Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 210 - A pilgrim's journal

Photo: J Ray
A while back I posted a few journal entries that my friend Jeremiah Ray from the States shared with me. He was fortunate enough to walk the Camino for a second time in December last year. I really do appreciate this kind of sharing as it gives one a honest and intimate glimpse into the camino journey as told by someone who experienced it first hand.

Today I'd like to share another piece from his journal. I realise that everyone has their own story and as I've mentioned before, I've come accross someone who said that he started walking the Camino as a Christian and ended up being an atheist by the time he reached Santiago. The vast majority of accounts I've read and discussions I've had with people who've actually spent a couple of weeks on the road in Spain however, have been incredibly positive.

As is clear from the particular piece that I'm sharing today, walking the Camino seems to offer one the opportunity to experience certain emotions very intensly. Jeremiah walked in December 2010, one of the coldest months that Europe has experienced in many years. In some of the albergues he was literally the only pilgrim and I suspect that as the different seasons in our lives bring about different emotions, walking in the coldest and lonliest season of the year also takes us to places within ourselves that perhaps we prefer not to visit too often.

Walking alone means you have more time to reflect and focus, so I think as much as I look forward to having people dear to me walk with me, I am going to make time for those days when its going to be just me and my thoughts! Luckily I know that those thinking of perhaps joining me are all like minded. At the same time I can't wait for those evenings of shared meals with old and new friends, all sharing an experience of a lifetime!

Jeremiah will be walking again next month - how I wish it was me!

Photo: J Ray

The following is an extract from Jeremiah's December journal.

'I stopped and set down my pack. I was carrying about 15kg, probably too much. I was tempted once in Burgos to send a package home of items I wasn't using, clothing that I didn't need etc. But I was unsure if I might need them and didn't want to pay the postage to the United States. The water in my bottle was cold, colder than that morning when I had filled it at the hostel. I could feel it running down my throat, it chilled me.

Replacing the bottle I stood erect and looked out into the flat nothingness that extended far and wide and was engulfed by a wall of fog, or rain, or maybe more nothingness. I hadn't seen another pilgrim in almost a week.

The nights alone in the hostels, the days of endless flatness were taking a toll on my mind and I was starting to feel a deep loneliness. I had this desire to call my mother. I thought that it might be the season as Christmas was only a few days away. But I knew that it was something more.

In 2001, being much younger then, I spent Christmas wandering around Munich, Germany. The streets were empty and I spent the day walking about and warming myself in the many churches that remained open. I wasn't lonely, nor did a I feel a desire then, at 19 years old, to call my mother. But now, at 28, here in the vast emptiness that is the Meseta, all I could think about was calling her and saying “Mum, thank you, I love you.”

In Burgos I treated myself to a few Leffe Blondes at a small cafe/bar. It was cold, a football match brought in dozens of people and I felt like doing a bit of journaling. My journaling is never straight forward. Usually it is about a feeling that arises during the day and plagues my mind until I set it in ink.

I was thinking, on that particular day, about my relationship with my mother. There is love and respect, but there is a deep, underlying sense of resentment or pain.

There, in the cafe, I was attempting to write out my feelings and see if I could get to the kernel of this emotion that has come and gone for the majority of my life. Mid-sentence my pen stopped. After the last word I placed a bold ellipsis and proceeded to write “LET IT GO!” in large, bold letters.

 I wrote it again: “LET IT GO!”

Standing by my pack I listened for signs of life. A few birds sang distant notes which were smothered by the winds that rose and fell with great force. The rain that came did so slowly. First one drop, then another. I looked at the ground and watched as the dry dirt became speckled. I felt the tiny drops upon my face.

Looking into the milky sky I squinted, attempting to hold back the tears that were coming. “Let it go!” I stood there, kilometers from any town and, perhaps, any other individual, and cried. I let it rush from me. Great sobs. Tilting my head back again I let the rain and tears mix and flow down my face. Let It Go.'

To view more of Jeremiah's Camino photos, click here.


  1. Thanks Emilene! I am 16 days away from departure! And trembing even more. I just dont get to that 1/2 hr per day walking practice. I will look out for Jeremiah along the way.

  2. I'll find out from him what his exact departure date is (and route of course). Won't it be amazing if you could meet up along the route and share a glass of wine, a meal, a coffee?? See, the camino experience really starts before the actual walk! Good luck with the prepping!

  3. Baie dankie vir die fax met die info, dit is lekker handige inligting. Ek dink ek is al weer besig om heeltemal te veel goed in te pak!

  4. Excellent extract from that journal, Emilene. I identified with it as I walked all my three Caminos alone.


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