Lifestyle

Buen Camino: The People Way

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You are seldom alone on the Camino, and here at the tiny village of Ages, I had my 65th birthday surrounded by these German guys. It seems hard to believe that a person can make so many friends so quickly; this was day 11 for me, and I know everyone in this group, and none of them spoke any more English than I spoke German. Clockwise from bottom: Hans Peter (1), Josef, Willie (1), Erwin, Peter, Michael, Hans Peter (2). I had birthday greetings up and down the trail for several days afterward, without Facebook!

Students from Southwest Baptist University

Camino College Students

Photo: Robert C Deming

These students began their hike in Leon in a steady rain. I met them at a sidewalk cafe that morning as we all huddled to eat some breakfast under a leaky canopy. I once joined them at their evening Bible study, and we had many deep conversations over cerveza or vino tinto.  They were bright, sharp kids, and I loved it when they called out to me from an upstairs window or a street cafe. They added a great deal to my Camino pilgrimage. For that matter, we walked through quite a few cities, and in every one, I would meet a peregrino who knew my name. “Hey, Robert!”

Erwin and Willie (1)

Erwin and Willie 1

Photo: Robert C Deming

Erwin, Willie, and I hiked together for about the last two weeks of the Camino. They were strong walkers, faster than I, but I would catch up with them at a cafe where they had stopped for a second cafe con leche and a snack. We hit the trail at 6 a.m. and arrived together at our planned albergue around noon. That first hour walking before sunrise became my favorite time of the day, when I was fresh, the air was cool and sweet, and the only sounds were my boots on the trail. We communicated through Google Translate, which sometimes produces humorous results. We got to this cafe after a two-hour walk in the rain.

Erwin in the Rain

Erwin in the Rain

Photo: Robert C Deming

In my 35 days on the trail, three were in the rain. To keep my spirits up as we slogged down the wet streets, I started singing “Erwin in the rain” to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.” Erwin picked it up and sang that all the way to the next albergue. He is never without a smile, and as kind and thoughtful a person as I’ve ever met, and we became fast friends.

Marie-Therese on her 10th Camino

Marie Therese

Photo: Robert C Deming

This 76-year-old French woman says that walking the Camino keeps her young. She isn’t averse to taking a bus or taxi sometimes, but we had many conversations on the trail. Marie-Therese is positive, upbeat, happy, and makes friends with everyone around her.

Willie 1, Willie 2, and Erwin 

Willie 1, Willie 2, Erwin

Photo: Robert C Deming

“Willie 1” is a 60-year-old German just retired as a prison guard. He is strong but gentle and quiet. “Willie 2” is a 64-year-old Austrian just retired as a furniture repairman (there is some really old furniture in Austria). He is covered with tattoos from his youth, but happy, positive, friendly, and kind. Erwin is a 62-year-old German just retired from the post office, calls his wife Christiana on the phone every afternoon, and always has sausage and cheese in his pack.

Michael and Evelyn: a Camino Love story

Camino Love

Photo: Robert C Deming

Michael came between careers; he had quit working as a computer programmer and was learning wood carving. Evelyn, a 34-year-old from Belgium, was working as a secretary when she decided her life was going nowhere, so she quit her job and headed for the Camino. She told me she had intended to think about her life and her future on the trail. I asked her if she had been doing that, and she laughed, and said: “Not even for one minute!” I met Evelyn at a rural albergue, where she was sitting outside of the little bar. I invited myself to sit with her (that is the custom on the Camino) and find out her story. A few minutes later Erwin and Michael showed up with a pitcher of sangria. Camino love sprouted, and two days later, they took off together on their own. Now and then I would ask Erwin what had happened to Michael and Evelyn, and he would say, “We’re meeting them tomorrow in the cathedral square at 6 p.m.,” and sure enough, there they would be. Michael always has a joke, and Evelyn a big smile.

Put yourself in this picture

End of the Camino
Photo: Robert C Deming