I’ll NEVER forget my “second” arrival at Santiago in 1993, after a botched pilgrimage where I gave up halfway, hitch-hiked home, rested three days, received a telephone call forcing me to get back walking (very complex reasons, can’t explain here) (time between the phone call and me walking out of the door back towards Compostela was BTW lower than 20 minutes), hitch-hiked back to the Camino, and searched for my friends again thanks to help from a Galician Camino sentry in a Range Rover.
After our arrival in Santiago, we had gone on toward the Altlantic Coast, NOT Fisterra, where we had eaten a perfectly unforgettable meal of fresh-gathered mussels in onion broth on a deserted beach, prepared under a torrential rain and an open fire, washed down with the almost vinegar-bitter but delightfully pure white wine of the coast …
We started making our way back via Compostela, hitch-hike IIRC, and arrived under the Seminary in a back-street, in darkness, no moon, drenching rain, total silence — and a mediaeval stair up between an ancient wall and darkened houses, exhausted, hungry, longing for home, making our way up centuries-old slippery cobbles towards the single light we could see burning in the city up in the Seminary, not knowing if the door would be open, not knowing if there would be a bed, but certain that we would not be eating until the following day, but at the same time marvelling in and humbled by this fact of arriving in Santiago in the EXACT manner of the pilgrims of centuries before.
And burning in me, the knowledge that I hadn’t been a “true pilgrim”, and that I needed to walk to Santiago again, from my home at the time, “properly”, and with no compromises, no failures, no surrender to the weaknesses along the Way.
But with this dark and shining memory always with me, of this unplanned and unlooked-for and utterly beautiful mediaeval arrival, that no matter the difficulties along the Way, the perfect arrival in Compostela was simultaneously in my memory and in my future.
THAT was when I became a Pilgrim of the Way of Saint James.