50 Days of Camino

Kevin Soltysiak's travel log of the way of St. James, the "Camino de Santiago"


Arzúa — Santiago

I woke up knowing that this day would be the last. I didn’t wait on Krista and just went on my own, hoping to catch up with Loïc before he reached Santiago. The weather was still grey but it wasn’t raining, so there was nothing stopping me. I took short breaks and walked very fast and got to Santiago early in the afternoon, after crossing a wooden bridge that was broken here and there and felt like the last trial. I was done. Done! I had made it!

I had felt it the days before but once I was in front of the cathedral, I knew that this was the end of the road for me. No Fisterra, no Muxia, I was done walking! During the day, I ran into many of the pilgrims I had met the past few weeks: the group of italians, the guy with el puto oso, Gaby, Elena, Nora, and finally Loïc. I had fun with him on facebook, telling everybody that I had reached Santiago first, since he had no proof against me and no way of telling people that it was a lie. Mischief achieved :)

We booked an airbnb for the night: we wanted to go out and celebrate with all our friends while having a little bit of privacy. I met a few new faces, including Ben, Ollie, Dorothea and Steffi. I spent the greater part of the night with them, in a bar where a local band where playing irish music. We drank and had lots of fun, but exhaustion caught up to me so I went home before Loïc. I knew that the day after would probably end up the same way.

Santiago (2)

We woke up too early for our own taste. Our bodies were used to waking up soon, so even though we had come home late, we couldn’t make it past ten. After having breakfast, we spent the afternoon wandering around, catching up with our pilgrims friend that were just arriving in town, including Saula and Krista. She, Loïc and I booked a hostel; after a nap, we went in town. Loïc wanted to have the free pilgrim dinner at the hotel next to the cathedral, while Krista and I wanted to go at mass. Not that we were believers, but there was something special at the end of the mass that I wanted to witness with my own eyes…

Once we were out, we ran into Elena, Jem, the croatian sisters, Sacha, and a group of koreans. I haven’t mentionned them until now because I had little interactions with them, but there were a lot of koreans on the camino. I was told that there was a strong community of christians in the country so that might be why they were so many of them; but I really didn’t expect too see so many of them. Not that had any expectations on that matter, though.

A hurdy-gurdy Hobo at the window!

We all then went bar-hopping and ended up in the same bar as the previous night, with the same band but with more players. One of them was playing the hurdy-gurdy, a weird music instrument that I came to know through the tv show Black Sails. I neved thought I’d be seeing one live in a bar… But here it was. The guys from the previous night, Ollie and Ben were here again and we all had another round of good fun. There was even a weird hobo outside the bar, dancing to the music and making lots of weird sounds. Around two in the morning, I called it a night and went back to my bed.

Santiago (3)

I took my time that morning. My plan was to go to Porto by bus the day after, and once there to figure out how and when I would be going home. But for the time being, I intended to enjoy my last day in town with the friends I had made on the road: most of them should have made their way to Santiago by then.

We went to have the free pilgrim lunch. Loïc also had the free breakfast and told me that there was a weird but funny hobo with him. I showed him a picture of the one that was at the bar the previous night and it was the same guy, as I expected. He was also there for lunch! He was from germany. I tried, but couldn’t really follow his life story. The meal was not especially good, consisting mainly of leftovers, but it was good of the hotel to have kept this tradition alive.

I booked my trip to Porto and rested for a good part of the afternoon then went out to met with Elena and Dorothea for coffee, right before going for dinner with Krista and Loïc. Then it was bar hopping again! We found the main group of pilgrims taking all the space at the end of a restaurant, drinking wine. Most of my camino “classmates” were there, something that didn’t happen a lot: the italians, the girls, the mexicans, Monica and Becs, Sacha and the koreans…

I stayed there and drank a little with them then went on my own to A Gramola, the bar from the previous night, to see if Ben, Ollie and the others were still around and tell them to join us. Sadly, they weren’t, and the bar was unusually quiet. Jose was there though, and he was literally begging me to help him find Christian, Loïc and the others. I told him where the bar was but he really wanted me to take him there so I ended up leaving the bar with him, even though I wanted to stay at Gramola to talk with Dorothea and the few people there.

Of course, once we reached the bar, they all had moved on to another place and nobody was answering me… We tried a few bars randomly but didn’t get lucky. Until somebody finally answered me and told me they all went to A Gramola… Had we stayed there in the first place, all would have been fine.

It was maybe half an hour since we had left the bar, and now it was full of people, mostly pilgrims! Even more than in the previous bar, with Paul, Susan, Laurent, Amy, Jenny and the irishmen having joined. Only Ben and Ollie were missing, the former having gone back home and the latter resting, according to his father. We stayed there and had fun until everybody started moving in different directions, with some going in a club. I tried to stick with them but clubbing didn’t appeal that much to me; around 4h, I went to bed for the last time.

The end of the Way

I woke up way too early, around 8. I was not fully rested but once again, my body had settled in a rythm… I kept hearing Loïc banging himself on the wall next to his bed and heard he was unable to turn off his alarm: looked like he was still quite drunk and would be nursing a massive hangover that day.

When I got out of the dorms, Jose jumped on me right away: he couldn’t find the bar from last night and he had left his stuff there. He told me they kicked him out without letting him get them first, then he was out all night in the cold and somehow he fell and ended up with a scar on his head… I was getting fed up with his shit but this time I didn’t have to walk with him. If there’s one thing I wasn’t going to miss from the camino, it was having to deal with him. It’s not that he was a bad person, but he really was not able to account for himself, from what I had seen.

I left the hotel with Loïc still asleep, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing him until quite some time. But somehow, it felt very appropriate to leave him without saying goodbye because he was to drunk to do so: those who know him will probably agree! I ran into Jenny one last time, then went for a coffee with Krista and Saula.

After one last session of hugs and goodbyes, it was time for me to go to the bus station and leave the camino behind.

Have you seen this man?

Previously: Galicia

Next: After the Camino