TRAVEL: BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Sunday 15 August 1999
Farewell to the mountains, but what a parting! A 10-mile ridge dropping from more than 5,000ft to 3,000ft, flanked by deep valleys, it's like crossing the roof of France. Other walkers pass me: two Belgians, a Breton, the Parisian Gays' Outdoor Club. Everyone stops to chat, offers food and encouragement.
Finally reach Murat, a cluster of stone houses unchanged since the 16th century. Welcomed at its priory by the toughest-looking friar with the biggest grin I've ever seen: Brother Ghislain, priest, ex-Para, Santiago veteran. Spend all evening chatting. His parting gift: a kilo of chocolate and an icon of the Virgin Mary. Cared for, body and soul...
Climb out of Murat. Above the town, a beautiful girl. Our eyes meet. Our hearts beat fast! Flushed cheeks, heavy breathing, can this be love? No, the effect of a one-in-three climb, but we chat anyway. She's making for the mountains. I'm jealous. She's good company, so I join her. Back up another ridge to the Plomb du Cantal, 6,000ft - completely the wrong direction, but who cares?
Other walkers join us. All start chatting. On the second-highest peak in central France, we argue about the cabalistic subtext of Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture. It seems a logical topic at the time.
East to Le Puy-en-Velay, traditional start of the Santiago trail, my half-way point. (Logical again.) River-valleys and wooded hills, dotted with tiny villages of volcanic stone - beautiful, but hard work in the heat.
Battle on to my last campsite, eight miles from Le Puy, drop rucksack, sigh with relief - and all goes dark. Turn round. Black clouds boil from horizon to horizon. Lightning stabs the hills, races towards me. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Don't think I'll be camping, then...
Pack up, and bolt. Too slow. Clouds catch me after a mile. It's like night falling. Thunder starts two miles later. Rain follows. Deluge! Horizon disappears. Road becomes a river. Cars crawl by. Raindrops bounce knee- high.
Suddenly, curtains part and I see Le Puy's jet-black spires, perched on rock pinnacles, framed by a barrage of lightning. Incredible. Sing my way into town. Above me, the cathedral: ancient and immense, tourists cowering under its colossal portal. Lightning explodes overhead as I climb the streaming cobbled steps. Tourists watch curiously. Half way! An incredible moment. Victory. Relief. Triumph!
But also a touch of sadness. Realise for the first time that this will end one day. Best make the most of it, then...
For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website at www.netplaycafe.co.uk/bonewalk
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
£21000 - £27000 per annum + Benefits: Corporate Traveller: We're looking for t...
£23000 - £27000 per annum + £18K & Uncapped Commission & Benefits: Flight Cent...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Flight Centre Limited: Exceptional opportunity for ...
£23000 - £27000 per annum + Award-Winning Benefits: Round The World Experts: L...