Between Manuel Crespo Hoyo's house and the Caminito del Rey there is little less than sixty kilometres. However, some journey have more significance than others. At the age of 94, after living in Malaga province for 50 years, he never had the opportunity to walk the Caminito del Rey and absorb the natural surroundings of El Chorro. A few months ago an idea came into his head: "I don't want to die without having done the Caminito del Rey," he told those closest to him.
His niece, María Dolores Sanjuan, took the initiative and bought tickets for the whole family without knowing that what she was organising what would turn out to be a record. Until now no one over 90 years old had completed the new Caminito del Rey. On 7 January, the day after his birthday, Crespo and his family embarked on an adventure that "was very worthwhile", he says.
It was the workers of the Caminito del Rey, in charge of security and advising visitors, who told the family, with almost certainly, that Crespo was the oldest person they had seen embark on the walkway. The director of the company that manages the park, Manuel Campano, told SUR: "We are not aware of anyone older than 94 who has done the walk."
Having achieved the milestone, Crespo said he was "grateful" having finished the route "without too many difficulties" though one of his sons, Mariano, helped him during the more difficult stages, "going up and down the stairs". But overall, the experience was "magnificent", he says. "I had a great time, it was a great day."
Although he has never played sports - "literature and music were much more interesting to me"-, every morning he walks "several kilometres" through the centre of Malaga to keep in good shape.
Born in Jaén, Crespo has lived in the province of Malaga for half a century, but he had never got round to doing the Caminito, either before or after the restoration, "for no reason in particular". His busy life as an engineer kept him away from certain activities which, once he eventually had time, he found were only really suitable for young people.
But Crespo has now ticked it off his wishlist, achieving a feat in the process without even intending to do so. "It's always nice to hear things like this [when he was informed that he was the oldest person to do the walk], but I feel great and sometimes forget how old I really am."
A privileged perspective
Crespo had been president of the Malaga College of Engineers for several years. His long professional career also led him to manage the Malaga headquarters of the Amoniaco Español company, so his perspective of the Caminito del Rey is somewhat privileged. "As a feat of construction it is a wonder. So from that point of view I really wanted to go. It was a very complex project and it also allows you to see some dazzling landscapes."
He says that the execution of the route is "worthy of admiration" from the perspective of an engineer and it is difficult for him to imagine how the works were carried out at such heights.
An "incredible feeling"
The Crespo family right now are on cloud nine. In fact, they already were before they knew that the visit would be a record-breaking one. María Dolores Sanjuan, the niece who organised the expedition, says that seeing her uncle fulfill his big dream was an "incredible feeling".
"With the excuse of taking pictures we stopped several times along the way to rest, but the truth is that he didn't have too many problems," she says.
Manuel's daughter, Rosa Crespo, could not accompany them because she stayed at home with her mother. She did, however, relive all of the emotions with him as he retold all the details of the trip. "He is happy but also a bit tired," she said. "He may have just done the Caminito del Rey, but he's still very old!"
Also on the expedition was Lola Altamirano, daughter of María Dolores and grandniece of Crespo, who has begun studying engineering, following in the footsteps of her mother's uncle. There are worse examples to follow.