Cycled to Santiago today, up some quite incredible hills that will require someone to pull and another one to push Pádraig’s wheelchair. Also encountered some pretty hard to navigate part through a forest – especially as it now looks as if we were not going to have a centre-front wheel available for his wheelchair. I have asked different people over several weeks (months?) and the best answer I got was: these wheelchairs were not made for cross-country walks, and people in these wheelchairs were not supposed to walk cross-country.
Apart from that long and at times pretty challenging cycle, today was a really nice day, with just a few clouds and nice sunshine in the afternoon (after a wet and windy start in the morning).
I checked out a Casa Rural, they are right on the trail and do have a wheelchair accessible room, as well as a big, old, two star hotel, also with wheelchair accessible rooms. They are in a small town, with a town square, a taxi station (and there is one wheelchair accessible taxi there driven by Ramón), and, above all, one of these fabulous ‘restaurantes de menu’ where you can get a full three course lunch with red wine and coffee for €9. I was ready to call home to say we’d all move to Spain!
In Santiago, I checked in to the Seminario Menor, less than a kilometre from the cathedral, single room for €15, with free internet, a fabulous view of the city and a real feel of days gone by. (Just found out the catch: there’s a German couple in the room right beside mine and the walls were made for seminarians, not German couples in their twenties. I’m trying Spotify, ‘Cinematic Chill-Out’, without earphones… If this doesn’t work, I’ll switch over to the Spanish top 100 and turn the volume up – though Germans a slow in getting subtle hinds.)
Checked with the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, the ‘Oficina de Acollida ao Peregrino’, how this thing with what they still call the ‘Camino Inglés’ (and we will rename the ‘Camino Irlandés:), and got a funny reaction.
Firstly they said: “Oh – better walk from El Ferrol, not from A Coruña” and “the only reason that walkers of the A Coruña section now receive the Compostela is because of the mayor of A Coruña who wants to bring business into his city”. So what about the 25 km we will have to walk in our own country? “Well, you just collect stamps, at least two stamps per day in your own country, preferably from a church but restaurants and hotels will also do, and we’ll recognise this.” As easy as that.
Then I went to mass and got to see, for the first time in my life, the famous giant thurible or censer in Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral.
First, they get it going.
And then it flies across the full length of the side-wings of the Cathedral.
Quite dramatic, isn’t it?
When I was in the church, all of a sudden, the ‘walls’ came down. You might know the feeling, it’s something like almost complete relaxation, no guards. And when the tension disappeared, I just managed to hold myself together. It was like an emotional watershed.
In a bit more than a month, we’ll be in that cathedral together. We’ll get to the end of the Camino we started together years ago walking up from the South, from Salamanca. This time coming from a different direction, literally.