We left Torres del Rio in the darkness of the early morning. The three of us rolled out of our bunk beds and packed our gear to get an early start for our walk to Logrono. The skies were overcast, and we relied on Bill’s headlamp to illuminate the way.
This was our last day with Derrick on the Camino. He had to return to home for work and we decided that we would spend a whole day in Logrono together to celebrate him and our journey together before we had to say, “good-bye for now.” Derrick was our main connection to nearly everyone we had met on the Camino. He ordered our food for us. He read directions and street signs. We were not only saying good-bye to our friend, we were also losing a companion who had been mistakenly thought of as our tour guide more than once by Spanish pilgrims.
My diary from this day has this highlight: “The up hills are still killing me. If I go slow and steady, I can make it.”
By this point on the Camino we had met people who were not able to continue on because of injuries or because the whole walk had become just too much for them. If all I had ever seen about the Camino was the Martin Sheen movie I would have come with the wrong idea about how difficult some parts of this walk would be. It was not just the physical demands of the walk but the mental and emotional demands as well – being far from home, disconnected from family, having so many miles ahead of you with unknown challenges still to come.
On our way into Logrono it started to rain again. I got into my pack and pulled out my rain poncho. Just as I got it free from my pack there was a gust of wind that caught it like a sail and tore it out of my hand. I gave chase, caught it and looked up to find that the 3 Irish ladies that we had met our very first night in St. Jean, were standing right in front of me. It was a gift to see them again and have a quick bit of catch up while I pulled on my poncho.
In my diary I note that we were almost a full week into our walk and I had already lost track of what day of the week we were on. The days were jumbled and I was telling time more by geographical location than by the calendar.
This was the day I thought I would be leaving the Camino early.
I received word from the daughter of some very good friends that one of them (I’m keeping this intentionally vague as the details are theirs and not mine) had had an aneurysm. They were in a medically induced coma and it was looking grim. The coma was to allow them to do treatment and surgery in as safe a manner as possible.
I was gutted.
I wrote, “If *** passes, I am almost certainly headed to ***. Praying for 100% healing and recovery. Having been down this road with others (an occupational hazard) it’s hard.”
My wife and I were supposed to be meeting up with these two friends of ours after I finished my Camino. I would leave for Dublin to meet Donna and then after a little time, we would cross over and meet up with them in the Yorkshire Dales for a reunion and holiday together. My heart was heavy. My prayers took on a new sense of urgency and intercession.
Logrono was huge and beautiful and welcoming. We entered the city by crossing an amazing bridge as the rain caught up to us. The welcome center at the bridge provided us with maps and information to help us find our way into and around the city. There were spectacular wall murals and statues around the city and my eyes were soaking it all. The rain arrived, encouraging us to get inside.
Once we found our accommodations and showered using the real towels they provided, we set out to find a coin operated laundromat and get our clothes washed and dried. Our GPS let us down and we were ended up chasing laundry phantoms all over Logrono. Finally, we gave up and walked into a local café – during siesta – to get out of the rain and eat a bocadillo if we could buy one. As we looked around the small shop, Derrick recognized a young, Asian man that we had met earlier along the way. He called himself, Ryan for us. I would never have remembered him. Derrick never would have forgotten him. We started talking and we told him about our unsuccessful search for a laundromat. Smiling, he told us that he was in this particular café because he was waiting for his clothes to dry in a laundromat just a block or so away.
Another Camino miracle.
Ryan took us to the laundry and we sorted out the instructions and tossed our dirty, wet clothes into the wash. Ryan gathered his dry clothes and said good-bye and was off again. As our clothes swirled and tumbled and got clean again, the three of us, Derrick, Bill and myself, made our way over to an oasis just a block away. Siesta was over and the local Spanish Domino’s pizza was open. We just happened to stumble on this gift. We sat, ate, drank and talked about our journey. I ran back over and put our clothes in the dryer, deposited more coins and rejoined by friends to eat a real pizza while it rained outside and we savored all the journey had been for us so far as we looked out the window on Logrono.
That night, we had another gift of the Camino. Antony, Loli and Jesús new Camino friends met up with us for a celebration for Derrick. We met at a wine bar where Jesús treated us to a delicious local wine and then Bill and Derrick went with the trio for dinner while I retired to our accommodations for the night. We had splurged on a nice place with our own room and real towels to make the most of our last day on the Camino with Derrick. My feet were killing me. Bill’s smashed and no doubt broken toes might have been recovering in a miraculous way but my blisters had blisters and every step was painful.
I hated to retreat from what promised to be a beautiful night but it seemed wise to get off my feet, treat my blisters and toes and get some extra rest. The next day we planned to spend in Logrono with Derrick, making the most of our last day together before sending him back to America.