Wednesday, July 22, 2009
San Roque albergue is about 9km from Finisterre. Many pilgrims who walk the various caminos finish in Santiago and although some walk to Finisterre, many others catch a bus or go there by taxi. Those who decide to walk the ± 90kms might stop at San Roque albergue (about 1km from Corcubion). This is the last albergue on the camino before "Fin do Camino - Fin da Terra" (the End of the Camino - End of the World).
Although a few pilgrims might only start walking in Santiago to walk the Fistera route, the majority have walked many hundreds of kilometres - some thousands - by the time they reach here. By this stage they have long sorted out their backpack problems or blisters and have become quite stoical about aches and pains. A few pilgrims who stop at San Roque are excited about reaching the end of their long pilgrimage. "I am ready now - no more, no further. Tomorrow is the end." they say.
Others are terrified of reaching the final marker - the 0.00km concrete stele at the top of the peninsula. "I don't want it to end," they say with haunted expressions. "I can't believe that tomorrow will be the last day."
I'm sure that there is a completely different atmosphere in the albergues where pilgrims are just starting out. I remember the majority of pilgrims in St Jean Pied de Port with their new backpacks and brightly coloured clothes. They walked around with nervous, anxious, expectant looks on their faces. They were embarking on a long journey into the unknown. They would have to cross three mountain ranges, cross some 70 rivers, pass through about 250 towns and villages, forests, plains, high hills and deep valleys before arriving at the tomb of the saint. Could they do it? Did they have the stamina, the endurance, the will power, had they done enough training?
Hospitaleros in the 'starting' places must have to be constantly encouraging, reassuring, cheering them on.
Hospitaleros in the 'middle' albergues must have a different duty - placating, urging those to carry on who want to give up or feel that they have done enough. Massaging tired muscles and treating blisters and hot spots.
Here at San Roque weather-beaten pilgrims in faded clothes and walnut tans have already proven themselves capable, strong, eduring. Here, most of the peregrinos fear only the end. They have walked through the pain and the doubt and have been tested by the elements, have gone the distance and now feel that they could go on forever.
They don't want to go home.
They don't want to go back to their 'normal' lives.
Most are already planning their next camino.