Stella’s Camino story started before she was born. She is named after Santiago de Compostella because of her family’s love for the Camino de Santiago. Even while we expected her arrival to this world, we dreamed about taking her on the Camino with us. Finally, when she turned six months old, we arrived in Caminha, Portugal in November to start our coastal Camino with our baby.
We were blessed with a with a lovely ferry ride from Caminha across the mighty river Minho to the Spanish town of A Guarda. The timing of the ferry arrival would have been perfect to walk a couple kilometers to the town just before sunset, get a seafood dinner at the marina, and enjoy some rest before the early start next morning of our first long-anticipated walking day. That would have all happened, had we noticed some pesky shattered glass on the ground shortly after disembarking the ferry.
The stroller leaned a little to the side with a completely flat tire. Our handy Papa didn’t fret and pulled out the tire patch kit intending to salvage the situation. Well, with a hungry baby on a narrow sidewalk and the setting sun, things were not as expeditious as we had hoped. The tire was beyond repair and the spare tube was a few thousand miles away, left back home in the attempt to shed extra pack weight. Long after the sun went down, we arrived at our lovely, historical hotel with baby Stella in our arms. There was still time for a late harbor-side dinner as Stella watched soccer with everyone on the TV above the bar and clapped.
After a sleepless night, we ventured into town with our pink little bundle of joy loaded up in a big red stroller and a flat tire flopping on the pavement. We waved to a family and pointed out the deflated situation impacting the success of our Camino with a baby. There were three stores within walking distance that could possibly fix the stroller and allow us to continue. Two stores within walking distance were closed for the weekend. With deflated spirits, we walked to the place of our last hope and found the opening time listed on the storefront.
“It should be open. But it’s 20 minutes past the opening time.” I looked around for any sign of lights inside.
“Maybe the owner decided to take the weekend off.” Papa stared at the ground as we hid from the drizzle under the store’s awning. We collected our words to ask the next passerby about additional bike stores in town. He smiled and pulled the key out from his pocket.
“Could you do anything to save our Camino with the baby? We have overcome so much to even arrive at the starting point and now our plans could possibly be deflated and torn up with the stroller tire.” The tears welled up in my eyes as I attempted to explain why we were in his store.
“Luckily, the big stroller tires were the same size as the bike tires for a kid’s bike!” The owner disappeared to the back room. In a matter of minutes, our Camino angel changed and pumped the new tire. Just in case, he offered a spare tire, a can of compressed air and a bottle of the green repair goo. We bought them all!
“I did three different Camino’s on a bicycle myself. You reminded me that I should go again soon.” He pulled out his Via de la Plata credential from a drawer and proudly unfolded it on the counter. “Enjoy the Camino with your tiny pilgrim!”
“Thanks to you, we can actually walk our Camino! You saved it for us!” A few tears escaped as I said that, no matter how I tried to hold them back.
“Don’t mention it, just doing my job! Buen Camino!” He waved as we pulled our hoods over, put the rain cover over the stroller, and stepped out into the drizzle. The rain mixed with happy tears on my cheeks as the stroller rolled over the cobblestones. Loaded with diapers, baby food, baby bottles, baby clothes for five different seasons, our own backpacks (with more baby stuff) we got a very late start on our first Camino day. Yet, it was a start, no matter how late. We hustled following the yellow arrows out of town.
It drizzled on and off for the rest of the day, but it felt warm and pleasant, especially for November. Compounded with jetlag and rocking of the stroller, the drowsy weather lulled baby Stella to sleep most of the day. With only a few stops, we managed to make up “the lost time” and our little angel was comfortable in the stroller. Even though later, we wanted to leave it in a ditch on a side of the narrow paths, but the baby needed it and the stroller was kind enough not to break as we dragged it over the moss-covered rocks and mud.
Of course, Stella didn’t want to be in the stroller or the front baby carrier all the time. As a true Camino baby, she wanted to have the vantage point of the Way from Papa’s or Mama’s arms. Amazingly, both our arms and stroller wheels made it through the whole journey. With the refreshing sea air and the aroma of the eucalyptus leaves and pine needles, we gladly kept walking in the gorgeous wooded areas along the Galician coastline.
That special experience of Stella’s first Camino stuck with us for years, even after walking with more siblings in company. This memory brings smiles to all of us as we relive the special baby Camino moments and remember that we never walk alone! Buen Camino to all!
Elena Skvirski, author of Camino Mysteries.
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