To Our Camino Friends…

Over our 500 mile journey, we had many conversations and made some dear friends along the way. During the Camino, you go through stages of friendship and these can be measured at the following levels.

  1. You know what city or country they are from. You then refer to them as Brazil or Madrid. It is also easy to remember because when you see them on the trail you see a flag on their backpack or something that reminds you of your previous interaction.
  2. You learn their first name. Now they get to be known as Marcos from Brazil or Miguel from Madrid. You usually break down and start exchanging names after seeing them on the Camino about 3 or 4 times or sitting down with them over coffee or a meal. These are usually the people that are doing the same length of stages as you. Infact once you find this group you actively try to stay on the same stages and now you get included in group pictures.
  3. You exchange Whats App numbers. This is the top level. You now have enough information to Facebookstock them or know a lot more. You might send pictures to them or bits of information that you find interesting. This also opens the door to communication beyond the Camino. We have about 5 groups of folks in this top area.

Over the past 4-5 months I have texted this prestigious group number 3 several times. Within minutes I get texts back and friendly pictures of their current new adventure. I can see regular communication with these friends for some time to come.

Here are a few of our favorite folks we found along Our Way:


Rosa has a kind soul and worked hard to include me and “the boys” with the rest of our English-speaking group. We met her alone in a black jacket as we started to speed by. Something tugged at me to make sure to say “hi.” She was the first to respond, and we quickly started a conversation. She calls Barcelona her home and she was very quick to help Blaise learn some of the nuances of Spanish.

She shared with us her pride in the Catalonia region of Spain and how they sometimes thought of themselves as a separate country. They are overtaxed, over-controlled, and they certainly didn’t identify with the Spanish tradition of bullfighting. She told us how gruesome it all was. She is a vegan and hated how these events are tied to “Spanish culture.” Mind you that this conversation took place about four days before the boys and I found ourselves spectating this very tradition in Burgos. I made the boys promise that we would never bring this up to her. Ever.

Rosa always had an exciting disposition, even though she had a tough time pushing through and was often at the back of the group. She was our gateway to several additional friends that we met.


Gloria was our main Catholic friend along the way. She is an empowered woman who wants to show her two grown sons that she can conquer the world. Both of them were very worried that their mom could not trek the 500 miles without them. With great effort, she proved them wrong.

We shared some of our favorite moments with Gloria. We were in Hornillos and decided to attend Mass at San Román for yet another Spanish Mass. It was just us and Gloria in attendance. After questioning the audience, Father knew we did not speak Spanish and proceeded to ask Gloria to translate the Gospel and Homily to us. It was a heartwarming moment to experience a priest that wanted us to understand the message and did everything in his power to make sure we were included.

By happy accident, we happened to also be staying at the Meeting Point Alburgue in Hornillos. It was there that our friendship grew over our first and only community dinner. I felt a little bad for the rest of the table, but we dominated the conversation with Gloria, the Brazilians, and myself with jokes, stories, and much laughter.

We ended up seeing a lot of Gloria since we all tried to make it to Mass every day. We exchanged phone numbers to text each other the time and location of Mass in every town we stayed for the night. Her Catholic faith was strong, and she seemed to be enriched by her many days on the Camino.

Gloria also convinced us of what became our most memorable meal. “The Meal of 10 Meats” in Astorga was expensive, but it goes down as a unique experience that I was able to enjoy with the boys. As a nice bonus, her persistent Cuban personality convinced the waitress to bring a second bottle of wine to help us get through the rest of the horse meat.

Gloria’s spirited Camino almost came to an end one day before the destination. About mid-day on the 32nd day, she stepped wrong and effectively sprained her ankle. Was it an actual sprain? We might never know. She stopped in the town she was in and entered the pharmacy. Their technicians took a look and knew it wasn’t good. She was just sure she was going to have to stop one day short of her goal. Much to the pharmacy credit they encouraged her to keep going. They gave her a brace and a few pain pills and told her that she must complete her journey. She sent her pack on to Santiago and she used her punished body to push forward. Much to our delight she hobbled her way into Santiago and joined our group at the pub to celebrate our accomplishment.

Miguel (San Miguel del Camino)

I was convinced that Miguel was one of those dreaded bikers. I remember introducing myself to him in Los Arcos. His clothes were very bright, tight, and he packed light like so many of our two-wheeled friends. He then replied, “Oh, yes, I remember you. We slept in the same eight-person room last night.” I guess I wasn’t paying much attention. To be fair, that first night on the Camino was a blur. I was so nervous that I barely slept. It was guys like Miguel that helped us gain confidence when making our journey.

Miguel earned his title as “Saint Miguel of the Camino” for two reasons. First, this was his 10th Camino. He was the first one that warned me, “Be careful; Caminos are very addictive.” He had a wealth of knowledge of the people, food, and culture. Being from Madrid, he knew the country well.

Mostly, San Miguel del Camino got his moniker from being kind to us all the way around. He was very patient with all of my questions and confusion. He took the time to help me understand the answers to my questions and the reason behind one tradition or another. He made sure to tell us what we needed to visit or see in each town along the way. He knew we were Catholic and loved seeing the churches. There was even one point where he dropped his back and sprinted a quarter-mile to tell us we had made a wrong turn.

I am confident that I will see Miguel again on a future journey. I wish him luck on his current goal of starting a papaya restaurant somewhere outside Madrid.

Marcos and MaryAnn (The Brazilians)

A chance meet-up ended up being our most meaningful connection. This Brazilian couple shared excitement for life and experience like none I have ever known.

It all started just a few short days into our walk in the town of Viana. I wanted to get a picture of the boys and me in front of the Church of the Assumption in the main square. I saw this man enjoying some ice cream. He looked kind enough, so I asked him if he could take a picture of us. Within minutes we had struck up quite the conversation and I learned about him and his wife’s 3-year long trip to travel around the world. We became fast friends. It didn’t hurt that they pleaded with my sons to finish their leftover ice cream before it melted.

I thought that would be the end of our encounter with the Brazilians. At that time, I thought they were just tourists visiting an interesting town in Spain. As I later learned, when they got stuck in Germany during the pandemic, they decided that a long walk across Spain would be the perfect way to break out of their lockdown. I am thankful that their summer plans intersected with the plan I had been dreaming of for the past 5 years.

We spent the next 4 weeks running into them at various Albergues, restaurants, museums, and bars. I think I gravitated to them because of their wealth of knowledge and experience with travel. I often asked them advice and even when the questions became more personal they didn’t resist sharing their lives and wisdom with us. I also thought interacting with them would be beneficial for the boys’ overall diverse experience on the trip. When it came to politics and government they were able to tell them about many truths that lay underneath headlines that we so often see.

I so enjoyed their stories of adventure and travel as they made their way across the continents of this Earth. You can learn a lot from exposing yourself to so many cultures and people. Saint Augustine has a famous saying “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Marcos and MaryAnn you have helped all four of us to add several pages to our current chapter. I wish you well in your continued journey. I hope they hold true to their promise to come to visit us on their way back through Canada and the US on their way back to Brazil.

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