I woke up in Hotel Langosteira after a restless night of post-nasal dripping, clearing my throat, and coughing. This cycle was on endless repeat, and the night was full of torment. I was happy when the sun finally rose and I could get up to eat the bread-heavy breakfast served by the hotel.
I had nothing pressing to do all day except to walk 3.5 km each way to the lighthouse that marked the “end of the world.” I hoped standing upright would give me some relief from the endless coughing, and that the fresh air would do me some good.
I set out under blue skies at 10:30 a.m. It was a gradual uphill climb on a paved road to the lighthouse, called “Monte Facho,” sitting atop a 600-meter promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I stopped along the way to admire the closed church of Santa María de Fisterra, which supposedly contained the Chapel of Santo Cristo, and the views of the ocean and the town behind me. When I finally arrived, I was put off by the tour buses and souvenir shops; it was more commercialized and touristy than the beautiful windswept promontory at Muxía. It was no wonder Muxía stood in for Finisterre in the movie, The Way.
Cape Finisterre, called Cabo Fisterra in Galician, was believed to be the end of the known world in Roman times. For pilgrims who want to walk the whole of Spain, it is another 4-5 day walk from Santiago . I had taken the bus to Muxía and then to Finisterre, taking the lazy man’s route.
I encountered both pilgrims and tourists walking all over the promontory. I clambered around on the rocks, admired the views, and sat to contemplate my Camino. I didn’t actually contemplate much, as I was too exhausted to think of anything.
Historically, pilgrims have burned their clothes at the end of the Camino in a symbolic and traditional act of purification in starting a new life. I didn’t see anyone doing this and in fact I saw signs prohibiting such a ritual.
If pilgrims finish their Camino in Fisterra, they can get the “fisterrana,” an official document that shows they finished here. The first Christian pilgrims arrived in Fisterra in the Middle Ages. There were some hospitals for pilgrims who finished here.
By noon, I was ready to head back down the road. I stopped in one of the tourist shops to buy a scarf, a Finisterre magnet, and a coffee cup covered in sellos (stamps). Then I made my way downhill, an easier trek than coming up.
Back in town, , I ran into Kate, a dear friend I’d met on my 24th day of walking, in Carrión de los Condes, and had met several times after that. Kate lived in London but was originally from South Africa. She and I had hit it off talking about Oman; she had visited while living and working in Dubai and I’d been there teaching English for nearly two years in 2011-2013. We had lost track of each other after Sahagun, and I thought she had probably finished well ahead of me, as most people did. We added each other on Facebook. I was so happy to see her, and she seemed genuinely happy to see me too. She had rented a car with some friends to see Finisterre and was heading back to Santiago that afternoon. I told her I’d be there the next day. We parted, hoping to meet up in Santiago.
I headed to the vegetarian restaurant I’d missed the day before. There, I enjoyed a vegetable curry. I ran into Brian and Tyler, who I’d met on the way to Muxía; they were waiting for the 3:00 bus to Santiago. Brian had given me some Mucinex on the way to Muxía, and he gave me three more while at the cafe. I sure hoped they’d help me make it through the next couple of nights.
I headed back to my hotel for a siesta from 2:00-4:00, but I didn’t actually sleep. Later, I went to wander around the town and bought two more scarves 🙂 . Then I found a restaurant near the marina was open, where I ate a light dinner of steamed mussels.
The Pilgrim’s Community in Finisterre was a colorful spot I passed on the way to my hotel.
The Romanesque 12th century parish church of Santa María de las Arenas was closed when I walked by. Inside are statues of Santo Cristo de Fisterra (Christ) or Golden beard Christ, San Roque or Santiago Apostle.
The lighthouse, called “Monte Facho,” sits atop a 600-meter promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was built in 1853, 138 meters above the sea. It protects one of the most dangerous coasts. The tower is made of quarried stone with an octagonal base and a cornice.
