TRAVEL: BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Sunday 11 July 1999
The start of a bad patch. Leave my friendly farm with tears all round. The children say: "Come back soon!" Set off sadly, and the inevitable questions start. Why am I doing this? How long can I keep it up? Why is my rucksack so bloody heavy? Shoulders ache. Ditto feet. Boots falling apart. Set up camp thinking it can't get worse. Sucker. Rain starts lashing down and stove stops working.
Wake up feeling about 90 years old. Stumble into Dijon, find campsite, rain starts again. Continues for two days, except when it is hailing. Spend the time sulking in my tent, dreaming of English breakfasts. Catch up on some sleep.
Emerge warily into the rain to investigate Dijon's million museums. Watch sodden tourists scurrying past, hug my Gore-Tex, start to feel better. Admiring a fifth-century carving in the ducal palace when an American leans over my shoulder: "Hey, look, honey, these are old!" Yes, things are looking up.
Still reluctant to move, but Dijon is too big for me. Climb up into the (sunny) Cote d'Or and feel more human. Hills again! Woods, fields, rustic villages, Mont Blanc in the dim distance. Oh, and vines. Billions of them. Guarded by a castle every kilometre (vital strategic resources, evidently). Worked by a thousand vignerons on pocket-size tractors (I want one for Christmas). They wave as I pass. Sleep in the presbytery at Gevrey-Chambertin in the shadow of a 15th-century church. This is more like it.
Early-morning coffee with the priest, who shows me his photos of Santiago. He made the pilgrimage last year. In a camper van. He reignites my desire to cross the Pyrenees, or is it just the coffee? Set off with a swing. Thirty seconds later, bump into a vigneron. He looks at my rucksack: "Come on in!" He's a walker himself. We start sampling at 8:15am. Three hours later we're still at it, happily damning city-bred politicians and Louis XIV (who insulted his great-etc grandfather). I ask about wine, he asks about tea. Is he thinking of branching out? As I leave he fills a plastic bottle with the treasured vintage and solemnly presents it. "Pop in when you're passing." I'll make a point of it.
For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website at www.netplaycafe.co.uk/bonewalk
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