|Fisterra, at last|
What the Camino to Fisterra is
Many believe that, like many Catholic traditions in western Europe, the Fisterra pilgrimage was adopted from earlier customs of the Romans, who believed that Fisterra (< finis terrae) was the “End of the Earth” and had constructed an Altar of the Sun on the cape.
Nevertheless, a coastal village to the north called Muxía (pronounced “moo-SHEE-ah” [muˈʃi.a]) also draws pilgrims, both from Santiago and this westerly cape. Many people choose to make a loop out of the hike to Fisterra by circling north to Muxía, where they stop at the Church of Nosa Señora da Barca. Dedicated to “Our Lady of the Boat,” this sacred church sits on the spot where, according to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James as he evangelized in Galicia.
Today, upon completing your hike to Fisterra and Muxía, you can receive little certificates—the fisterrana and the muxíana, respectively, to hang on your wall.
|Dreary and bleak|
Heading due west from Santiago, however, took me on a much different trail. Perhaps only a tenth of all pilgrims who walk the Camino continue on to the ocean, so the road was basically deserted and there was more time for introspection and appreciating the landscape. The way to Fisterra was also much more rural; on the last day, for example, I went 13km straight without seeing a restaurant or town! A lot of the hike passes through quiet farms and rugged wilderness, a marked change from the route to Santiago that takes you through countless tiny villages in eastern Galicia.
The stages that break up the path are also much more rigorous. On the main Camino, the etapas or stages average 20-25km a day, or about five hours of hiking, and if you need to stop early one day there are always albergues scattered between the main beginning and ending points. Not so on the this pilgrimage; although the first day is only 20km, the next two days are 30 or more kilometers and feel like they are never going to end. Really rough stuff—I pulled in to Fisterra grumpy, miserable, and blister-ridden and didn’t even go all the way to the lighthouse.
|Beautiful, green Galicia|
Still, I did enjoy this three-day stroll through an isolated, bleakly-gorgeous part of the country: in the morning I got to commune with nature and in the evenings I lodged in a village or the city. Think of it as backpacking without the, uh, roughing it!
Why you should walk it
|Foxglove flowers on the way-side|
Have you ever walked the Camino to Fisterra, or even been to the Galician coast? Would you consider hiking three more days to the ocean if you ever hiked the Camino de Santiago? Comment below!
For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.