Today we woke with eagerness, lathered our toes with Vaseline one final time, and slipped on our shoes as little clouds of trail dust emitted with the pulling tight of our laces. It was a Santiago day! The culmination of our efforts over the last month.
As we set out we were surprised that there were not yet many travelers on the road. We were escorted through our morning miles by a pink streaked sky casting more and more light onto the surrounding towns and our excited faces!
We made our first glimpse of Santiago an hour in, but knew we were only on the fringes of what our maps promised was a very large city. We wound towards the landmark cathedral, recognizing an increasing ratio of people who looked somewhat like us with weighty packs and walking sticks or poles. After another hour we had reached the area surrounding the cathedral. A bagpiper played in the final archway and we strolled into the plaza not yet golden by sun’s glow. We craned our gaze upward, tracing the lines of the ornate cathedral over and over again.
Where do you start and what do you stare at when faced with a building so magnificent? And not only so large, not only architecturally remarkable, but also so meaning laden and spiritually sought after. It is an amazing place to be. Fellow trekkers lay in the plaza, packs strewn on the ground as convenient back rests or pillows. Locals strolled through with small children in carriages and other tourists in non-trekking clothes buzzed around their group guide migrating from landmark to landmark. We stood breathing it all in, the accomplishment and the joy and the discovery of what this trail has meant to each of us.
500 miles complete. 500 miles of hills, hostels, night hikes, and map interpretation. 500 miles of meter readings, Dexcom buzzes, fighting the odds, and explaining to many pilgrims the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 500 miles of cookies through the night to maintain glucose levels, and of pushing through high mileage even on low energy days. 500 miles of triumph of will. All these realities came swooshing back to compose a culminating mosaic of memory as we faced the cathedral.
We stood in line to receive our official certificate which verifies the distance we have walked and in what amount of time. We took in the travel buzz surrounding the city as we ate ice cream and discussed routes for the next few days (as we planned to complete the trail all the way to the coast).
We will keep you updated on our Santiago discoveries, and how the final days of our travels wrap up!