Walking to Spain
As our new columnist Ben Nimmo sets off busking to Santiago de Compostela, we await bohemian tales of kipping in barns and sharing austere meals with gypsies and drunk soldiers
Sunday 11 April 1999
The route will take him across Belgian Flanders, through the length of France from top to bottom, over the Pyrenees, then west for the 500-odd mile stroll across the hills of northern Spain to Santiago. Assuming all goes well, he hopes to file his final dispatch from Santiago some time around the end of the millennium.
Following the time-honoured traditions of the young and heroically impecunious, Ben plans to sustain himself across the continent by busking, putting out a hat in the style of Laurie Lee and waiting for the French francs and Spanish pesetas to clink.
Perhaps his main worry will be that busking youths are no longer the novelty that they were in the 1930s. Villagers in northern Spain are unlikely to be as charmed and entranced by the sound of Ben's trombone as they were by Laurie Lee's fiddle 60 years ago. On the other hand, I suppose, they are much more likely to have pocketfuls of spare cash to throw at hungry buskers.
Nevertheless, I would advise Ben to go easy with his expenditure along the way. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the more time he spends kipping in disused barns and living off the scraps from the tables of Latin farmers' wives the better. Stumbling parched and ravenous into hot walled towns at dusk is what I have in mind, followed by austere meals of tomatoes, dry bread and rough brandy in the company of gypsies and drunk soldiers - after all, what bohemian worth his salt would ever consider walking on a full stomach.
(And, by the way, if Ben is let down by his busking I certainly hope he is not planning to survive off the financial assistance provided by the travel budget of any UK newspaper).
But do not assume that just because Ben prefers to take an arduous eight- month walk to reach his destination (rather than a two-day drive, or even a one-hour flight) that, therefore, he will have made no concessions to convenience and comfort.
True, he will not be eating in expensive restaurants or staying in any remotely luxurious hotels (I hope) but he will be raising money for charity as he goes. He will also be carrying a rather special mobile phone that will enable him to write documents and then send them via e-mail and fax from wherever he happens to be in western Europe.
Laurie Lee might have blanched at the thought of stopping to fire off e-mails to newspaper editors in the middle of hot afternoons in Old Castilla. He might have blanched even more at the thought of his romantic reveries being interrupted by phone calls from curious friends or relatives back home.
But even bohemians have to move with the times.
For the first of Ben Nimmo's dispatches, see page 7
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...
£27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...