After a good night’s sleep we got ourselves up and ready to go on the last day of the route. We tend to sleep later than most hikers, say 0700, which is nice for us as most others will have gotten up and left, leaving us to pack up with more space and not having to tip-toe around. Simon, who apparently has been reading what I post each day, came up to tell me that I didn’t have any errors in yesterday’s post. Nice to have a local editor. We hoisted our packs for the day’s hike into Santiago, the main goal for this hike. The last section has been somewhat less exciting scenic-wise. We made good progress, stopping for coffee and snacks as usual. Stephen popped by for a few minutes but kept going while we rested our feet. As this is where all but the Portuguese and English routes meet up to come into the city a good many hikers begin to converge on the path.
After several more stops we reached the outskirts of the city. And finally, the old center, with the narrow streets and lovely old buildings. Mandy had said we had a good chance of running into other hikers we’d met along the way, and soon we saw Noel, from Ireland along with Sarah, from Australia. Then we were happily surprised to find Gladys, whom we hadn’t seen for over a week. She had been a day ahead of us. A bit further and we reached the cathedral. There is a huge square in front which is a great place to soak in our achievement. The cathedral is covered with scaffolding, which makes the main side less impressive, but considering the age, there must be a constant need for repairs. After lots of pictures we saw the Argentinean group had also made it.
We sauntered off to find our albergue, got settled in then went off to meet for celebratory drinks. Mandy and I were thrilled when Sarah said she knew of a vegan restaurant here. We decided to split up for dinner and meet back later. Oh, what a delight it was to have such an array of choices on the menu that we could eat. Afterwards we found the rest of the group full from their meat centric dinner and joined them to continue our celebration.
In the morning Mandy, Simon and I went to the office to get our Compostelas and distance certificates that proves how far we walked; Mandy got a certificate in honor of her dad and I got one in honor of CAPT Jim Sills, one of my dear Navy friends who just passed away. A few of us went to the cathedral to the English mass and to visit the statute of Saint James. While that’s not my bailiwick I didn’t want to miss the only opportunity I’d probably have to see it and to enjoy the community of pilgrims.
With the pilgrim details tended to, we went off to a Middle Eastern restaurant that Tony and Stephanie had been to previously. A delicious choice! Taking advantage of the zero day (a day without hiking) we tackled much needed laundry while having afternoon beers for the group.
As we were wandering around the center of the city we came across the three older Austrian gentlemen we met earlier who have been hiking two weeks every year for the past 12 years from Austria to Santiago and this is the year they finished! So wonderful for them as they couldn’t be nicer and more inspiring. They met us at a charming garden bar where we wiled away several hours drinking and kibitzing. Such gentleman – on their way out they surprised us with another round of drinks.
Off to dinner at the vegan place again for what we consider a late dinner (2030), but is the norm here, picking up some lentil burgers to go for the next day’s lunch. It was about 2230 so we thought we’d call it a night. However on the way we bumped into Tony, Stephanie and Chris so it was more final drinks as this was Chris’ last night. He would be heading home to Belgium, so we wanted to fairwell our friend, “Top Bunk”.