Important – Site Change

I have decided to archive this site, and won’t be adding further to it.  The content below remains accurate, and if you are interested in the various days posts there are still all there.

The contents of this site are the source material for my book An Impossible Dream – the book.  Please follow that link if you’d like to obtain a copy.

If you are interested in following my current and future travels, please visit me at An Impossible Dream

When you are there, please subscribe to the new site to (hopefully) receive updates as they occur.

500 Days

In a little over three weeks time it will be 500 days Janet and I walked into Santiago de Compostela … it seems both just like yesterday and yet so long ago.

I have been quiet on my blog  for much of that time, but this doesn’t mean that I’ve been simply sitting around.  For much of that time I have been carefully converting my trip notes into a 300-page book, the final proofs of which and the authorisation to print I signed off upon yesterday.

The book will be available to order online on the 500-day anniversary.  Stand by for details.  Oh, and for launch information, including the long-awaited revelation of the title.

Six Months

Almost 6 months has now gone by since we reached Santiago de Compostela.  It seems both a long time and a short time, if that makes any sense at all.

We have returned to “normal” life with all its dramas and distractions.  Tasks to be completed; clients to be serviced; community work to be undertaken; family matters to be attended to; friends to visit and entertain; future trips to be planned – no wonder the 6 months has gone quickly.  My completion certificate (not my Compostela; I opted not to get one of those) sits beside my computer as a reminder.

My book progresses.  Today I reached a bit of  a milestone; the 25,000 word mark.  I think I am about a third of the way through.  I’m trying to remember all the detail so that I can represent the walk accurately.  And at the same time I spend time researching some of the fine detail of the places we have visited, and the some of historical events behind them.  I am really enjoying the task, and I am learning a lot at so many levels, but writing it is hard work, harder than I thought it would be when I first dreamed up this goal.  I wonder how the final manuscript will feel …  [And isn’t the word “manuscript” such a delight – from the Latin for “hand” and “writing” – so yesteryear.]

I made a commitment to myself today that I would aim for publication on 13 October this year.  That is 12 months to the day since we walked into Santiago.  Working backwards, that means I have to submit my manuscript on 17 July. I have about 30 more days to write about, and each day is taking me at least 4 hours, so 17 July will be a stretch.  Will it matter if I don’t make the 13 October publishing date?  No, it’s an arbitrary, romantic date, but I’ll aim for it anyway.

Until next time …

Cinco Semanas

Can you believe it … it’s been 5 weeks since we left Santiago de Compostela!

El Camino-141

I think I can say with reasonable truthfulness that not a day, or at the least very rarely a day, has passed without our journey across Spain entering my thoughts in some way.

Nothing particularly structured or planned, just random thoughts which pop in and then pop out again seemingly just as quickly. And nothing worth recording here beyond noting that it’s happening. Of course that is quite enough; simply to be aware that the Camino clearly hasn’t left me … not that I expected it to.

And yet I feel that something has changed.  I cannot put my finger on it.  And I’m actually not seeking to label it, other than out of curiosity.  What I’ve noticed is that my emotions are closer to the surface than “normal”.  Silly, sad movies have often caused me to cry in the past, but in recent weeks this seems to have been moreso.  And not just movies.  Things just seem a bit more raw.  Is this a Camino thing, a me thing, or a coincidental thing?  Dunno.  The world is certainly a crazier place in the last few weeks, and I do believe that normally there’s an interconnectedness between seemingly random events and reactions; so who knows?  For the moment I’ll just leave it as something I’ve noticed in the past few weeks, and then see where it goes from there.

I have been delighted by some of the feedback I have received to my blog.  It seems that a goodly number of you out there enjoyed my daily ramblings.  When I started I had in the back of my mind that I might attempt to turn those ramblings into a book.  That, too, is a thought that has not been far from me over the last few weeks, and recent feedback has encouraged me to consider it further.

I actually have a working title in my head – which I won’t disclose just yet.  I was always intending (and still might) call it the same as this blog, but since that title has sort of been taken already, I have probably moved a little away from that.

I have no idea about writing (let alone publishing) a book, and what started out as a little project for me alone seems to be gathering some steam, as they say.  It would actually be rather satisfying to write a book which might even sell.  Who knows?  So, stay tuned on that.  And if anyone has any interest in acting as a thoughtful critic on whatever manuscript I might produce, please let me know.  I’d value and appreciate your comments, critiques and insights.

