I’m getting close to being half way to the end of this incredible journey. This historical pilgrimage was originally forged by many pilgrims before me that pursued, fought, won, lost and often gave up during the last half of the passage because of fatigue, physical issues, breakdowns, and being overwhelmed with physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
My journey stops of late include Ciruena on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and leaving Burgos on Sunday, Sept. 6.
It will take me 4 days to cross the Meseta, which at times feels like a very lonely place. A major part of the challenge is the featureless aspect of the Meseta. The only landmarks along the way are miles and miles of wheat fields as far as you can see.
I still love it, and enjoyed a short break in the village of Hontanas after walking for three hours. While hiking the Meseta, there is an experience of “The Camino” one walks and “The Camino” one lives.
My inner expression is simply, “God, I love this.”
A common activity that happens during the latter half of the trip is considering that it is time to downsize, and you know exactly which items you can do without by now. The weight of the pack is a very strategic and valuable focus at this important leg of the journey.
I immediately went to the post office to mail some things home.
I got rid of any pants, shirts, binoculars, extra creams and any other perceived luxuries. Of course one of my biggest challenges has been my feet. I have continued to struggle against muscle fatigue, strain, pain and doing all I can to impact a positive, solution-based and strategic outcome.
The excessive daily load I continue to place upon my body and especially my feet create a major hurdle to overcome every single moment. I’m actually doing quite well.
I almost got caught up in the vacation experience of Pamplona. It felt good relaxing in the midst of the chaos.
I suddenly began thinking I needed to snap out of it. I felt I was losing my determination and focus on my mission. I quickly had to re-adjust and get back to my Camino journey and the fortitude that I need to finish strong.
A primary concern is always the daily rigor. It gets extremely hot on the trail and becomes very taxing on the physical body.
The record heat has limited the number of people so far. Many do not finish the journey.
On a positive note, I stayed at the albergue in Cirauqui. I did laundry in a concrete sink on the terrace. In the early years on my travel through Europe, I would wash my clothes in the youth hostels or small hotel rooms and hang them out the window. This night at the albergue, we were provided a meal of spaghetti and meatballs and salad. This meal was an incredible gift. I and other pilgrims so appreciate the hospitality of the villages on this journey, especially given most pilgrims are on limited funds and limited rations.
The next day I found myself deep within the natural history of this notorious place within this small village where at its peak there is the church of San Roman.
Each day I must move forward and leave the comfort and protection of the albergue and carry on. It does seem to be getting better as I am determined to stay positive and finish. However, sometimes at the end of the day, I arrive limping into the next village. I mean feet feel like bricks; the body is in a full body charley horse, and I’m looking like an old man barely walking.
Often there are times when I am on the trail, and many miles out I take a breakand rest my feet in some cool water if it’s available. After taking a break, I am just able to get the boots back on swollen feet.
At the next break I am just barely able to set down very slowly. I reach my next village and finally get up the stairs with my backpacks. I’ll pass by the British native or the Canadian who makes smart remarks, and of course, they know I will have a great comeback remark. They immediately retract.
It’s a great time.
Everybody from St. Jean knows me on the Camino. I look hard and weathered. Some people are worried, but then I just laugh. The women openly cry at my story and all laugh at the many stories of this fabulous life and adventure.
I mean they are falling down.
Friends laugh when they meet me at a village many miles down the road. Four young Dutch women have me at a table in an outdoor cafe and are working on my feet. The friends walk by and say, “John, do you have a blister?”
I say, “No, the girls just think they see a problem and want to fix me, and I say, OK.” The friends just laugh and take pictures.
I am on the road to Villafranca Montes de Oca.
My feet feel good. I arrived in Atapuerca a few hours ago, and I am just beat. The feet are feeling much better and it seems there is much less recovery time now.
I am very happy and pleased right now.
I think back to the first day starting to cross the Pyrenees. It was daunting and I had to force myself each and every day off that mountain. I look back now and I still can’t believe I made it over.
This experience is something that creates in you a total belief in that all things are truly possible and that there are no limitations other than those you create for yourself.
John Larimer, a 56-year-old resident of Camden Point, Mo., is currently on a 500-mile walk across Spain known as the Camino de Santiago. John began traveling abroad at the age of 16 and developed a passion and love for exploring history and other countries.