The Way of Tonho: 68 pilgrimages to Santiago
Dear pilgrims, I am Tonho, and my Way began long before I set foot on it. It started where there was none. My Way began in February 2005 in McLeod Ganj (India).
I went there as a backpacker to walk it for six months. During this time, I met Vicente Ferrer, celebrated the end of Ramadan with a Muslim family, saw the cremations in Varanasi, the Taj Mahal, and the Kamasutra temple. In addition, I celebrated Christmas in Goa (Portuguese and Catholic colony), went through the Tsunami (I am alive because Shiva protected us), and celebrated the end of the Tibetan year with the Tibetan Refugees in the Dalai Lama’s Temple. It was there that my Way began.
One day, when we were 13 backpackers, each one from a different part of the world, and only me from Santiago de Compostela, we started talking in a restaurant, and the subject of the Way came up. Everyone at the table had done it except me! From that moment on, I knew that the Way would end up being part of my life.
My first steps on the Way
In May 2009, I started to take my first steps from Saint-Jean to Santiago on the French Way. After that, in September 2009, it was time to do the route from Santiago to Fisterra and Muxia and come back to Santiago. In October 2009, Lisbon, Fatima, Porto, Santiago. Since then, my legs wouldn’t stop walking the different routes.
But I wanted to go further, and I wished that the Way, my passion, a feeling that runs through my veins and I carry tattooed, take part in my professional life. I wanted to work with pilgrims and transmit to them what it is and what it means.
I knew that the Way is a World Heritage Site, that it is full of BIC (Goods of Cultural Interest), and I knew that to explain all this LEGALLY, you must be an Official Tourist Guide. That is why I got down to work, and I trained and got the qualification in 2012.
Since then, I have enjoyed working with pilgrims. Every day I am happy to develop my profession on the Way, respecting everything and everyone, although fighting a lot against labour intrusion. It is a pity what some routes are becoming.
Since then, I have had 68 Ways in my legs. Both professional, with pilgrims of all nationalities, and personal. And the fact is that before and after each season, I need to do own my pilgrimage.
During the COVID pandemic, I decided to go one step further. I wanted to give back to the Way what it gave me, or rather, what it taught me. At the end of the day, the pilgrimage is still a great lesson, and you must transfer it to your life.
That is how @hikerxperience was born, a project based exclusively on three experiences. For me, they are the most authentic ones I have lived with so far. These 3 Great Experiences are the Primitive Way from Oviedo, the Winter Route from Ponferrada and the Geira Arrieiro Way from Braga.
Before becoming an official guide, I did many routes in autumn and winter, when there were fewer pilgrims. At these times, I enjoyed them much more. Therefore, I decided to specialise and prepare pilgrims to do the Way at these times of the year. We cannot forget that the Way has been open from January to January since the 9th century.
I am on the 69th pilgrimage, and I am still an apprentice, and I will probably die learning. To people who ask me for advice, I always say that the important thing is to do it, in any of its variants. Alone, with an (official) guide, with a (legal) agency, with or without a backpack, in a hostel, hotel or rural tourism house, it doesn’t matter.
The pilgrim is not measured by his wallet but by his respect for the Way and its people. The Pilgrims Route must be felt, heard, touched, and embraced. It is much more than most people believe and think.
If everyone did the Way, the world would undoubtedly be much better.