In the meantime, in just the last few days I have been turned my thinking to my photos, something which, surprisingly for me, for the previous few weeks I’ve not been interested in.  With my somewhat unusual combination of phone photos and proper SLR photos, and allowing for all sorts of duplication and replication, I ended the journey with almost 5500 images.  (John Brierley, the writer of the most popular guidebook on the Camino suggests leaving the camera behind to allow one to simply live in the moment, and rely on memory.  The first is a great philosophy, and the second has some real flaws!  I’m glad I did not take his advice.)  I have whittled my enthusiastic collection of images down to around 140, and they can be found at http://petercampbell.zenfolio.com/elcamino.  It’s still too many.  One day I may edit them down further.  Conversely, one day I will probably create a “seconds” or “almosts” collection for those which I would have liked to have include.

Until next time …

El Camino-140

 

 

Mañana en la mañana vamos …

Miércoles 14th Octubre. Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

I had planned that yesterday’s would be my last post, however I have been asked to make a post to record our final day in España.

Even though today’s mode of transport was minivan rather than by pie (look it up!), it was in many ways an extension of our Camino, as it was a trip to the iconic Camino completion towns of Finisterre and Muxia.

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Finisterre, which the ancients believed to be the end of the world …

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Having following the flechas amarillas for so long, we couldn’t not check out 0,00. This is it …

The day was basically “tourist” day, and a few more photos follow.
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Another lovely old bridge, this time at Puente Maceira, across the Rio Tambre.

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I’ve written previously about the wind power industry in Spain. Fabulous to see these turbines dotting the hilltops.

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The official Finisterre marker (I think).

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Some memorials

Near to Muxia is an albergue in a 12th century monastery, and on their grounds is an old horreos – this is supposedly the largest in Spain, and was built in the 1570s. It is now heritage controlled, and no changes to it are permitted. The young hospitalera was happy to show us around (which doesn’t happen very often), and it was quite incredible to stand inside this ancient granary. The temperature control was amazing.
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The day ended with our very last vino tinto, at Cafe Agarimo …
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… followed by another visit to the cathedral, where we were again lucky to see the botafumeiro swung, and then dinner at a very nice restaurant on my street.
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Now I think this is my final post. What I will be doing over coming weeks is updating some detail and facts and figures, and as/when that happens I’ll make a note for the benefit of anyone who wants to check back.

Until then, I can now say a definite adios. I hope you enjoyed journeying with us. Tomorrow we leave España, for a few days in Italy and then home.

The Day After

Martes 13th Octubre. Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

Well here it is – not the purpose of walking, but certainly the official recognition of having done so …
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The man at the Oficina del Peregrino had a good manner about him. I was asked to complete the personal details form, which included declaring whether I had completed the journey for religious/spiritual or “tourist”/cultural reasons, and as covered in previous posts (and the ensuing comprehensive FB discussion), I chose the latter. Kindly, I thought, he explained that that meant I would not be awarded a Compostela. I responded that that was vale, and so after a total of no more than 5 minutes at the office I was done. Happy.

And here’s part of the evidence – the all important credencial, this time stamped by the Oficina
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Today has been a day of slightly sore ankles (and continuing strong legs), some ongoing emotion, and general exploration.

As had been expected, the cathedral is half shrouded in scaffolding, and so not the most picturesque. It is what it is.
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It would seem that they swung the botafumeiro again this morning. J had gone to the hairdresser (I had gone to the laundromat – domestic chores are never that far away), and I tracked her down at the peluqueria (with Melie!) and then went exploring. First stop was another squizz at the nearby cathedral.

As I entered (just after 1 pm and therefore as the midday crowds were dispersing) I could smell the incense. Lovely. I got this quite nice shot of the mostly still burner with its residual incense hanging in the air.
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Is this a fitting end? Will the beard make it back to Oz?
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A quiet dinner tonight, and another big sleep.

