Monday, November 7, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 31--Pedrouzo to Monte do Gozo

Talk about waking up with a smile on your face--time to make it to Monte do Gozo! (Mount of Joy--The hill sits right outside of Santiago and traditionally pilgrims would stop and spot the tips of the Cathedral of Santiago in the distance.) And the best part? It was only 16 kilometers away!

Or at should have been only 16 kilometers away.

Anyway, I stuck the white rose Maica had brought me behind my ear, had breakfast (toast and apricot jam with cafe con leche for the probably 30th time--it was still delicious) with some gnarly locals in a bar with animal heads on the wall, and hit the trail!

By this point you start to see lots of boots and sticks that are being abandoned and/or memorialized. This one reads: These shoes saw me through the best and the worst of times...Walk with heart

Into the municipality of Santiago!

The domigueros' bus. I let out a sigh of relief once the huge group was off the trail. 

Like I said above, it was only supposed to be 16km from Pedrouzo to Monte do Gozo. There was a problem though...It started when I stumbled upon friends Juanma and Maica (along with some others--like a girl I met back in the Meseta whose reputation preceded her: she'd gotten attacked by bedbugs...on her face! Anyway, she was looking better). We stopped for a leisurely coffee and stamp and then continued on together. 

The problem happened when Maica and I were slowly walking along and chatting it up. Maica is short with a soft voice and strong accent--meaning I was frequently bent over trying to hear better. She was always patiently trying to get me to understand. At one point we were so involved with trying to communicate that...we missed the yellow arrows and veered off the Camino. It took us a while, but we began to notice that there were no other pilgrims around (the'd been buzzing past us all morning). Typically Juanma walked a ways ahead of us, and would wait at intervals for us to catch up--but where was he? 

We were lost. 

Thankfully it struck us as mostly just funny that we'd gotten lost on our last day of the Camino. We kept asking for directions and people kept telling us to just keep going down the street we were on. We doubted whether that would actually get us there (and worried that Juanma was waiting for us somewhere) but eventually we made it to Monte do Gozo and spotted him having a cold drink at a cafe. 

We registered and dropped off our bags at the 500 bed (!) hostel (where the overly friendly (and delusional?) hospitalero was shocked by my passport and insisted that he thought I was Andulician because of my Spanish). He tipped us off on a local lunch place, so we walked a little extra and sat down in a restaurant filled with blue collar workers. 

Look at the pile of meat and potatoes they brought us! (That is for three people, and we had already eaten a first course!)

It was the best meat and potatoes I have ever eaten. 

We oohed and awed over each bite of that food. We then later learned that they "reused" the uneaten (but perhaps not untouched!) portions of the trays. 

Oh well!

On top of the hill they built a Papal monument for the Pope's last visit to Santiago

Supposedly from this monument you could spot the spires of the cathedral. After lunch and a shower I sat in the sun on the hill letting my hair dry and looking for the cathedral (No luck). I met a group of nuns and then a group of middle aged male pilgrims from Madrid who joked about me being dead (no, just sleeping in the grass!) and then insisted I take their pictures.  

I also gave my poor, poor feet a final assessment. (Oh man, that looks scary to even me now!) As I said many times, the Camino is many things--but glamourous it is not!

Eventually I made it back to the hostel and made tea and new friends (and ran into my favorite Korean friends--a total surprise!). I caught back up with Juanma and Maica later that evening, and with just enough time to make it before dark they tipped me off that it wasn't actually the Papal monument from which you could see the cathedral--but from a pilgrim monument on the other side of the hill. 

I hiked through a field and right before the statues came into view I glanced to the right and saw it! The Cathedral of Santiago! I literally screamed with surprise and joy. 

The pilgrim statues tipping their hats to Santiago in the distance (I symbolically tipped my sunglasses in the same manner). 

You can't imagine how happy I am right here. 

I sat and soaked up my final sunset on the Camino, with a view of the cathedral. (Right about in the middle of the picture you can see the three peaks of the cathedral)

I was so thankful and so excited to be sitting so close to Santiago. Many people rush into Santiago in the evening, which is incredibly tempting, but I forced myself to stop in Monte do Gozo--I wanted the time to process things.  I took the chance to think back over the beautiful places and the quirky and open hearted people I had met over the last 31 days. 

It's funny because amidst the hundreds of Camino metaphors you run through your brain or talk about along the way, the most lasting one is about how a Camino is like an entire lifetime. In so many ways this is true. And following the metaphor, Monte do Gozo is something like sitting on your death bed. 

Looking towards Santiago seemed a bit like looking toward heaven--I was excited to reunite with friends I knew were days ahead of me and already in Santiago. I also knew there were people I'd met who were coming up behind me. I couldn't wait to get to the city, celebrate, and meet them all!

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