Journey’s end: Santiago de Compostela

Today mostly involved running round in circles whilst people told us we were in the wrong place. It’s raining again, and after the simplicity of walking we have to integrate with the world again. We aren’t very good at it. In the morning we wandered into town, where there were far more people than I was used to seeing on an average day and i didn’t like it. We went to the correct place, decided it wasn’t the correct place, went to loads of incorrect places angrily, and eventually went back to the correct place again even more angry and wet as well. The atmosphere in my little group has been fractious and confrontational. It’s because we have done good work towards ourselves this last month. Our unconscious self-destruct tendencies are trying as hard as possible to undo it all and reset to old patterns already. Humans are strange fish. Good to catch it though. This work runs deeper than that shit.

As far as arbitrary destinations go, Santiago is a pretty attractive one. I got my Compostela and dedicated it to my mum in case purgatory is real. I had a little cry to the stern Spaniard who gave it to me. “Did you enjoy your pilgrimage?” he asked. “I think maybe. It was hard though,” I responded.


Mel and I got the compulsory cathedral jumping shot.


We walked around looking at shops selling bollocks to pilgrims. I’ll probably buy some of the bollocks before I leave because it’ll end up being happy memories.

It has been hard. But beautiful. Shifting. Emotionally complicated. Physically unfamiliar. I’ll need some time to process the processing, and because we have all arrived with so many people who have walked alongside us for so long, there’s a sense of a social obligation tonight. People are talking about dancing. I think it might kill me to dance on these feet but I’m game for trying until I fall asleep at about ten. I’ve only walked a fraction of my usual walk today. According to the Templar’s Fitbit I’ve walked about 697 miles since September 30th but that factors in midnight journeys to the loo and going back and forth to the bar. Still well over 600 clear miles. “When you set out for Ithaca, hope that your way be a long one.”

All for a piece of paper, and to go to mass in the cathedral. At least I didn’t have to kill hundreds of men who were trying to marry my wife.

It’s interesting watching mass in a language you don’t understand. It brings the theatricality of it all to the fore. People in costumes and hats sitting in power places holding props and sounding impressive. Lighting and relative positioning being used effectively to tell a story of splendor and importance. I sat at the base of a stone pillar doing gongyo under my breath. We were lucky today. They have a giant thurible that they only swing from time to time. It’s like a huge pendulum full of burning frankincense. It’s expensive as they employ six people dressed as Templars who know how to make it swing without killing anyone. It’s a very impressive sight and I’m glad I was there for it.

At the back of the church, behind the guy with the best costume, there is a statue of the apostle, James, whose body is here because that body they found was declared to be his by the Pope. Throughout the service as important things are said importantly, a constant stream of people pass behind the statue, who is facing the audience. Their hands snake up and gently throttle him as the hatman blithers. It’s called embracing the apostle, yet he’s positioned in such a way that you have to put your hands round his neck.

I think we have the Korean supergroup to thank, as they arrived in town today and were in the cathedral. Their travel company likely paid for it to swing. For once I’m glad to be staying in the same town as them, as they couldn’t fill all the albergues if they tried.

Not quite time to return to the world. I’m going to Finisterre tomorrow, to float out mum’s water in the sunset. Then I’ll think about flights. Or maybe walk to Muxia and THEN think about flights. Or maybe flights to Morocco…

Home might be pleasant for a day or so…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

4 thoughts on “Journey’s end: Santiago de Compostela”

  1. So glad for you, but so sad for myself to see your journey come to an end. This blog has been my little morning meditation and I’ll miss it! Congratulations on coming to the end of a truly amazing journey x


    1. Thank you for your support Emma! There have been a few constant readers who have made me feel like i was never walking alone. You’re one of them . It has meant a lot.


  2. I have so enjoyed your blog and your honesty and authenticity have been a daily treat to read. If you do get to Finesterre, I would like to recommend that you check out a hostel run by a wonderful Hungarian women. It’s on the main drag going down towards the water and is called “ Hungarian Auberge” or something similar. I stayed there for 5 days at the end of my Camino in May. I felt like I was at home before I actually had to fly home so it was a perfect processing place. Muxia is beautiful as well and some prefer it but Finesterre has more of a sense of the “end of the world” in a good way.


    1. Thank you so much. I’ll look at it for certain. Due to the random kindness of friends, I’ve booked into O Semaforo tonight which is the height of luxury!! Thank you – I’m glad you’ve found connections with my thoughts. It has been a remarkable and powerful experience. I will certainly be heading to Muxia, but if I stay another night here I’ll take your recommendation. Thanks!


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