What are the memories we’ll carry with us after this Camino journey is done? Yes, the early morning departures, the dome of heaven full of stars, and us finding our way in the dark. Yes, the stunning architecture of the huge cathedrals in Pamplona, Logrono, and Burgos, and the countless humble stone churches of the small villages. And, yes, the feelings of relief and exhaustion after the day’s hike of nearly seventeen miles.
For both Judi and me, however, the kindness of strangers stands out as heart-warming and unforgettable.
There was the man in Logrono during the height of the San Mateo wine festival who was obviously on his way to work at 4:30 in the morning when Judi and I were trying to find our way out of the city. Merry-making revelers still filled the streets, and the street signs were few and hard to coordinate with our guidebook city map. This kind man took considerable time (and patience) to give us accurate directions to leave the city and find the Camino.
Then there was the bicycle rider, a man about our age in the requisite high-tech spandex, on the outskirts of Burgos. Judi and I were finishing a long perimeter road around the airport, tired of tramping along the rocky road in a featureless area. He stopped next to us, hopped off his bike, and motioned for Judi to give him one of her hiking poles. In the dust of the road he drew a map and explained in rapid-fire Spanish. We caught the words “rio” and “Camino” and “fuente.” We were able the find our way past a fountain to a beautiful tree-lined path next to the river.
And Fernando in the picture above who walked with us for a couple of miles and told about teaching in a tiny town outside of Burgos. Good timing made it possible for Judi to capture a picture of both of these gentlemen on the biker’s return trip from the airport road to the city.
An elderly lady in Burgos walked three or four blocks out of her way to direct us to the bus station when we asked her for directions. We were so close, but the station was poorly marked and we had probably walked by it twice.
And the ticket seller at the Bilbao metro station took a special interest in whether we found the correct train. After we bought our tickets, we descended the stairs to the platform below his office. Every time a new train approached, he came out of his office to motion, “Not this one!” “Two more trains before yours!”
The openness and willingness to help us warmed our hearts.