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1st Installment of Through the Mirandoor.

1st Installment of Through the Mirandoor.

Road kill.

Chapter 3.

  Setting off alone is quite a tough decision. I have done it plenty of times before, on the road to Santiago, when I left the northern towns of Spain, doing the Camino Frances. Somehow this was very much more daunting. Having QT for support had been a wonderful joy. Part of me of course was keen to set off and get back into my own rhythm. Another part of me feared the openness of the 30km walk I planned to complete this day. If I would have been on the normal Camino route, (that is to say, one where accommodations and other services were readily available) then the towns and facilities would be closer and better catered for. This was however a very sparsely walked route, I was aware that some other people had walked from Tarifa before, by now hearing snippets of information pertaining to this. After two days of not walking, QT’s feet having needed time to heal, I was ready for the off, yet nervous, the ominous open clear skies, raining down yet more sunshine. QT had made her decision to go on ahead by bus to Medina Sedonia, later that morning. I didn’t blame her after all she had not come on the Camino to begin her walk with huge open tracts of land, offering neither shelter nor refreshments. I agreed to see her later in the next hilltop town, knowing all too well it was going to be one hell of a tough walk for me. As straightforward as you could possibly hope for with a final climb into the village, as had been my experience on arriving into Vejer de la Frontera. I had been very impressed by that small provincial town, set up high on the hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and the villages of Barbate and Zahara de los Atunes. Cadiz was clearly visible farther to the north, huge cranes in the marina obvious clues.

   The atmosphere of this town had been very conducive towards the writing of my story so far, though of course I am only the mere scribe. But the story wanted to be written and so a tranquil setting like Vejer was the perfect place. I hope that at some point in the future I might find myself back in this town, to complete and put all the finishing touches to the book. This place being to me, a paradise on earth. The Plaza de España, in the older part of the town being one of the loveliest settings I have encountered, had become home to some of the writing hours thus far.

   So now up at dawn, despite it being somewhat later at this time of the year, and off to greet the new roads of Andalucía. A big sleepy hug from QT to wish me luck, and I was away. Of course because we were travelling by different methods today, I utilized the fact that she was going by coach, and left her with my clothes to be washed, with the idea she might find a launderette and do some washing. Well at the very least I would gain the relief of this few extra kilos, for the journey. However, needing to carry extra water soon had the pack weight back to what it had been previously. I had no real idea of, if and where the opportunity to replenish supplies would come. But of course drinking it would eventually lessen the weight somewhat. On other Caminos, the information is well documented as to where all of the refilling points for water are, but as this is an uncommon route, nothing should be left to chance.

   Talk about strange coincidences. (If you believe in them) I had recently given QT, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. One of my most favourite novels, about journeys and adventures. And here as I left the small town, I met with a man, (oddly familiar) who directed me towards a little known track out of the town. The path was only passable on foot and led down the hillside, cutting shorter the route via the access roads. It was a dusty old track at first, becoming a century’s old cobbled cart track, winding down the valley side. I thanked the universe for showing me such rare and scenic new places as my day got under way.

   In the book, The Alchemist, which is about a boy called Santiago, a shepherd in the Andalucian mountains who sets off in search of treasure that he had dreamt of on several occasions. His simple life, suddenly becomes full of choices. And following his heart he later sets off from Tarifa, to see the great pyramids of Egypt. This was very much in my mind as I had arrived in Tarifa myself some days ago. Though my adventure, one that I would be sharing in part with QT, was to be setting off in completely the other direction, I none the less smiled at the significance this similarity held for me.

   As I left the smiling man, I had met leaving the village, who gave me directions, I had to remark how out of place he had seemed. His voice was tainted with and echo of the East, his Spanish only as good as my own. But the twinkle in his eyes reminded me of the King of Salem from the book. I pondered this briefly as I walked briskly away, convincing myself only of my furtive imagination. But as I rounded the bend at the bottom of the paved road I turned, I couldn’t get the feeling out of my mind. Sure enough the man had vanished. Even the bench upon which he had sat was gone. A gust of wind ruffled my hair, yet no trees showed similar air disturbance. If I had been asleep before, then I was wide awake now, and ready for anything. I sometimes lie to myself as well, and so when I heard the tinkling of bells, I assumed that it had all been a silly dream. Here was I walking to Santiago de Compostela, in the north west corner of Spain, some 1200km away, and already I was losing the plot…….

   Along the track came a herd of goats, or they could have been sheep. I’m no great expert on livestock you should know! Some black ones and little kids made up the collage. And blending into the midst of the small flock came the shepherd. The shepherd was a lean, medium height, older gentleman, with a huge wide eyed smile. I wanted to greet him with some witty comments, based on my previous rhetoric, but fought against such foolishness.

   “Good morning young man”. He greeted.

   “I see you are off on your journey too”. Came his follow up.

   I was about to reply, when he further added.

   “Pay attention to the omens”.

   We stood only metres apart, sheep or goats milling around us everywhere, as I became temporarily speechless. In his eyes, I could realise a lifetime of his own travels to foreign shores and searches for treasure. I dared to believe that I was in fact, face to face with one of my greatest hero’s. It seemed as though time had stood still, the sun moved nowhere and the song of the birds had ceased as well. I was awash with the strange feeling of peace and tranquillity. The man before me, the boy I knew from fables, kept his gaze upon me.

