My mother had told me never to pull anything unless it was a lavatory chain. I thought of that advice yesterday afternoon when exploring Padron and its old quarter. The massive church of Santiago looms over the town and seemed worth a visit. Entering the large portico I was confronted by a massive green door, which was locked. By now I'm beginning to get a little teed off about this. I have an interest in church architecture and almost every church in any large town I've wanted to get into always seems to be locked. But this one had a large chain hanging outside so I gave it a yank. A deep, sonorous clanging came from somewhere above. Nothing happened so I pulled a second and third time, plenty of clanging but still no action. Then I began to wonder. Exactly what bell was I clanging? Could it be? No, surely not. I had visions of a houseful of mourners somewhere in the town looking at their watches and panicking. Had they not booked the funeral for 4 o'clock, not three?
I went outside and looked up at the two big bells above. Not a tremble could I see. Eventually an elderly man opened the door and grunted at me. I indicated that I wanted to visit the church. For such a slow mover he could not get the key back in the lock fast enough. I took that to mean no. I asked why not. He ambled off and I followed in the wake of his liberally applied after shave, still asking why not. He refused to look at me and shuffled into a car and was gone. So, if you want to know what the inside of the church of Santiago at Padron looks like, I am not the person to ask.
I had decided not to rush today. A gentle amble was all that was required. The town petered out into suburbs and then an industrial area and then into a wiry laberyinth of country lanes where ruined barns and pristine farm houses marked the passing of time. Occasionally the route returned to the road and when passing across a hotel forcourt I heard loud banging coming from within a coach which was filled with pensioners who were filing onto it from the hotel. The banging was coming from a man sitting in the back seat who was hitting the back window with his fist and shouting for all he was worth. I wondered what had caused this man to become so frantically angry. Has someone stolen his wallet, made a pass at his wife, taken the batteries out of his hearing aid? No, it would appear someone had parked behind the coach and it would not be able to get out. By now the self appointed bus guardian was getting apoplectic and was hitting the window for all it was worth.
The driver if the coach went to the rear, nodded at the driver of the car who moved it. I hope to goodness I never get that angry over something so trivial.
The commotion had drawn a well proportioned women to one of the forth floor bedroom windows. Her freshly combed long black hair cascaded over a purple silk nightdress. She leant her arms on the balcony and heaved her decolletage onto them. My mind wandered back to the bicycle rack we had at school.
Once more the journey resumed its pattern of main road, country road farm track, wood and fields. The weather had started cloudy but I knew this would not last. The sun was going to come out and remain out, it was going to get very hot for the remainder of my time in Spain.
Along the way I came across a young man, and a lady I assumed to be his mother, who were walking to Santiago. I would estimate his weight at over 20 stones. (127 kilos). She was carrying the pack and he was taking small steps using poles for support. We exchanged smiles, I though they were a valiant couple.
I am not one for taking breaks, preferring instead to plod steadily along, and only at mid-day did I stop for lunch. I took the remainder of my provisions from my pack. A tin of tuna, an orange, some two day old bread, and a bottle of water. I reflected that this might be my last trekking lunch. I was approaching seventy, I had a dicky leg, but most of all I missed my family. I did have grandiose visions of walking the Via Francigina, or the Camino Norte, but these were now fading dreams for I no longer wanted to spend weeks away from home. Perhaps I would return next year to walk the five day Camino Ingles, from Ferrol, but we would have to see
My lunch finished I pressed on and I was soon on the outskirts of Santiago. A long descent to exit the woods under a ring road and I was pounding up the last hill. Past the city hospice I found myself in flat dwelling country. Soon I was swimming through an ocean of people on a footpath as wide as a river, alongside shops selling all sorts of fancy bits and pieces.
I was coming in from the south. To my left others would be coming in from Ferrol and to the east, those on the Camino Frances, who by now has been joined by those who had walked the caminos from Alicante or Madrid. Countless people had been guided by thousands of arrows dragging their pilgrims with them, all to land in front of the alter of the church of St James in Santiago de Compostela.
At 1400 hours I entered the main square. I had arrived. I permitted myself a little fist pump before entering the cathedral where I sat for some time, deep in thought.
I went outside and found an English couple to take my photograph. They asked why I had done the walk, I told them, they gave me 10 euro for my hospice fund.
The facade of the cathedral was being renovated and was covered in scaffolding. A great shame for those who can only do this journey once. I am fortunate, when I arrived last time it was not so covered.
I was lucky in finding a single room in a central hotel for the princely sum of 70 euro for two nights. Tomorrow I would get my certificate and discharge the duty I had been given. I can't imagine putting on my boots tomorrow morning and not marching off. Mind you, my room is on the forth floor, and there is no lift,, so that will give me some exercise.
But what I do know is that tomorrow will be my last day here and my last blog.