A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 12 February 2010

North From Salamanca

A dark-green, dirt-brown landscape - so flat I feel, weirdly, I'm falling into the sky. Strip after strip of maize, long-harvested, stalks dry and decayed; the bright green shoots of other cereals pushing through; small plots of black, twisted vines; empty hectares where sunflowers bloomed in the summer.

The Camino: a long, straight track, sandy and puddled, stretching from horizon to horizon. Wheeled, tubular irrigators, abandoned for the winter, span the fields like giant metal insects, or like lines of aeroplanes parked wing-tip to wing-tip. A light aircraft buzzes across, then flies back even lower. I feel like Cary Grant in the crop-sprayer scene from Hitchcock's North By Northwest.

The only verticals are electricity pylons, church bell towers and me, a tiny speck of pilgrim, battling northwards against the wind and hail. The morning snow's been left behind on the hills beyond El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino. I press on harder, keen to escape black clouds rolling in from the west. But the rain tips down. The track becomes yet muddier. I slip and slide. Over the weeks I feel I've had half the earth of Spain sticking to my boots. There are few trees here, few birds - just a solitary kite which spirals up, then glides off silently into nothingness.

Leaving one village, I see the next one crouch between earth and sky ten kilometres in the future. These are ordinary, back-country pueblos of concrete-surfaced streets and low houses of plaster, brick and stone. At the village boundaries half-built houses gape forlornly. Scrappy little trees grow in containers improvised from car tyres and plastic fertilizer tubs. The recession has hit Spain hard.

They call it Spain's bread basket here. I call it Kansas - but with shrines and saints. Or Lincolnshire - but with decent wine and olives.

(Posted from Zamora, on the Vía de la Plata, Spain.)


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I like this post. Great word pictures; a real feel for the country and sights along the road, and reading it I get a real feel for your journey.

"Leaving one village, I see the next one crouch between earth and sky ten kilometres in the future." My friend, you write wonderfully. We're surely going to have to have that talk…

am said...

"A dark-green, dirt-brown landscape - so flat I feel, weirdly, I'm falling into the sky."

Made me remember Laurie Anderson's "Walking and Falling":


Good to hear that your sense of humor returned. Onward caminante solitario (hope that's correct Spanish!)

Kind wishes,

Anonymous said...

Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

Keep on dear Solitary Walker. You walk for we who are unable to. You are not alone.

Tramp said...

You are winning because you are battling. I can feel this in your writing.
Have you ever worked nightshift? The darkest hour comes just before dawn.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're back on track. I found the Camino between Zamora and Santiago to be very special. And you are nearer to Galicia all the time.

!Venga peregrino!


am said...

Thought you might like to hear this from the Civil Rights Movement Music Concert at the White House this week:


gleaner said...

This is a wonderful bit of writing - definitely gives me a sense of Spain, not a tourist view but an artist's view.

I had contemplated a visit to Spain when I was in France about 20 years ago but was warned by other travellers not to go as I was travelling alone and they had just returned with some bad experiences. Your posts are letting me visit there!

I think it's obligatory part of being a solitary walker to have moments of melancholia - maybe it helps sometimes to see and write like you just did in this post.

Rebrites@yahoo.com said...

thank you for sharing your severe journey with us. You make the homefires burn even more brightly and warm.
Enjoy beautiful Zamora!

Rebekah de Moratinos

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, thanks, everyone...

Yes, Rebekah, I loved Zamora...