So for now, it’s Adios, Amigos.

ps – I’ve been pressed back into service for one more post …

Proud

Camino Day 33, Lunes 12th Octubre. 782 klms. Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

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As I first draft this sitting in a café just a few hundred metres from Santiago de Compostela’s famous cathedral, where we have just attended the traditional “pilgrims’ mass”, I am having difficulty isolating and describing exactly how I feel. A little surprisingly, my eyes are full of tears. My legs feel strong, and at the same time have a deep weariness. Words like happy, satisfied, content just don’t cut it for the moment. Proud is closer. A better description may come later.

Officially 782 kilometres. Much more than that if the detours, explorations and the occasional loss of the oh so important flechas amarillas are added in. 8 klms by hoss. 6 by taxi when we were staying slightly off path at the lovely Santa Marina del Rey. All the rest by foot, step after step after step. And all of that with both of us carrying a complete backpack out of which we lived for 5 weeks. Did we make our 1,000,000 steps? I’d like to think so, and we’ll never know, and that detail doesn’t actually matter anyway. I’m updating this the next day, and the enormity of the achievement still hasn’t really sunk in.

A quick summary of how we got to this amazing end … we awoke very early this morning, left O Pedrouzo a shade after 6:30am, and walked the 4 1/2 hours into Santiago, the first half in almost total darkness.

Apart from a quick breakfast at Casa de Amancio at Villamaior it was a bit of a power march to get to Santiago in sufficient time for the midday pilgrims’ mass. We made it by about 11:30, but which stage the church was full. J propped up a pillar near the front, and I found another pillar with a stone base which became my seat. The service was mostly in Spanish, which was not a particular distraction. There were 8 priests and the singing was led by a middle-aged nun with the most beautiful voice. All the singing was in Spanish, which didn’t matter because the music was awesome. I think I could see the organist sitting high above the crowd, and whether or not the sound came from the lovely organ above the main part of the cathedral, or whether or emanated from elsewhere doesn’t matter – the total sound, but particularly the singing nun, was beautiful.

The highlight was the swinging of botafumeiro – the cathedral was full as I have said, and everyone seemed to respect the “no photos” rule during the service, but all bets were off once the eight red-robed tiraboleiros arrived and started their work.

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The botafumeiro is only swung on special occasions – we were very lucky to have experienced this.

I will try to embed into this post the video I took, and if that doesn’t work then the FB post will need to suffice.

The rest of the day then really turned into various stages of unwind and attempt to process what we had just achieved. We checked into our hotel – three nights in the same place, bliss!! – collected from a nearby hostal the two bags we had despatched from St Jean Pied de Port all those weeks ago – found a nearby place for a delightful paella lunch – started the unpacking and organising process – caught up with Tania for a drink and then Melie and some of the assorted crew for dinner – chanced upon a very talented musical group (Tuna de Gallega) – and then “home” to the hotel for the sleepest sleep for a long time.

Lastly, a few photos from the day …

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Entering Santiago de Compostela, with the cathedral steeple in the distance.

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En la Catedral

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From our hotel room.

A huge day. A huge 5 weeks. An incredible achievement. Happy that we were “successful”. Sad that it’s over. It’s not really over – just that this stage has ended. My guess is that it will never be over – that it will be with us forever.

My Way

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway; 
And more, much more than this, 
I did it my way.

Paul Anka/Claude François/Jacques Revaux/Frank Sinatra, 1969

I now say … under 20 kilometres left to go. I’ve not given a countdown before – today I think it’s OK to do so.

Camino Day 32, Domingo 11th Octubre. 762 klms. O Pedrouzo, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

The above lyric often has a funereal meaning and feel to it, but I am certainly not using it in that sense. Given where I am and what I’ve done I like the multiple meanings I can ascribe to it.

Today marks our penultimate day on the Camino, and I suspect much will change tomorrow as we walk into Santiago de Compostela. In many ways I’m thinking that today is really the last day – certainly the last “normal” day, if I can put it that way. Barring some massive disaster, nothing will stop us reaching our destination tomorrow. It’s less than 20 klms, and I think I’d crawl on all fours to get there in need.

We left Arzúa around 8:30 am, and strolled along at a steady but not particularly rushed pace, and arrived here at Pedrouzo after a couple of recharge stops at a very civilised 2 pm. Even the last 10 minutes or so in the quite heavy rain was not spirit dampening (although it certainly was clothes dampening).

