Thursday, November 27, 2014


Pilgrimage and Beach Walk

I have just got back to Wales. It is cold and grey here. But that's exactly what I anticipated. It is better to dwell on some of the high points of my recent trip. Too much happened to give a full account on this blog, but I can mention that after I left Lisbon I went to Fatima, the main pilgrimage site in Portugal. I am not a deeply religious person, but by the same token I am not a deeply irreligious one. I lit a candle for a special person while I was there. I had expected the place to be tacky but it was more tasteful than my fears had supposed; and there was a feeling of calm awe about the place, an atmosphere that seemed to consist of all the hopes of the faithful who have made it their destination in previous decades, though whether this perceived ambience existed just in my mind is a question I can't possibly answer.

After Fatima I travelled to the lovely university city of Coimbra and then to Figueira Da Foz for my three-day beach walk. I had attempted the same walk ten years ago but it had defeated me. It was summer that time and I didn't have enough water. It is a remote stretch of coastline and one is advised to carry all the equipment and supplies necessary. This time my little adventure was successful.

I walked more than 80 km, most of it on soft sand, which made the going much more difficult. The first day it rained and I got soaked, but at night the skies cleared and the stars came out with amazing brightness. I saw meteors, a thin melancholy moon and a succession of incredible sunsets and sunrises. One sunset into the sea had the light of the sinking sun filtered by the spray of the enormous waves that seemed to crash over it... I met not one other person during the whole of the walk. I walked most of the nights as well as most of the days. Strange lights in the sky and out at sea...

My feet were blistered at the end of the trip and my shoulders were aching from carrying my rucksack, but it was worth it, for many reasons... I also sent two messages in bottles to the same special person I had lit the candles for, to double the extremely unlikely chance of them reaching her (or anybody else for that matter)...

When I reached Espinho I stayed with a marvellous fellow called Nigel Randsley. In fact, despite all the incredible sights and experiences, it was the people who impressed me the most on this trip, not just all my old friends but new ones too, such as Joana Neves, Sara Almeida Almeida, Ana Luísa Melo, João Morales, Sandra Maria Teixeira, Paulo Brito, Inês Botelho, Ana Cristina da Silveira... Too many great people to list. I am very lucky.

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