It is day 26. I am thinking I have only a few hundred miles to go. I finally wore out my boots and bought a new pair of Swiss shoes. I am just out of the mountains and into El Acebo for a much needed break. There is Wi-Fi, and I so love being able to communicate and provide updates to friends back home. Today, I walked 14 miles and still have 5 miles to go, but the continued comments from those following my journey helps.
“John, can’t begin the day without your Facebook posts from the Camino, spectacular, inspirational. You are our favorite biped.”
I think about what it must be like for people who do not have support like this — the days when modern technology and prosperity did not allow communication with anyone. I would think it’s much more difficult to journey solo — no communication, no encouragement or support.
Moving forward is easier when I think of home and friendships I cherish.
I am still walking through this mountain range after two days and hiking at 4,166 feet. At the top, I am loving the views as I look back at the valleys behind me. There are thousands of trees and varieties of green and lush foliage on mountains, hills, and valleys as far as the eye can see.
On the horizon, a beautiful blue sky just sits on top as I look out.
I feel fatigued and the pain in the body is indescribable. Yet at the very same moment, I also feel immense satisfaction of passing over another big mountain.
The trail is very rocky, steep, and slippery. This has become even more difficult than crossing the Pyrenees. Being on the trails for 8 hours in the wilderness is both beautiful and very challenging! Some days of this journey I am wearing a stocking cap, gloves and jacket while coming in from a very cold hike.
Coffee tastes like a miracle.
At the top of the highest mountain, I am at just over 5,000 feet. O’cbreiro is the destination, but right now, I’m at Iglesia De Santa Maria around the earliest surviving buildings on the Camino de Santiago, which date back to the ninth century.
O’cbreiro has helped and looked after pilgrims like myself since the twilight of the first millennium. The beautiful old church here is massive and remarkably preserved with gothic-like architecture and details. The cathedral-like building sits in the midst of a lovely dated village, like so many others along the Camino that provide an experience and moments of stepping back in time. This one is quaint and lined with very old stone streets and another clear blue sky as the back drop.
This is another village where time has forgotten and marks the journey of the Camino. It is well preserved and inspires a feeling that I’ve just stepped “centuries” back in time.
Arriving in the province of Iglesia tells me I am coming into a great deal more rain as I get closer to Santiago and the Atlantic.
I am staying one night in the ancient hamlet of Las Herrerias. The name is derived from the iron foundry whose furnaces have long disappeared. Next it’s back down into the valley. When I start the days in the mountains, temperatures are generally in the low 40s so it is important to have extra clothes in my pack.
Later, down in the valley, it will be in the 70s.
Additional stops along the journey this week include Raganal and Villa Mangos del Paramo. My walk to the Ancares mountains is another hike of more than 20 miles in one day. To reach the province of Galicia, I crossed another two mountain ranges across that are roughly the same height as the Pyrenean pass, taking three days.
Galicia has a mild Atlantic climate often very wet — and very green.
Some think the Pyrenees is the only mountain range you cross at the start and it is all downhill from there. This is so not true.
It will be more than 20 miles of walking each day. I remember at the beginning of this journey saying that 16 miles was something I would not do again.
I’m getting stronger and more fit as I go. Lost almost 4 inches on my waist. The pants I brought are falling off of me. I didn’t plan for that. I met a nurse on the Camino who tells me I am easily burning through 5,000 calories or more on some days after she heard what my intake was along with the weight loss.
The feet and legs take another beating as I focus on each step across the rough landscape. This daily struggle is often daunting and somewhat nerve-racking wondering if this is the right direction.
I don’t think I could have imagined this, but it continues to be truly amazing.
I’m feeling completely worn out after day 31. I expected to reach Santiago by Saturday, Sept. 26 which is important in honor of my mother, Loretta Larimer. I am not certain at this point if I will be able to meet that date.
I may be a few days late.
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.