huéneja -alquife







Day 6: 20.5 kms

Today’s reflection: Work with the weather

Finally, I am moving, on my way to Alquife. I realise, as I set along the path, that if I had walked the day before, it would have been a deep act of violence against my self. Dirt tracks take me up and away from Hueneja, over and around a mountain. There are sections that are quite stony. Water would have turned this pleasant walk into a frustrating battle across boggy and slippery paths. I take a moment to give thanks to the voice of reason, which is starting to speak to me more clearly now. At the very least, I am paying closer attention when her voice pipes up.

Passing olive groves, I wander into Dolar-a town that looks slightly depressing under the unforgiving clouds. I follow the arrows to the church, where I find a bar to stop and have a hot coffee and go to the loo. The TV is blaring in the corner, announcing the sudden death of a politician who was once the president of the “communidad valenciana”. Apparently she was implicated, like so many other Spanish politicians, in some sort of money-laundering scheme using public funds. A possibly reprehensible character. The conversation happening on the screen reminds me of two realities. The ways that death can wash your sins clean in the eyes of the public, and the ways that the media pull the drama of death apart in microscopic ways, feeding an unnecessary sensationalism around something that happens all the time. To everyone. Someone “important” died, so what?

After Dolar, the path continues onto and  through another town called Ferreira. On the way, I go up and down what look like goat tracks, traversing another mountain. Autumn colours greet me and the previous day’s rain has left fresh winter air in its wake. I am now walking joyfully, thoroughly relishing the landscape. Ferreira is a picturesque, well kept little town, and I pause a moment on the bench in front of the church to drink some water and have a breather. Continuing on, more of the same paths take me into a lovely pine tree forest before spitting me out at a point where I see La Calahorra off in the distance. This town is nestled in the lower folds of a mountain crowned with a castle. Yasssss! Gorgeous. I practically skip into town. Alquife, the stopping point for the day is the next cab off the rank-so, I know Ive only got 5 or 6 kms to go.

Once I get past La Calahorra, the sun begins to peek tentatively out from behind its winter veil and I stop for a few minutes to feel the warmth on my face. Invigorated, I get into the last part of the walk, which takes me through more olive groves, past barking dogs, and what looks like the shell of what was once a small village.

A couple of kilometres on I reach my destination for the day. Alquife used to be the home of two mines, both of which closed down in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I walk past the husks of these mines, and when I get into Alquife, the empty shell feeling persists as I find a town with no people on the street. Cars and houses, but no people. Worse still, no bar visible!

Ahhhhhh, a living human being! I see a man walking towards me. He is struggling to control a rebellious puppy on a leash. I ask him if there is a bar nearby and his response in very very shaky Spanish makes it clear that he is like me, an outsider. He is from the Netherlands and he is very, very drunk. Putting these two facts together I calculate that the probability is high that this individual might be able to help me procure some ahem….medicinal herbs… knees are crying out for a bit of expansive pain relief. Sure enough, this is my man and he kindly takes me to visit the town dealer. The man I meet is a very busy man, taking care of the psychomedicinal needs of the abuelas/abuelos of this depressing town in the final stages of death. When you are the social collateral damage of industry, and you see things decaying around you in this way, day after day, I would imagine that a bit of medicine would be necessary. Gracias a dios por la Maria!

After this, the guy points me in the direction of the one bar that is open. I wander in and find the barman and the cook sitting at a table eating as they watch a venezuelan soap opera (culebron) on the ever present TV screen. My kind of place! The woman asks me what do I want to eat? What will make me most happy right now is a bocadillo with pork and grilled green peppers. She obliges me and he pours me a beer. While I eat, she and I have a bit of a laugh at what is going on in the culebron she is watching, and I have a few laughs with an old guy who has come in for a drink.

The albergue this evening is a house owned by a local woman by the name of Marion, also from the Netherlands. I walk into the house, which has a fire burning in the living room, scalding hot showers, and beds with doonahs and sheets. This is technically a bed and breakfast, but Marion offers rooms to pilgrims for a donation. There are various others staying in Marion’s house. One Danish geocaching geek (Fleming), one 26 year old chick from the Netherlands (Yvette), four kittens, a chook, and a big slobbery dog. I spend a really pleasant evening with them post shower, sitting by the fire, drinking hot tea and chatting. I love this! I am enjoying human company! This is one of the gifts that solitude brings me every day on this walk. At the end of the night, Yvette and I are left. She tells me her hopes and dreams. She is finding her way. I feel like a big sister or something, telling her to not be anxious, that it isnt so much about finding an imagined future, but more about finding a sense of joy around the not-knowing. In my way of thinking, this is the essential ingredient if you are to stand a chance of being happy. Saying these words to her, I am speaking with myself and remembering what I was fighting so hard to feel at her age.

It is damned cold that night, but I give thanks that I am in a place where I can tuck myself away for a warm nights rest. I am looking forward to the next day -getting moving again- eager to unwrap its gifts, whatever they may be 




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