Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 65: The End of the World!

Dscn4908bOctober 15: It rained once again overnight, but once again, the rain had stopped by the time I woke up in the morning. Early in the morning, the sun even came out for a bit. Just to say hi, then it curled up back in its blankets (i.e. clouds) and went back to sleep.


Walking to Muxia, I could count on one hand the number of people I passed along the route. Literally. I passed four people, all hiking in the opposite direction, heading back to Santiago. Walking from Muxia to Finisterre, I met nobody going in my direction, but I did pass half a dozen people heading into town as I left it, and today I passed an additional 30 or so people walking in the opposite direction. By all means, that’s not a lot of people compared to the rest of the Camino Frances, but compared to the numbers I passed on my way to Muxia, it was a dramatic increase!


And the walk into Finisterre was largely uneventful. The last several kilometers were downright awful—along a busy road with fast moving traffic.


My first stop was heading to my hotel to drop off my gear. Turns out, it wasn’t really a hotel at all—more like a multi-story house. It sat near the top of a hill with fantastic views of the city of Fisterra. The door was locked, and I knocked, but nobody answered, much to my annoyance. There was a phone number one could call, but that’s hard to do without a phone. I sat down on the bench on the porch and waited for someone to arrive and read my Kindle to kill the time.


But it was windy and cold outside, and now that I wasn’t walking around anymore I grew increasingly cold. Tired of waiting, I put my Kindle away and headed into town. At least I could see the sights and maybe find some people I knew. Karolina, I knew, was expected to arrive into town sometime today, but I didn’t know when to expect her. We agreed to look for each other at the municipal alburgue, though, and whoever arrived first would leave a note for the other. So I headed in that direction first.


I found the alburgue, which was currently closed and would be until 3:00 in the afternoon. Karolina, however, was clearly somewhere in town since she had written a note for me on a napkin taped to the door saying she’d be back at the alburgue at 3:00. So I knew Karolina was in town, but I didn’t know where in town. I scribbled a note under her note saying something like, “I’ll be back at 3:00 then!” and left, wandering along the waterfront admiring statues and in search of anyone I knew.


I hadn’t been walking for more than five minutes when I saw Karolina walking in the opposite direction, a fortuitous find! =)


We took an outside table at an empty restaurant, and Karolina went in to order us a couple of Cokes. She bought my drink for me saying she owed me since I had secretly paid for hers without her knowing it when we departed ways two days earlier. I told her about Muxia, and she told me her toe was doing better and she had arrived in town hours earlier and already had walked out to the lighthouse. “Hey!” I protested, “we were supposed to do that together!”


“But I want to go back!” she quickly insisted. “There are a lot of opportunities for silly photos!” And she wanted to watch the sunset from the “end of the world.”


Finisterre is known as the “end of the world” because, hundreds of years ago, people thought it was the westernmost land in the entire world. Of course, back then, they didn’t know that the New World even existed, and measurements for longitude were notoriously imprecise. Not only did they not account for the New World, but it’s not even the westernmost land in the Old World either! Portugal sticks out much further west, as do islands such as Iceland.


But back in the day, Finisterre was believed to be the “end of the world.” We clinked our glasses in celebration of reaching the end of the world. “I never imagined that the end of the world would be so pleasant,” I told Karolina. =)


Karolina suggested that we could return on December 21st, to watch the end of the world from the end of the world. “That would be very cool,” I agreed, “but I don’t see that happening.” =)


A little before three, we got up and walked back to the hostel for Karolina to check in. The line had formed outside of it, a line that went terribly slow, and I told Karolina that I was going to head back to my hotel and try to check in and dump my gear while she was standing in line there.


Back at the hotel, there were people inside this time, and I threw out most of my gear from my pack only taking my journal, camera, snacks, and water, then immediately headed back down to the hostel to meet up with Karolina again.


I was a little surprised to see that she still hadn’t gotten her bed yet. That line was moving SLOW! However, she was at the head of the line, and seated talking to the person doing the checking in, eventually taking her in back to show her around and where to find her bed. I waited in the lobby. The man doing the checkins returned without her, and I watched as he checked in a German girl I didn’t recognize. He liked to talk. A lot. A very friendly man, but given the size of the line, I thought, he really shouldn’t be making small talk with everyone right now. The German girl, apparently, had a problem with her credential. Due to the limited number of beds in Fisterra, they’ll only allow people who can prove they walked to town to check-in at the alburgue. And typically, you prove it with the stamps on your credential. Those who’ve bussed into town won’t have those stamps. I couldn’t see the girl’s credential from where I sat, but she had to pull out her digital camera and show him the photos she took along the walk before he was finally willing to let her check in.


