Camino de Santiago | Vietnam & Angkor Wat

A Delightful Encounter

As we walked a rural road near a tower whose construction started 12 centuries ago , we were greeted by a man who appeared a bit older than us at the entrance to his estate. The man, who turned out to be 76, had kind eyes and was eager to tell us about himself and his property. He invited us to see his house and gardens and was delighted to learn that Sharon was a gardener, too.

He was from the Basque Arcitio family and had been a jai alai champion in the early 1980s. He took us into his library to show us mementos from his athletic career and his subsequent travels.

His travels took him all over South America and into the U.S. He explained that the latitude and climate of the Cantabrian Sea coast where we are traveling are similar to northern California and Oregon; so he had planted many trees common to the western U.S.

He had planted thousands of trees and flowers on his property and made a business of producing avocados.

Just that morning he had planted some flowers called Margaritas and last week planted a sequoyah tree – a tiny sapling destined for grandeur.

His extended family comes to visit in the summer and he had built a wooden playhouse and jungle gym equipment for the children.

All in all, it was a delightful encounter with somebody who represents the first two regions of Spain we crossed – a son of Basque Country who settled near the edge of Cantabria.

The next day we would enter a third region: Asturias.

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  1. Laurel Friedman

    Oh my gosh! So glad to read the full story and see the photos. What did he say to you originally to strike up that conversation? Just thinking about how uncommon that feels in my every day life but how it was a genuine, if ephemeral, moment human connection. I suppose you have had a lot of those recently. I wonder how many people he gets to show his garden to.

  2. Debra Mowery

    What a kind soul and good heart! There is still goodness in the world. People who want to tell their stories…their family histories. I am glad that you two got to hear his!

  3. Sara Kennedy

    I am enjoying reading about your truly delightful trip and also am impressed with the quality of the writing and photography. I guess decades of meeting all the crazy demands of daily journalism have come in handy!

  4. Andrew Quinn

    Trail Magic! What a difference a warm smile or simple conversation can make!

    There was a fellow and his wife in MT that put me up for 3 nights while I was on the CDT. They fed me fresh trout and took me to their church. Their home and back porch overlooked the sweeping, rolling plains at the base of the Divide.

    It helped that I met him at an AA meeting in the local town of Anaconda, MT!!

  5. Mary Acevedo

    I am responding to another post wherein you talk about cowbells. Maybe 15 years ago I was driving in the country side with my cousin whose father’s parents came from the Abruzzi region. We climbed up a winding steep mountain to a smallish glacier valley like a shallow dish. It held all the sounds in its green slopes— the bird twitters, the wind and cow bells— as the sun was setting behind piled up clouds. I was overcome with joy.

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