   All of a sudden, the flock scattered, the silence was released and a snake was crossing the track just ahead of us. We both smiled as the serpent slithered away, afraid of the goats no doubt.

   “Santiago, I presume?” was my opener.

   “Ah, you have heard of me then? Well friend, go in peace and follow your dreams. And remember, where your heart is, your treasure will be also”. He said, waving me goodbye, as he set off up the track, not waiting for more conversation.

   “Wait”. I called after him. “What about Fatima?”

   He turned, still smiling broadly, rubbing his chin with a pensive thought begging to take over.

   “What about her?” He responded.

   “Well, did you return from your travels and marry her?” I quizzed.

   “Friend, curiosity killed the cat. Ask only of the universe, what is really important to you. Fatima is, as Fatima is. You will meet your own Fatima, when you stop really searching and open your eyes to the life you were born to live”.

   His eyes widened with the beginnings of a laugh.

   “Look only for answers to the important things of life, and then you will have your rewards”.

   And with a wave of his hand, he was gone and I was dismissed.

   For a moment I was unable to move, riveted to the spot, the sound of his goats’ bells, following him up the trail and away. Was I in a dream, and had I really just met with The Santiago, now an old man, still tending his flocks as carefully as ever?

   Eventually I moved on down the cobbled track, towards another Santiago. For much of the morning my troubles were the questions that still had no answers. Was he really Santiago? Had I met the King of Salem? What was the omen of the snake about? Where was Fatima? And why in heavens name, was I not seeing angels if I was on my way into a coma?

   How had he known I was travelling and how had he known of my search for love?

   As the sun rose hotly, the heat from the day rose to greet me like a wave. Fortunately the Levanter was cutting its way across the hills and open plains, feeding the wind turbines, and cooling my brow now and then. According to my map, there was little in the way of villages out here and nothing remotely on my route, except the small villages either side of the main hi-way. To reach any of them, I would have to take another detour of at least 5km. All along the route, I kept finding laid out before me, the remains of the road kill, that had probably stepped out during the night-time hours. I was surprised, and not necessarily in a good way, to see just how many snakes there were out here. Some of them were very fat and very long. Or they had been! Tie that in with both the passing of a headstone the previous day (belonging to a young motorcyclist who had been killed) on a very straight hi-way, and the experience with Santiago this morning, and I was one nervous bunny. Of course plenty of cars and Lorries had passed me by. Some hooted their horns, possibly because they too, were former pilgrims or knew about us. Others, possibly nothing better to do than scare the Shit out of an already jumpy, walker.

   As a precaution, I had been to the tourist offices, and the casa de Cultura in Vejer, to inquire as to the refreshment stops along the way to Medina Sedonia. One, the tourist office, had no idea, and couldn’t wait to get a leaflet into my hands and me, out of the door. I was sure that it wasn’t approaching siesta. The girl in the casa de Cultura, seemed equally unhelpful, but assured me that there was a watering hole on the way to Medina. At about the four hour mark I needed to rest so chose a farm gateway entrance, free of obstructions, and snakes! After about half an hour I knew I’d better move or seize up, so set off once more. Almost an hour later, I actually found the rest area, spoken of, at 20km, 10km’s to go until Medina Sedonia. Well, as you can imagine, I also have to apologise to the girl in the casa de Cultura (who isn’t a lying bitch….) about the existence of the Venta.

   Tres Arcos was a welcome venue, and I have to add, excellent eating stop. The salad and fish were amazing. They didn’t even mind me taking off my odorous footwear for the duration of my visit. Finally fed and watered, I set off to meet QT in the village which seemed close enough to spit at, yet took another two hours to reach.

   The last few kilometres were very hard and I considered a taxi more than once, even a passing car would have possibly been flagged down for a lift. But in the absence of traffic I soldiered on, eventually realising how Santiago had known I was travelling. DURGH….!!! The back pack….!!! The walking poles….!!! But this did not explain the odd dialogue between us, nor the omen of the snake, which had made me keep one eye on the kerb grass all day.

   If you have ever travelled so far on foot, each step you will know is very precious, yet very cruelly spent. As I arrived at the end of my days walk, into the Plaza, where I saw QT waiting quietly, tears filled my eyes with gratitude and love. Such heightened emotions are common on ‘the way’. Fortunately for me, I had been able to listen to rousing music this past two hours. These wonders of technology not open to pilgrims of old. I have to say that normally, I don’t agree with spoiling the experience with too much outside influence. Though of course, the Peregrino’s of times gone by did not have Gore-Tex and lightweight fabric for their loads. Neither, it has to be said, did they have all the other trappings of a modern pilgrimage at hand. They slept beneath the stars and ate very simple, self prepared meals each day. They stopped when they wanted, and didn’t have to make it to the nearest safety stop or nice comfy Albergue. Unless this was a sign of my delirium, I may well be on my way to discovering the hardships, encountered by pilgrims from the past 11 centuries or so.

   QT was so pleased to see me too, and we soon discovered how lovely it was to have company once more.

Next installment at chapter 31.

Hope you are enjoying the story so far.

          Peaceful Warrior.