The end of your Camino journey is not Finisterre but three more kilometers to the Cape. If you made it here from Santiago in three days, another day may be needed to go the final distance to this medieval End of the World.
Pilgrimage is an archetypical experience, which means it calls to people across time and traditions. Whether we make an inward or outward journey, pilgrimage is essentially a series of practices for being fully present to life in the midst of joy and struggle. These practices help to cultivate freedom within to respond to God's calling. ~ Christine Valters Paintner
Finisterre, or Fisterra in Gallego, the local Galician dialect, means "Land's End" in Latin. Indeed, for most pilgrims, this Cape, or Cabo Fisterra, is their journey's end.
On your final approach on day three on the Camino Finisterre, you walk along side the amazing and lengthy Langosteira Beach, shown in the photo below. The Camino path enters the town at the café bar, Tiro do Cordel.
The Camino path is to the right on the photo below, on the other side of the grassy bank, and the Tiro do Cordel is the large brown building closest to the beach at the bottom of the hill. Stay close to the shore as you approach town.
Stay on the sidewalk and walk right on by the bar and go up the hill to the cross called the Baixar Cross. You have officially arrived in the main part of town when you reach this cross, seen to the extreme left of the photo below, that looks like a pole.
After the hard three days on the Camino Finisterre, my Camino partner and I decided to hang out in Finisterre for a day, and take our time walking the final three kilometers to the Cape, maybe even waiting to go until sunset that day.
We walked around town, shopping, hanging on the beach and just discovering the place.
Along the waterfront, we stumbled into a mirador (look-out) on the roof of a building. This mirador was a sort of mini-park, and afforded a glorious view of the harbor.
To find this mirador, find the Rúa Patres (or Calle Patres depending on the map) near the waterfront and you won't miss it.
The mirador is a glorious place to hang out on if the day is fine. Here Shelly contemplates the beach, the bay and the harbor of Finisterre.
Unfortunately, the half day that we allotted to be on the beach turned out to be very windy and mostly blew sand into our faces and onto our feeble attempt at a picnic. This photo, of the beach below, was taken on our arrival, the day before, when we were first heading into town, when the weather was much nicer.
If you are there in fine weather, it is indeed a glorious beach, as seen below, looking back eastward from the town. The Camino Finisterre is just to the left of the photo along the grassy dunes.
As the weather turned more questionable, I decided it might be a good idea to head on out to the cape to get what photos I could before I could get no decent photos at all. My Camino partner reluctantly agreed to come along. We were hoping to spend the majority of the day on the beach, but I was too afraid of hard rain to spoil our plan for seeing the Cape.
We headed out on the main road through town, the Rúa Alcalde Fernandez for the three kilometer trek to Cabo Finisterre.
My partner, who seemed unmotivated to do the walk, lagged behind, as you can see from photo above. Yes, that's her down the sidewalk at a distance. I waited for her to catch up and I kindly re-iterated to her that she did not have to tag along if she didn't want to. I was perfectly capable of making the trek to Cabo Finisterre (Cape Fisterra) alone.
It felt rather like she was mad at me, for having to deal with a change in plans. Our differences seemed to keep shining through, as I have re-told through my Camino Inglés adventures here on this website.
But, this was an experience of a lifetime and I decided to set my own pace and pressed on. If it were space she needed, I would give it to her.
Whether or not this was her struggle or mine, I stayed present to my own feelings that were arising. They were feelings of extreme frustration, bordering on anger. I breathed, walked, and breathed some more.
I wandered around the lovely 14th century church, the Iglesia de Santa María das Aeras, below. Unfortunately, it was closed when I hoped to have a look inside. It was a regular pilgrimage stop, for the medieval pilgrimage traveler.
With the rain ever threatening, I increased my pace, but my partner slowed hers. Soon she was out of sight. I accepted this and focused on my surroundings.
The view below was along the path to the lighthouse at the cape. I say "path" with tongue-in-cheek, because if there is a path at all, it is a narrow use-path along the highway, informally created by pilgrims. Mostly, you just have to walk on the highway itself. With so much traffic on this popular road, it is not so walker friendly. However, The Way afforded wonderful views of the sea almost the entire distance.
