BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Our musical pilgrim discusses the meaning of life with a woman who gives him a garlic sausage

16 May

Beautiful walk along the Marne-Rhine canal - herons and buzzards everywhere. On the horizon, the Vosges. Stay with a French woodcutter, his German wife and their five birds, three rabbits and a ferret. She's an animal- rights activist. Spends the evening vilifying the French, Germans, Arabs, and blacks. I bite my tongue.

17 May

Into the hills. Steep climb to a ridge. Eat lunch. Deer trots out of pines. I freeze. After five minutes, she bolts. Late in the afternoon, conquer the 1,008m (3,306ft) le Donon. Here I join the path to the Alps. Looking west, the canal glints in the sun. Feel I've come a long way. One thing jars: I'm on a mountain, but it's not raining.

18 May

It's raining.

19 May

Busking in Schirmeck. Remarkably generous audience: make FFr200, DM8, US$1, and a large bag of prawns. Luckily a local puts me up for the night and we share them, so am spared a reeking rucksack.

20 May

A frustrating morning. Map and waymarks consistently disagree. Sweat and swear my way up to Struthof, concentration camp and museum. One other visitor: a punctured German cyclist. We fix the tyre, then go round the camp. Joined by a German school party, as sobered by it all as I am. "Crazy. Never again," they say.

22 May

Busking in Barr, a lovely wine town on the edge of the Rhine valley. Great reception: invited to play at town hall all afternoon. More Alsatian generosity: a woman gives me bread, sausages and the local hooch. "Pilgrimages are food for the soul, this is for your body."

Through the vineyards and into the hills. Nostrils assailed by stench. Yes, they're garlic sausages! Look south towards mountains. Get feeling this is where the real legwork starts.

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