BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Is it faith that makes a person go on a pilgrimage? Or a need to hide from the taxman or the mafia?
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The Independent Travel
19 NOVEMBER

There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman... Actually, in this case, two Germans, a Canadian, and a mad trombonist, discussing our motivation for walking 800km across Spain. A pertinent question. Religious, spiritual, cultural? In the embarrassed silence, the truth dawns. All of the above are important - but we wanted some winter sun.

20 NOVEMBER

Sunshine! We walk across endless ploughed fields, bask and gloat. How's the Frozen North? Plan cheery postcards to friends at home: "Lovely and warm, how about you?". By dusk, my ears are sunburnt. I love it when a plan comes together.

21 NOVEMBER

Wake to a grey world. Fog? In Spain? No, freezing fog. Discover this when I step outside and my specs ice over. Windscreen wipers, anyone? Walk on in a chorus of sniffs, dripping noses and maledictions heaped on the weather-gods.

Villages are reduced to ghostly shadows along the trail. By dusk my ears (ever-sensitive weather instruments) are frostbitten. Same effect as sunburn, but bluer. Goes with my eyes.

Sleep in an unheated hostel with cold water and no stove. Joachim wakes up coughing. We frantically chew garlic and suck lemons to ward off the germs. Not sure if it works, but nobody else comes near us all day.

24 NOVEMBER

Burgos! Famed for its near-white Gothic cathedral, which, as we arrive, gleams snow-white - through a blizzard. Joachim and Jose are both coughing hard. Quick! More lemons! As we reach the (unheated) hostel, a pilgrim looks up from a hot foot-bath. I know him! We met in Belgium in April.

"Martin! What are you doing here?" Embarrassed pause. "I'm on the run from the taxman."

Takes all sorts to make a pilgrimage.

Snow continues. Grows heavier. And heavier. Only one thing for it. Suck more lemons. Then go out and build a snowman.

27 NOVEMBER

Pilgrim joke: "Don't go too fast, you'll catch a cold!" But sometimes lemons aren't enough. Sure enough, the lurgi strikes. Get used to waking up coughing in frigid hostels and seeing the ice on the walls.

The seediest bar becomes a haven of warmth, a hot shower is worth a 10-mile detour. Thank God for camping cookers! Amazing how many people can huddle round one burner...

Then, at last, a hostel with proper heating, a proper kitchen, and even piped Gregorian chants! Heaven must be something like this.

A British pilgrim greets us. He's walking home, but: "I'm scared of the Burgos mafia..."

Why?

"I seduced the boss's girlfriend."

Definitely takes all sorts.

For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website:www.netplaycafe. co.uk/bonewalk

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