Waking up the following morning, we found that our bikes were still locked in the enclosed outhouse so we had to wait until 8.00 before we could get back on the road. Although we would often start off before having had anything to eat, this morning breakfast before leaving seemed like the best solution. Specially when we soon found a small, very busy, café opposite the albergue. Feeling excited at being to close to our destination, we were suddenly finding that the closer to Santiago we got, the further away it appeared!
Eventually we were back on the road. A nice quiet road which took us through row after row of smartly kept houses, then suddenly we had reached the top of Monte do Gozo. We stopped to inspect the awe-inspiring monument that marks the final hill before pilgrims make their way into Santiago – some 3 kms away. From this point, if you look carefully over the line of Eucalyptus trees and suburban houses, you may just make out the three spires that grace the Cathedral of Santiago de Compastela.
Setting off on this last leg, we almost rode passed what turned out to be a holiday complex, and John asked if I would like to see if they have a bed for the night. This turned out to be a brilliant chance encounter, and for us personally a good choice. The entire park is made up of various single-storey buildings and each building houses rows of self-contained rooms with en suite. We soon located a large restaurant where we could eat any time of the day or night.
Monte do Gozo had been built in 1993 to celebrate a Holy Year for St James’ Day. This only happens when 25 July falls on a Sunday. The next one will be in 2021 so if you plan to go then, book well in advance.
Once in our room, we treated ourselves to a quick shower each and change of clothes before riding into Santiago itself. Oh the relief of having no panniers on the bike – I had forgotten how liberating it can feel. Although it was still relatively early, the city was already crowded.
By a happy accident we had arrived in Santiago on 24 July. As this was not a Holy Year, celebrations would not be as big as they might have been. Nevertheless, preparations were underway for fireworks and all-day events to celebrate the following St James’ Day.
Personally I was feeling very emotional as we made our way to the pilgrims’ office where we joined the queue before eventually making it up a short flight of steps and into an office area to pick up our Compostelas. This is when we handed over our Pilgrim’s Passports, duly stamped along the way, to prove that we had managed to reach the Cathedral under our own steam. The small group of volunteer officials who sat behind the tables were kept very busy as each pilgrim was treated to a handshake and grilling as to what they thought the pilgrimage had meant to them. We were individually dealt with and each asked why we had undertaken the Camino. That was a tough question and I wished that I had known it was coming – just so that I could have prepared my answer better.
We eventually returned to the square immediately in front of the huge Cathedral, took some more photos, and again bumped into Miguel (the Spanish cyclist) who had arrived the previous day. We also came across our young Belgian friend. She remarked that she still had not had a puncture. Neither had we. Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from the Cathedral and get back to the hostel for an evening meal so retraced our steps and left the centre of Santiago for a while.
Lazing in the café area of Monte do Gozo, we examined the few leaflets we had picked up while in Santiago and discuss what we might do the following day. We were both full of alternative suggestions. Should we carry on to Finisterre, or stay longer in Santiago? Or reverse our route at least up to Santander where we could catch a ferry back home? Neither of us were ready to go straight home that’s for sure. I noticed two rather dilapidated computers, and decided to see if I could send a text to the family. I had to give up after a while because both computers kept cutting out, and it proved to be very frustrating trying to get logged on, send emails, and check my Facebook page. After such an emotional day, we decided to retire to bed early.
There were to be fireworks later that evening, and perhaps it would have been nice to go back down into Santiago to join the mingling crowds but, to be honest, all we wanted to do at that time was sleep. Finally, we both settled down for the night. No doubt the fireworks would wake us up at some early hour of the morning, and perhaps then we might even get up, dress, and make our way down to the city centre to join in. We both decided that, although we could go home from here, we needed to consider just how, when and where. Tomorrow was another day.