Pedrouzo is a smallish town on the outskirts of Santiago, almost an outer suburb I’d guess. The pensión here is very nice … here’s the view from our room.
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As I wandered today my thoughts turned to what I have really enjoyed about this journey, and what I haven’t. (These are fairly immediate/contemporary thoughts – they differ from a notion of “what have I learned?”, which, if at all, will likely come later. They are also likely to be dynamic lists – I imagine that I will add/delete/modify over coming days and weeks.) So here goes …

I’ve really enjoyed/am pleased about:

. this time spent with Janet. We spend a lot of time together normally, but for the last 5 weeks have almost never been out of each other’s sights. We’ve chatted about all sorts of things in a way I’m not sure we always do at home. There’s hardly been a cross or impatient word, and on the couple of occasions there has, it’s invariably been at the end of a long hard day, when physical and emotional reserves are at their lowest
. that my legs/body made it. I was quite worried back on the other side of León (doesn’t that just seem so so long ago), and now here we are. Periodically tired (rest days are good) but probably fitter them I’ve ever been. Walking 25 klms seems “normal” … day after day
. that Janet too made it. I never doubted she would and this has been a tough and challenging undertaking, for both of us
. the hugely varying countryside. I don’t think there’s any I haven’t found some beauty in. I’m looking forward to seeing my photos properly on the big monitor. I have often read about the “boring” and flat Meseta – as I’ve mentioned previously I found a beauty there as I have at all other points of our journey
. the Spanish popular culture as we’ve touched it – the food, the wine. I’ve learned a lot about both, and I think will be better informed for the experience
. the iglesias and catedrals we’ve seen along the way. Mostly centuries old, they have a beauty to them rarely seen elsewhere. Some are architecturally astounding. Others simply go some way to help understand an important aspect of Spanish culture
. nearly all the people I’ve met (see wp.me/p6mK7n-kd for a cross-reference)

There is not a “haven’t enjoyed” list as such. Having said that, I’ve not enjoyed my interactions with people who:

. are insensitive to their fellow travellers through loudness or space invasion. I wonder at each individual level whether that’s through stupidity, arrogance or a lack of awareness. I note that they are in the minority
. travel the Camino by bicycle. In the main they act as if they expect the walkers to defer to them, and since the consequences of not doing so are potentially dire for the walker, their poor behaviour is constantly reinforced. They seem to think that throwing a “Buen Camino” over their shoulders as they speed by makes it all OK. Whilst cyclists are an minority on the Camino, this behaviour has been exhibited by the majority of those I’ve seen.

Finally, to complete today’s post, a few shots from the day.

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The sign back before this house said “prepare to be psychologically challenged”. I thought, “there’s not much more which could challenge me now”. The house had dozens of A4 sized posters with thoughts to consider. I’ve included just one below:
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Major road project – halted. Economics?

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Cat selfie. She was very happy to come and sit on me. Her request

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Peregrina cerveza

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More Boranup

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Directions for the hosses.

The day ended quietly. After the standard check in, shower, rest, we wandered into “town” as much as it is. I suspect that this town, a kilometre or so long strip of accommodation, restaurants and bars is no more than a final staging post for folk like us on there way to Santiago. We caught up with and had dinner with Melie and Kerry, and then a relativity early night before tomorrow’s final walk.

True

I know, I know, I know this much is true – Spandau Ballet, 1983

Camino Day 31, Sabado 10th Octubre. 739 klms. Arzúa, A Coruña, Galicia, España.

Today turned out, accidentally, to be our longest walking day at just under 31 klms. The benefit though is that tomorrow (and Monday, the last day) will be sub-20.

But first …

[Today’s swarm report. Two quotes, and no, I didn’t make these up, nor invite them.

1. overheard this morning in a café about 6 klms out of Palas del Rei … “quick, before the Germans arrive”
2. “they are like the yellow plague”, (referring to the bright yellow bandanas and/or caps they all wear).

Some commentary from me a bit later.]

We again left before sunrise. The photo below isn’t particularly good quality, but it shows the crystal clear sky with the moon looking down at us. It was a beautiful start to the day.

