Today may have been the best day yet! We slept in this morning until quarter to eight then rolled out of bed, packed our packs, and moseyed into the town of Cee to find breakfast -- no surprise that we had tostadas con marmalade y mantiquilla. After a little bit of a turn around leaving Cee (a sneaky albergue put up Camino signs that lead to their albergue instead of to the actual route) we were climbing up and into the mountains. The path was gorgeous, shaded, weaving in and out of the trees along old stone walls covered in moss and vines; the occasional waymarker let us know we were on the right trail. And then -- the ocean reappeared, at first only a glimpse on the horizon, then the whole horizon, then ocean for as far as the eye can see. We came to the first beach in Playa de Estorde where we stopped for Aquarius and tortilla. Here we ran into the pilgrim from Montana (today is her birthday) as well as a tourist group from Germany and two guys from England (we've run into them a time or two before -- they're pretty funny). We walked out onto the boardwalk, but not onto the beach; we wanted to get closer to our final destination before spending time on the beach.
We kept walking, climbing back into the mountains then down again -- and that's when we saw it: the perfect, secluded beach just waiting for us to climb down and explore. Now it was a bit of a trek down to the beach (read as: very steep beach on the bottom of a cliff) and it was off the trail a little -- but oh was it worth it! For a while, CJ and I were the only two souls on the most beautiful beach in Spain. The sand was the lightest brown speckled with sea shells, the clear blue waves crashed gently on the shore and danced among the boulders and rock formations. The only sounds to be heard were the sea gulls in the distance and soothing rhythm of the water. It is tradition for pilgrims to swim in the Atlantic when they reach Finesterre, to wash away the blood, sweat, and tears and be cleansed by the frigid, salty water. Who are we to break tradition? At first it was just our toes that were baptized in the ocean, but seeing as the beach was empty and the air warm and the waves inviting, we decided to go for a swim -- the coldest swim of my life! Refreshing doesn't even begin to describe the shock of the water! CJ was a real trooper; I told him we had to go out far enough to dive under water, that then we had fulfilled the tradition. And so we did. The next hour we spent sunbathing and drying out on a giant rock formation as more pilgrims began to trickle down the mountainside to join our private beach.
I could have stayed on that beach forever -- but Finesterre was in eyesight and just three kilometers away ... so reluctantly we climbed out of the canyon of our beach and continued on our way. About one kilometer before Finesterre, who should we run into but the sweet old couple from Sweden! They had take a taxi the other day when we left them, but now they were on the mend and walking; and that's how it came to be that we walked into Finesterre, our final destination, the newly weds from los Estados Unidos and the senior love birds from Sweden.
The views all day were amazing -- the mountains are gorgeous and the ocean is majestic, but when the two combine: be still my heart. Pope Francis was right to put forth his encyclical on the protection of our earth; God's creation is so beautiful, so breathtaking and inspiring. I want to be a better person when I am surrounded by nature, and I am my best person when I'm surrounded by nature.
It took a few tries to find a place to stay for the night; apparently albergues and hotels and hostels fill up quickly here! But finally we found an albergue high up on a hill to drop our bags, hang our boots, and lay our heads -- we curled up for a well deserved nap, the deep sleep that comes after a day of walking cross country, treading through sand, swimming in oceans, and soaking in sun. We woke with a mission: get our Fisterana. (This is the certificate that declares you arrived on foot to Finesterre from Santiago.) There isn't s pilgrim office like in Santiago, but rather they are given inside an albergue. It took us a surprisingly short amount of time to find the correct albergue! And that was that: no line out the door, no waiting for hours; we walked in, walked up to the counter, and within minutes had our Fisteranas.
(Insert deep sigh of satisfaction and delight.)
Next it was time for dinner -- we were famished! We found a place near the marina and ate dinner facing the ocean. After dinner, we went to get ice cream. And who should tap my shoulder while inside the ice cream parlor but the pilgrim they took to the hospital two nights ago -- she is feeling much better (though is finishing her journey via bus from here on out). I am so so glad she is doing okay! I was really worried about her. Such a sweetheart, her and her boyfriend saw CJ and I in the shop and wanted to stop and say thanks for all the help the other evening. I'm so relieved to know she is okay -- there are some stories we never know the ending to, but I'm glad this isn't one of those!
And now we are back at our albergue, taking it easy and planning for tomorrow when we walk to Faro to the lighthouse: the true end of the world.
Here are some pictures from today:
And now it is time for sleep. More adventure awaits tomorrow.