November 2, 2015
Boimorte to Pedrouzo, 15 miles
Searching for motivation
We were so close to Santiago. We’d be there tomorrow. And yet all the efficiency and motivation that we’d been demonstrating the last few days dissipated today. It was hard to get going this morning for both of us. The walk was almost entirely on pavement, and it was through nothing but fields and half-shorn forests (or at least that’s the way I remember it now). We were leaving rural Galicia behind as we moved closer to Santiago, and it seemed lonely and depressing without the little villages and inviting cafes that we often came upon along the trail.
At some point I couldn’t take the monotony anymore, so I put my headphones in and turned on the music. As I listened to the songs that had carried me through these past weeks, I started to cry, and I realized what had been bothering me all morning–our Camino was slipping away. While my body was wearing out and I was weary of walking, I also wasn’t ready for it to be over. It’s been such an incredible experience, one of growth and breathtaking beauty and joyful little routines like drinking cafe con leche every morning. Saying goodbye to the Camino, to Spain, and to the friends that we’d made seemed almost unbearable.
I dried my tears, shut off the music, and talked this over with Dale, and he was feeling the same mix of emotions. We plodded along for several hours until we came across Detlef, reclined on a bench in a shaded church yard, shoes off, looking relaxed and unmotivated to budge, and he acknowledged that he wasn’t feeling particularly enthused about the walk, either. We rested in the churchyard for a while, and I shared my last Nestle Crunch; this gave us the boost we needed to get going again. Detlef put his shoes back on and we returned to the trail. Those last few miles weren’t going to walk themselves.
The Caminos converge
Camino trails crisscross Europe. Traditionally, the Camino began the moment a pilgrim left his or her front door, and you can find a route in almost any European country. No matter where you start, however, you’re going to end your Camino in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
As the Caminos move closer to Santiago, they often merge, and that’s what happened to us today: about mid-afternoon, the Camino del Norte trail ended near the city of Arzúa and deposited us onto Camino Francés. The Francés is the most famous and popular of all of the Caminos, and hundreds of thousands of peregrinos have walked it since its resurgence in recent years. According to the latest statistics from the Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino (Pilgrim’s Office), a total of 215,880 people walked the Camino in 2013. Of those, 152,000 hiked the Francés, compared to just 14,000 who hiked Camino del Norte. Francés sees the largest number of peregrinos each year by far. It’s also the path that’s featured in the movie The Way, and this has undoubtedly increased its popularity, at least amongst Americans.
This is all to say that, when we merged with Camino Francés that afternoon, it was a shock. We’d seen no other pilgrims on Norte over the last two days and had been the only ones in the Boimorto albergue last night. Detlef warned us, however, that the numbers would change when we merged with Francés, and so it was; the instant we set foot on the Francés, we ran into six hikers and several bicyclists, and we continuously met other peregrinos as we walked.
Across the course of the day, we would meet four people from the United States, and this was remarkable because we’d only met four Americans the entire previous thirty-two days on Norte. We would continue to meet Americans during our stay in Santiago, including four people from Texas alone.
When we arrived in Pedrouzo, the cafes along the main street were buzzing with peregrinos. It was unnerving to see so many pilgrims after the quiet of Norte, and yet it improved our mood as well. We had passed yet another milestone today, and leaving Norte behind just put us that much closer to Santiago. We went to bed feeling sad that our walk was coming to an end, but we were also excited about the short walk we would have tomorrow, then the stroll through a sacred city, and, upon arrival at the steps of the Cathedral de Santiago, the end of our remarkable journey.