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Memorable people on the Camino?

howardd5

Active Member
A current thread about “jack Reacher” reminded me about two character I met on Caminos. In about 2010 while finishing trek I met a woman who was a “nun” from Germany that walked with a long cloak and no pack. She wasn’t Catholic but Protestant.this heavy wool cloak had inside pockets in which she carried a few thing. She claimed to live off “aims” or donations. We stayed at the monestary across that way in Santiago and slept in her cloak.she seemed legit and was pleasant. My second acquaintance was a South American guy from Patagonia who looked like a large hobbit and wore no shoes. Around Logrono near the lake . I was walking with a local who said he didn’t speak real Spanish , but something else ? He had a very wide brim hat and from what I could gather had never worn shoes. The soles of his feet were 1/2 inch thick. He could sing songs in his own dialect. Well enough for now, maybe people are telling stories about me.
 
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Sahagun, albergue de Cluny, interior
photo taken March 3, 2007

Sahagun, albergue, interior 03.03.2007.jpg


Thumps in the night

Walking towards Sahagun I heard a car honk, the driver shouting "a young 'hoodlum' in camouflage is on the camino!"

Minutes later footsteps crunched the gravel path. Bingo! A young guy wearing pink and grey camouflage stared at me. I said "Hola!"; he grunted and went on.

Arriving at the municipal albergue de Cluny I tried to explain the encounter ;
the hospitalera offered a key to lock myself in !!
Thus I was alone in the huge repurposed space. ..

Time passed. While showering I heard thumps on the massive staircase. Covered in suds I grabed my poncho.Two hefty cops and two slim male cyclists appeared! "Senora, we've brought you some protection" said the cops.

Smiling we all shook hands and I, clad only in that sudsy poncho, brewed tea for five.

Later snug in a lower bunk
I felt blissfully protected by those most welcome nearby cyclists.
 
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On the Camino I have met hundreds of wonderful people from around the world but only one scammer and one flasher (he flashed the lady behind me after I had passed by.) But last fall on the Frances just after O Cebreiro I caught up with a burly character with a bushy beard and broad hat. He looked like a cross between Pancho Villa and Santiago himself. At a cafe he spoke nonstop Spanish in a deep baritone voice. When he saw the Alaska patch on my backpack he told me in perfect English he had flown airplanes out of Fairbanks for 8 years. I thought maybe he was a gold mining bush pilot. No, he flew out of the nearby airbase. He was a retired US Airforce general of Tex/Mex origin. He never mentioned his rank but as we walked together he did tell me about his very highly placed career assignments. You just can't tell much about people from their looks. Buen Camino
 
Pilgrims who walked the Camino Francés in the late spring or early summer of 2017 might remember Father Joyful. This is what I wrote at the time:

We've come across a few characters on the trail, but none quite like Father Joyful, who we met today. He's an "independent monk" who is "between religions", and says his heroes are all saints and guitar players. He's walking the Camino barefoot, doing about 6-12km per day, and by donation. We gave him some coins in exchange for a photo and a few words of wisdom.

AF4168E9-62DB-498F-868E-F6BD1DA14852.jpeg
 
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There was one young lady originally from Nicaragua but lived in Florida that was having a very hard time on Camino. She was walking to come to terms with being abused by family in the past and to become closer to God. I often saw her in a chapel or cathedral along the way giving confession, usually in hysterical tears. It was heartbreaking. I never saw her again after Sahagun, and think about her often. I hope she found what she was looking for and that she has found peace and happiness since.
 
@jungleboy I saw a very wizardly looking gentleman in Carrion de los Condes (more colourful robes and hat) and friends met him a few days later. My friends spoke with him for a bit and they were invited to visit his house which is unlocked at all times for people to visit. They said his house was as colourful as he was.
 
@jungleboy I saw a very wizardly looking gentleman in Carrion de los Condes (more colourful robes and hat) and friends met him a few days later. My friends spoke with him for a bit and they were invited to visit his house which is unlocked at all times for people to visit. They said his house was as colourful as he was.
I think you are talking about Mao. He lives in/around Castrojeriz. His "Hospital of the Soul" is on the main street of town, and it's open in high season. No big groups or children are allowed inside, as silence is required. It/he is colorful indeed.
 
