End of the World

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Day 37…or Day 3 (20KM)
Cee – Fisterra

To make the most of the day, we get up early (no suprise), and make our way through a definitely still sleeping Cee.  It is Sunday morning, so not much will open this morning…if at all. Today’s forage for a café con leche or even breakfasty type of food most likely will be difficult.  The fact that it is not raining makes the walk this morning even more epic.  

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Once out of Cee, we walk a coastal route and are amazed how much open space there is.  Back home every inch of coastal property, unless “protected” or designated as a “park” would be built up and/or encroached upon.  It has a Pacific Grove, Monterey feel, circa 1970’s.  We imagine what it would be like if the sun where shining and the air was warmer.

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We certainly would be taking some time to explore the vacant beaches, and I would be lamenting the fact that I do not have a swim suit.  

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We pass through two small towns (still asleep) and then hit the edge of Playa Langosteira.  

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It is a 2 KM stretch of white sand, and another .5km to the center of town in Finsterra.  From here you can walk the beach or take the boardwalk that weaves through a grove of pine trees.  We, elect to take the beach.  

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We pause to take a picture at what appears to us to be the equivelent of a “Lifeguard” shack (just because), and imagine what it would look like on a hot summer day.  As we walk along the shore on the hard pack sand, we see scattered shells and seaweed that has broken off and washed in from the recent storm.  

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We look for intact scallops shells and find a perfect souvenir.  Once we run out of sand, we climb up a flight of steps into the center of town.  We find an open bar and suck down TWO cafe con leches.  The municiple albergue is not yet open, as it is only 11 am.  The true “End of the World” is still 3.5km away.  We find an open private albergue, near Castelo de San Carlos (which is now a fisherman’s museum) and check in.  In hind-sight we should have waited and carried our packs all the way to and from “The End of the World”.  It would have “felt” better, and we wouldn’t had to sleep at an overpriced, black mold (hidden behind paint), musty albergue.  The attendent was in the process of cleaning, so we didn’t attribute the smell to the place, but to us.   That being said, we shed our packs at that albergue and trotted up the hill toward the “End of the World”.  Finis (End).  Terrae (Earth).  Fisterra was once considered the literal “End of World”, back when believing that the earth was flat was in “vogue”. It is a significant destination for a Camino pilgrimage, and its symbolism dates back even to “pre-Christian” times as a place where the “tangible world” meets the “spirit world”.  Celtic mythology, the Moors and even the Romans found this place “sacred” as well.  

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If you think about it in a “metaphysical” sense, imagine standing on the precipice of civilization, or of the known world.  Would you wonder if there is something beyond the sea, or if you have gone as far as you can go.  It is simple as, ‘Is there life after death?’  Does our existence end right here?  These questions are timeless, and when put into perspective, and real time, its pondering may either be comforting or troubling depending of the strength and/or existence of ones faith or beliefs.   We walk along a single track trail paralleling a busy roadway that leads to the 0.00KM Camino marker and a little ways beyond that… to the lighthouse.  

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The trail is partially clogged with people who have arrived via bus into the center of town, and who are generally not part of a tour group.  Most have NOT walked from Santiago, although a good portion of those walking from town have received their Compestela or walked portions of the Camino.  When they hear we have walked all the Way from St. Jean, they are amazed.  

imageUpon cresting the “hill” and reaching the parking lot filled with tour buses, and the 0.00km marker, we now wish we had our packs on, if only to differntiate ourselves from the masses so that we do not feel so hurried to move along, or get out of the way, so others can have their pictures taken at the 0.00KM marker. We encounter a similar situation at the site(s) set aside to burn your pilgrim’s frock(s).

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We sit here for as long as we dare before we are essentially asked to move by a non hiker family who wishes to take a photo here as well. I think if we had our packs on, people would have been more understanding or courteous.  No matter, as “they know not what they do”, so we celebrate our accomplishment internally and will always have these moments to savor together.  

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Faro de Fisterra holds additional significance as it is one of two places where upon a World “Peace Pole” has been placed. The other is at the site where Jesus was baptised on the Jordan river. As we walk about, Paul spies a Canadian (Vancouver) couple that we had walked with during our “folly” on the Roman Route, and says something to the effect, ‘If it weren’t for all these damn Canadians’, upon which Murray turns around as if to knock Paul’s block off.  We have a hearty laugh and catch up a bit.  They have rented a car and are taking a “fast tour” around the sites as they have quite a bit of ground they want to cover before they head home.

