We woke up in Logrono in the small hours of the morning. We said our good-byes to Derrick and left him to make our way to the bus station while he would begin his journey to Madrid and then home to North Carolina. We had rehearsed the walk to the bus station the day before but in the dark, in the quiet city, I quickly turned around and felt like we were walking in the opposite direction of where we needed to go. Bill felt confident about the direction but he was expressing some serious reservations about our ability to carry on without Derrick there to interpret for us.
We missed Derrick for the rest of the trip, not only for his translation skills and his people skills and his gentle spirit but also because he was a part of us. I took pictures of wall murals for the rest of the trip because Derrick had been capturing them and I knew he would like to see them when we returned home. We had people all along the way to Santiago who had met Derrick and would ask us about him to the very end of our journey. He was with us in his absence and in our memories of him.
We found the bus station, managed to get the right bus, despite our broken attempts at Spanish and mostly thanks to the pretty good English of one of the attendants in the station. There was always a little tension as buses rolled in and rolled back out over which one was the right one but we got it sorted and about dawn, our bus ride gave us a “fast forward” to where we should have started our walk that day had we not spent the extra day in Logrono.
You can call it coincidence if you like but the way friends kept getting woven in and out of our path along the Camino was a gift and seemed miraculous to us. The odds of the encounters we had and the timing with which we had them was too extraordinary for us to simply call them “coincidences.” These were Camino miracles. We would see many of them.
As our bus pulled up in Najera, walking on the sidewalk right beside where the bus stopped was our friend Loli who we had celebrated Derrick with, who we had first met back in Zubiri. It was a needle in a haystack, one in a million moment that she would be there at that moment, just walking by on her way to follow the Camino. We caught up, told her Derrick was on his way, walked with her a little way and then she went on ahead. At our first chance for breakfast that morning we stopped in a little place and there was Loli again with our friend Jesus, and our another friend, a retired Basque fishermen and another friend, a woman named Christina – our friends had met each other and were walking this stretch of the Camino together.
Most of the walking this day was through vineyards, heavy with grape clusters. It was beautiful. Everywhere I looked was a picture waiting to be taken. In my diary I wrote the way was “a little uphill or a lot uphill for a little while may be a better way to put it” today.
We walked through a “ghost town” that looked like it had been recently built and then abandoned. In the middle of it was a nice golf course but it looked like home after home, row after row, was empty with no signs of life at all. There was a story there but we kept on moving.
Sooner than expected but right on time for my aching toes we arrived at our Albergue. We were a little early for it to be opened so we sat in the sun and we talked to a young woman from Australia who had also stopped there for the night. She explained to us that she had recently stayed in an albergue with bed bugs and then showed us her arms and legs. She must have slept in a next of bed bugs and she had become their buffet. We now knew what the bites looked like and we also wanted to stay a safe distance away from this very nice Australian lady.
So of course our host put her and Bill and I in the same room for the night. Bill and I said nothing but the voices inside our head were giving us very clear instructions about keeping our gear away from her gear and keeping our stuff up off of the floor.
This albergue was already fascinating for the décor and the welcome instructions we received from our host. Of all the places we had stayed up to that point, this albergue was easily the most primitive and the most trippy place we had stayed yet. All the walls were covered with original paintings. Very. Original. Paintings. The community meal that night was a mixture of joyful community as the 16 or so of us around the table discovered we were from all over the world and a stark simplicity.
What was evident was that little was required to create joy if those gathered are hungry, everyone has a story and you keep things simple.
As we went to bed that night, sleeping 8 feet away from our new friend who had been a beg bug buffet, I itched all over until I finally fell asleep.