“You don’t choose a camino, a camino chooses you.”
Or so say those who have already embarked on a 90 km long hike across the Bavian and Kouga mountains in the Eastern Cape.
This saying, which was said to me in the first few hours after my arrival in the Eastern Cape, I realized at the end of four days of walking, is the best way to describe my experience on the Bavian Camino.
The Spanish word “camino” can be translated into Afrikaans as “path”, but for many people it also has a mental or spiritual connection. The original Camino de Santiago began as a pilgrimage to the tomb of one of Jesus’ disciples, who was buried in present-day Santiago.
Although there are no churches or places of worship in the Baviaanskloof, the Baviaans Camino is also a kind of pilgrimage for anyone who undertakes it.
I did not realize on the first day of this challenging hike that my pilgrimage would lead to an encounter with God.
Before the big step
The night before three strangers and I braved the Baboon Mountains, we gathered at the historic Willowmore Guest House to get to know each other.
However, Esti Stewart, co-organizer of this camino, made sure that everyone was well equipped for the 20 km that awaited us the next day and the further 70 km that lay ahead.
Esti and her guide, Carmen Hamilton, make sure the walkers have enough snacks to see them through each day.
Esti’s husband, Eric, stands by for the rest of the four days with an equipped vehicle full of refreshments and lunches. This vehicle also transports each walker’s overnight bag, sleeping bag and pillow so that you only have to walk with your water and snacks on your back.
Day 1 – 20 km
After a blissful night’s rest in Willowmore, the next morning we were packed and on our way to where the hike begins.
Day 2 – 24 km
Day 3 – 15 km
Day 4 – 31 km
Aat 90 km
On the evening of our well-deserved rest, Esti asked each of the hikers to share their highlights of the hike with the group.
I listened attentively and tried to articulate myself what I was constantly experiencing on this hike.
However, the words escaped me, but days later it was clear what this camino taught me:
Jesus says in Matthew 17:20: “This I assure you, if your faith was even as small as a mustard seed, you would say to this mountain: ‘Move there,’ and it will do it.” Yes, nothing will be impossible for you.”
In the run-up to the hike, I prayed for the impossible to happen, namely for the Lord to smooth my path for all 90 km, and that’s exactly what happened.
I used to joke that “my brain is stronger than my bones”, but in reality it was my faith that was stronger. Faith that the Lord will do the impossible and give me the ability to climb mountains and valleys without the appearance of a single blister on my feet – something that is unheard of for someone who has never walked further than 15 km. The only tiny blister didn’t develop until long after the hike was over.
The Lord has also constantly shown the goodness of his people.
Esti and Carmen were constantly like concerned mothers who regularly knocked on each walker’s door for a chat or encouragement.
The Bavian Camino is nothing without these God-fearing women at the helm.
- Read more about the Bavian Camino here.