As I write this I’m in my hotel room waiting for a taxi to take Jennifer and me to the airport.
It’s all over.
I’m sad that it’s all over.
I found that I had tears in my eyes when I said goodbye to Marie this morning – Marie the beautiful Basque – and then Steve and Arlene.
Yesterday morning Jennifer and I walked the Landers Express down to the railway station and said goodbye to them.
I took a final photo of them, and it occurred to me that the railway tracks were like the railway tracks outside of our hotel in Matosinhos in Porto, that very first morning I took a group photo before we set off.
That first morning we had no idea what the next two weeks would hold for us. What truly memorable experiences we would share – what laughter we should share – what friendships would be formed.
We said our final farewells to Peter, Julie, Ken and Angela. It was sad too. Very sad. But I feel we’ll see them again soon. These bonds formed are too strong to be easily forgotten.
Jennifer and I then walked back to the hotel to find Greg and Donna waiting for their cab to take them to the airport. We said our goodbyes to them too – and again it as though we’d been with them for months. Two very beautiful people, who allowed Jennifer and me to share what I believe was an important part of their lives with them.
Peter later called to say he’d left his credential behind – his Pilgrim’s Passport, with all his stamps in it from his journey. He and Julie had started further back, from Coimbra near Lisbon – and so it was something he treasured.
Jennifer and Marie and I went to the church where we’d all received our third Compostela – one prepared by the Franciscan monks to celebrate the 800 year anniversary of St.Francis of Assisi walking the Camino to Santiago.
The church was closed, but later Marie went back and ferreted out Peter’s credential – and we’ll post it back to him on our return to Australia.
We had dinner last night at a local restaurant outside of the historic quarter – Steve & Arlene, and also Tim & Cathy, from Virginia. They’ve become good friends, and it was inspiring to hear of Tim’s plans to cycle across America later this year.
Cathy each day writes a blog (he walks she strolls.wordpress.com) and keeps a wonderful record of their journey. Two amazing people.
Last night I slept nine hours. That’s why I didn’t blog. I was more tired than I realised. I woke at 9am – and that’s highly unusual for me.
Jennifer had arranged to meet Marie for breakfast, and again we had a tearful farewell. She said it was the best Camino she’s ever had, and told Jennifer that before the Camino, she saw the world through dirty glasses, and that she, Jennifer, had cleaned her glasses for her.
Jennifer and Marie became very close during the walk – and for Jennifer, Marie was a joy to walk with, because she learned so much from her, and because they laughed so much.
Marie is a healer, and she had offered to do a healing session with me – but I had always politely deflected. Over breakfast, she asked me why I had not taken up her offer.
I told her that I had wanted to walk this Camino without any help. Without any help from the van, from lightening my load with a day pack, without any painkillers or Voltaren for my aches and pains – I’d wanted to be self reliant.
She accepted this, but she said with a twinkle in her eye: “Bill, you are sometimes too hard on you. And you think too much with your brain.”
I laughed and said that my brain was really small, and laughing, she said: No no no Bill – it is too much like this…” and she stretched her hands out wide either side of her head.
I think what she was saying is that I shouldn’t intellectualise too much. That I should just allow things to unfold without thinking.
I will have to think about this.
As we said our goodbyes to Marie, Steve and Arlene walked into the coffee shop. We sat and chatted and agreed that it had been an extraordinary time together, and that sometime soon, somehow, we would all meet up again.
We took photos – Steve being particular with Arlene about “headroom,”
And then we strolled back to the hotel.
My relationship with Steve has been very special. he has entered my life firmly and decisively, and I’m still not sure why. I just know that he has.
I told him that when I first met him, he surprised me with the mirth that lay within his face. You don’t get to his age and have a face full of mirth, unless you’ve lived a life full of mirth.
Steve has had great tragedy in his life, and he’s had highs and lows that few of us will ever experience, but he’s now has reached a place of tranquility and peacefulness. A place many of us would want to reach.
We took photos and said goodbye. The photos are a ritual of severance, as if they protect ourselves from revealing our true feelings – of sadness, of hopefulness, of knowing that our spirits have co-joined in a shared history that will never be forgotten.