Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

May 11

May 12th, 2016

May 11

End of trek redux–to not be a walker brings a strange sense of loss. Over breakfast watching peregrinos wander in, seeing them not as colleagues but as someone still trekking is unsettling. Of course I’ll be back amongst the walkers soon enough–will commence the Trans-Swiss Trail later this month and might still hike to Finisterre when the weather clears–but for now, the tourist mantle doesn’t fit well. The true end of the Camino proper (not including the Finisterre extension) is the pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral. They brought out an entire phalanx of priests, and as part of the service read out the countries of origin for today’s peregrinos. Then at the end, there was the high drama of the botofumeiro–a large, heavy silver incense burner swung high by a phalanx of lay brothers. They light, lift, and then, through coordinated pulls on a rope, get the botofumeiro swinging almost to the ceiling. I was in the narrow part of the church so initially it swung up close enough to seem as if it would graze my head. The story is that in the old days (and maybe partly today) the pilgrims arrived filthy and smelly, so the botofumeiro purified the air in the cathedral, or at least helped the regular worshippers to remain. It is quite a spectacle. Spent the evening in the basement of a bar listening to Galician Gaelic music–also quite a spectacle. Former walker, now tourist.

T. Hugh Crawford