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Setting out,  Palas del Rei

Some more photos in a while, but first today’s musing. I read the following quote on FB last night or this morning. The person said “I was a true pilgrim insofar as I …”. The comment has been with me all day. Firstly, because a “true” anything (pilgrim in this case) implies that there is also an “untrue” version. This does not accord with my mostly held view of the world, which in essence is that other than in the most rare of cases there is no true/untrue, right/wrong, black/white, etc. My view is that almost everything is a shade of grey, so to speak, and that absolutes don’t exist. And secondly, even if there was such a thing as a “true” pilgrim, what would he/she look like or do. Here’s a selection of rhetorical questions…

. does a true pilgrim stay in albergues, or are hostels, pensions, hotels OK?
. or does a true pilgrim camp out, and then is that in a tent or under the stars?
. does a true pilgrim carry all his/her own stuff for their entire journey, or is it OK to get some/all of your gear transported each day or sometimes?
. does a true pilgrim walk with a single pole which they sourced or cut from the forest. What if they purchased a walking stick, or used “proper” walking poles?
. how far does a true pilgrim walk?
. must a true pilgrim make their journey for religious or spiritual reasons, and does a true pilgrim go to mass every day?
. can an atheist be a true pilgrim?
. and probably many more …

There is no single answer to any of these or a range of others, I think, beyond “it depends”. I answered these for myself many months ago when I asked myself why I was doing this, and then started to plan accordingly.

Without getting too heavy, and as best as I can without judgement, I also found myself wondering about the group of young German walkers. Now I know that as a group they are on a religious pilgrimage. (I know this because curiosity well and truly got the better of me and I found them on the web and got a better idea of who they are and what they are doing. I know also that their leader is a bishop.) I have “moved on” from my emotional reaction of a couple of days back, which was primarily based on sheer volume, and I now observe (and question) from a more dispassionate, more intellectual, perspective. This is what I have observed: they are carrying very little (mostly small day packs, or sometimes nothing); they are transported back to their accommodation each afternoon by their buses; they have one or two support vehicles which track them and provide food, water (bottled), medications and the like; many are dressed for a “stroll” with their friends (jeans, sneakers, etc); they have their music; they happily chat with each other as they go along, sometimes incessantly; they seem fairly strongly focussed in ensuring that their credentials are frequently stamped. Now whilst this is quite different to the approach which J and I have taken, there is nothing “wrong” per se with any of these individually, or collectively, and I am not criticising it. What I am questioning though, is this: since this is clearly stated as a spiritual tour, and yet as per my observations there seems to be little or no challenge in it (other than to walk a few kilometres each day) I wonder what they are really learning? And then secondly, I wonder what example their adult leaders think they are setting for these young people. In my experience anything really important normally has some degree of difficulty or challenge associated with it, in order to cement it as something worthwhile, and I would have thought that this would definitely have been the case here, for these young minds. So I’ve observed a dichotomy which at this point I’ve not been able to reconcile in my head.

And to point out the obvious – the link between these two is about what’s “true” and whether the young people, and their leaders, are being true to their values, whatever they are.

Today’s musing over…

We ended up walking longer then expected today. Part of that was because last night’s digs were about 1 klm on the other side of town, but mainly because I misinterpreted the guide book, and that simple observational error added another 3+ klms to our journey. So when we eventually got to Arzúa the bones were a bit weary. And then we had to track down our Turismo Rural, which we knew was out of town (duh!), and we knew spoke no Inglis, and get them to come and get us.

We left with clear skies, which a little after midday turned into drizzly rain. Much of today’s walk was along quiet country roads or paths through the forests. What I couldn’t help but observe were the number of eucalyptus plantations. I didn’t really count but there must have been at least 30 of them (including the ones we saw yesterday also). Yesterday’s seemed mainly to be Blue Gums; today’s I am not so sure of. There was one point though where we were walking past what for the life of me looked like Karri trees. It was almost as if we were in Boranup!

I have mentioned previously, and often read on various forums, that the last couple of kilometres each day are the hardest, as one mentally steels oneself for that final push for home. I’ve now noticed it at a macro level – these last 2 or 3 days have become harder as we get to the ends of our journey. It’s not done consciously, but rather something that says “it’s almost over now – I wish it was now”. Not that either of us are particularly wishing a premature end, rather just that psychological thing that’s kicking in after 700+ klms and with so few days to go.

