No pasa nada, or taking a hike with Calamity Heleen
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend
In the south of Spain you sometimes get the impression that you are walking in North America’s wild west in the 19th century. Especially in autumn when the burning summer sun has turned the landscape into dry yellow plains with grass and bushes sticking out grimly like ghosts of a once green vegetation. You find yourself whistling Ennio Morricone tunes from old Spaghetti westerns when you walk into seemingly abandoned Andalucian towns around siesta time. Which in a way is accurate, because a lot of those films were shot in the south of Spain in the 60's. In rural Spain, not much has changed since then.
If you would put me on a horse I could be Lucky Luke in these hills, casting long shadows on the dusty roads in front of me and singing "I'm a poor, lonesome cowboy...". Except that the past month I have not been twalking alone. Heleen, a good friend from the Netherlands - or Elena, if you want the Spanish to get the name right the first time - joined me in Merida and walked with me to Granada. We did a lot of wild camping along the way, eating cold Andalucian bean stew with fat bacon and chorizo from tin cans and drinking cheap red wine from the bottle underneath the starlit sky in front of our tents. Two people, two tents, which, given the amount of beans we ate, was a very good idea indeed.
Of course we also stayed with people I got in contact with through the internet. It is not necessarily harder to find hosts when with company, but the weather was very inviting for camping and also, I thought it would be better not to force ourselves to have to reach a preset point each night. Heleen had no experience in walking long distances day after day. This way we could set up camp whenever our bodies told us ‘enough is enough’. The austerity of wild camping however, with barking dogs, cold meals and want for a daily shower did make our meetings with Carmen in Merida, Chus and Angel in Fuente del Arco, Ilco (founder of MasterPeace) and Anna in Montefrio and Prisca and Hanock in Alfacar all the more gratifying. Nothing can beat the feeling that you are welcome somewhere, and it is a great experience indeed to find that that somewhere can be found everywhere.
Heleen doesn't necessarily share my enthusiasm for social media. Not that she doesn't acknowledge its advantages, but she is a bit more concerned about possible negative effects that they may have. So instead of a lonesome cowboy on a one man mission, I was now more like Don Quixote, who traveled the Spanish plains and mountains not far from here, with a skeptical Sancho Panza by my side, or Sancha Panza in this case.
I don't believe I am fighting windmills, but to be fair, neither did Don Quixote. But for an extensive discussion of my views on the pro’s and con’s of social media and their political and social implications, this is not the time and place. I will come back to that though, as I am now preparing a presentation about the subject and a blog version of that should be easy to write.
In any case, Heleen and I had a great time discussing our theories, experiences and ideas, not just about social media, but many other things. Walking together is definitely a big difference from walking alone, and although I like being alone with my thoughts, while at the same time making new friends everywhere, it was a treat to share it with an older friend for a change.
You get to know each other fairly well when you are walking all day and camping almost every night. You laugh a lot too, discussing the craziness of an enterprise like this, what you put yourself through voluntarily, and at the same time feeling proud and fulfilled by what you achieve each day. Walking changes the pace of the world around you and consequently the pace of the thoughts inside your head. The train of thought is no longer tied to a schedule, forced to run on time, or limited to a single track. It can stop anywhere it wants to, station or no station, or draw the curtains to the world and continue thoughtlessly through it. No pasa nada. Laughing becomes easy when you are relaxed like that.
With no experience in long distance walking, multiplying blisters, wild camping, scarce showering and omnipresent Spanish insects, and no way of knowing whether it would be fun to experience all that for the first time with me around, Heleen proved equal to the task. I doubt there are many Sancho or Sancha Panza’s out there who would do better or would even consider trying. Undiscouraged by the blisters and the biting insects that seemed to like her more than anyone, she put her shoes on each day and continued.
Fumbling yet undaunted, maybe Calamity Heleen is a better nickname after all this. And although I was often in the lead, Albert Camus’ quote stands, no matter where you are walking, or in the Top Gun version: “You can be my wingman anytime!”
PS also check out Ilco van der Linde's website and read about our visit in his latest blog about hospitality: ilcovanderlinde.com and of course the new MasterPeace website: www.masterpeace.org.