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Providence or Coincidence?
Stump’s Travel Log
Thought I’d better send an update for those of you who are worried that something bad may have happened (remember there was some concern about kidnapping early on!). We are doing fine. We’ve had a few long hikes, and some beautiful scenery.
We met up with some friends after Bilbao and have walked a few days with them too.
The experience of hiking the Camino with other people is very different — not better or worse, depending on what your goals are, just different. It’s been a fun change of pace from my days of solitude.
The weather has been gorgeous, and we’ve stayed in some nice places, and some OK places. Tonight is one of the OK places. We’re in this little beach town called Santoña, which is practically deserted this time of year. And it was a little touch and go as to whether we were going to have a bed tonight or would have to sleep on the beach. We got to the place we had a reservation for at about 3:30, and it was all locked up. A woman in the house next door said, yes that is the place, but that was all I could get out of her. So we thought it might just be siesta time, and they would come back at some point (even though the email I had from them said check-in was from 2pm to 10pm). I tried to call the phone number, but I’m not convinced my eSim card is working correctly for local calls, and the call did not go through. The beach was right across the road, so we went over there and sat for about 30 minutes, then I went back and looked again. Still nothing. We saw there was a cafe two blocks down, so we decided we’d go sit there for another hour, and then if there still wasn’t anyone at our place, we’d start scrambling for plan B. Well, that cafe was also closed, but I saw someone inside, so I worked up the courage to knock. The man looked up from behind the bar and said, “cerrado”, which I think means closed. And I tried to look pitiful (which wasn’t very hard) and said “pregunta”, which I think means question. He said, “que” which I think means what, so I think I said (in bad Spanish) that I have a reservation at the the hotel down there, but no one is there. He pointed to his phone, so I tried to explain (mostly in English) that my phone wasn’t working correctly. So he said “uno momento”, and eventually came walking out. When he got there, I tried to appear very apologetic for all the fuss (again, that wasn’t very hard), and he said “no problemo” and pointed to his phone, which had a text message with my name on it! What was going on?! It had my US phone number, and gave the instructions for how to get into the hotel! That was wild that I somehow (I’ll say providentially in these circumstances!) bumped into the guy who runs the hotel a couple of blocks away, who just happened to be in the closed cafe right when I walked up there.
On a trip like this, it’s very easy to see such coincidental occurrences as something more than coincidence. I’m perfectly aware that people hearing about such things may be skeptical that there was anything more than chance going on, but I’d suggest that the evidence is the same either way, and so you can see it as something more or not depending on the other things you believe. I’ll give you one more example from my trip, and you can see it however you’d like:
My very first day of hiking I was all by myself on a stretch of the path up in some forested hills. I was just walking along and thinking how proud of myself I was for successfully navigating through the city and getting myself onto the right section of the Camino. And a cute little bird, landed on a branch right at eye level along my path and tweeted (literally, not in the social media sense) at me. I stopped and looked at it and said something (outloud) like “hey little birdie, thanks for saying hi”. And she (might have been a he) tweeted again. And then she jumped to a branch back behind me a few feet and tweeted again. At first I thought she was taking her leave of me, but then turned to look, and right then she tweeted at me again looking right in my eyes and jumped a few more branches back the other way. The tweet somehow seemed like something more than a goodbye, so I said something like “what’s up little birdie?” And she tweeted again and jumped back a few more branches. Then as I was looking back down the way I had just come, I saw some other hikers about 200m back there turn off and go a different way. And then I wondered if I had missed a turn. I decided to go back the 200m, and there I saw a very subtle yellow arrow (the iconic mark of the Camino) pointing off down a different path. I tried to thank the bird, who was by then satisfied that she had done her duty and was nowhere to be seen anymore. Make of that what you will, but I’m sticking with my story that a bird helped me from going too far down the wrong path (or even getting lost).
There’s only one more scheduled day of hiking on this trip, before it switches to Phase IV. Originally Phase IV was planned to be in Italy, and a couple of the kids were going to join us for mostly a week of vacation (and seeing a couple more old sites). But plans changed as they do on a trip this long and convoluted, and they’re not coming now. So we’ll see if plan B works out on this one. I’ll try to keep you updated.