After two nights in Santiago we took the fast train to Madrid. The speed of the train and the outside temperature were displayed and they both mounted as we made our way from Santiago. On the flat areas we cruised at 245 kms/h, and the temperature rose to 36 degrees.
We quickly retraced our steps on the Via de la Plata as far as Zamora, but it was largely recognizable to us. The season had changed from spring to summer, so the verdant landscape had changed to shades of yellow and brown. There were also a disturbing number of fires visible from the train. To maintain a speed of over 200 km/h the track must be comparatively level, so we traversed a remarkable number of bridges and tunnels. The longest tunnel was an amazing 28 kms in length, passing under the Guadarrama mountain range between Segovia and Madrid.
We spent the final three nights of our trip in central Madrid. We were joined by a friend we had met on the Shikoku pilgrimage in 2019. We were a little humbled that Geraldine was willing to travel from Ireland to spend a long weekend with us (ok, and to visit some art galleries).
We had a wonderful three days, spending many hours looking at art in the Prado, Reina Sophia (where Guernica hangs), and the Thyssen (which we enjoyed most of all). The remainder of our waking hours were passed eating and chatting with Geraldine. It was a riot, and a great end to a wonderful trip.
With the exception of the bike problems at the end of the Plata, and our long bus transfer to the start of the Norte (with the aggravation of having a phone stolen), I have loved every day of this trip. Ruth often refers to the slogan she read on Shikoku: “Life is Henro (pilgrimage)”. While this may be true, at some point on the Norte the Camino ceased to be a vacation or a trip to Santiago, but simply life. I was content to continue in the rhythm of the pilgrimage for an indefinite period of time, regardless of whether I actually got to Santiago. If it wasn’t for the Schengen limit (we used 89 of our permitted 90 days) I would happily start walking towards Santiago again. We are already making plans for another three months on the Camino next spring.
We had an uneventful series of flights home and we are now enjoying our cat, our housemates and our garden.