Day 30 – The Home Straight

Sarria is a town about 108 kms from Santiago.

Where it's important on the Camino is that it's the minimum distance you need to travel to qualify for a Compostela. (For cyclists, it's 200kms)

A Compostela is a document you receive from the church in Santiago to say you've completed the Camino pilgrimage. It's meant to count towards the absolution of your sins, and hey, who amongst us hasn't sinned, right?

To get the Compostela, you have to prove you've walked the Camino. You do this by presenting your Pilgrim's Passport, or Credential. It has to be stamped every day you walk – and if you've started in Sarria, twice a day. This stops people from cheating. (Why cheat to get a Compostela? Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?)

I heard of one bloke who started at St. Jean, and lost his Credential in Leon. He went hysterical.

Surely the purpose of walking the Camino is to walk the Camino, not to get a certificate from a Church to prove you've walked it.

Anyway, for this reason Sarria is the place most people start their Camino. And the 108kms to Santiago is an industry. Buses, tour groups, guides, and day-packer hordes crowd The Way for their 4-5 days easy walk into Santiago, so they can get their piece of paper to say they've walked the Camino.

To those of us who started 700kms further back, or even further than that for some too, these Sarria blow-ins are a test.

They wear designer Camino-inspired hiking gear, they either don't carry packs at all, or the more adventurous have light little day packs, often colour matching their designer outfits. Their boots are clean and unsullied with mud or (gasp) cow dung –

And they talk.

That's what's most challenging for us “true” pilgrims. They chatter. Loudly. And they laugh. And for some reason, they whistle. They whistle while they walk.

I try really hard to love them. To acknowledge that they have as much right being there as the guy who's walked 1500 kms from Le Puy, or the couple who've walked 1200 kms from Nimes. Or the bloke who's flown all the way from Australia (in coach, no less) and walked 700 kms from St. Jean Pied de Port with a sore knee and the daily pressure of writing a blog.

I'm sure they're really nice people. I'm sure they're kind to their pet cat. I'm sure they have their reasons for taking the easy way to get their Compostela.

But do they have to talk so loudly? And do they have to whistle? And do they have to look so damned clean?

Many are riding bikes, some are riding horses. There's a group of about 20 Brazilians on horses.

I pull over to the side of the track and let them pass. And smilingly wish them a Buen Camino, understanding as I do that this is the final test to see how far I've spiritually evolved.

Then I step in a big pile of horse shit.

If it's a test I demand a recount.

Today –

Today was long and hard. 26 kms from Palas de Rei to Arzua. Some long steep climbs and some tough descents. But through beautiful bushland.

I've noticed that the closer i get to Santiago, the bigger the taxi signs.


Anyway, I'm now only 38kms from Santiago. I feel myself getting stronger the closer I get. I feel like there's a golden cord pulling me inexorably towards that Cathedral.

Only 38 kms…

My feet will be pleased to get there.


14 thoughts on “Day 30 – The Home Straight

  1. Hi Mate! Please take care of your toe!!! I sound like a broken record when I respond to your blog. You have been so inspirational to Nancy and me. We leave for Madrid this Monday. I sincerely thank you for sharing your Camino experience via your words and pictures, both beautifully done. I don’t mean to come across presumptuous by calling you “Mate.” We’ve never met nor shared a beer. However, Nancy and I feel like we’ve made a new friend. Before my recent retirement I had the great fortune of conducting business in the “Land of Oz.” My takeaway was that nearly every Aussie I met was very likeable, great sense of humor and not taking oneself too seriously. To me it’s a very winning combination. We will soon be starting our own Camino in Burgos. You have been extremely helpful in preparing for our own journey. It would be honor to meet you some day. You and your blog are “the bee’s knees.” Good on you, Mate! Nancy and I wish you all the best and with warmest regards. – Joe and Nancy from Colorado


    • Dear Joe – no worries re “mate!” I’m really delighted that you and Nancy have got something from it.

      Burgos to Leon I think is an extraordinary stretch, across the Meseta. You need to have you head in the right place to fully appreciate it, but it seems like you both have.

      As soon as I get to Santiago, I’m going to do a series of “audits” – both practically and metaphysically. For instance, I want to go through everything in my backpack and talk about how useful the stuff was.

      I also though want to do a debrief on myself – what I’ve learnt etc.

      Anyway, your trip is coming up fast. You must be excited. I hope it all goes well for you both.



  2. Ouch!! You are awesome!!! Not only a great writer and photographer but a true pilgrim!! You set the mark high for us who want to follow in your footprint!!


  3. Oh Bill, your toe.. hmm looks like a pilgrims toe for sure. It will take a few months to grow back and remind you every day of your walk. Somehow, I think, the camino will stay with you for the rest of your life. It does that sort of thing. I love the “Coke” machine fountain photo. My map told me there was to have been a fountain there… guess this is the modern version. I know, being an Aussi, Eucalyptus trees won’t much impress you, but I was delighted … you are already or will be shortly walking among them. Santiago almost in your horizon… ultreia Ingrid


    • Hi Ingrid – the toenail will be fine. I just have to make sure it doesn’t get infected. It’s my knee I worry about. Had to get more 600mgs of Ibuprfen today! bb


      • Bill, you also can get Voltaren pills over the counter, just show them your Voltaren gel. If your stomach can take it, they are the miracle pills that enabled me (along with the gel) to carry on. From Sarria onwards, I was a very happy and tipsy pilgrim, along with my archangel Stuart and his sidekick Andreas, they had the orucho and cerveca waiting, icepack and made sure I took the pills, iced my ankle and took a rest. I sympathize with your knee and celebrate your willpower. Ingrid


  4. That toe photo upset me – I (admittedly I am horribly squeamish) shoved my hand across the screen to block it out. Sadly that’s probably what I’ll remember from your photos instead of the amazing ones I have enjoyed during the past month!


    • Ah Rarin – don’t be a pussy. I put it in for shock value only. There’s some much prettier shots I’ve taken you can remember… Bill


  5. Too bad you can’t start in a big mass at the Cathedral in Santiago, swing the Botafumria and camino your way into solitude far away!


  6. Hi Bill. You continue to inspire and educate. Thankyou again and again. Wow. Nearly there.
    I hope the answer to that mystical, magical golden cord drawing you on will be revealed. The WHY question. Maybe, maybe not.
    As I tuck into breakfast with kangaroos at my back gate ( NSW South Coast) I perform my own daily Camino ritual – reading your blog, pondering the experience, praying for you. I will miss this very much when you finish, but in just 19 weeks I board the big flying kangaroo on my way to Leon, via London & Madrid.
    Savor these last few hours and think of us all when the golden cord reaches its end. God bless. Anne


  7. You will have earned your compostela many times over. I truly enjoy your blog and love your photos. I look forward to your post Camino write-up.


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