The first glimpse of the lighthouse at the end of the Cape was a much anticipated sight! Here is my fuzzy zoomed-in photo of it below as I spied it from afar.
I started to feel the first stirrings of the excitement that all pilgrims feel when they know they are getting oh-so-close!
As Christine Valters Paintner reminds us in the quote at the beginning, as modern pilgrims, we are indeed one of many, as we melt into the archetypical experience of our "arrival."
Just as these feelings stirred in me, I stumbled onto the famous pilgrim statue along the road. I would love to have a penny for every photo that someone shot of this statue. I would be a millionaire!
Of course, as you enter into the final steps toward the extreme end of the Cabo Finisterre, you find this cruceiro greeting you. It is as if the cross exclaims, "pilgrim, you are near your journey's end."
Here is where the sun set in medieval times on the known world - across the Atlantic Ocean. And here I am, at just that place.
Across from the modern cross, is this tourist building in the photo below, lower right, with restrooms and souvenir shops. In the distance is a café, where just beyond you can see the top of the lighthouse, or "faro" (Gallego and Spanish).
As you stroll towards the lighthouse building, you finally see the zero kilometer marker. Here I am, with a big smile on my face. A kind tourist snapped this photo of me, since a selfie seemed inappropriate.
The entrance to the lighthouse building is shown here on the left photo, and it contains a nice museum. You can also get your Santiago to Finisterre Compostela in this building.
The lighthouse, on the right, below, is the view from the other side, as you look up the hill, back toward the town. It is the view you would see if you were traveling by boat around the Cape.
As you head down the hill, past the lighthouse, you stumble onto this bronze boot sculpture, below.
According to the Confraternity of St. James, "Pilgrims Guide to Finisterre," published in Jan 2009, this bronze sculpture is in memory of a pilgrim who drowned here in the 1990's. I can't verify this. Most web references just say it is to commemorate pilgrims who journey here.
Whatever the case may be for the bronze boot, it is a lovely addition to the coast and will aid your reflection on the miles you have traveled to be here.
I took a moment then to reflect on my own pilgrimage travels. I took my time, trying to capture this moment in a photo as well.
Scattered over the rocky ledges on the cliff tumbling into the sea for several hundred feet are the remains of the many fires where pilgrims have burnt their boots and their clothes.
This is a symbolic gesture that represents their desire to rid themselves of all they no longer need. This is usually done at sunset.
My first desire, upon seeing this cliff, was to run down to the edge of the sea. Not sure why I had that desire, but I ended up only going about halfway. It was a long way down!
I did not build my own cleansing fire. I was not there at sunset and I did not feel the need. I am not sure why of this either. I just noticed my energy and the energy of all those who had done so. This was certainly a special place.
A very simple cross monument was built on the cliff and a very large fire pit on the rock at its foot. Lots of shell mementos were offered here as well.
Here is a "Spirit Rock" with lots of cairns built in honor of the sacredness of this place.
Yet another Spirit Rock with a rudimentary twig cross.
A monument of discarded boots beside the remnants of yet another fire.
And finally, towers where pilgrims discard their clothes by tying them to the rungs.
Another stormy view of the simple cross monument, with a view westward across the bay.
Perhaps the need for a sunset cleansing ceremony was why Shelly felt so unsettled by the change in plans. Perhaps it was just as simple as setting her own pace, her own level of intensity. I may never know. As I write this many months later, I am still learning my Camino lessons.
When I finally found her, huddled into this niche in the rock, by the sea, I waved, snapped her photo and moved on. I felt the need to leave her alone with her own cleansing process.
As for me, I am not sure what this experience meant. My Camino was on the Inglés and it was a short one. I did not want my pilgrimage to come to an end.
We never did see the sunset at Cabo Finisterre. It just wasn't meant to be. I was as disappointed as Shelly. We processed this fact in ways that were not the most present to one another's feelings. For this, I regret.
However, the one thing I know, is that disputes along the Camino de Santiago most certainly was not new to the two of us! The inward journey always accompanies the outer journey on your Camino. And so it is. This also, I shall include in my experiences. The struggle along with the joy.
As it was, this was not to be the last leg of our Camino. We were heading on to Muxía, and the intimacy of its place and its legends. More joy was ahead! Follow along to my Camino from Finisterre to Muxía.
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