An extraordinary encounter with an extraordinary man.

I am a believer that things always happen for a reason and that our life will take the path it needs to take if we follow our dreams and trust our instinct. It can’t be wrong as we won’t have any regrets.

It was around 7:30am when I came across Carlos, my friendly spanish amigo. He was with 3 of his amigos and I asked if they wanted me to take a photograph with the sunrise in the background. Carlos knew the best english out of them all – so he wanted to talk to me more so he could practice his English. Before we knew it we spoke and walked for over 20km (4 hours) all the way to Logrono. Carlos was a former policeman for over 25 years and just retired. He was really sweet, he shared his chocolate and Almonds from his hometown with me. During one of our many conversations he mentioned that his friend gave him the number of this man named Marcelino Lobato Castrillo. I wasn’t familiar of who he was so I asked more questions. Carlos replied

“You don’t know who he is? – He is a very very famous man. He has a great big beard and big white hair!”

I still didn’t know who he was. Then Carlos tried to explain the best he could in English that he was a paster of the Camino and gave speeches at various conferences all over the world. I still didn’t understand 100% of this mans importance but by the way Carlos was excited and determined to meet him I knew he must be pretty important. Carlos, said everyday this man was in Logrono as he lives there he would sit at the end of the park in this Camino house and greet pilgrims as they passed. “This is where we will see him” Carlos said. Excited by his story and a it was on the way so I said “sure thing – love to meet him”.

After we had lunch in a cafe in Longrono city we continued our journey, we had another 12km to walk and the bearded man was supposedly to be in this park outside the city. We walked for about an hour and then finally came across this wooden house and I said to Carlos this is the only wooden house in the park and the bearded man isn’t there. It was perfect timing as it started to rain – so we went and took shelter in this wooden house. It looked like a big cubby house. No door or windows just the basic framing. We went in there and I took a seat on the floor, I was tired as we had walked around 23km. Carlos then rang the bearded man who we were meant to be greeted by here at this house. He spoke a bunch of spanish which I didn’t understand, but I saw him smiling alot which obviously meant good news. Few minutes later he got off the phone and said that Marcelino is going to meet us in Navarette (the medieval pilgrim town we were staying at) tonight after he does a talk at the university. I said ‘Great!’

After a long 34km we finally got to Navarette and I was exhausted. I couldn’t believe how excited I was to see the small village set up on the hill. I started walking quicker so I could get there. By the time I had a shower I was ok and so happy  that there was no more walking. However, that is when I discovered my first huge blister and my achillis were as tight as an elastic band. I thought they were going to snap. A volunteer man saw me putting deep heat on, stopped me and said “I book you a massage – that cream won’t do you any good.” The next thing he was on the phone booking a massage – it was 10 euro for 45 minutes. After walking for 34km today and having 30km tomorrow, I was smiling at the luxury.

After a small bite to eat, the young masseur came. After over week of walking, it felt like it was my first massage ever, complete luxury. I felt bad for getting one, but as soon as he was helping my achillis I didn’t feel bad one big. Although it was half way through my massage when Carlos came up and said Marcelino is here. I said “oh oh ok, I started to get up, I will come down now” I said. Carlos replied “no, no I will keep him company finish your massage”.

After the massage I was in the sky, floating feeling like my body was just given the best treatment it has received in so long. My legs and feet were thanking me so much, that they wanted another massage. I told them perhaps in a week time.

I went downstairs and standing outside was the very man Carlos described. He was leaning on the wall but then stood up quickly as soon as he saw me and he gave a great big smile, hugged me then kissed me on both cheeks. I was immediately taken back my his presence, I could see he was no ordinary man. Marcilino then said ‘Vamos’ meaning let’s go in Spanish. Carlos then said lets go in English, I wasn’t sure exactly where we were going. But he led us to his work van and the three of us hopped in.

When I hoped in the car I had Dejavu, I felt like I dreamt this along time ago. Sitting next to Marcilino in the car, I finally starting realising his importance when he said that he had walked over 100,000km on his two feet. He has walked all the Camino’s (there are several and different Camino’s however the one I am doing is the main one). I was completely astound when he said he had walked over 100,000km on his two feet!

It was a short 5 minute drive and when we stopped we were outside this old Church and cemetery. When we hopped out Marcilino began pointing to the old romanique sculptures and detailing what they were, where they were from and the meaning from them. Carlos would then translate what he was saying to me. Even though I couldn’t understand I was completely transfixed by this man. His presence and eyes told a life time of stories and experience.

