Sitting on the steps leading to the cathedral, I added the following to my diary:
‘My peace suddenly came to an end. It is now 18:00 and since midday I am waiting for Uta who today, Saturday, should have arrived either at 12:50 by train or at 15:15 by bus. In fact, as I mentioned before, even yesterday afternoon I was on the square, just in case she had bypassed León and headed straight for Santiago. Up to now there is no Uta in sight. People come and go, but my wife is not among them’.
I had pinned up a notice in the pilgrim’s office just in case we missed one another; it is still there, unanswered. Arno has not heard from his mother either and this is most mysterious. I don’t know at what time she could arrive tomorrow, the information office is closed on Sundays. I do not understand why Arno, who is the go-between, has not had any contact from her. I am worried that something happened in León or Madrid – but why no contact? I now have many hours available to continue with my diary, but under these circumstances it is impossible to put thoughts to paper. For now I can just wait and wait.’ In hindsight it appears to be a ridiculous idea to arrange a meeting at an undefined time on a big square. To top it all, Uta did not bring her cellular phone so that Arno could be in contact via SMS. I was the cause of this, I told her not to bother since my cell phone was no longer functioning. Why did she not phone Arno from a public phone? That is the very disturbing part – something must have happened. I had been so confident to see her by latest 16:00 and I was really looking forward to embrace her and for us to continue this adventure together.
I had just been informed that there was no bus at 12:50 and no train at 15:15: the information I had previously received was incorrect. There is only a train arriving at 19:45, which explained why Uta had not yet shown up. I felt a little better and more relaxed and decided to have a snooze in the meantime.
And then, just after 20.00, Uta climbed out of a taxi! We were very relieved to see one another and there was nothing to stop us marching on to Finisterre. I suggested to Uta that we make our way to the Atlantic Coast together. I did not feel like walking a further eighty kilometres to the end of the world, and with the advice from the tourist office that buses did not travel on the walking route, Uta would not be able to manage her Camino as she had intended. However, together we would find a way of getting there.
Uta and I had a lot to catch up on after three weeks apart and the next day we explored Santiago, saw the Botafumeiro swinging and had a wonderful and relaxing evening. We visited the tourist office once more to obtain further information on transport possibilities and then decided to intermittently walk and travel by bus along the conventional road to World’s End. It would not be a pilgrimage for Uta as was initially intended but tackling this together appeared to be the only sensible alternative. We set off the next morning and after three days of walking/bussing we arrived in Finisterre in good spirits.
Since earliest times the scallop shell has been the symbol of the many Caminos to Santiago as well as the token that identified pilgrims on the road. The Finisterre coastal waters had an abundance of scallops, so it was the practice to gather a shell from the shores at the end of the journey and display it on the return trip as proof that the pilgrimage to Finisterre had been completed. Today, most pilgrims carry a shell on the backpack from the outset and this is now a symbol for those on the way to Santiago. The shells can be bought anywhere along the route. I had started my walk in Frómista and refrained from displaying a shell. Initially I did not feel like a true pilgrim, one that had walked from far, or, as is often the case these days, has walked the total distance of about 800 km on the ‘Camino Francés, and when after a few days I considered myself to be a part of the community, it made no sense for me to buy a shell halfway through.
Why am I talking about this? Uta and I had late lunch in a restaurant above the harbour in Finisterre and she was brave enough to order six mussels which were served with some garnish on a scallop shell. It was not a big meal; it was rather minute for a big price. However, Uta, with her usual gift of seeing opportunities, asked the waiter if she could keep the shell. Her Spanish ‒ and mine ‒ was far too rudimentary for such transactions and the waiter shook his head and wagged his finger – so much for the effort!
We paid and just when we were about to leave, the waiter returned with a big smile and handed Uta an authentic shell with brown age marks – not the clean scrubbed white ones with a printed Knights of Santiago cross emblem as they are generally offered in shops. So, with my wife’s help I am now the proud owner of my own scallop shell, picked from the sea in Finisterre as proof that I had reached the end of the world.
Incidentally, the distinctive grooved lines converging from the rim to the narrow hinged part of the scallop represent the many routes that converge on Santiago. Another interpretation tells that it reflects the rays of the sun setting in the West at the end of the day.