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I think you are talking about Mao. He lives in/around Castrojeriz. His "Hospital of the Soul" is on the main street of town, and it's open in high season. No big groups or children are allowed inside, as silence is required. It/he is colorful indeed.
That sounds about right! I wish I had spoken to him when I saw him, but I didn't want to appear rude walking up to him while he was sitting in a cafe.
 
Oh! I almost forgot about the cutest, Italian gentlemen walking Camino! This was their 20th Camino, they either do Camino or Francigena each year. They hated the coffee in the cafes, "Italian coffee is perfection! That is horrible brown liquid!"
One day I was walking behind them for about 3km, I was smiling the entire way watching them. They naturally gesticulated as they walked and spoke and would pause every few steps to gesticulate wildly and make their point clear to each other than carry on walking. Walk, walk, walk, pause, gesticulate for a minute, nod, walk, walk, walk. When I finally caught up with them I shared my joy at watching them walking together. Charming gentlemen, one of them had worked on ships in the Great Lakes and regaled me with tales of the high seas (and lakes) while we walked into town.
 
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.... He never mentioned his rank but as we walked together he did tell me about his very highly placed career assignments. You just can't tell much about people from their looks. Buen Camino
My experience too. One year on the Camino Frances, I think it was 2003, a group of us was approached by a man in a business suit, walking in the wrong direction. He was asking if we had seen "John"? He was urgently trying to track him down, had flown in by helicopter to do so. Apparently "John" was a multimillionaire, and needed to attend to some urgent business.

I felt sorry for "John" who had seemed a very nice, unassuming, sensible other pilgrim, presumably trying to escape unnoticed among the rest of us. I did not see him again after that.
 
You just can't tell much about people from their looks
No you can't!
I walked a bit with a pilgrim who was very "scruffy" looking who generally stayed in public albergues. It turns out that he had recently sold a company (probably for millions), and was taking time off to think about his next venture. Fortunately no one helicoptered in to find him.
 
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I think you are talking about Mao. He lives in/around Castrojeriz. His "Hospital of the Soul" is on the main street of town, and it's open in high season. No big groups or children are allowed inside, as silence is required. It/he is colorful indeed.
I love that place. I've spent time in there on 2 occasions. My husband fell asleep in the garden at the back. It has a very peaceful feeling there.
 
Pilgrims who walked the Camino Francés in the late spring or early summer of 2017 might remember Father Joyful. This is what I wrote at the time:

We've come across a few characters on the trail, but none quite like Father Joyful, who we met today. He's an "independent monk" who is "between religions", and says his heroes are all saints and guitar players. He's walking the Camino barefoot, doing about 6-12km per day, and by donation. We gave him some coins in exchange for a photo and a few words of wisdom.

View attachment 141480
Hi Nick - I met Fr. Joyful too! It would have been late June 2017. I met him in Santa Catalina de Somoza, just past Astorga. He was very engaging, beginning his conversation with “Hellooo! I’m Fr. Joyful, from Santa Cruz, California!” Yes, he told me too he was walking the Camino as a mendicant and could I help with contributing to his night’s lodging that night which I was happy to do. We had a terrific conversation and I then walked on to El Ganso where I was staying that night.
Next morning I was having coffee and toast at Cowboy Bar at El Ganso … it was a foggy morning, quite cool, and out of the mist who do I see but Fr. Joyful, walking along the road at quite a clip! He sat down and had coffee with me and then he elected to stay on in the warmth of the bar and I pressed on to Rabanal. We said our goodbyes and buen caminos.
Not a half hour later Fr. Joyful caught up with me and we walked the rest of the way to Rabanal together.
He told me of his background, how he had been a street musician in Santa Cruz, and how he had a great love of the Beatles’ music - he was a great conversationalist - very open about happiness and sadness in his life.
We parted at Rabanal and I never saw him again. I’ve often wondered how he is now and where he is now and when I think of him I always smile at the memory of meeting him and the time spent with him.
It was so terrific to see the photo of you and Fr. Joyful! Thank you for sharing it.
Cheers from Oz -
Jenny
 
That sounds about right! I wish I had spoken to him when I saw him, but I didn't want to appear rude walking up to him while he was sitting in a cafe.
In 2021 I took the path less followed alongside a wall next to San Anton Ruins. I encountered Mao in the middle of a small stream clearing weeds to make a sanctuary. He invited me to visit his House of Silence, which I did. I met him twice more last spring, by divine chance.
 
