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Day 11 & 12: Arrival in Santiago de Compostela

Posted by on January 11, 2012
Pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela

More pilgrims along the Camino as I near Santiago de Compostela

So I’m back in the USA now, but I still wanted to finish off telling about the end of my trip! Enjoy!

My solo bike trip on the the Camino del Norte, Camino de Santiago

Sobrado dos Monxes to SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA!!! Approximately 55 km

[Video summary is at the bottom]

After a nice morning in the monastery where I stayed last night, I decided to take a shortcut and head all the way into Santiago de Compostela today. I stayed on the actual Camino the whole day and soaked up my last few stretches of solitude before I joined the continual stream of people on the Camino Frances. I saw my first girl bikers today, but they were with friends/boyfriends, so I finished the whole Camino and never saw any other solo female cyclists.

While pushing my bike uphill, I met two other Spaniards who were also pushing their mountain bikes. We gladly stopped for a refreshing drink at the top of the appropriately named Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy) and enjoyed a view of our final destination: Santiago de Compostela! (see pics in the slideshow and in the video)

My cheesy "I made it!" picture

My new friends stuck with me even though I was slower, and I was so glad, because I seriously felt like everything started falling apart in the last 10 kilometers! My gears started making weird noises, I got really tired, and after bumping down a bunch of stairs, my backpack decided it was done being tied up and preferred to hang off the side of my bike. I had to keep stopping and re-adjusting everything…but I was so close! I just wanted to GET THERE! And get there I did. It was a glorious feeling to bike through the old town and arrive at the end of the Camino, right on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! I made it!!

The "Compostela"--like a certificate of completion

After the requisite photo shoot (in slideshow), we went and showed our little pilgrims passports and got our “Compostela”(basically a certificate of completion) and then enjoyed some celebratory drinks and pulpo gallego (Galician octopus). Later on I ran into the group of cyclists I met in Gontán, so we celebrated together again with more yummy food.

Eating pulpo Gallego--yummy Galician style octopus!

The next day I got up and went to the noon“Pilgrim’s Mass” at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Drastically different from mass anywhere else in Spain, it turned out to be insanely packed with tourists from all over the world. Note to anyone who goes to this special mass…get there early if you want a seat! There was certainly a lot of pomp and circumstance, including an incredibly large silver incense burner swinging broadly across the front altar. This definitely elicited lots of oohs and ahhs from the crowd as the nave filled with smoke. Many pilgrims also line up to see the crypt where the apostle James is allegedly buried.

Inside the Cathedral including the swinging silver incense burner and altar

To do so, you have to pass by the giant gold statue of James built into the altar, which many people “hug” on their way by. Many of these rituals are so foreign to me, and this particular mass was in Portuguese, but I at least have a Protestant background to be able to appreciate some aspects of the service. I only hope that those pilgrims who have come truly on a spiritual search are able to still connect with God and find what they are looking for. (pics in slideshow below)

The rest of my time in Santiago de Compostela, I wandered around the town, went to a park (Parque Boneval–had good views of the city), and the Pilgrimage Museum, ran into more people that I had met earlier on the Camino, had more celebratory food and drinks and then headed out on my night train to Madrid. (pics of it all are in the slideshow)

Biking 11 days alone on The Camino was certainly one of the most significant and rewarding physical feats I have ever accomplished. It was definitely worth all the crazy pushing up hills and heaving my bike over stone steps to try to stay on the actual Camino de Santiago instead of just taking all the easier national highways. It made it more adventurous that way. I feel very proud and accomplished for what I did, but most importantly, I feel more calm and at peace with God, myself and with who I am. I would certainly recommend anyone to do the Camino de Santiago in whatever way they could and I hope to return to do more of the Camino again one day! I have so many more thoughts and tips, but it’s obviously taken me way too long just to get these few days up, so we’ll see if more makes it up eventually! Thanks for reading, and feel free to browse back through my earlier posts of other days if you missed fun stories like me getting pulled over on my bike by the cops!

Here’s my video summary of the last day:

2 Responses to Day 11 & 12: Arrival in Santiago de Compostela

  1. rachel

    Thanks for the info. Austin! I definitely didn’t know that about the Guardia Civil! Thanks for reading, and best wishes for your return to the Camino!

  2. Austin Cooke

    I enjoyed your blog– I did the first half of the del Norte in 2011 ( and I hope to do the stretch from San Vicente de la Barquera to Santiago this September or the next. About the Guardia Civil– what many people don’t know (and this includes many Spaniards) is that one of their duties in their founding documents is the protection of pilgrims. While it’s no longer on paper, it is part of the Guardia’s folklore and many of the constables have walked the Camino themselves. They have such a reputation as the state’s heavies that,when I tell Spanish friends of the time the Guardia Civil in Linyola took me in on a very hot day, hand-squeezed me orange juice, and found me a place to stay, ferrying me there in the warmth (38°C!!) of the afternoon, they gesticulate with amazement. Your friends are right in never having heard of anyohne talking their way out of a traffic ticket from the Guardia, but as a peregrina, you clearly qualified.

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