These are the last two days on our trek westward across Spain.
Our first day takes us along a brief 12-kilometre coastal walk to Finisterre, our destination for the day. After checking in at the austere Hotel Finisterre, we head off for an afternoon stroll to Cabo Fisterra.
This was the western tip of the known-world prior to Columbus and, as can be expected when looking out on to the unknown abyss, rituals took hold well before St. James arrived. We are in the land of pagan beliefs. We have left the historical path to Christian enlightenment, ending in Santiago. Beyond that the journey has led us back in time to one of Roman and Celtic mysticism. Here, the power of the church has been supplanted by the infinite plane of water extending beyond these rocks. It is an undeniably powerful space, so different from our trek to Santiago.
Our lazy 10-kilometre circuit takes us past the hardy Faro (lighthouse) de Finisterra and up to Monte Facho, with its magnificent views in all directions. Looking westward, the distant Faro adds a world’s end exclamation point to the endless horizon line of the Atlantic Ocean. In the other direction. the setting sun illuminates a neckline of land, the Praia (beach) do Mar de Fora on one side, and the bustling fishing port of Finisterre nestled into the other.
Our next day’s walk – the final day of our trek – takes us northwards towards another version of land’s end, the town of Muxia. The 29-kilometre route skirts the coast of Spain through forest, farmland and small villages, occasionally offering vistas of the seaside. This is our 38th day as pilgrims and the first where the route signage is less-than-needed. We head off-course for the first time in our travels and, thanks to a lucky hunch, avoided a second detour that might have added hours to our day’s journey.
Muxia. What a wonderful place to end our pilgrimage! It’s a quaint, charming village with tight, twisting streets that express its rugged and remote seaside setting. Beyond the town, the land rises to a rocky hill and beyond that, it sinks back down to the sea. At it’s edge rises the Santuario da Virxe da Barca, an 18th Century church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Monks arrived in Muxia in the 1100s to put an end to pagan beliefs. Out of their efforts came the enduring legend of the Virgin Mary, who arrived on these rocky shores in a boat made of stone in order to aid St. James in spreading the Christian message. Dotting the coastline below the Sanctuary are wind and water-carved stones, said to be parts of the stone boat, stones that are revered to this day. Just beyond the legendary shipwreck, defiant pilgrims are precariously perched on rocks, staring intently at the furious sea as waves noisily pound the shore, sending showers of salt water high into the air.
It is here, on this rugged windswept landscape, amid the intermingled forces of nature and religion, that Gail and I can similarly reflect on our own 926-kilometre journey. The Camino Francés – the way of St. James – is a path hewn by religion, connecting church to church. But ultimately, it is the walking between those points that enlightens us. Step after step, day after day, we have encountered the slow, intimate unveiling of a curious world shaped by nature, architecture, wine, food, religion. By sun and clouds. By the smell of eucalyptus. All this and more, woven into a complex, beautiful tapestry to be taken in at a pace that allows for a considered appreciation.
Such is the religion of a good, long walk. Buen Camino!
This is the final post to my Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.
If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances