BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Stuck in Luxembourg at 4,240ft, soaked, with a leg that won't work, and no water for a brew, our busking pilgrim tries not to panic
Sunday 06 June 1999
The hills are alive with the sound of tourists. Monday is a public holiday and half of Europe hits the road - Bavarian scouts, Strasbourg schoolkids, Hamburg businessmen, Austrian OAPs and Rotterdam bikers. All here to escape the crowds. I walk southwards and upwards. Vineyards, oak woods, pines, heather, rock. Oh, and castles. Did I call Luxembourg over-fortified? In one day I pass seven ruins. Spend a night on the tower of St Ulrich, watch the sun rise over the tower of Gierstein. Magic.
Climb the Tete des Faux (1,220m/4,000ft) in blazing sunshine. Summit riddled with First World War bunkers and barbed wire. Halfway down, trip on hidden wire. Crash down on right leg: twist, crunch, aargh! Hobble in circles until pain eases, then limp on. Gradually gets better; by sunset, just an ache.
Reach Tanet plateau (1,293m/ 4,240ft). Beautiful evening. Good forecast, so forget tent and curl up in sleeping bag and watch moon rise.
Midnight: woken by thunder. Lift head from heather, almost decapitated by machine-gun rain. Lunge for tent, battle the gale to put it up. Result looks like Sydney Opera House lit by strobe lightning. Hurl soaked kit inside, dive in and cower.
Dawn: mist streaming past, visibility 50 feet, temperature near zero. So much for forecasts. Cold, wet, tired. Time to leave. Stand up.
Agony rockets into right hip. Sit down. Start to shiver. No water for a brew. Panic. Think "shelter!" and hobble for nearest path. Think "idiot!" and hobble back. Path winds between sheer cliffs. Not in the mist. Swallow panic, try to think. Exposure? Pull on more clothes, munch chocolate. Leg? Stretch. Hurts like hell. Stretch again, hurts less. After five minutes, hurts like purgatory. Good enough for jazz.
Thank God for walking sticks. Nearest shelter one mile away, over the cliffs. Set compass, start limping.
Scary walking. Thunder overhead. Gale from right. Sheer drop to left. Clouds down to ankle-level. Just like Scotland: feel at home. Don't see shelter until I walk into it. Never felt so relieved. By evening, it's sunny again. Spread kit out to dry, listen to forecast: "fine". Laugh bitterly, and decide to sleep inside.
For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website: www.netplaycafe.co.uk/bonewalk
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