In early times, the lighthouse worked with oil lamps. Later it worked with incandescent lamps. It flashes every 5 seconds with a range of 31 nautical miles. The annex building is the Siren, called The Cow in Fisterra. This began to sound in 1889 on foggy days because ships couldn’t see the light of the lamp. The Cow emits two sounds every one minute with a range of 25 miles.
Cape Finisterre, called Cabo Fisterra in Galician, was believed to be the end of the known world in Roman times. The name Finisterre derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the earth.”
It was fun to see boats scurrying across the Atlantic while I walked back down to the town.
A pilgrim statue stood about midway between the town and the lighthouse.
Back in Finisterre, I ate lunch, wandered and shopped, and had a dinner of steamed mussels.
~ Return to Santiago ~
The following morning, on my 63rd birthday, I woke up early to catch the bus back to Santiago. The timetable given to me by Tourist Information the day before said the bus would leave Finisterre at 8:20, but the timetable plastered on a wooden board at the bus stop was different. I got there early and simply waited till it came, which was close to 8:45. We arrived back in Santiago at 11:00.
On the bus ride, we enjoyed views of the sea, the rocky coastline, mudflats and, inland, the hill towns of Galicia. In Santiago, I checked in back at PR Libredon, where I’d stayed my first two nights in Santiago. They welcomed me back with a birthday greeting, a gift basket, and a reduced rate on my room! I loved that place, with its perfect location right next to the Cathedral and its welcoming receptionists.
I asked the people at the hotel if I could leave some junk behind. I took everything out of my big backpack and my day pack and sorted through my stuff. My hiking boots were pretty well wrecked by that time, so I decided to leave them behind, along with the red day pack I’d bought in Carrión de los Condes. I left some other ratty looking clothes in the red pack.
Kate sent me a Facebook message asking if I’d like to meet her and her partner Huma, who had joined her at the end of her Camino, at the Parador de Santiago de Compostela for a birthday drink. After I rested a bit, I wandered briefly around Praza do Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral and through Igrexa de San Fructuoso.
Then I went to meet Kate. We sat on the terrace of the Parador and enjoyed the setting sun. We talked about whether the Camino lived up to its hype or whether we found it fell short. Kate said she didn’t enjoy long days of walking alone. I did enjoy walking alone, but I too wondered if it really met my expectations. Arriving at the end in Santiago, we agreed, had felt a bit anticlimactic.
Since then, I’ve had time to contemplate all that I experienced, and I have now come to regard it as one of the most amazing experiences of my life, right up there with all the times I’ve lived and worked abroad, but with a spiritual dimension that enriched it beyond anything I’d expected.
The Igrexa de San Fructuoso was designed in the 18th century and is dominated by a magnificent half-orange dome. In a niche above the front is an image of Our Lady of “Las Angustias.” On top of the upper cornice there are images of the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Strength and Temperance.
The Parador de Santiago, known as the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, is set on the beautiful Obradoiro Square near the cathedral. The hotel was built as a royal hospital in 1499 to accommodate pilgrims traveling to Santiago.
As Kate and Huma had plans for dinner, I went alone to find a good tapas bar and ended up at Bar Coruña, where I enjoyed a beer and a great variety of tapas. It was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday, even in solitude, but I was excited to meet up with Mike the next day in Braga, Portugal.
I was happy to discard my Keen Targhee hiking boots, which seemed about to fall apart after my 799km walk, and the red day pack stuffed with some well-worn clothes.
*Wednesday, October 24, 2018 (Finisterre) & Thursday, October 25, 2018 (Santiago)*
*16,885 steps, or 7.16 miles (Finisterre) / 7,072 steps, or 3.0 miles (Santiago)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. In this case, one of my intentions for my Camino was to note the changing scenery on the Camino and any sacred spaces.
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, March 11 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, March 12, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired. 🙂
- Jude, of Travel Words, wrote a revealing post in which an innocent gathering of friends reveals a wider problem of a society dealing with issues of race.
Thanks to all of you who wrote prosaic posts following intentions you set for yourself. 🙂