I walk a long road, dust swirling about my feet as they trace the footprints of thousands that have come before me. High on the peaks of the French Pyrenees, I move through purest whiteness. The silhouette of a pilgrim flickers in and out of sight. Marks of red on rock guide us through the mist, recalling the colours of Templars who once kept this path safe.
The sun rises magnificently over the Meseta of northern Spain: a brilliant blue sky and fields of pure gold open before me. A butterfly dances wheat yellow into the brightening sky while tiny flowers pull the blue to earth. Many miles pass beneath my feet. Blisters swell; my legs ache; the sun beats down on me unrelentingly as I try to deal with the issues that brought me here in the first place.
“Hola!” Another walker falls easily into step beside me. With his floppy hat, walking poles and a pair of socks pegged to his backpack to dry, Fabio is the epitome of the modern pilgrim. Catching my defeated expression, he grins wickedly at me. Our shared words are as sparse as trees around us, yet the connection between us is almost tangible. As we walk, angled sunlight skips lightly over the pebbles scattered in our path. Left by unknown friends, they form a great arrow, urging us onward.
A breeze brings the cool of evening and a sandcastle city seems to rise from the dust, crowned by an ancient church tower. The windows are set with stone so thin that the setting sun sidles through it, illuminating its veins in gold. Following the copper Camino shells embedded in the pavement, Fabio joins the flock of pilgrims gathered outside the albergue, nursing cervezas and comparing blisters. Communication is a creative mix of Spanish, Italian and English, compounded by enthusiastic gestures and frequently punctuated with helpless laughter.
Like water, pilgrims pass through these mystical towns, shaping but not spoiling, leaving echoes of mirth behind. This river of travellers is named The Camino de Santiago. It winds its way 790km across Spain, and then further: back through history and far into the future. For me, the Camino is about the beauty of now, of the hundreds of little moments that make life worth living. Sheltering under a bush from the rain; sharing wine on the banks of a river; watching Fabio crack open a strange pod to reveal a walnut; getting lost and having an old woman with a toothless smile take me gently by the arm and lead me back to the path.
Alone and yet interconnected, each pilgrim must walk her own Way. The wind sweeps our footprints away. But the dust remembers. And the stories remain.