Looking back but moving forward
Andy, Nicole, and I had breakfast together before a tearful “See you back in the States!” (not a goodbye). We jokingly wished each other buen camino! And promised to keep in touch.
For our 5-6 day journey to Fisterra and Muxía, we wanted to be as lightweight as possible. So we put a few essentials in our daypacks, then Andy and I dropped our big packs off at the post office. They have a storage service where you pay a small fee for every day your bag is there. To be able to fly along the trail with about ¼ the weight of our full packs was totally worth it.
As we climbed out of Santiago, we looked back on the most beautiful view of the cathedral. It was a view that few people get to see and we felt lucky to be among them.
The morning was quiet and peaceful. As we walked, we talked about the people we met and the stories we had learned along the way. I was grateful to have that time and space to kind of debrief. It felt like the Camino was coming full circle.
On our way, the trail crosses through Ponte Maceira (“The Bridge of the Apple”). Legend has it that the restored 13th-century bridge was destroyed through divine intervention as St. James crossed, protecting him from the pursuing Roman soldiers. The symbol of the broken bridge is a symbol on the local coat of arms.
That night at our albergue in Negreira, we met Flower Beard again. He talked about how the Camino had changed him. He realized he wasn’t happy with the life he was living and he was going to change it. He was going to leave his home, an unhappy relationship, and his job and move to Spain.
It may sound scary, but I don’t think it is any scarier than living a life that you aren’t excited to be living.
Go lighter, go further
The next morning we left Negreira for Lago, passing this incredible piece of work called “Monument to the Emigrant.”
On the first side, you see a man walking away and an angry child yelling and pulling on his pants leg.
From the side and behind, you see that the child is part of the family that is being left behind.
We learned that the monument is a reflection of the common struggle of that area: men leaving home to find employment to support their families.
A couple of different times that day we took the alternate route. We followed a path that cut away from the road and into the woods, along streams, and through fields. That hike was our second longest distance of the entire Camino. It was much easier carrying a fraction of our pack weight.
Why didn’t we drop that weight sooner?
The next morning we left Lago, headed for Cee. The day’s walk was gorgeous with clear, sunny skies and a hint of ocean air in the breeze.
We passed the split marker where pilgrims go to either Fisterra or Muxía.
While we could hustle the remaining 30k to get to Fisterra, we decided to deviate from the “3 (days) x 30 (kilometers)” that most pilgrims follow. Because we were in no rush and I had no desire to hit 30k again anytime soon.
So we settled into a nice, comfortable walking pace and even stopped to take some silly pictures.
As we got close to Cee, we caught our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean and it finally hit us. We had walked across this entire country.
Our albergue in Cee had a perfect view of the bay. We celebrated meeting the ocean with beers on the beach and then we dipped our toes in the Atlantic.
To the End of the Earth
The next morning we left Cee headed for Fisterra. It was another gorgeous day as we walked along the coast.
I saw the following quote and I thought it was perfect for us as this part of our journey was wrapping up and we were trying to figure out what we were doing next.
We intentionally didn’t make a hard itinerary nor did we book things in advance for this trip. We had already lived enough of our lives in this “Take point A to point B, do X, Y, Z. Done. What’s next?” mindset. We wanted a break from that. It was time to retrain ourselves and rewire our brains.
This trip was the perfect way to do exactly that.
It just so happened to be Independence Day in the United States the day we were in Fisterra. Since embarking on this journey, we had never felt freer.
Once we got to Fisterra, Andy decided to take a flying leap—into the Atlantic Ocean.
We went and picked up our Fisterra certificates, then treated ourselves to a delicious dinner. We found a wine shop and bought a bottle of Rioja wine, then made the 3-kilometer hike out to the point of Cape Finisterre to watch the sunset into the Atlantic from the “end of the earth”.
As we came into sight of the lighthouse on the point, I felt it. I felt the emotions that I had been expecting, missing, in Santiago. The feeling of completion. The awe of the beauty of the lighthouse at sunset on that point. The pride of walking from the Pyrenees, across the meseta, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean on our own feet.
We did it.
So we sat on the boulders with our bottle of Rioja wine and the others who came to watch the sunset. As the sun slipped below the horizon, the crowd erupted in applause.
Ultreia et Suseia!
“Ultreia et Suseia” is a common greeting among pilgrims on the Camino. It means, roughly, “further and higher.”
Even though we had been hearing it for most of the Camino, it really took on new meaning in our days following Santiago. Going further. Going higher. On the Camino and beyond.
The next morning we left Fisterra headed toward Muxía. It was only 28km but we decided to take it easy and split it into two days. The walk kept us pretty close to the coastline and we kept getting peeks at little secluded beaches.
The albergue we got for the night had a couple of local beers, appropriately named for the two stops on this stretch: A Muxíana and A Fisterrana. We enjoyed it with our dinner, then got ready for an early bedtime. There wasn’t a lot going on in these small towns after Santiago, so it was the perfect environment for decompressing and catching up on rest.
The Way ends but the journey continues
Our final day of walking was enjoyable but a little bittersweet. We found Muxía to be a pleasantly quiet, sleepy little coastal town. It felt like the perfect place to end our Camino.
We found an albergue that had key code access so that we could be out late watching the sunset (the sun sets around 10:30 there in early July). We received our Muxíanas, our final certificates, and then went to the 0 km marker.
We walked around town, explored the rocky point where we would be watching the sunset, and then found a beach where we could wade out in the ocean. Once again, I marveled at the wide array of terrains my feet had traversed on this journey: mountains, plains, more mountains, and now beaches.
For dinner, we had two of our Galician favorites: padrón peppers and octopus. Then we headed back to the point to catch the sunset, with a bottle of Rioja in tow. There were fewer pilgrims here and it felt like we had the view all to ourselves.
As we watched the sunset over the ocean, we reflected on our whole journey up to this point. We completed the thing we set out to complete. We did the thing that had overwhelmed us at first. Every day, we woke up and took small, slow, sometimes painful steps and it carried us over 500 miles.
We can truly do anything.
And there on that rocky point in Muxía, looking out over the ocean, we watched the sun set on our Camino.