by Laura Alice Bolam
When you're on a walk on your own the last thing you want to see is a giant wolf paw print. Well this was the case when I was near the end of my pilgrimage journey, the Camino de Santiago. My route lasted 20 days and 350 miles. On the way I had been told that in northern Spain there are wild boar roaming around, wildlife and greenery surrounds you and also; 'Watch out for wolves'. I was walking the Camino de Sanabres, a trail that veers off and over the top of Portugal, through the mountains of Spain, heading into Galicia. In the early morning while I looked over a frosty field, I could faintly hear the howls of wolves saying good morning to each other, this really was an adventure now but possibly one I didn't want to come face to face with.
From days of walking in what seemed to be desert, the landscape barren and brown as far as the eyes could see, I was pleasantly greeted with overgrown trees and bushes, running streams and moss covered rocks. The way curled through woodland and I found myself on an obstacle course, walking over giant granite rocks, jumping over pebbled streams to avoid getting my feet wet and clambering up steep hills.
As I wondered through, blissfully taking in my surroundings and listening to the birds, I immediately had a rush of fear or maybe more excitement. I was following wolf tracks of two large wolves and possible two smaller ones, or just one very excited pup. These tracks followed on the dirt path for 500 meters or so. A part of me felt like Little Red Riding Hood, I was just missing my basket of baked goods and a red cloak.
On that day - day 19 of my pilgrimage - I had completed 29 km/18 miles. My feet ached, my hips were freezing up but I had to keep going. It isn't easy when you only have yourself for motivation but something inside just clicks and you find that you are actually there for yourself, that's all that matters. You fight back the negatives and you push on. After walking the trail for 8 hours, I arrived! My day ended in Lubián, a village of 350 people. This small area has the highest concentration of Iberian wolves in Spain and the people here are known as 'Lobos' (Wolves). The village took it's name after having invented a certain wolf catcher and there are wolf figures all around, a fantastic fountain with three wolf heads for the spouts and an eerie feel in the air when the clouds lower and the rain appears.
That day I shared my tracks with some of the most beautiful creatures in the world. It makes me think, what would I have done had I have come face to face with a wolf? Maybe I am glad they life their lives in the shadows. They may be out if sight but they were never out of mind.
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