I get up. It’s raining. I pack my bag. My body is used to this process now, and my mind. I’ve organised. Most things are ready. Sleeping gear comes off. Walking gear goes on. Big socks. Thermals. There’s my fleece. Good old fleece. There’s my windproof – thank you Stephanie – still a bit damp, but what the hell. Magic trousers. Boots. They were soaking. Are they dry? Yes! Amazing. My cunning plan of jamming them onto the top of the radiator and tying them together with their own laces actually bore fruit. I assumed it would collapse like Brexit. Thank God. Last night’s espadrilles on the other hand… they’re terminally damp I fear. Still they go in the bag. I refill my flask of water. It jams into the little pocket next to the battered scallop shell. Then I blearily put the waterproof cover on my pack. I’m still not fully alert as I do it, as I discover later. Outside it’s raining like Blade Runner. My mind is on that.
I lift and drop my backpack on in a long practiced gesture. I’ve seen people do it in the past and marveled at their fluidity. Now it just makes sense. It’s safer for the straps, it’s safer for my back, and I have the arm strength and the smugness of long practice. I can be like that guy now – the guy who looks at you struggling to put on your rucksack and silently judges you.
The outside world beckons. I peek through the door. Horizontal freezing hideous rain. This is the wet rain that President Trump told us about. This is wet from the standpoint of water. Should’ve built a wall.
I steel myself. A wooden boat containing breeding pairs of all the animals in the world bobs past. I take a deep breath and plunge through the door after it, into the arms of nature.
Ten seconds later I’m in the café next door. “Café con leche por favor”. It’s only 16km to Santiago. Fuck swimming. I reckon I can wait this one out. I definitely plan to try.
As I gently sup my coffee, everyone in the café runs to the door exclaiming as nature drops a big one. It’s like a vast paddling pool suddenly exploded directly overhead. “Wow” we all say, thrilled to be under cover. I would’ve been out in that if I’d gone on a mission. Shortly thereafter, though, assuming that was the bulk of it, I decide the mission can’t wait any longer. I get my poncho on as best as possible and head out. Immediately, unfathomably, things start to improve. I couldn’t have predicted it, but I waited out the rain.
The path into Santiago is considerably more pleasant than the way into any of the other big towns we’ve threaded through. Effort has been made to keep nature visible on both sides for as long as possible despite the encroaching suburbs.
The rain stops entirely, but the wind still blows and somehow I lose my rainproof backpack cover as I walk. Didn’t put it on properly. Just in time, really. One and a half hours before journey’s end. If it rains before I stop, all my stuff will get soaked, but it doesn’t. The weather is perfect. Unexpected. Even a bit of sun. I finally get into the city limits.
I stop within 1km of the cathedral. Tomorrow, immediately upon opening, I’ll get my Compostela there. But this is the end of the journey. 42 days, on the 42nd parallel. The answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. How many roads must a man walk down? This one.
Tonight I’m staying in a huge seminary that I booked yesterday. It’s the last night of the year that the place is open. Lucky as it’s the cheapest place in town. I’m in a big dormitory on the third floor of a building that used to be for training priests. The usual protocol. Plastic waterproof mattress and pillow. Paper sheets. My own sleeping bag. Stinky blankets. Farting snoring people. Almost certainly one old man who will noisily leave before 6 just for the hell of it.
I’m off into bed now as I’m writing this later than usual. Bedtime. Oh joy. 1km left…