Camino de Santiago: Finisterre, the end of the world
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts written by Gwen Edwards chronicling her journey on the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, a trail of hundreds of miles across Spain. The Summit Daily is serializing Edwards’ adventures leading up to a fundraiser for “Phil’s Camino,” a documentary, with events around Breckenridge from Thursday, June 4, through Sunday, June 7.
Finisterre is known as the unofficial end of the camino. Located on the western shore of Spain, it is the furthest a pilgrim can walk before hitting the ocean. Many continue on from Santiago to the “end of the world” to complete their camino. On a misty morning, the streets emptied of tourists and accomplished pilgrims, I walked past the Santiago de Compostela cathedral and followed a yellow arrow out of the city.
Not two blocks had passed until the only soul on those damp streets was the nun I’d met a few days before. We hugged, and she wished me a buen camino. Shaking my head with the delight of serendipity, light steps carried me along a creek and up and out of the city on what felt like the start of an entirely new camino.
The next two days passed fairly uneventfully. I was used to making new friends every day, enjoying communal meals and passing the time exchanging jokes while walking the day away. But weirdly, I met very few people; even though I slept next to loads of them at the albergue, those connections just didn’t come. I enjoyed solo walking each day, at one point realizing more than 24 hours had passed without uttering a word to anyone.
There was a fogged-over dawn, after spotting a bed bug motivated me to step out into the near darkness of the morning, where a crumbling, moss-eaten chapel in a cemetery felt like a secret moment only for me. The first glimpse of ocean since leaving Asturias weeks before, glistening below me in a deep bay shape, propelled me along. I spent an afternoon picking sea glass from a tiny, deserted beach. Ate a perfect meal of beans, steak and salad at an albergue with some old German women who complained about the fruit having spots. Hitched a ride from some spear-fishermen, hunting for octopus at sunset, back to the albergue. Swam silently in clear waters early in the morning before walking the final stretch into the town of Finisterre, whose beach was covered in beautiful shells of all sizes and colors.
After spending a couple of days on a balcony facing the ocean, walking for hours on the beach in the evening, it was finally time to go to the end of the world. A few kilometers past Finisterre is a lighthouse and the last official way marker of the camino, indicating 0.0 kilometers remaining.
Finding a place on the cliff facing the hot sun and the stretching ocean, I spread out my treasures: a hat from a friend, a sock with no pair, a small loaf of bread and a tiny bottle of champagne. I sat there with the sun in my face, looking out over the ocean. I’d found a little spot on the cliff to sit with my back against the rock and my legs out in front, too hot to do much else besides stare at the sea.
A cool, orange light raged over my little shrine and tears came hot and hard. There on that rock-side, the ocean swirling with foam, the currents pulling away and then surging back again, I began to forgive myself. I became willing to make amends to myself for not living a life of perfection, for the many mistakes and failures.
I sat there in my own sweat, nowhere to go, no possible path to take further and let her go, the woman that I was not. Let go of that woman who’d let me down, who’d beat me up, who’d failed at morphing into someone else.
I sat there for hours, in silence, looking out at the ocean with my shoes off. When the sun finally sank, I put those shoes back on and started down a new path.
Gwen Edwards is the owner of Yellow Arrow Coffee in Breckenridge. Edwards took her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in July and August 2014.
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