Olveiroa, Spain – April 2, 2017
The chaos of Santiago fades beyond the city’s edge. The yellow shells still mark the path, but the flow of pilgrims that swelled to a flood at the cathedral’s doors becomes a trickle again. It feels a bit like those first days in Saint Jean when the numbers were small enough that every face became familiar, but the rest of the trail has changed.
Packs, shoes, and bodies no longer look so fresh. They’ve traded their pristine condition for a sense of place. They’ve dropped the uncertainty, the fear of not making it, traded it for quiet confidence like heroes who have reached the end of their book and are on to the epilogue.
Conversations shift to the future. What’s next? Where are you going from the end? Do you have plans? Some of us look at bus schedules and book flights. Some rip up plane tickets they thought they’d use and decide to stay longer. Some open up books and look for other caminos to walk. Some have no idea.
I look at maps.
Ever since Leon I’ve been moving away from Tarifa, away from the southern tip of Europe, putting off the end that I know waits for me there. No more. In Finisterre I’ll make that final turn south to piece together the last thousand kilometers between me and the end of a continent.
Possibilities are born with every line on a map. The coastal camino to Porto. The traditional route to Lisbon. The Via Lusitana near the border. The Via De La Plata heading south through Spain. Or just wing it with maps, point south, and see where I end up. I calculate and crunch. I shift pieces together. I plot. I still have no idea.
Jorgelina and Amelie text me when they arrive in Olveiroa. They’re at the bar and want to know how far the albergue is. I tell them it’s a hundred yards. They tell me to come get a drink. I glance one last time we the Camino near Lisbon and head down to meet them. The maps can wait for days when my friends are far away.