May 15 – Santiago!

In front of the cathedral in Santiago:
198

We just got our certificates of completion (compostelas):
200

This picture cannot possibly describe the journey we have been through for the past six days. We started with hearts full of hope, excitement and positive attitudes as we packed our backpacks and prepared for this life-changing journey. As we prepared for the journey in Tui, we did not think that this would be so challenging in various ways. So with smiles on our faces we marched onto a road that contains not only history and culture, but also a way to discover the self. Some suffered from physical ailments, such as tendonitis, while others encountered moments of emotional breakdowns. Somehow we embraced the pain in the knees, in the feet, and in our hearts, and we turned it into something beautiful, something worth walking for. There was never a moment on the Camino that I felt alone. At every turn, at every hill, up every mountain, and with every tear there was someone there to lift my spirits when they were down. I discovered that human nature is a beautiful thing and that this Camino is not about the distance travelled, where we started, or even where it ended. It was about the things we learned and grew from while walking. So I say again, this picture does not describe the journey. How can one photo capture what we learned, who we are and what we stand for? We needed this walk more than anything in the world and one day we will realize what an impression it has made and the transformation within us.

-Scarlett

This morning we all woke up with anticipation of finishing the Camino. Most of us had injuries and knew it would take us several hours to finish the last 20-25ish km. We left the albergue with our raincoats on and our minds full of mixed emotions.

The route was a combination of roads and trails through small towns, neighborhoods and across “hills” (personally, I think they are mountains). The weather also changed throughout the day. One minute it was sunny and warm and the next we were bundled in raincoats and ponchos, shivering.

At first, my group was excited and lively, ready to reach Santiago, but as the day went on the task ahead of us became more difficult. I hit a wall physically and emotionally, not sure if I could continue the path. We stopped at a cafe to get a Coca and at one point, Scarlett and I had our heads down on the table, not able to move our aching bodies. We had been through many obstacles throughout the journey and did not want to give up with only a few kilometers left, but at the same time, we had lost our motivation and our strength.

With a motivational speech from Josh and some delicious cheese pizza, we picked ourselves up and continued on the path. Our spirits were renewed and we headed toward Santiago. Soon, our injuries caught up with us again and we began to slow down, but we would not stop. We could not give up on everything we had accomplished so far. It took us many hours, but eventually we walked into Santiago!!

Although we were the last group to arrive and we caused everyone else to be late, we were ecstatic. As we were walking up to the group, they began to clap and cheer for us, as we had arrived in Santiago despite our injuries and struggles. It truly defined the relationships that were built and strengthened throughout the journey.

We walked to the Cathedral after we had showered and put on clean clothes and it was then that I realized what I had gone through in the past week. Each day brought its own challenges and at times I did not know how to get through and yet I did, we all did. Seeing that Cathedral and receiving our Compostelas was an incredibly emotional experience, different from anything in the past. Walking the Camino seemed like a simple task at first, but looking back now, it was a major milestone in my life. I feel more than accomplishment….I feel like a different person, but I could not have finished the Camino if it were not for my fellow peregrinos.

Mom, Dad, Katie, Sarah, Josh, Vanessa, Dianita, Kim, Anna, Vince, Garrick, Gracie……I miss you and I love you!!!

Cory….I miss you! Have a great, safe time in Thailand! I love you!

-Emily

The last day of hiking has finally arrived for us all. It’s the longest day at roughly 15 miles. It was a bit different because for once it rained in the morning which most of us expected it to do every day. The hike wasn’t too bad; we, being Eli, Felicity, and myself, went ahead of everyone and decided to get breakfast on the camino which ended up being at a Shell gas station because well the shell is the sign of the camino and it was actually open at 7:30 in the morning. We ate, not the most nutritious of breakfasts, but it was energy nonetheless. But on the camino we saw many different things that were pretty cool and others that had been very common along the camino. One interesting thing that happened to us was about 15km out, we ran into a man watering his garden. We were tired and very thirsty but the man stopped us and talked about all the people he sees doing the camino. So after talking a bit he offered us all water and we greatly obliged his offering. However, later about 5km or so left, we finally saw what we believed to be Santiago de Compostela and the excitement overjoyed us. We stopped a couple kilometers later and took pictures of our first glimpse of the city and it was magnificently old and awesome looking. We then got into the city but got lost because there are no more yellow arrows to follow, and yet again, the rain started and we got soaked. So we asked another person where the place is that we’re meeting at, and it turned out we were only a little way away from it. Thus ended our journey on the Camino de Santiago and our prayers answered so we can finally sit down, eat, and not have to worry about hiking another 15km in the morning.

-Phil

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