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I love that place. I've spent time in there on 2 occasions. My husband fell asleep in the garden at the back. It has a very peaceful feeling there.
HA! I walked the small path toward the caves in the back disturbing the bees which swarmed up all around me. I did not feel threatened, and they never stung me.
 
Hi Nick - I met Fr. Joyful too!
Great to read your memories as well!

I remember one of Father Joyful’s tidbits of wisdom in particular. In discussing vegetarianism, he said ‘the carrot fears the knife as much as the cow does’. Well, that’s obviously not true as carrots can’t feel anything (lacking a central nervous system as they do), but it was an interesting perspective nevertheless!
 
On my 2014 Camino Frances there was this fierce looking bearded man, wearing a bandana around his head and having tattoos at every visible spot on his body. And probably in places I’d rather not explore…..

He looked very much like a Hell’s Angel. In the evening he, me and two Scandinavian women were sharing dinner in a restaurant. I was curious about him, but didn’t want to offend him by being too straightforward. So I started the ‘guessing what someone’s profession is‘ game. So I asked one of the ladies if she was a nurse. She wasn’t. When it was time to guess what the Hell’s Angel job was, none of us had a clue.

Then he turned out to be an orthodox priest. He showed us his tattoos and explained them to us. All his tattoos were about the good things Jesus had done, like being kind to a prostitute or invite a man that was looked down upon by everybody else. And so on.

So not a Hell’s Angel after all. Quite the opposite…
 
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A current thread about “jack Reacher” reminded me about two character I met on Caminos. In about 2010 while finishing trek I met a woman who was a “nun” from Germany that walked with a long cloak and no pack. She wasn’t Catholic but Protestant.this heavy wool cloak had inside pockets in which she carried a few thing. She claimed to live off “aims” or donations. We stayed at the monestary across that way in Santiago and slept in her cloak.she seemed legit and was pleasant. My second acquaintance was a South American guy from Patagonia who looked like a large hobbit and wore no shoes. Around Logrono near the lake . I was walking with a local who said he didn’t speak real Spanish , but something else ? He had a very wide brim hat and from what I could gather had never worn shoes. The soles of his feet were 1/2 inch thick. He could sing songs in his own dialect. Well enough for now, maybe people are telling stories about me.
The guy who ran the Hospital of the Soul as it was called at the time in Castrojerez. We saw a man dressed in medieval garb, a staff, and with a long braided pony tail in the ruins of San Antonio who subsequently sped off on a bicycle. . When we arrived in Castrojeriz we spied the "Hospital ". A pilgrim coming out said, you have to see this place. Signs told us we could wander around at will in this Camino art filled quiet place where tea and cold water and cookies were available for the taking. It was filled with books and lots of comfortable sitting places to just stare at the quoted art and contemplate the journey. In my wandering I noticed the same medieval guy in a kitchen stirring a pot of fragrant soup. I asked what is this place? In his broken English he explained it was only there for me to enjoy. Another humbling experience for sure.
 
Has anyone ever met Gunter on the Camino. He said he has been walking for 10 years. Reads from his Bible every night. His son sends him money every now and then to help him live on the Camino year round.
 
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While walking the Portuguese in 2017, midway, I came across a true pilgrim. She was a very emaciated looking young lady. She had been walking 15 days on her way to Santiago. She teared up telling me her father had cared for her all her life, and he had died leaving her alone. She is going to Santiago to pray for him. I feared the pilgrimage would kill her she looked so weak. I hastened on to catch up with some friends but the memory of that sad girl trudging on haunts me still.
 
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On the Espirtual Variante portion of our Portugese Camino a wet pilgrim entered the albergue telling the hospitelero his story of how he was walking the Camino solely on the kindness of strangers. Why, just the night before he had spent the night in a field when a poor Spaniard gave him his last €20 in hopes that he would find shelter the next night due to the coming storm. He explained that he tells people his story and people take pity on him and provide for him everythinghe needs. . The hospitelero patiently listened and responded, "6 euro please". We did give him our tapas in the bar that night. By the way his real name was Yost from Amsterdam.
 
Great to read your memories as well!

I remember one of Father Joyful’s tidbits of wisdom in particular. In discussing vegetarianism, he said ‘the carrot fears the knife as much as the cow does’. Well, that’s obviously not true as carrots can’t feel anything (lacking a central nervous system as they do), but it was an interesting perspective nevertheless!
A cow, even with its central nervous system, probably does not fear the knife either, not "understanding" what it is. Cows, people, perhaps even carrots, fear the unknown.
 

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