Other Things I’ve learned on “The Way”

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We live in the most beautiful world imaginable. How do I describe the wonder and joy of this journey…….We walk along paths scented with the smokey, musty rustle of the poplars, grabbing handfuls of luscious blackberries, gorging until our hand and lips are stained black. The spicy wild thyme tempts us to rub handfuls in our palms. Beverley forages for wild rocket or arugula to pepper our palates and the tall swaying fronds of fennel line the way seducing us with the singular scent of anise.

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Its harvest time or almost, the vintners can be seen out anxiously checking the sugar content and health of their grapes. In a few spots mechanical harvesters are at their souless work; in other spots migrant workers are starting to strip the overburdened vines. We walk past Bodegas with their yeasty, sweet-sour aromas wafting out – a scent I love – so full of possibilities and expectations and angst – will it be a good vintage – a great one? Will the weather hold, have we enough good workers; such a gamble – wine makers wait 2, 3 or 5 years to find the truth of their harvests!

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Our days have started to find their rhythm. We rise fairly early – 6:30/7ish, stumble around in the dark, mumbling to ourselves or perhaps to each other. We are aligned in our morning habits – genial but not talkative. Packs stuffed and a breakfast of sorts – croissant and coffee generally. Then we start to walk. Beverley always strides off at a brisk pace and everyday I remind her that it takes a while for my knees to “warm up” so we slow down a bit. On reasonably level surfaces we average 4 km. per hour in the morning – as the day progresses we take good breaks – fortunately the “Way” has lots of coffee stops – we stop to look at things, wonder at the flora, watch the raptors circling, play word games, ask each other questions which require deep thought and sometimes just walk in contemplative silent for an hour or more. The last hour or so is often challenging – it is ALWAYS up!

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Lunch or diner become the main meals of the day depending on location and circumstance. The “Pilgrims Menu del Dia” is wearing thin pretty quickly, although I do have to say the food is generally pretty good. First course – salad which could feed you all on its own; second of meat – generally lamb, pork or beef, and a dessert – almost always a creme caramel or a cheese cake – not especially appealing at least for me! We have been enjoying some very fine wines though which softens any most any disappointment!

We have discovered a series of Posadas – not hostels of 12 to 20 per room (been there, done that – never thought I’d actually say that phrase but an experience I have LITTLE desire to ever repeat!!!) and certainly not the Paradores which are generally high end luxury – think travelling Aristocracy of the middle ages. Paradores are generally unique “hotels”, clean, individual rooms with their own bathrooms – after 20 km. utter heaven! We have stayed in 200 year old Basque farm houses, city residences and mini “palaces”.

So – I have been resisting posting because there has been an enormous amount of internal stuff going on with me. Sometimes – to paraphrase – “I don’t know what I am thinking until I read what I have written’ – but in this instance the emotions have been so very close to the surface that I’ve been reluctant to expose myself just yet. It will come – I have been composing in my head this past day or two which is usually a sure sign that I’m getting ready to commit to paper so to speak. Until next…..