PLATTSBURGH — Fields full of yellow sunflowers. Shepherds tending flocks. Lighthouses perched on lonely shores.
Those were some of the sights that Antonio Perez of Plattsburgh saw as he spent 35 days walking through Spain along a medieval pilgrimage road.
Perez, a school psychologist at Beekmantown Middle School and adjunct faculty instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh, made the journey this past summer.
He began in southern France, crossed the Pyrenees Mountains and continued across northern Spain to the city of Santiago.
The route that he took, known as El Camino de Santiago, has been traveled by religious pilgrims since the Middle Ages.
“People embark for religious, spiritual, cultural and personal reasons,” Perez said.
“One young man from France was trying to decide whether to continue in a relationship he had been in for 20 years.”
That pilgrim felt the walk would give him the chance to contemplate the matter and make the decision.
Another traveler was commemorating his fifth year of being drug-free.
Perez became aware of a sense of camaraderie among travelers, as they were hoping to finish the walk but sometimes had to stop for physical reasons.
Indeed, he himself found it to be a test of endurance at times — but that, he felt, was part of its appeal.
The most difficult part of the journey came as he tried to make his way through La Meseta. It was summer, and he faced “unbearable heat.”
La Meseta, he said, “is the driest, most barren section — very little water for miles. And it is without any sort of refuge from the heat.”
Temperatures reached 100 degrees. The sky above was a deep blue.
To make it through, some travelers would begin walking at 4 a.m. to try to avoid the heat of the sun.
The water Perez carried with him soon tasted like bathwater — it could provide liquid, but it was too warm to provide any sense of relief.