having wanted to walk the Camino a second time, I just checked the third box, touristic or sport.
Now, I'd heard a time or two from pilgrims along the way that if you're not doing the Camino for religious reasons then you'll be denied the Compostela when you arrive at Santiago. I didn't be'ieve that, though, and had considered it to be just another rumor among the so many one hears along the Camino.
However the clerk in the Pilgrim Office, when she saw that I'd checked the "tourist and sport" box, informed me that only pilgrims who did the Camino for religious reasons were entitled to the Compostela and that I'd have to buy myself a different certificate of completion - there's no charge to pilgrims for the Compostela - if I wanted one.
Not that the piece of paper is all that important, really, but I changed my mind and said I was doing the Camino for religious reasons,, which was fine with my friendly clerk.
However the clerk next to us, who'd apparently overheard the conversation between my clerk and myself, was perhaps not convinced of my sincerity. He asked me if I’d prayed while on the Camino. I told I’m I had. He wanted to know if I’d attended Mass while on the Camino. I told him I’d done that, too, as I’d been to the albergue Mass said by the Indonesian priests. Satisfied, the clerk said I was, then, entitled to the Compostela. But I had to check the correct box.
So I did.
And I received my Compostela.
It was a wonderful moment.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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