Originally posted: Tuesday, 28 June 2005
That’s what Mum calls it. “The Curse” that has plagued our family for generations. Well, at least two generations anyway.
Whenever there is an important event in our lives, it”s there. Anytime we have a wedding or a birth, or a graduation or a twenty-first or anything at all important – there it is.
It’s rain, you see. I think it started with my Mum and Dad’s wedding. They cheerfully laughed at rain (in February, in Adelaide) on their most important day as “a sign of luck”. So the rain took them seriously and came back for the birth of their sons and for important anniversaries and also whenever we moved house, regardless of the season or the forecast.
It absolutely hurtled down on the first day of the Camino. Rain “blessed” Matt and I in France as we left those 28 days ago. We got drenched to the bone but laughed at it just like Mum and Dad did and kept walking.
It didn”t rain on us once for the entire rest of the pilgrimage. Not once were we gifted with anything less than full days of glorious sunshine – the perfect weather to walk in. We had dry paths, potentially dangerous river crossings were harmless and it all went smoothly.
So, today, we had planned a long day. We needed to get to Santiago and that meant getting a lot of kilometres done and setting a very decent pace.
We”d done about 5km when the first few drops fell. But we laughed and kept walking. A few more drops and so we put our trusty waterproofing on and kept going.
Then it started to heave it down. We hurried on, determined not to let it stop us. Soon our legs and shorts were drenched and our shoes were starting to make that uncomfortable squishing sound that tells you they”re full of water. When icy rain reaches a man”s softest parts you really start to feel the cold as well.
The path was becoming harder to march down, as we discovered that storm water flows naturally down the cleared paths through the pine and eucalyptus forests we were walking through. Our pace slowed, then halved and the air started to smell like wet gum trees, a very familiar smell to any Australian.
I slipped on wet rocks and nearly twisted my ankle coming down an incline, and Matt was shivering from cold that no amount of exercise could warm up.
We stopped at a bar when a lorry nearly smashed us into a railing at one of the road crossings. It was sliding sideways on the wet tarmac round the corner and we didn”t feel too comfortable after that narrow miss.
“We”ll wait for it to stop” we naively said.
The bar quickly filled with pilgrims, all trying to dry their clothes and shoes. Matt and I had fresh sock changes and warm coffee so we waited. Every time it seemed to lessen we got optimstic and reached for our walking poles. But it was never slowing for long.
So, after an hour and some warm food, we had a change of heart. This was our last day of walking. There was nothing that the Camino could throw at us that three rest days in Santiago couldn”t fix.
Gleefully smiling like idiots we went out into the rain, got utterly soaked in minutes and marched on, laughing, talking, joking and yelling words of encouragement to any other pilgrims we saw braving it. (Except the Spanish and Day packers who were all giving in and cheating, getting onto buses and into support vehicles).
The happy (if slightly manic) mood did the trick. The kilometres just flew past and we didn”t even have another rest stop until we sat in a garden outside a tiny Iglesia (chapel) on the mountain that overlooks Santiago itself. There I emptied my boots of the litres of water and switched to “Jesus sandals”, even giving Matt my last pair of dry socks (for which I think I deserve a sainthood).
We got to the Cathedral later than planned, but in good spirits – and we were almost the only pilgrims there.
Almost but not quite. Within 2 minutes of standing in the immaculate square one of our most familiar faces rounded the corner – Giselle, our french friend who is perhaps the only other pilgrim from our first batch of friends in week one who we have still been seeing on a daily basis since then.
We stood there and smiled and hugged and took a few photos, still in all our waterproofs, still soaking wet. No other backpacks in sight despite the crowds of the last week.
Then we hugged again and went our separate ways, off to find a warm food, a hot shower and a bed for the night.
As we walked away from the last yellow arrows and left the path, we realised it had stopped raining.