Our Camino has come to an end. We are no longer pilgrims, we are tourists in Portugal.
Our Camino ended in Muxia after a two day walk from Finisterre, stopping overnight in Lires along the way. It was an enjoyable, relaxing walk of 31km, with the lovely fishing village of Muxia a very fitting and special place for us to end our pilgrimage. This final stage was particularly special as we shared this experience with our American friends Hanna, Jane and Ted.
We first met Hanna and Jane way back on about day 4 of the Camino while Anita was still with us, and we kept meeting up with them at various stages along the way. Ted, Jane's husband, met up with them for the last 200km, and we first met Ted about 5 days before Santiago.
Like us, Hanna, Jane and Ted walked into Santiago after several days of cold, rainy weather, and like us at the time, were pleased to have reached the end. But then like us, after a rest in Santiago, the urge to go to the very end of the trail, to the coast, was compelling, so we again joined forces to complete the journey.
Ted acted as our back up driver in their hire car, which allowed Hanna, Jane, Steve and I, to walk with only light day packs. The weather was lovely, warm and sunny, and since we only had around 15km to walk each day, we took our time enjoying both the scenery and each others company.
The track took us through a variety of terrain, hilly at times with spectacular views of the coast and ocean, winding its way through forest, farmland and crumbling villages. Our accommodation in the tiny village of Lires, Casa Raul, was arranged by Jane and Ted's lovely daughter Kirstin, who lives in Madrid and who we had the opportunity to meet in Santiago. The accommodation was great, Raul and his wife Theresa were wonderful hosts, and we spent the late afternoon drinking beers and wine in their delightful courtyard garden.
The walk from Lires was a gentle climb for all but the last 4km, then all downhill before walking into Muxia. We'd all had another great day walking together and the weather was perfect, then as we began the descent into Muxia, we all realized that our Camino was truely coming to an end. The four of us stopped to speak to another pilgrim who was walking in the opposite direction towards Finisterre and when he said to us 'it's not far, maybe 4km', we all felt the same pang of sadness at the same time, realizing that our Camino was really about to end as there was nowhere left to walk to beyond Muxia.
This was a diifferent feeling to that which we experienced in Santiago 4 days earlier. When we reached Santiago after 40 days walking across northern Spain, we had spent 5 days walking in rain. We were tired, cold, wet through to the skin, and although excited to be standing in the square in front of that famous cathederal feeling happy and proud of what we had achieved, we were glad that it was the end and all thoughts of walking on to the coast were abandoned. We had walked nearly 800km, climbed mountains in rain and sleet, walked through mud, cow dung and rocky Roman roads that bruised the feet, we ventured into every church with open doors we happened upon, met wonderful people from all over the world, some have became good friends, and we've had one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. Incredible then, what a hot bath and a few days rest can do, as once we met up with Hanna, Jane and Ted again, we were making plans to walk on from Finisterre together, and so it turned out after all that the last sello on our credential was from the village church in Muxia.
Built on the rocks at the headland of the village is another church, the famous Nosa Senora da Borca, built in 1544. This church has withstood the rigours of time and all that the Atlantic has thrown at her for centuries and is the final destination of the Finisterre to Muxia Camino. We were therefore devestated to discover, upon reaching this final point, that the church had been devestated by fire on Christmas Day. The outer walls of the church remain in tact, however the interior was gutted and the roof collapsed. One can only imagine the effect this tragedy has had on the local village and pilgrim community.
The coastline here is spectacular and wild. We all spent time here walking over the the massive granite boulders, both together and alone, taking photos and contemplating the finality of it all.
We stayed for another day discovering Muxia and had yet another wonderful farewell dinner with our friends before parting ways the following morning. Steve and I caught the early bus back to Finisterre, then another bus on to Porto to spend our last two weeks in Portugal, while Jane, Ted and Hanna drove off towards Madrid.
Everyone experiences their own personal Camino, however most pilgrims seem to agree that it's the people you meet and bond with along the way that make the Camino special and unique. This was certainly the case for Steve and I, so in closing I would like mention the people we found had a huge impact in making our Camino such a fantastic experience.
Mary Beth and Paul from the USA who we met with Anita on the first day and became the first members of our 'Camino family'. Our Aussie mates Robyn and Ian from Townsville who we will meet up with again back in Australia. Our adopted Aussie, Diane from Seattle, who we hope will visit us in Australia in the future. And of course Anita, our Camino Companion. We took our first steps together on a freezing cold, wet morning from Roncevalles after driving from St Jean Pied de Port, not knowing what lay ahead of us. The very first night we spent together in Viskarret remains one of the best of the whole Camino. Our good friends Hanna, Jane and Ted from the USA who we kept meeting up with all along the way and must have been destined to walk with for the last section into Muxia. We thank them all.
When we left Roncevalles the grape vines had no leaves. Now we are in Portugal, they are beginning to bear fruit, we've been gone a long time. We certainly had a Buen Camino. Would we ever consider walking the Camino again . . . . . . . . ?