It’s all my mom’s fault. I have one of those fantastically sporty 73-year-old moms who can hike, swim and or bike farther, longer and better than I can ever hope to at half her age. In mid April she sent me a text saying that she was off to Northern Spain soon to hike the famed Camino Santiago with her equally fit senior crew. Being half Spanish and having spent way too many summers there as a kid I normally would not have reacted except I saw this film not too long ago.. The film in question is called ‘The Way’ and stars the phenomenal Martin Sheen who -thru devastating circumstances- finds himself hiking the Camino all the way from France. The film is heart-felt, glorious, funny and stays with you for days afterwards. It had ignited in me a desire to also hike the famous route albeit NOT saddled with a 20 lbs backpack and staying in nightmare inducing ‘alberges’ along the way. No, I wanted to experience the beauty of the Camino with the aid of a bus (to carry my luggage and pick me up when I had enough) and sleep in hotels with running water and clean sheets. After moms assurances that these terms would be met I packed my hiking boots and Cecil backpack and headed for Madrid.
The Camino Santiago has been a pilgrim route since the middle ages when the remains of Saint James were re-discovered and moved to Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain. The most well known route is over 800 kilometers long (the ‘Camino Frances’) and starts in southern France and it was this route I took but starting in Burgos, Spain. Over the course of a week I hiked and bussed my way along the ancient route to the magnificent plaza in front of the equally awe-inspiring cathedral in Santiago de Compostella. As I’m not religious (just spiritual) I created my own reason to do this pilgrimage. I would walk for the animals. Each day I put on a different t-shirt symbolizing a cause/ animal that I feel strongly about. It created a deep meaning for me and kept me going thru those long days of biting cold, sore feet and pouring rain. I laid a stone with a bear claw image at the famous Iron Cross where the pilgrims are supposed to leave all their cares along with their stone. (Please see video)
On the last day I attended mass in the Santiago cathedral wearing my Cecil t-shirt as a remembrance of him and all he’s done to awaken the world to the plight of lions and other trophy hunted animals around the globe. I feel I accomplished something meaningful (if only for myself) and certainly left a lasting impression on my travel mates who were thoroughly educated along the way wether they wanted to or not:)
Written by Ines Romero of Cecil’s Angels
The camino is marked by the shell symbol showing the kilometers remaining to Santiago de Compostella.