Running with the bulls was the objective. To experience a tradition and cultural event that is foreign in every way, was noteworthy. What comes is memory-making, and lasts forever.

Walking the Camino, starting in France and hiking the Pyrenees into Spain, for three days, to reach Pamplona, was part of the adventure.

The beginning of the Pyrenees is not easy to get to; cars, buses, planes and a taxi got us to St. Jean Pied de Port, where we got our Camino passport and started our trek. Troubles getting out of town led to an 11a.m. departure; a little dicey, as the only stopping spot is 5 miles in – the place where we would stop for lunch and a second wind.

The steep incline starts immediately, and the midday sun begins the “beat-down.” As mentioned last week, the first five miles found me dehydrated, cramping and dizzy. After a two-hour recovery, the 10-mile second part came with the help of angel Luke and his wife, Leava; Luke carrying my pack 40 minutes through a section of steep mountain, giving me a chance to recover, and also leaving behind the sweet taste of humanity served simply by the kindness of these strangers.

The second day was much gentler. Another late start, about 11:45 a.m., found us on a path that was flat, wide, with a woodsy cool that would take us eight easy miles until we needed sustenance.

Rolling hills would end the day with a thunder-and-lightning storm worthy of a horror flick, following us the last two hours. Wet and tired, we found a hostel for Pilgrim-Travelers where we showered and changed into dry clothes before heading out for what would become our regular nightly feast and bottle(s) of red wine.

In the morning; we split up for the communal breakfast, seated where there was room, rather than being allowed to stay together. On the Camino, we are all family and seating is on a first-come basis.

Our third day into Pamplona was long and gentle; passing through countryside, sharing views with the sheep, we entered the city under our own power. To commemorate the accomplishment, we found a bench in the center and sat. We then found a bar for a beer and then a taxi to the airport, where a rental car was waiting.

The next day was a day of rest; the only thing on the agenda was the opening ceremonies for Running of the Bulls at the city square. We arrived an hour early, enough time to buy a gyro and fries.

Then it happened; an event unplanned and unscripted that changed the mood from tired traveler to grateful human.

We were out of place in what we wore; most people donned traditional outfits – white pants, white shirt, red tie-belt, a red bandana that signifies where you hail from.

The music started playing and everyone took off their scarves, jumping up and down with them in rhythm to the music and each other. I was jumping up and down in my Hawaiian shirt with my obviously make-believe invisible red scarf.

A woman came over between songs and handed me a bandana; she was with three girlfriends. She said she wanted me to have it. I thought she appreciated my enthusiasm when she said she wanted to give it to someone “deserving.”

I thanked her, kissing her cheek. She asked where I was from and I told her America. She said she loved America and that she loved her country and her city very much.

She then explained why she chose me.

Minutes earlier, before the start of the opening ceremonies, the crowd was thick and I got bumped. My entire order of fries spilled to the festival grounds. The fries had a sticky sauce on them, whitish — similar to ketchup.

The fries and condiment made for a slippery mess in a congestion of people. Instead of walking on, I bent down, and for minutes was on my hands and knees picking up every fry, using napkins to wipe the slippery mess off the stone walkway. One of the kids found a trash can, the other gave me their water bottle so I could get the sticky mess off myself.

We then continued to the plaza and the party. Apparently this woman witnessed the cleanup and thought it was so nice for me to respect and love her city the way she did; she said she wanted me to be part of her tribe.

As she and her friends walked away; I noticed her friends all had on bandanas, but her neck was bare. It was not an extra bandana she had given me; it was hers.

Very sweet moment for me as I thought of my wife and how pleased she would be to have our “ugly American” wall broken down, at least a little — one random act of decency at a time.

Next week: Running with the Bulls – Spectator

“Every student needs someone who says, simply, “You mean something. You count.”

— Tony Kushner, playwright (b. 1956)