My birthday…I was a complete mess. My nose was running and my eyes were full of water. It was just after midday on the big 27 and I was sitting in my hotel room and couldn’t believe how amazing my friends and family are.
It didn’t really feel like my birthday when I woke up, but it was certainly a special day as it was the first day I wasn’t walking or biking in 30 days! And the first day I got to sleep past 6am. In the morning I was still in Finsterre, catching the bus back to Saintiago at 9:30am. However, when Maria and I went to have breakfast in the cafe across the road from the bustop, I got my first surprise of the day! It was the lovely Mariuzo, my friendly Italian from Roma I met on the trek in my first week. We chatted many times along the way but I hadn’t seen him in over 2 weeks and only two days prior I was wondering what happened to him. Then there he was sitting in the corner of the cafe. It was so cute, we noticed each other at the same time and both were so happy to see each other – as I never thought we would see each other again and we had forgotten to get each others contact details prior. Mariuzo was so lovely and bought Maria & I breakfast. And breakfast itself was a lovely surprise as I got to eat muesli and rye bread! Then I added a little something sweet – nutella 😉 I haven’t had museli or rye bread since I left Australia. I couldn’t believe they served it as it’s extremely rare in Spain unless your in the major cities. But I did have a good feeling that I might get something a little special when I saw the gorgeous and lovely bohemian cafe owners and the blackboard saying ‘vegetarian food’, which is a sign of a good time for me 😉 and one that doesn’t come by often in Spain.
By the time I got back into Saintiago I was still feeling really grimmy, I hadn’t been able to wash my hair for the last two days and I was still in my trekking gear which had mud on it from the day before. Around midday I was able to check into my hotel and get my beloved suitcase which I hadn’t seen in over a month. How amazing to have a few more options on clothes and shoes… Very much looking forward to wearing a little more than trekking pants and boots. The hotel was basic what I needed, however the best part by far was the welcome. As I arrived and knocked on the door I was greeted by the lovely hotel owner named Carmela. I had been corresponding with her re: my suitcase getting dropped off and she also was kind and printed my boarding tickets. Immediately when she saw me, she yelled “Ashleeeeigh” (extenuating the ‘e’) , I smiled and said “Si, hola! Carmela?”. Wasn’t sure if it was her. She said ‘Si’, Carmela had a great big beautiful smile and said “come in, come in” whilst waving her hands. I walked in the door, she helped me take off my backpack to set it down and when I stood up with great big open arms she said “Welcome” and gave me the biggest and most loving cuddle. It was so beautiful, it reminded me of the exact same cuddle my grandmother gave me. The cuddle where they squeeze you so tight and hold you for a long while just to make sure know that you are the most precious thing to them. After that I was little dazzed but couldn’t stop smiling, she just made me laugh so much.
When I got to my room, I was finally able to get Wifi and connect to the world. I hadn’t had an opportunity to speak to anyone back in Australia so I was just sending them a quick update before I jumped in the shower to let them know I made it to Finesterre still alive now at age 27. But as I was writing, I saw an email from Hanna. It was different to the normal ones I receive, the subject was CLICK & SMILE. Obviously, being curious I did. Then I would never of imagined in my wildest dreams to view what I did. It was a five minute film clip of my close friends back in Australia each saying there own personal messages and singing happy birthday. Watching it I was tears immediately. I was completely overwhelmed of how beautiful and hilarious my friends are, I just love them so much. For thirty days on the Camino I didn’t succumb to any tears, not even one when I made it to the end twice! But in thirty seconds seeing my friends sing cried instantly. Then as I was watching it for the second time some more emails and posts came through. There I was in Spain, sitting on my own just crying, laughing then crying. I smelt, my hair was still unwashed and I was grimmy but the happiest women in the world, not because it was my birthday but because I have the most amazing and caring people in my life everyday, not just my birthday. Afterwards I didn’t really know what to do, I sat on the bed trying to figure out how I was going to unpack my backpack and repack my suitcase without crying and thinking of everyone back home. I sat in complete astonishment for a little while before I could get the will to move, as I finally got started to move towards the shower my spanish phone rang. I picked it up, singing the ‘happy birthday’ song in broken English was Carlos my amazing favourite spanish amigo who I met Marcelino with. It was so good to hear his voice as I hadn’t seen him for over two and half weeks. I really missed him. He said he reached Saintiago and finished the Camino two days prior I did and he had to leave, he had hoped I would of caught him, but he was much faster walker than I. He was so really kind and looked forward to keeping in contact and one day I visit his home in Spain. He made me laugh and said now get out and celebrate – so indeed I did.
Missing everyone at home, I was also missing some new friends I met here. Other than Maurizo this morning Maria and I hadn’t seen any of the great friends we met on the trek. However, I was lucky as most of them were now in Saintiago and we had their contact details so we all arranged to meet at 6pm at the Cathedral and that we did. The first person that came was the lovely Maria (she went shoe shopping whilst I went to the hotel), then the gorgeous American from Marryland Katie came, then next came along two of the most inspiring and kindest people I met on the Camino which I nicknamed Happy Guy & Happy women aka Richard & Michelle who are brother and sister from San Francisco. Their story is incredible, they trained for 5 months for the Camino and walked all the way from St Jean Pied de Port doing massive days also. Then came the sweet and lovely Nick the first Australian I met, then other favourite Australian Matt who I didn’t even recognise as he shaved his beard off. Then came Tom, whose from Virginia a creative poet and the man who kept getting lost and nicknamed his blisters bubba & Jeffrey. Later came Jess the wanderer from New York who is travelling for the next couple of years and was the same age as I and lastly Tina the lovely German who was so determined to finish and not stop walking she did a part in her flip flops. With these beautiful people we all hugged and drank Sangria to celebrate the end of our Camino. It was really nice and hell funny to sit and reminisce all our favourite and the toughest parts on the Camino for each of us. Even though I was far away from home, these new friends made me feel like I was the most special person. With Richard and Michelle giving me a beautiful birthday gift (a necklace of the shell which is the symbol to follow the Camino) and then a birthday cake because Richard said “it’s not a birthday, without a birthday cake!” You coul say I was completely Swept away by Wanderlust 😉 a perfect day. A big, thank you to everyone from near and far, I completely felt so much love on this day that I felt like you were all next to me.
After watching the film
Happy guy & happy women (Richard & Michelle), San Fran – USA.
Gorgeous, amiga and daring Finn – Maria! (Helsinki, Finland)
The brilliant poet Tom (Virginia, USA)
Wandering Jess (New York, USA) and the beautiful Katie (Maryland, USA).
The lovely bearded Matt (Australia).
the determined Tina on the left (Berlin, Germany)
Birthday love and the sweet Nick who was an amazing Chef on the Camino, blue shirt (Australia).
and ahhh I can’t do these, but a birthday shot
the last drink on top of the apartment overlooking Santiago city.
And a kiss for someone I miss xx