Los Arcos to Viana – Part 1

Walked today: 18 kilometres
Total walked so far: 157.4 kilometres

The Camino is rife with characters, and I walked with one of them today. His name was Tom and he was from Ireland. A man in his early 70s with seven children and five grandchildren, he wore footwear that looked like army boots (heaven knows how they didn’t tear his feet to shreds – they looked like they would be so uncomfortable) and in spite of the heat he sported both a plaid flannel shirt and a woolen sweater.

I had noticed him at dinner last night at the albergue where he hadn’t said a word. I assumed he was Spanish and I had almost tried to start a conversation in Spanish. He intrigued me to no end because when I looked into his eyes, they were my father’s eyes. In fact he resembled my father in other ways too.

As we walked along today, we began to chat about why we were walking the Camino. He in fact hated walking and knew nothing about some of the trails I had read about in Ireland. “No,” he said, “I never walk at home.”  He was doing the Camino for religious reasons.

Then I asked him what his wife thought of him coming on this trip.

“Well,” he said in his slow quiet voice. “I don’t suppose I really explained it to her.” He paused. “The worst was when she asked me how long I would be gone and I told her I didn’t know.”

Oh dear. There was definitely a story there. But Tom proved to be cagey. In the days ahead myself or others would try to pin him down about aspects of his life, and he would always deflect. “Well,” he would say in his Irish lilt, “there’s a story that would be taking a day to tell. But you now, you must have your own story.”

The most anyone could find out is that he started his working life in Australia in the mines, and later moved to England. He said he had no intentions of returning with any permanency to Ireland nor did he plan to marry, but “life is interesting.” My guess is that he might have gotten a young Irish girl pregnant and felt obligated to marry her, but that is only speculation on my part.

Tom continued to be an enigma in the days ahead. When I had first walked with him he was travelling at a pretty slow pace, but as the days went along he seemed to get faster and faster. I’d be amazed time and time again to see him strolling in after 30 kilometre plus days, with a glow on his face that just kept getting brighter each time I ran into him.


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