A note for readers: This is the 12th in a series of articles intended to describe my experience of walking two of the many pilgrimage routes that make up Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Although I documented those experiences on Facebook as they were unfolding in October 2023, this is a much deeper look into their implications.
Should you need to review any previous articles for context, and you landed here from Facebook, please click here, then scroll down as needed. If you came here directly, just scroll down.
Today’s walk from Olveiroa to Finisterre will end in a place I know well, a place where I’d once spent nine days after my first walk across Spain. As with my recent visit to Santiago de Compostela, I know it will feel like coming home.
After a hearty breakfast, Gregory and I leave the albergue well before sunrise as planned. Rain is back in the forecast today, and it begins as a light drizzle the very moment we head down the street toward the edge of town. As the Camino slips into the woods, we click on our headlamps for some mostly uphill forest walking. Each of us has about 32 kilometers to cover before reaching our respective destinations.
The Galician rain is soft this morning, and the aroma of moist eucalyptus anoints the chilly air as we silently make our way. I’m able to address my morning practice of prayerful contemplation that wasn’t possible in our shared room. Nearly an hour passes before the dawn comes on; soon after, we stow our lamps. Now we’re able to have some light conversation by using Gregory’s translator app, reading the screen without concern for tripping. We discuss the pilgrimage walks that brought us to Santiago de Compostela where we began this walk (the Camino Portuguese for him ̶ ̶ his first), along with some general talk about what inspired us to be pilgrims.
He really is a lovely fellow, and I’d have been delighted to spend more time with him, but before too long, we find ourselves at the split where the elegant, twin stone markers for the routes to Finisterre and Muxia stand side by side. After another sweet Camino goodbye, I walk along the side of a motorway for a few hundred meters before eventually joining a trail. I’ll not walk on another paved road until I enter the fishing port town of Cee on the Atlantic coast some 12 kilometers away.
The rainfall has become heavier, and it’s a little windy as well, but the atmosphere is perfect for reflection. It occurs to me that the intention of grace may have been better suited to a warm, sunlit mountain pilgrimage, and the penitent walk more appropriate to the rain. But a little deeper than that notion, and etched in memory, is the realization that this is a world of appearances where nothing is as it seems to be, and that grace has been woven into all of the heartbreak and loss and fear I’ve ever known. Certainly, then, grace can easily be found in wetness and discomfort as I walk toward a place that feels like home.
After 18 kilometers of walking from Olveiroa without rest, I notice a chapel to my right at the top of a knoll with a wide, covered portico facing the road. Another pilgrim is sheltering here as well, but there is plenty of room for us each to have our own space, so I approach. Nearing the chapel, I can see the pilgrim is a woman, only a little younger than me, and she smiles as I greet her. I remove my poncho and pack, extract a towel, and run it across my head and neck, but even with the raingear, I’m too soaked for this to have much effect. Still, it feels good to retreat for a while, to rest my legs and drink some water. My fellow pilgrim appears circumspect to me, so we remain silent to each other, and after ten minutes or so, she returns to the road with another smile and a simple nod. A distinct thought intuitively arises...all encounters are sacred.
Almost an hour later, on the downhill approach to Cee, I glimpse my first views of the Atlantic. The near-constant rain and my growing hunger does nothing to diminish my enthusiasm as I practically bound into town. The last time I was here, I’d taken a bus from Santiago, opting to walk just the 13 kilometers from Cee to Finisterre, so there is a tangible sense of accomplishment as I arrive. I pass through town quickly, though, and stop at a warm and cozy bar in the adjacent village of Corcubion for a long rest and some substantial food.
I’ve actually had enough time in this cafe to dry out fairly well, and notice that the rain has stopped. After a couple of café con leches to finish things off, I shoulder the pack and head off to Finisterre, now a mere 12 kilometers away under a brighter though still cloudy sky.
There is a bit of a climb after leaving Corcubion, but the forest walk that follows is delightful. I feel rested and nourished, there is a spring in my step, and my pace is brisk. There are many places along the way that are familiar even after the passage of such a long time. Soon, I emerge from the forest onto the coast road, the main motor route to Finisterre, and I can feel the place pulling me on like a magnet.
In the town of Sardineiro, the route returns to the forest, and then, on a gentle descent back toward the coast road, I can see it at last...the long finger of Cabo Finisterre as it points out into the Atlantic and toward the horizon. It’s easy to see how the old ones called it the end of the earth.
Next, memories in Finisterre, and a stormy walk to Muxia.