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It is at Faro de Fisterra, in the light house visitor center, that we get the last stamp of our journey.  It is cathartic in a sense, as this means we are done.  This specific adventure and the goals set therein, have been met.  Now what?

Walk back down the hill of course, and go to the beach! On the back side of the isthmus that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean is Praia do Mar de Fora. Our original intent, at the beginning of this trek, was to frolic in the ocean and celebrate our finish. Today frolicking is out of the question. We will however let the cool water wash over our feet. In a “Where’s Waldo” fashion we search the city streets for signs or markers that indicate we have found the correct and most expeditious route to Praia do Mar de Fora. Following a concentric circle search pattern, we locate said markers.

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A paved path leads us to a sturdy wooden boardwalk that descends to a wide Cove with golden sand and turquoise blue water accented with bleached white froth washing up and over a steep berm of soft, coarse sand.
Oh if the sun were shining, how much more of my breath would be taken away?

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We saunter down the boardwalk. A man walks his dogs along the shoreline. A solitary woman collects tiny shells. We remove our socks and shoes.

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The coarse sand engulfs our feet as we walk to the water’s edge.

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It is perfectly quiet except for the stormy surf folding upon itself and rushing up the berm. Standing just below the tidal mark, we let the cool water rush past us and feel our feet and bodies slowly sink deeper into the sand. Where we stand, waves break onto the wet sand creating a deep inshore hole. Further down the beach is a less dramatic slope, and the waves break and the water rushes ashore with less force. We stay until the skies cloud up and we become peppered with rain. So, we in fact do get soaked on our last day…just not by going in the ocean. On our way back to our albergue for a change of clothing, we spy a laundromat. Finally we won’t look foolish walking about, or sitting in a café, in our rain gear while we wait for our clothes to wash. It is not until our clothes are clean, and I place my shoes outside our room, that we discover the musty smell is NOT us. Too late now, and as with everything we have encountered, it is simply just part of the adventure. We can endure one night. Paul has read that if one walks to Finisterre that you can apply for an additional certificate, the Fisterana. It is issued by the town council (Concello de Fisterra). Because it is Sunday, the office is closed. The municiple albergue is now open, so we enter and inquire as to whether the attendant knows what time the Concello de Fisterra opens tomorrow morning. She tells us that Monday is a holiday, so it won’t be open, but that she can issue us our Fisterana now if we’d like, and asks if we have our credentials. Why as a matter of fact we do! She examines our credentials, and asks us where we started from and if we walked to Fisterra from Santiago. “St. Jean”, and ” We walked from Santiago the day after we arrived and got our Compestella “, we say in unison. She looks at us, smiles and responds, “Impressive”, and begins to enter our information into a log book. Using a calligraphy pen, she artfully writes our names on the colorful Fisterana. We collect our coveted certificates and feel kind of special when she turns away others who have not walked to Fisterra from Santiago, after having begun in St. Jean. A woman who took the bus from Santiago to Muxía and walked the 26km from there to Fisterra is disappointed when she is denied a certificate. Another man argues with her that he got his Compostela, having walked from Sarria to Santiago, and has just walked from Santiago to Fisterra. “You must have started in St. Jean”, she explains. Most are understanding, but a good number who are turned away stomp off fuming. We do our best to hide our smiles and quietly roll our Fisterana in travel brochures and slither out after confirming tomorrow’s bus times back to Santiago. For dinner we dine at a fabulous pizza/pasta place, of which for the life of me I can not remember the name, and run into NY Joe who will spend another day in Fisterra exploring. In Fisterra we see many familiar faces from along the Camino. Some recognize us as well and we chat, sharing trail experiences and what we’ll do next. Most are planning on taking the morning bus to Santiago where they will disperse back home and/or to explore other parts of the world. I hope this bus has enough seats, cause it’s gonna be crowded.

Buen Camino!
Be Strong! Austin Strong!

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6 Responses to End of the World

  1. Rosanna Lippe says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! So PROUD of you both!!!!!!!!

  2. Carl says:

    Congratulations! We enjoyed following your trek and seeing your photos!
    Safe travels home.

  3. glenn says:

    Congrats! I have followed you from St Jean. Wonderful detail of the trek.

  4. Jeanne Noonan says:

    So enjoyed your wonderful journey. I checked every day for updates and pictures and laughed out loud at some of your experiences. I felt like I was on the journey too – without the aches and pains, lack of sleep and hot showers. Thank you so much for sharing this. Congratulations on your awesome feat – I am so proud of you!

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