The rain from yesterday followed us into our final stop, Monte del Gozo, or Mount of Joy. It’s the last albergue before entering Santiago, and the guidebooks stated there were 500 beds. We arrived early expecting a crowd but to our surprise there were no other pilgrims. Perhaps most walked onward to Santiago instead of taking a break here. A Korean couple we last saw weeks ago in Santa Domingo de Calzada arrived and checked in too but no other familiar faces yet.
This area includes other facilities besides the albergue — there’s a pool, camping grounds, and recreational buildings. Evidently last night a boy scout group of 250 kids camped out.
Many were on the path by 6:30 for today’s wet and cool walk that brought out rain gear. Part of the way we talked with a pilgrim from Minnesota who leads tours of American student groups learning Spanish.
Stones were placed on a marker — three for the Charn girls, two for us. Leaving stones symbolically means that ‘we will return’.
Tomorrow’s departure will be 6:30 again for the last 5 kilometers down to the cathedral. Before heading to the Compostela office, we’ll check-in to our private albergue booked yesterday at a tourism office located along the path.
The albergue experience has been a large part of the Camino. Albergue means ‘shelter’ in Spanish, and they’ve definitely given us places to rest and get a (sometimes) hot shower. Last night, however, we stayed at a house instead of the Xunta in O Pedrouza. This was arranged by Frances, the pilgrim from New Orleans. When he and wife Cookie arrived in town too late for beds at the albergues, they found this alternative rooming situation. Frances stopped by the Xunta and recruited others to share the house. It was a nice change from the usual. Frances cooked dinner with food we bought at the Supermercado. A young German pilgrim, Veronika, also joined us. Cookie and Francis are not only walking to celebrate their 40th anniversary tomorrow but also to raise funds for an organization called ChildCare, which helps abandoned children world wide.
Another amazing person from yesterday was Gabrielle, an Italian poet we met back in Orisson. He had been emailing us poems since then. We unexpectedly ‘bumped’ into him again at a park while walking back to the trail after a restroom break at a bar — there he was sitting at a table — Camino synchronicity! Before we departed, Gabrielle gave Dad a Tau cross that he’d worn on his first Camino.
Tonight there’s a service at the albergue and then soup for pilgrims at 8:00. It’s been fun talking with a Ph.D. student from Poland working here for the summer — her study focus is on pilgrimage and she has walked both Camino Frances and the route from Sevilla, one of the other Camino paths that is part of a vast network of routes fanning across Spain.
The Ph.D. student mentioned that after the Camino, we’ll suffer from “yellow arrow syndrome” — a condition in which pilgrims automatically look for arrows wherever they go. I’ll miss seeing the arrows, markers, & shells that have been guides since our first day.
Earlier we walked down to a restaurant for dinner and afterwards stopped at the massive pilgrimage monument marking the Mount of Joy. Pilgrims were there taking lots of photos — one Spanish group ran up to the marker and yelled in celebration — they made it all “The Way”!