Buen Camino: The People Way

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Tony Maples Photography


Much has been written about the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the oldest pilgrimage in the world, currently attracting as many as 300,000 walkers each year. My introduction to the pilgrimage was the 2010 movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. In a previous post, I showed some of what it was like to be a part of this grand pilgrimage. With some perspective, I now know that the magic of the Camino is the people one meets along the way. People come to the Camino for all kinds of reasons. Some have questions they want answers to, others are looking for a religious or spiritual experience, some are looking for a long walk, but everyone finds this one benefit: new friends.

“You can make the journey alone, but you can’t do it by yourself.” – Martin Sheen, “The Way”

Here are a few of the people who made my journey extraordinary:

Claude, a Frenchman, my first friend on the Camino.

Claude in St Jean Pied a Port

Photo: Robert C Deming

I was dazed and confused by the time I arrived in Southern France; it took 24 hours and all my wits to get there. I met Claude, a just retired French engineer from Brittany, at the bus station in Bayonne. He showed me the ropes in St. Jean. We didn’t walk together or stay in the same albergues after that, but he checked on me every day for a week to see that I was doing OK. He had done the pilgrimage on a bicycle but decided it needed to be walked, so he came back. I followed his blog; he eventually was a day ahead of me, so I could see what was ahead.

Time for a beer break!

Erwin and Peter taking a break

Photo: Robert C Deming

Peter, on the right, is 72 years old, and doesn’t have trouble keeping up on the trail. Pilgrims range from small children with their parents to people in their 70s and 80s. I met two Canadian women in Sarria who I presumed had just started. They didn’t look athletic, to say the least. Wrong! They started where I did, they just took a couple of weeks longer to get to Saria. Many people take a rest day from time to time, others rush ahead to complete as many as 25 miles daily. Others ride mountain bikes and finish in as little as 10 days. A friendly young man named Hexan from the Caribbean started at St. Jean weighing 440 pounds; I heard he made it to Santiago having lost 40 pounds. One man who had lost the use of his legs was pulled on a wheelchair by friends, accompanied by his 10-year-old son on foot. My spiritual mentor became Yvonne from Arizona, 67 years old and on her sixth Camino trip.

Birthday Party

Camino Birthday Party
Photo: Robert C Deming

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