August 28, 2008 Finisterre

The two hour bus ride to Finisterre was a delightfully different way to travel across Spain. We sat in the front row of a double-decker bus with an enormous windshield before us that allowed us to see everything within 180 degrees. We arrived at Finisterre, walked the tiny downtown, and then caught a taxi to the hoteljust a few yards shy of the lighthouse itself. We made a reservation for dinner at the hotel’s tiny restaurant and settled in for a delicious meal as the fog rolled in across the water. That night our sleep was interrupted by the sound of the fog horn blowing just a few yards away, and in the middle of the night we awakened to a thunderstorm that moved from one side of the cape to the other with constant forks of lightning flashing all around us. It was a very dramatic welcome to the end of the Earth and a fitting end to an amazing journey.

Postscript: I was very blessed with excellent health throughout my 800 km (500 mile) camino in May, June and August. I was more than satisfied with the journey itself. In fact, it had captured my imagination in ways I would never have guessed. And the fact that I returned, over and over again in the subsequent years, demonstrated the allure that this ancient journey has even for a modern pilgrim like me.

I had begun the pilgrimage expecting it to be a walk of solitude and introspection. I’d quickly learned that I had a deep hunger for community. The highlight of this and subsequent journeys was actually the pilgrim relationships I made and the new friends I discovered. In the coming years I would return to college to improve my Spanish, I would plan more caminos along other routes to Santiago, I would sponsor my son, Luke, on a camino of his own, and I would advise hundreds of other pilgrims on a UK Internet Forum.

At its heart, the Camino de Santiago is slow travel. Instead of driving through a region to see its sights, the pilgrimage walk allows one slowly to absorb a region, step by step. Today I cannot drink a glass of La Riojan wine without tasting the camino again. The fragrant nectar, made from grapes of this northern region of Spain, evokes all the feelings and many of the smells of the walk. Somehow the physical exertion provides an opening for Spirit, almost like a treasure hunt in which the next turn or the next cafe table or the next church holds surprising and delightful rewards. Even albergue life, with its uncomfortable bunks and symphony of snores has an attraction. They, like other parts of this amazing walk, hold the joy of camaraderie, of shared ordeal, of celebration and quiet conversation, of the search for the Divine in the separation from the routine and immersion in the extraordinary.

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