Finding Your Place and Pace on the Camino de Santiago in Muxia, Spain
Camino pilgrimage routes run like spaghetti strands from all over Europe and finally braid together in one big knot in Santiago. Many pilgrims believe Santiago to be the ‘end’ of their Camino. For those who continue on, there’s a giddy relief and elation in having survived the endless nights of snoring and sour socks. All body parts are still intact! This is just icing on the cake (walk)! The walk to the coast becomes one of pure pleasure without the invisible weight of Santiago’s shadow.
In the fall of 2018, my wife Kim and I walked 920km from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Finisterre (“The End of the World”), Spain, where the Atlantic aggressively surges against the precipitous cape.
Wherever you choose to begin or return to, there really is no ending to the fabled pilgrimage. The suspended days become a natural rhythm of bubblegum pink sunrises, velvety cafe con leches and mile-high tortilla refuels by mid-morning. By afternoon, coffee stops shift to tapas and celebratory patio beers and then? It’s an easy and delicious flop into the bunk beds sandwiched into old monasteries or albergues in yet another twee village in Basque country, Navarra or Galicia.
Of all the bunk beds from St. Jean to Finisterre, there was something mesmerizing about Muxia. While most pilgrims measure their footfalls to Santiago and the hallowed Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, it was the mystery and magic of the sleepy fishing village that magnetically pulled Kim and I to the coast.
When Kim and I met Marzia at a hostel in Burgos she was happy to join our table and share in the open bottle of wine. The livewire Italian immediately warned us that her alarm was going to sound off obnoxiously early. “It’s going to go off at three a.m. but I have to catch a bus to Muxia.”
We picked at olives and salami as Marzia talked about Muxia like the one who got away. She had walked the Camino a few times already–and this time, well, it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead, she felt as though her answers were in Muxia and besides, “the sunsets on the rocks by the lighthouse are something else.”
Two weeks and 590km later, Marzia was the very first person we saw in the seaside fishing village of Muxia. She was dashing off to buy a bottle of wine for sunset. Though we’d only met her for one brief night in Burgos, her laugh was instantly familiar. It reverberated through the alley. Kim and I turned to each other, “Marzia.” Of course.
Marzia was a big, shiny personality–she had lived with the Hare Krishnas in Australia. She was a yoga instructor for a while. Worked a little in South Korea. Got her SCUBA creds. She was one of many curious and absorbing pilgrims who bisected our Way.
And that really is where the pixie dust settles. The Camino is an intersection of lives.
Yes, your calves will twitch, your back will bitch at the exertion. You’ll feel a little Zombie-like from the miles and not enough REM. You’ll be hungry, thirsty, exhausted.
BUT. There are landscape stills that won’t be forgotten and they erase the hunger, thirst and fatigue. I think of the tidy vineyards of La Rioja, the purr of tractors across the dusty Meseta fields. The endless rows sunflowers, heads bent like sad soldiers. The decongestion found in the tall stands of fragrant eucalyptus forest. The first sharp whiff of briny breeze off the Atlantic in Muxia. The sun-worn boats, bobbing in time as gulls reel about in circles.
Many return to the Camino seeking different answers–some turn around in Finisterre and begin all over again–and walk back to France! Others leave midway due to circumstances out of their control (blisters, job demands, injury, defeat). Those who walk the Camino are sometimes carrying weight greater than the contents of their Osprey backpack. Some are unsure of why they’re walking it at all. It doesn’t matter if you begin in Sarria or to the south on the coastal Portuguese route or from Denmark. Most everyone who experiences the Camino is compelled to find “the Way” again because it leaves such a beautiful, indelible mark.
The Camino knows no age, nationality or gender. There are random crossings with familiar faces and the friendships are instantly kindred. “Buen Camino” is the universally understood affirmation. There are surprises at every turn, really. Days are wonderfully slowed to a pace that permits noticing the tiny dreamcatcher that has been tied around a kitten’s neck. You see the fine wisp of sheep’s wool, a remnant from a hard lean into a scratch on the wire fence. A shared sandwich by a ribbon of river seems to add sunny equilibrium to the world. And there is always someone eager to share a story or sandwich.
What unfolds on the Camino will always be unique to each pilgrim, even if you are walking in tandem with a fellow Wild Woman or your wife! The Way is a shared one and whether you choose moments of solitude to walk with your own thoughts or revel in the camaraderie and cheerleading of the group, you’ll find your place and pace.
The Camino to the coast is like a watercolour. There’s freedom. Confidence. The journey is soul to sole and it’s one that is guaranteed to colour your days for a lifetime.
And those Muxia sunsets? Yep, Marzia was right about them too.
If you’d like to tag along on our 920km walk, Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago is available on Amazon, Rocky Mountain Books, Indigo, Chapters, Barnes & Noble or your favourite indie bookstore.
Be sure to check out Wild Women’s Camino to the Coast itinerary here. This could be you…at mile 0!