Karolina came back out about five minutes later, and we headed out to the lighthouse at the end of the world. We decided to take the scenic route to the lighthouse, visiting a beach on the west side of the peninsula first. Karolina expressed an interest in swimming in the ocean. “You go,” I told her, “and I’ll take photos. That water is way too cold for me to swim in!” I knew it was cold, because I had touched the water in Muxia. The waves crashing on shore here were quite large, though, and Karolina wondered if it was even safe to swim there. I hadn’t really looked at the waves, but I did now, and I had to agree, they did look like they could be dangerous. Those waves could easily knock you around and pull you out to sea. “Yes,” I agreed, “Maybe you shouldn’t swim after all.”


She did, however, take of her shoes and socks and jumped in the shallow part of the water for a minute or two just get her feet wet. =)


Then we headed over a large hump overlooking the town. Not unlike the one I went up in Muxia, in fact. Fisterra was also located on a small peninsula and had a large hill between the town the tip of the peninsula. We didn’t have good maps of the area, but it was pretty easy to figure out which direction we ought to be going to get there—UP!


At the top, the wind was absolutely terrific, all but blowing us off. We took a few photos, then scrambled down the back side towards the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula and the end of the trail. At least as far as my hike went, it was the end of the trail for me. Once I reached that lighthouse, I’d be turning around and going home.


The lighthouse was just your normal, typical lighthouse. Nothing particularly noteworthy there, but the wind was phenomenal and quite cold. A thick layer of clouds filled the sky, and we feared we wouldn’t see the sun set at all. We both really wanted to watch the sunset at the end of the world, though, and hoped for the best. We’d linger until after sunset, though—just in case things cleared up.


Pilgrims, at the end of their hike, have a long tradition of burning the worn-out clothes from their journey. Evidence of fires littered the place, although I’d been told by other pilgrims that fires were no longer allowed after one of them broke out into a wildfire years ago. If fires were prohibited, though, there weren’t any signs I saw saying so, and clearly a lot of people chose to ignore that rule. I had no intention of burning any of my perfectly good clothes, but Karolina had panties and a shirt she wanted to burn. The panties, she told me, were worn out already with lots of holes. The shirt she could still use, but she had bought a T-shirt at a souvenir shop that said, “No pain, no glory!” with an image of badly blistered feet, so she had an extra shirt now.


Given the incredibly strong winds, though, trying to find a safe place to light it was a little challenge. We eventually settled on an area next to a rock—a small cubby hole of sorts—and Karolina set to work to burn her panties. I gave her my denatured alcohol—I had emptied the inside of my pack, but the denatured alcohol was in a pocket on the outside of the pack—since it would make it a lot easier for her to start the fire. She poured a bit on her panties, stuck it in the rock, and lit it with her lighter where it went up in flames with a POOF!


We watched her panties burn for a while, and I took of a video of her burning them. That worked well enough, and then it was time to burn her shirt. She took off her jacket then her shirt—a little to my surprise. I thought she had the shirt she wanted to burn in her pack and thought she was actually undressing in the cold, windy weather—for a brief moment, at least. Turns out, she had another shirt on underneath the one she wanted to burn. Drats! =)


But it did leave her in a short-sleeved shirt on a very cold and windy day. She must have been freezing! But then again, maybe not. She’s from Poland. Maybe she considered this warm weather? =) She quickly put on her other shirt and her jacket and added the shirt she took off to the fire. Burn, baby! Burn! Her shirt burned a lot bigger than her panties did.


After the fire went out, we returned towards the lighthouse and entered the bar there to get out of the wind and cold, ordering a couple of drinks and once again toasted to the end of the world as we waited for sunset.


The clouds were too thick, though, and there never was a sunset. “Figures,” I told Karolina, “that the sun doesn’t set at the end of the world.”


We walked back to Fisterra in the dark and as I entered town, I walked on the street and saw a dog running loose near a church. I pointed to it, warning Karolina to watch out for the dog (we were still joking about the “cow hit man” that was out to get her)—and, not watching my footing, I had put a foot on the edge of a storm drain. The storm drain wasn’t level with the street, though. It dropped about an inch under the street level, and not expecting it, twisted my ankle and fell flat. “Arwwfh!”


A pain shot through my ankle and up my leg. ARGH! That hurt! Karolina looked concerned, asking if I was okay.


Dang, my ankle hurt. I managed to get back up on my feet and hobbled along a bit, judging the injury. It hurt, but I’d done worse to myself than that in the past. “I’ll be fine,” I told her, limping heavily. “It’ll definitely be hurting for a few days, but I’ll survive.”


Then we both started laughing. How can you not? I’ve now walked over a thousand miles from Le Puy, across two countries, and now that my hike is OVER—quite literally, it ended at the end of the world!—and on my way back home, I sprain my ankle severely. There was once in France when I sprained my ankle badly, but I had been completely free of sprains in all of Spain. And now, after I reached the end of my hike, I suffer my worst injury in Spain. Ha!


Karolina challenged me, “Is this going to go in your blog?” She knew I kept a blog of my trail adventures, although I don’t think she’d read any of it while she was on the trail since she didn’t get online very much.


