Fisterra – Cape Finisterre
Looks like our plan to convert to Spanish time is finally working. I wake up at about ten am. Pam of course has been awake for hours and is keen to up and at ’em. She has forgotten our discussion from the previous night to check out as late as possible before walking up to the lighthouse at the end of the world.
And she is dealing with the ‘slowest man in the world’.
We check out of the hotel at twelve oclock and head to the cafe down the street that has a vegetarian menu and order Vege burgers.
We meet an 83 year old ex-doctor from Canada named Richard who has also walked the Camino and had walked the first two days from Santiago to Fisterra before abandoning the soggy path. He tells us that ‘the second day was even worse than the first, that he has completed the Camino and has had enough’.
HIs wife has insisted on walking all the way. He tells us that ‘he has spent 35 years as a gynecologist and still doesn’t understand women’ which would have had me in hysterics if Pam wasn’t sitting right next to me.
After lunch we set off up the winding road above rocky cliffs that leads to the lighthouse on Cape Finesterre.
It is only three kilometers up a pretty gentle climb so we are soon there. There has been rain in the morning however while we walk the sky has been cloudy with blue patches. The sun bursts through as we walk the last stretch along the road.
Pam diverts up the hill to the right taking us to an area where it looks like people could park a camper van or potentially camp in a tent if they were able to peg it down hard enough to resist the constant strong winds.
We strip off our packs and sit on a large rock to bask in the sun for a while.
Facing the ocean, from where we sit, to the left is the lighthouse and the small hotel where we will be spending the night and to the right a rocky peak that descends to cliffs falling to the crashing swells below.
Out to sea from the cliffs is a small rocky island.
In the moment of sunshine and gusting wind we are inhabiting a postcard.
I leave Pam sitting on the rock and wander down to the end of the flat area where a tent could be pitched and climb a little way up the cliff to take photos.
Thinking I was out of sight of Pam I break into a slow jog on the way back to test out my knee.
She greets me with the question ‘did I just see a silver noggin’ joggin’? to which I reply ‘no you saw a silver noggin’ hobblin’!
‘Mocking, always mocking, at my chamber gently knocking’
We make our way to the hotel and check in. Our room is simple, clean and lovely and has windows at both West and East that allow fresh ocean air to swirl through. We rest our still soggy boots on the window sill where the air exits in the hope that they will dry faster.
The hotel has a bar leading to a low stone walled enclosure with some aluminium outdoor furniture. There are a few other people sitting in the lee of the stone wall and we join them for a few drinks.
While we are talking a large brown dog makes its way between the furniture. To Pam’s delight the dog responds to her calls and he sits with us for a while.
We decide we will make our way down past the lighthouse for a view from the end of the world.
Part of the Camino tradition is to burn a piece of clothing at the end of the pilgrimage. Pam and I have already gotten rid of as much stuff as we can during the walk and we are not going to participate in this ritual.
Unfortunately many other pilgrims have decided to go far further and have left boots and shoes, full sets of clothing such as trousers, shirts and socks tucked into boots, bicycle tyres and all sorts of other paraphernalia strewn amongst the rocks. Radio antennae with signs requesting no items be left on the structures are covered in clothes.
Smoke smolders from small fires lit in the lee of stones filling the air with fumes of burning plastic and rubber.
We are both distressed by this sight which we find disrespectful to the country Spain which has been our friendly host for so long, the spirit of the Camino and the Planet Earth itself.
People should have more f@#$ing sense and do their best to walk lightly on the Earth.
Once I get over my indignation the view is magnificent. The sun hides behind clouds to the West, still the light reflecting off the ocean is blinding.
From the North West swells roll in from the Atlantic to end their long journey crashing on the rocks below us. The strong constant wind is from the South West and pushes white horses chopping laterally across the face of each swell.
The rocks whisper invocations summoning us to sit and we comply, watching.
To our right the land ends where I had climbed the cliffs for photos, to the left small coves and stretches of beach separated by jutting rock formations transcribe a series of arcs that loop out to the horizon. Most of these arcs harbour small villages and towns that we had wound our way through on the bus trip yesterday.
Out to sea grey clouds are banking. As they cross the coastline the wind pushes them up and over the hills that bank down to the ocean and the cloud colour intensifies from grey to ominous. I think of the gynecologist Richard’s wife and hope she is finding a dry path.
Our little patch at the End of the World remains rain free and over our heads the sky still has dapples of blue shining through.
At the End of the World the wind is king. Vegetation kneels stunted, people walk penitent, heads bent, wrapping their fluttering clothing tight.
Not all the king’s subjects are humbled. Above us terns ride the crest of the wave formed as the wind surges up the hillside. They hover balanced between the eternal pull of gravity and the surge of the wind under and over the airfoil of their outstretched wings.
For the billionth time I wish I could transform my body shape at will and join them in their balanced dance where the twist of a feather decides between soaring and diving.