Out here at Casa Assumpta we are a bit isolated and “friendless”, after an extremely social past few days. We had a brief but quite interesting chat with a couple of brothers from Jamaica along the way today. I hope we get to see them again, but I’d suggest that the odds are against it.

To end, some pictures (photos are becoming less – in part due to that psychological end thing I mentioned above, and in part due to the broken lense on the big camera, which has meant I’ve become a little less photo focused, if you’ll excuse the pun):

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Puente Velha, near Melide

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Pulpo, A Garnacha, Melide

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50 to go

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Just one group of many fungi

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Bridge 1, near Castañeda ?

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Bridge 2, Ribadiso, dating back to at least the 1500s

ps – as we live in this interconnected world, many readers of this blog are also connected to J and I on FB. Friends of ours are spending weekend at our home. We arrived to our accommodation last night (as it is now) to be greeted by the funniest, funniest creative send-up of our travel posts from our house, on FB. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Ramblings, Musings and Rantings

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going – Paul Theroux (1941 – ), American travel writer and novelist.

Camino Day 30, Viernes 9th Octubre. 714 klms. Palas del Rei, Lugo, Galicia, España

Wow. 30 days walking. Over 700 kilometres. Wow!

[Swarm report. We left Portomarín well before sunrise this morning before the motherships had a chance to fully discharge. That was a good strategy. There was still a very noticeable increase in general traffic, but the big crowd was behind us. And I think that in the intervening 24 hours I’d got more used to the new reality, and so I found myself far less bothered than yesterday. Hopefully (no promises) no more will be said on this matter.

Oh, and the dude with the cross from yesterday is possibly a bishop.]

Once the sun came up this is what we walked through for much of the first couple of hours:
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We were treated to a lovely sunrise, which morphed into a light foggy morning not unlike yesterday. Our plan was to walk the 8 klms to Gonzar (a couple of hours) and then stop for desayuno, which was exactly what we did. We ended up as a fivesome – the same group as dinner last night. Great breakfast.

Yesterday’s post created a great deal of conversation between J and me, and that in turn led to today’s title. Thinking about all my words over the last month, it seemed that each could be categorised as either a rambling, a musing or occasionally a ranting. I’m using this tone because it’s going to come to an end rather soon – we have only 3 more days left.

I’ve both enjoyed and I think benefitted from my ramblings, musings or rantings, and as a by-product I hope that you the reader has also. I’ve had minimal feedback (that’s OK by the way), and that which I have had has suggested that you have enjoyed these RMRs.

Our quite lengthy discussion revolved around J’s versus my views on people’s approaches to this walk. Our views differ in some regards, not much really, but certainly they do in some regards. One of the great things about our relationship is that we can and do hold different views on some things, and we can readily explain and understand each other’s perspectives.

We are now also investigating (or at least trying to investigate) the rationale behind the 100 minimum walk to earn a Compostela. That limit must have been created for some reason, and we are trying to find our what that reason is.

Our digs in Palas del Rei are nice. We are in a sort of log cabin estate about a kilometre out of town. It’s a pleasant change from last night which, whilst quite serviceable was pretty basic, with the thinnest of connecting walls.

After the normal settling in stuff we wandered into town for a looksee – would you believe we almost immediately bumped into Melie and Hank, and then Kerry, back to the famous five again. Perhaps not surprisingly given my recent posts and also the reality that for all of us the Camino is just about over, we got into quite a deep conversation about religion, spirituality, atheism, Compostelas and the like. The sort of conversation rarely entered into at home. The sort of conversation that our present situation and environment facilitates. Interestingly, Hank, who has previously been silent on these matters declared that he won’t be seeking a Compostela (as won’t either J or me). For some reason I’d made an alternative assumption. It was a far reaching and interesting conversation, the sort I’ll miss once this is over.

A few photos from the day follow:

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Sunrise about an hour out of Portomarín.

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More magic mushrooms

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Horreos in the family garden

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Pretty

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The crowd

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Adam?

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Country house

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Closer…

Closer is indeed the case. We are only three days’ walk away. Tomorrow is a biggish day (~25klms) – the next two just over or just under 20.

I’d like to think that now, as our journey comes to an end, irrespective of how we may have stayed, for at least this particular journey, J and I are travellers, not tourists. “They” say that your journey does not end when you reach Santiago, but starts.