Observation -13th November

Narcissism is everywhere.

Since our Camino, we have been on the more usual tourist jaunt, that is, we’ve been using transport to get around and have been rubbing shoulders with international tourists all gathering at famous sites and recording it for posterity (or their photo album, if such a thing exists anymore). We have been to Porto, Lisbon, Venice and are now in Rome.  

My observation is that many tourists are more interested in situating themselves in new, ‘exotic’ contexts than understanding or experiencing the new and novel context itself. The context isn’t central or salient. It is the background for the portrait. The context is just circumstantial to people’s obsession with self. Self-placement is everywhere, and it is exhausting to observe and embarrassing to watch. Here are a few examples…

Or else, the fact that even though many tourists are actually in new and exotic contexts, they don’t seem to interact directly with it in the moment. More often than not, they are experiencing it mediated through the phone. Consider this example with the Vatican in the background.


We get pushed out of the way or find a stranger’s arm with iPhone attached, rising beside or between us for their selfie. Never mind that it is in our physical space.  Shameless  posing and self placement without any modesty.  It really is a different approach to the tourist experience. It seems that narcissism is the new normal, and we are the odd ones out.


C#46 – Postscript

We are done. The only outstanding, final act on our journey is to attend the pilgrim’s mass in the cathedral of St James. 

The mass was in Spanish. The church was packed. We saw a number of familiar faces, the beads of the Camino.

The priest listed the countries that we are all from. A nun led the liturgy and the responses. She sang most of it. A crisp, clear, resonant voice of glorification. Wow. We didn’t need Spanish to get the sense of it. 

It seemed like the sermon asked us to reflect on what we were like at the start of our journey and how our experience has changed us. Fitting.

The service is mostly renowned for the swinging of the botafumeiro – the giant incense burner which was used historically to fumigate the pilgrims, or more likely to mask their body odour.  

These days it only swings on special occasions. I didn’t expect our Wed service would be one of those times…. but if you are a cashed-up pilgrim, you can pay for your very own swing!  And for us, it was a group of cashed-up Japanese pilgrims. Go the Japanese. 600euros a swing! We got to see the botafumeiro fly. Wow. We were standing right beside its swinging line above us, going higher, longer, flaming with incense… higher and higher, until, like a swing, it reached its highest and longest swing and then lost tension and started to buckle….  and just then the swingers pull it back into line. It was impressive. A very lucky opportunity. And a fitting conclusion to the whole adventure.



C#45 – 23rd Oct, from Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostella, 10.6 kms

So I wonder how it is supposed to feel when you finish?

We took off at 9am, planning to take two hours to cover 10kms. 

The first bit was pleasant farmland but then predictably we hit the urban fringe and trucked along hard concrete paths into the old city and then into the cathedral square. Arrived at 11.16am. 

Wow. It was over. Done. Finished. Completed. Weird. 

Within 1.5 hrs we had completed the Camino, found our AirBnB, registered for and received our Compostela (certificate of a successfully completed pilgrimage in Latin!) and picked up our parcel that we forwarded to Santiago from Pamplona.

Seeing 799kms completed on our Compostela prompted a moment of reflection. And as the clerk wrote out my Compostela he asked if it was hard… through tears I said, yes. 

I surprised myself with my tears… I had spent a lot of time coping with my circumstances but not really considering how I did it or what it meant for me. It was simple. It had been hard for about 180kms. It wasn’t the meseta, or the mountains, the weather or the distance. It was coping with illness and expecting to recover that was my personal challenge, my Camino. The lesson in it for me … ‘Call it earlier. Don’t always soldier on, ET’. Sometimes the right thing to do is stop, rest, recover and then resume.

So I’m glad I have finished. I’m proud of our effort, and I can now cross it off the bucket list.

Acknowledgement: I want to thank Tony. What a buddy, best friend, partner, tour guide, nurse, smart arse and patient man.  He was an awesome walking companion and is my lifetime partner. I am blessed. We are a pair, noted as ‘stinking cute’ by one of our Camino buddies.  

To all our Camino buddies, we’ll see you again on our travels. Thanks for the great times and special memories. It has been a privilege.

C#44 – 22nd Oct, Salceda to Lavacolla, 19.1 kms

Today was all about getting closer to the finish. Look how close we are! 1% left to go.


We walked through more hamlets and farms with the now ubiquitous gumtrees,


but I was more occupied by the distance markers than usual. We got down to 20km…


then to 19kms…


… then to the 12kms mark (at the end of Santiago’s airport runway!  We will walk the last ten kms tomorrow.


A reflection: The Camino is noisy.

So I’ve been mulling over whether or not to share some of our more unusual experiences…. it is all about noise. 

Mostly the noise is delightful. School kids playing, shouting to each other, laughing and being cheeky, or the elderly ladies congregating in the local square for coffee and cake. They are like a flock of birds, laughing, interrupting, demanding… gossiping. Noisy but entertaining. And then the noisy pilgrims, chatting with each other, swapping stories, laughing at jokes, talking politics, talking about The Clown (Camino speak for Trump). Then there are the local men, talking across the bar to each other, cutting through the hum of drop-in pilgrims.  All noise. All ok.

…and then there is noise you don’t want. It starts with a quiet breathiness. She gets a bit louder, more rhythmic, more urgent.. OMG, we think. Now the thumping begins, regular but getting more urgent. She is louder now, oh, oh, oh, louder, faster. The thumping has increased. She is loud now and saying, …por favor. What? We sit up in bed? Is this for real? Is she saying stop or keep going? Is she spent or just warming up? He is working hard. A bit of rest and off it goes again. Louder, harder, faster. Rest. Again. Louder, harder, faster. The young men across the courtyard are staring directly across to our neighbours, agog. They are just as shocked. Being witness to the event hasn’t slowed the performance. Off they go again. They never reach nirvana! Just thumping and oh-ing. My assessment? She was faking it. He was trying really hard, and all they got out of it was mutual chaff!

Or how about a metal bed on a tile floor? As the activity builds, the bed starts banging, then grinding against the tiles, then screeching as it bounces along directly above you in the pension. She is a moaner this time, in fact, we weren’t quiet sure if she was just one moaner or possibly two. Moaning occurred in two different keys. Two hours of grinding and screeching.

But perhaps the most disturbing was my free ride. I’m not 100% sure, but lying in the bottom bunk, I started to feel like the young man above me was scratching… but it started to increase in speed. My bunk was along for the ride. Faster, faster. Stop. Phew. Nope. Off again. Carefully, then more urgently. My bed is moving with the beat. I’m moving with the beat. I’ve a free ride on a young man’s own adventure. And I’m in a convent albergue. Finally it is over. I vow to never to sleep in a convent again.

The Camino is noisy.

C#43 – 21st Oct, from Melide to Salceda, 25.3 kms

I pushed today to eat up some distance. We sent our packs on and walked without that extra load. It felt good to cover ground. I am wanting to finish. It feels like a lot of the historic and Camino related sites are now behind us. It is a march to the finish without a lot to distract us along the way.  We caught up with Ruby, a gorgeous young woman from Melbourne who, like me, got sick and thought all her friends were in front and finished. It was great to meet up and reassure each other that we are not alone!