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Monday, May 21, 2007 

Day 28: Ladies & Gentlemen, Lola has entered the building...

Walking the last 20km was a surreal experience. Feeling something so close, something within reach made this one of the hardest walks.

Its the same feeling I got at the end of each day as I neared my destination: you feel heavy, and ready to drop. Your mind keeps thinking "its right around the corner" but alas, you said the same thing half an hour ago.

I woke up early & tried not to disturb Dorothee (but failed miserably as I hit my pack against the wardobe door at the very last moment,) was out the door and on the road a little after 6 and enjoyed walking in the dark for the last time on the camino.

This was it, my last morning on the camino with just me, alone, as the sun would rise. I walked strangely uneven at first, my mind trying to capture the final moments of this insane journey I was about to complete.

There's this point when you walk in the day, that you are purely walking & breathing. It becomes automatic & meditative and when it kicks in, you can go for hours.

So even though the one blister (which grew sort of into 2), and the aches all were coming to the forefront physically and the questions and answers I had been sorting all along were coming up mentally - somehow, they no longer mattered. It was automatic: just walk, breathe & be.

The way into Santiago is not as grand as I think it was once before. It is written that once upon a time the cathedral towers could be seen from Monte de Gozo (translation "Mount of Joy") but the city blocks the view of the cathedral, and there's quite a bit of time spent walking through the city streets before you even near the cathedral area.

And then, the yellow arrows STOPPED. Following the pilgrims ahead of me, the signs that were there all along the way seemed to sudden disappear and the pilgrim instinct had to kick in, finely honed from endless twist and turns and forks on dirt paths.

It is scary, this faith that you have that you are going in the right direction & to walk every step with confidence. Believe it or not, somehow things always will work out.

Dodo told me that she had met this German who had parents from Afghanistan. When the war broke out, he and his mother had made it past the border but his father, who went later to cross, was stopped and told he could not cross without a passport. The border guard told him the name of a man in Pakistan and said if he gave this man this amount of money he would have a passport, & then he would be let through. The father then walked 1600km through the war-torn country, to Pakistan, found the man, gave him the amount, got the passport and walked backed the 1600km, and the border guard let him through.

Imagine, the trust one has to have in all that. To have faith he would make it 1600km, to have faith that he would find the man in Pakistan, to have faith that the money would buy the passport, to have faith that the border guard was not lying and would actually let him through.

When you walk a journey like the camino, there is a faith. There's a strange trust in this invisible pilgrim protection. No one (usually) steals from you, if you are in need of help, strangers will come to your aid, if you lose something along the way you probably didn't need it, & if you did need it, it would come back to you. Although there are unfortunately some bad experiences, this shield is ever-present as is most often, your faith in it.

After reaching the cathedral, & then receiving my 'compostela' from the Pilgrims office, I truly was no longer a pilgrim. I had the clothes of a pilgrim, the pack with it, but there was finality to it all. You are different in the crowds around you as you sort of melt from the pilgrim
self and pilgrim world to re-emerge into civilization.

I am thankful to be done, grateful to have made it one piece, and looking forward to seeing the friends and many faces along the way as they enter Santiago.

I still have the feeling of that "automatic" mode. The ability to walk every step with confidence, to breathe and just be. Its a feeling I hope to have forever.

And the best part, as Remo often reminds me, my true camino is just beginning.

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