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
Top 10 cheapest cities to visit, according to TripAdvisor
Iceland volcano: Travel agency has 'Volcano hotline' for dare-devil tourists who want to visit Bardarbunga if it erupts
Contactless payment donkey rides are a thing now
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...