Camino de Santiago Day 12: Palas de Rei to Santiago, Spain

Attending the Pilgrim's Mass held daily at 12:00 noon.
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Camino de Santiago Day 12: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Day 12: Palas de Rei to Santiago 68 kms.

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The sky was overcast when I left Palas de Rei and for the first time, the wind was quite chilly. It was just 68 kms. to Santiago mostly on flat roads but I felt a deep foreboding that this last leg would not be that easy. And I was right for upon entering Melide, the heavens opened up and rain poured nonstop for over an hour. Luckily, I was sheltered inside a coffee shop having a break so I waited it out till the weather cleared up a bit.

Standing in front of my final destination - the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! Palas de Rei to Santiago
Standing in front of my final destination – the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! Palas de Rei to Santiago

Palas de Rei to Santiago 68 kms.

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The plaque in the middle of the plaza commemorating the place as a World Heritage Site.
The plaque in the middle of the plaza commemorating the place as a World Heritage Site.
The City Council in Obradoiro Square.
The City Council in Obradoiro Square.
Holding my Compostela Certificate which they award to those who walked at least 100 kms. or biked 200 kms.
Holding my Compostela Certificate which they award to those who walked at least 100 kms. or biked 200 kms.

I encountered a lot of cyclists and for a few kilometers, we all rode bunched up together like a peloton in Tour de Espanya. Reaching Arzua, it rained once again scattering us like ants. Some continued on while others, like me, took shelter. There was wifi in the restaurant where I decided to have an early lunch so I was able to send the wife a message that yeah, I was fine, everything was on sked, she could fly in tomorrow morning and I’d be there at the Santiago Airport for the meet-up. The last part, I wasn’t too sure of though I didn’t say it out loud……

The weather started getting worse from here so everyone put on their ponchos!
The weather started getting worse from here so everyone put on their ponchos!
Checking for last minute directions on the map 'cuz I didn't want to get waylaid with my destination so near.
Checking for last minute directions on the map ‘cuz I didn’t want to get waylaid with my destination so near.

The well-paved road passed through a verdant landscape until, with 15 kms. more to go, it turned into a motorway so I had to take a quick detour to bike through a narrow lane that became a dirt track with thick vegetation. The rain began in earnest once again but there was no stopping this time. Mud splashed everywhere from the puddles that quickly formed and it was all I could do to keep from sliding on the slippery earth.

The very intricate design around the altar all painted in gold.
The very intricate design around the altar all painted in gold.
With 17 kms to go, I stopped to gulp down half of the bottled water.
With 17 kms to go, I stopped to gulp down half of the bottled water.
Overlooking the suburbs of Santiago from the vantage point of one of the hills surrounding the city.
Overlooking the suburbs of Santiago from the vantage point of one of the hills surrounding the city.

It was quite anticlimactic and a bit disappointing to get to the clearing at the top of the hill where, on a clear day, Santiago and the Cathedral could be glimpsed in all their glory. There was nothing to see this time but a white sheet of water as the rain continued pouring in the far distance. The muddy road now plunged downward into a large rotunda to meet the motorway. Save for my luggage covered with the black plastic garbage bag, the bike and I were drenched to the bone. It was difficult to read the signs so I tried to find my bearings through what I remembered from the map.

Entrance to Obradoiro Square.
Entrance to Obradoiro Square.
The garden in the church courtyard.
The garden in the church courtyard.
Waiting for the rain to stop before having merienda in one of the many shops in the narrow streets that abound everywhere.
Waiting for the rain to stop before having merienda in one of the many shops in the narrow streets that abound everywhere.

This time, the road turned from smooth asphalt to rugged cobblestone as I turned for the last leg to the Cathedral and that’s when disaster struck! I must have applied the brakes too much, too soon while going down a steep incline that the front wheel hydroplaned and swerved to the left without warning. Next thing I knew, I was down rolling on the pavement with Compo sliding ahead of me. Just like in slow motion in the movies, I remembered reaching out to grasp anything to stop my fall as my helmet rattled on the curb. It took several bumps before I came to a standstill and the first thing I did was to clutch my knee which had now turned red from a bad cut.

The barrel vaulted nave of the Cathedral.
The barrel vaulted nave of the Cathedral.
The crypt below the main altar holds the relics of St. James and two of his disciples.
The crypt below the main altar holds the relics of St. James and two of his disciples.

I ran to the bike to get it out of the way for I was afraid a car might come and hit us both before checking that my joints were still functioning with nothing broken. Compo wasn’t twisted as I had feared and save for the left pedal which was detached for good, he could still roll. So we made our way gingerly for the last kilometer with me limping slightly from an ankle sprain as I pushed him forward. What an end to a long journey!

The University of Santiago de Compostela.
The University of Santiago de Compostela.
Attending the Pilgrim's Mass held daily at 12:00 noon.
Attending the Pilgrim’s Mass held daily at 12:00 noon.

It was still raining hard when I entered the Obraidoro (the main square) and there loomed Santiago de Compostela in all its baroque glory. Ah, mission accomplished! This must’ve been how all the millions of pilgrims who came before me felt as I gazed at the twin steeples: joy, sadness, relief.

My Compostela Certificate written in Latin with my name as Albertum Perez Manlangit
My Compostela Certificate written in Latin with my name as Albertum Perez Manlangit

I parked the bike outside near the imposing staircase, removed my backpack and carried it with me into the magnificently lit interiors of the church. As I knelt and started my prayers, I felt a surge of mixed emotions. Maybe it was the sheer tiredness of it all or perhaps just plainly relieved that I made it safe and sound after 750kms. but I did what I had not done in a long, long time……I cried.

The last peregrinos I saw on the final stage before the hard rain poured as I entered Santiago.
The last peregrinos I saw on the final stage before the hard rain poured as I entered Santiago.
I felt sad when I returned Compo to the shop. He was a very good and reliable companion throughout the trip.
I felt sad when I returned Compo to the shop. He was a very good and reliable companion throughout the trip.

NB: That night, I slept in one of the best hotels in the City, had a real nice dinner of seafood paella with a bottle of Spanish red wine and slept like a baby. The wake-up call in the morning was a jarring reminder that I had to get back to the real world. So after a quick, hot shower and breakfast, I took a cab to Europcar, picked up the rental car, drove to the airport and waited for the wife’s flight from Paris which seemed a world away. Her first question when we met was: Enjoyed your little biking tour? Yeah, I answered, trying to smile through all the pain in my joints. Oh well…….

Note: This was my daily journal throughout the pilgrimage route which took all of 12 days from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.

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