Below us seagulls plunge into the ocean and resurface. Our vantage point allows me to see that once the first few flaps are taken they then fly on the wave of air that surges up the face of the swell below. They surf the wind wave that rides above the ocean wave with an enviable grace, heading first out to sea and then back to the rocks to gain height ready for the next plunge.
My thoughts turn to where they dwell most, the cycle of energy, the heart of hearts. ‘Tis the Sun that drives the Wind that blows the swell across the ocean and lifts the birds before my eyes. From the End of the World I am witness to everything to come and all that was before.
Stardust Sun Child.
With a bum now cold as the stone beneath it.
We head back towards the lighthouse and hotel leaving a few Euros in the guitar case of the enthusiastic busker playing in the lighthouse square. Pam has decided to walk to the top of the hill above the lighthouse however I am done with walking for today so she leaves me to work on the blog.
It is easy to be distracted at the End of the World and I succumb to beery temptation and get little done. Pam returns from her walk and we retire to our room soon after.
While we rest the sky closes in again and we watch the rain trickle down the Western window of our room. Pam is disappointed that we will not see the sunset that Cape Finesterre is renowned for. I reassure her that the fickle weather can turn, and turn again, in the time left before days end. That the future is unwritten, and that we shall drink the expensive (seven Euro) bottle of red she purchased at the supermarket the day before, on the rocks beneath the lighthouse, regardless of the weather conditions.
Siesta has finally ended and at last we are able to enter the lighthouse for a look around. Tourists can’t climb the stairs to the light itself and the lower level consists of two largish rooms separated by the entry foyer and tourist information desk. One of the large rooms is full of artwork and the other has autographed photographs of ‘celebrities’ who have visited the lighthouse at Cape Finesterre.
The ‘celebrities’ that ring this room are not the nickel and dime television or movie stars that I would have expected in similar circumstances. With the exception of David Attenborough and a couple of Turing Award computer geeks every person gracing the walls is a Noble Prize winner.
Nobel Prize winners for chemistry, medicine, literature, economics, physics. Stephen Hawking has made it here on his wheelchair and left his verified thumbprint.
WOW……my paltry 40 watts upstairs is spluttering against this radiance.
Brains before beauty. The End of the World rocks.
By the time we have finished our tour of the two rooms of the Cape Finesterre lighthouse it has stopped raining and we make our way back to our hotel room to put on some clothes that will keep us warm while watching the sun sink into the ocean.
Coming from Brisbane where we might have three cold days in a year I am even more ill prepared for cold weather than I am for rain. My choices are limited as I only have one pair of jeans and one thin cotton jumper in my pack.
Finally the much maligned rainwear saves the day.
Pam suggests we don our rain gear as a windbreaker and layer up underneath in the manner suggested by our Canadian friends. I leave the hotel wearing my jeans, a long sleeve T-shirt, my jumper and the rainbird over the top and am snug as the proverbial bug in the rug as we make our way down over the rocks beneath the lighthouse for a second time.
Pam is layered up as well, with her raincoat serving as a windbreaker. We sit in the lee of a large rock and face the clouds that hide the sun.
The cork’s little popping sound as I pull it from the bottle neck is swallowed by the rushing wind. We only have one plastic glass which Pam is using, while I swig from the bottle bogan style.
We touch cup and bottle, ‘cheers to another beautiful day done’.
The silver daggers bouncing from the ocean surface dwindle in intensity as the sun touches the horizon behind the clouds. In the upper sky to my left a fragment of pink breaks the dominant grey for a moment then fades.
Pam says ‘this is a fitting way for two kids from Queensland to finish an epic journey’.
Overhead the terns balance on their wing tips and slide by us riding the wind’s crest. We can still see the seagulls plunging into the ocean and returning to the winds embrace.
Pam says ‘she wishes she was Superman so she could fly out into the wind and plunge into the cold depths below before triumphantly soaring up again, spinning like a top to shake the salty water from her skin’.
A shiver climbs my spine hearing thoughts so similar to mine spoken at such a time.
The chorus of an old Nick Cave song I have been humming for days fills my mind and I sing
Thank you, girl; thank you, girl
I’ll love you till the end of the world
with your eyes black as coal
and your long, dark curls’
The silver daggers are all gone from the ocean’s surface now and the lighthouse beacon has commenced sweeping the sky. Most of the people who have elected to risk being dampened by scudding rain to watch the sun fall have left the area and Pam considers joining them.
I pull her to me saying ‘I will sit here till the sun has truly set and I wish you would remain here with me’.
The lighthouse keeps on spinning, spearing ninety degree warnings to whomever can see. The coves to our left now harbour orange street lamps and yellow house windows twinkling down the coastline. At the periphery of vision another lighthouse replies with its own quartet of warning.
Sound is reduced to the immediacy of rushing wind in our ears and the intimate whisper of swells crashing onto the mass of dark rocks below.
We hold each other tight against the wind as the Atlantic becomes a white capped abyss stretching to eternity before us.
We watch as every shade of grey created swirls before our eyes.
And then it was night.
Pam and Mick