Marcilino then said he walked the Camino for the first time in 1971. At that time there was no path. He had been passed down the way from elder pasters and one morning he woke up and knew he needed to walk the Camino. He took with him 12 pilgrims, his Donkey and Pedro (dog). During his first walk he didn’t have the luxuries of the Auberge to sleep in as there was only one and that one was at the end at Santiago De Compestella. So he and the pilgrims slept on the ground and under bridges when it rained.

Being captivated by every word he spoke he then asked what I did. Carlos mentioned that I was a writer. He then gave a great big smile which was so honest and loving. He then hugged me with one hand and began speaking. Carlos translated – Marcilino was also a writer. He said he had published several books and is a regular writer for National Geographic. I couldn’t believe it. But then the biggest shock was when he told me that after walking several of the Camino’s. He went back in 1989 and walked the Camino again, but this time he took yellow paint with him and painted The Way for all future pilgrims. I was completely taken aback. Here before me with the warmest smile is the man who painted the Camino for modern day. The first time when he completed this historic pilgrimage there were only 12 with him, now there are over 190,000 each year. He continued to tell us the stories of where he has travelled and spoke about his experience. Carlos then said do you know the Hollywood actress.. such and such. His accent was so strong I couldn’t understand, but then he said “yes – the same one you mentioned of the book you read”. I repeated ‘Shirley Maclaine?’ and both he and Marcelino smiled and said yes! The Camino by Shirley Maclaine was the only book I read on the Camino and everything flooded back in an instance. Carlos continued translating as Marcelino spoke. “Marcelino walked with Shirley Maclaine for two weeks. I couldn’t believe it and I remembered that she mentioned that in her book as if it was yesterday.

After he explained further, it was freezing and getting late. We had to be back in our Auberge before 9:30pm otherwise they lock the door and we still hadn’t eaten. However, before getting into the car, Marcelino reached into this car and pulled out two small stones for Carlos and I. On the stone it had a yellow arrow. He then said something and Carlos said, the paint on this stone is from the original paint he used to paint the way. Marcelino began to speak, then gave us two more items, a scallop shell and XXXX.

The scallop shell acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim. As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.

Marcelino came into the bar next to our Auberge and sat with us whilst we had dinner. His presence was overwhelming, but loved that he continued to tell us about his life. He told us further about his travels and what he does now. He gets invited to universities and conferences all over the world. He started speaking of all the places he has stayed and spoke at. From the residence of the King & Queen of Spain, the Sheraton in New York to the Hilton in London, then meeting the President of Manchester United and invited on his private jetplane. He laughed and smiled reminiscing on all the places he went.

It was so bizzare, here we were having a glass of red wine next door to our Auberge, hearing from this humble and very famous man. I couldn’t believe it. Carlos then said and repeated few times. ‘No other pilgrims get this’ He was soo excited to meet him. Carlos then said he is on all the postcards.

It was 9:20pm and we had to go inside our Auberge before we got locked out. Marcelino grabbed my hand. His hand was incredibly warm and immediately heated me up. He looked in my eyes and began to speak. I knew he was saying something important and then touched my heart. Carlos translate he said “Let the Camino speak to your heart. Follow the Way. Our hurt is the same colour. We can die our hair blonde to brown, we can be different nationalities but our hurt is the same colour no matter who we are – we feel the same inside. Let the Camino speak to you and you will find your way”. I was completely speechless and felt tears rolling down my eyes as I was so overwhelmed by the moment, his touch and the words he spoke. Both started to continue speaking and Carlos said “Be very careful also. You are kind- Marcelino sees that in your eyes, you’re a friendly person, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, as there aren’t all nice people on the Camino so be very careful.”

We said goodbye. He also gave me his business card. It immediately made me laugh as it was printed on A4 paper that he did himself.

Then Carlos and I sat in the kitchen talking before going to bed. The host and volunteer (a frenchman) of the Auberge was also in the kitchen and noticed us saying goodbye to him. He knew exactly who he was. He liked Marcelino he said he is a charismatic guy, he is on all the post cards!

I went to bed, with the meeting going through my mind I get the words Carlos first said to me  in my head – you will remember me for “when the sun came out and shined”.