Since I reached Santiago, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to blog or vlog. I said at the beginning that I didn’t feel it was going to be a real Camino and it may just turn into a holiday, well it kinda has, but I’ll just jot a few things down as this IS my diary.
Before I saw Kate in the square, I bumped into Noel. He is English, has Parkinson’s Disease and early dementia. He was standing there just looking lost, so we hugged and I congratulated him on making it to Santiago. He was upset because he had to take a taxi for a lot of it, but was still emotional and why not?! He had done it! Everyone had been looking out for him and he had a lot of support, but it was against the odds and he was so proud of his achievement. What a wonderful experience. No one else was there to greet him so we hugged and then he just disappeared into the crowd. He was happy.
Kate Bennett was next on the scene, waving her arms and running to meet me. We had lunch together and then I showered and went exploring the fabulous streets of Santiago.
I stood in the square watching people’s reactions as they staggered in. There was the young girl sobbing her heart out, kneeling before the cathedral and praying; the old couple who were just standing speechless and exhausted; the group of German kids who were chanting something and the various people getting photos taken as they stood in the centre on the plaque. Then there was me…. tears rolling down my cheeks as I observed all of this, feeling their pain, elation, grief and happiness all rolled into one. For some it’s just relief, as it was for me, because I am going to be truthful and say that I suffered this time. My feet felt every step and I have an ankle injury. I have since tossed my boots away!
It was on this afternoon that I met Jose, a 70 something year old retired seaman. His tough, weather beaten face was testament to a life outdoors. He told me that he had been walking for 11 years and that he was about to walk home. He was really tired…he was about to be interviewed by Spanish radio and TV. He was the only survivor from a ship wrecked off the coast of Norway. He clung to dead bodies to stay afloat and was nearly dead when he was rescued. He spent 9 months in a hyperbaric chamber and was told he would never walk again, so he made a deal with God, that if he survived it all and could walk again, he would walk to all the pilgrimage sites-so he did!!! It took 11 years and he was about to walk back home to Cadiz. Amazing …
I had booked 3 nights in Santiago to rest a while and decided what to do. I even contemplated coming home early but I don’t like to feel defeated.
After wandering around town, I saw a busker setting up in the portal that leads to the square. Recognising him as the opera singer I saw a few years ago, I sat on the steps to watch and listen. He actually remembered me!
Soon I was joined by a group if hilarious Scottish girls who had enjoyed a tad too much vino Tinto and together we got the crowd fully involved. People were dancing and two of the Scottish girls took over the microphone. Two and a half hours later, an exhausted and almost hoarse opera singer called it a night and we had to move on. Apparently he is very well known, so I consider myself so lucky to have such a treat- a small private concert- and he is very witty and entertaining too.
The next day, I took in a leisurely breakfast and then wandered some more, bought a new phone cord and enjoyed a cafe con leche or two. Then….
Enter my handsome young Spaniard taxi driver, who offered me a couple of hours as a personal guide. Without hesitation, I climbed into his lair and settled in for what would turn out to be 3 days of laughter, fun and adventure. I sat beside him in air conditioned luxury on his ‘massage, climate controlled’ passenger’s seat, as we floated around the outskirts of Santiago. He took me to all the best places that tourists and pilgrims miss. We went to a park and saw the cathedral from atop a mountain, we had a beer in a ‘local only’ bar and moved on to a cocktail bar to imbibe in its deliciousness and then he took me down an alleyway to a foreboding door-the type that might lock behind you so you can’t escape. It opened slowly and revealed a wonderful restaurant with a well known chef who apparently cooks up a storm of tempting juicy delights. The restaurant had no name out the front and no one would ever know about it unless they were locals.
We agreed to meet again at 9 the next morning and thus began my fabulous adventure!