“Absolutely!” I replied. “The irony is too great not to include!” Although truth be told, I wish my stumble hadn’t happened in the first place. My ankle was throbbing!


“I never did see the dog you were pointing at,” Karolina told me. Yeah, I suppose my spectacular crash could have been a little distracting. =) And apparently, the dog had left before I managed to pull myself back up on my feet.


Karolina helped me pick up my water bottle and umbrella—both of which had gone flying out of my pack in my crash to the ground—and we continued into town.


We passed Kathy and Erin, walking in the opposite direction—two of the Australian girls I had camped with. The other three had already left back to Australia from Santiago, but Kathy and Erin had time to keep walking to Finisterre and Muxia. They were in search of a place to stay, though, since the municipal alburgue was already full. Someone had told them there was another alburgue up the way they were walking. “There’s something up there,” Karolina and I agreed, “but we weren’t really paying attention to that since we both already had a place to stay. But we’ve definitely seen signage for an alburgue up that way.” We didn’t talk for more than a couple of minutes, but it was nice to see them again one last time. They were the only people I recognized since leaving Santiago—except for Karolina, of course.


We stopped at Karolina’s alburgue where she dropped off some of her gear and picked up warmer clothes. While she was doing that, I waited out in the lobby, the line now gone, and asked the guy to stamp my credential. Why not? I had nothing better to do while waiting for Karolina. She stamped my credential, asked about where I was from and made idle chit chat, then handed over a certificate for reaching Fisterra. This certificate was a lot nicer than the one I got in Santiago, but once again, I found myself not really caring much about it. The credential, I felt, was a far better souvenir of my hike. Not only did I carry it the entire distance from Le Puy, but it had all sorts of interesting stamps I’d picked up nearly every day of my hike. That credential told a story—a story of the places I stayed, restaurants where I ate, people I met. The certificate… just didn’t seem so interesting.


I noticed a second stamp resting by the first one and asked the man about it. The second stamp, he told me, was given to him by a Korean, and he’d stamp that into the credentials of anyone from Korea. “I’ll be happy to take it too!” I told him. I’d only replaced my credential barely a week earlier, so it still had a lot of empty space. He stamped that in my credential as well—the last stamp I’d get of my hike.


Karolina and I went out to eat at a nearby restaurant, eating hamburgers that actually were pretty decent. Not great, but decent, which in Europe is pretty good. =)


Outside the restaurant, we hugged and parted ways, never to meet again. This time, it really would be a final goodbye. Well, perhaps someday we’ll meet again, but it’ll likely be a long, long time. I don’t exactly get out to Poland very often, and she doesn’t get out to the United States all that often. I’d be going home. Karolina enjoyed her Camino hike so much, she decided to continue it. She’d continue on to Muxia and walk back to Santiago, at which point she’d take a bus or trail to Lisbon and walk the Portugal route back to Santiago again. I was a little jealous of this—I had originally intended to do the same thing when I started off from Le Puy but eventually decided to chop off that section so I could slow down and smell the flowers.


Walking back to my hotel, I realized I had left my trekking pole back at the restaurant. And I decided not to go back and retrieve it. I didn’t need it anymore. I had plenty of them at home already, and it’s hard to travel with. It can stay at the end of the world.


My room was quite nice! =) The views out the windows were awesome too!


This is the view out the window in the previous photo. =)


Karolina runs into the ocean. At least the shallow
area, after the waves have already crashed.


I pose with MM 0.0. The trekking pole, alas,
would be left behind by accident where we’d later
eat dinner.


Karolina burns her shirt and panties.


The lighthouse at the end of the world!


My certificate for reaching Fisterra.

Karolina burns her panties.

Karolina has a lot to say as her shirt burns,
but you can't really hear any of it over the wind in this video.


Papercrafts by Cindyellen said...

Just a comment about your certificate: those pictures in the corners are supposed to represent the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Someone else will have to chime in with the definitive, and i seem to remember that John is the Lion, Luke is the man. Don't remember about the other two.

Amy Marr said...

Matthew is the man, Mark is the lion, Luke is the ox, and John is the eagle. Traditionally, they all have wings on them.

I *think* the letters are alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.

I think it's a very pretty certificate and I would scrapbook it with pics of the journey. :)

Michael Merino said...

Time to congratulate Ryan yet? I guess he has to make it to the airport first. :-)

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

I agree with Amy that the letters on the sides of the certificate are Alpha and Omega, but what is odd is that they used an uppercase Alpha and a lowercase Omega.

Martin aka The Dilton Martian said...

Congratulations on reaching Fisterra. The end of the trail, and the end of the story? I've really enjoyed reading your thrice-weekly blog.

Tom Weiss said...

Hi Ryan, I've enjoyed your blog. If you're ever in Paso Robles look me up. E-mail:
Tom from Calzadilla de los Hermanillos