If a picture is worth a thousand words, then walking the South West Coast Path is indescribable.
I am reading Raynor Winn’s best-selling book, The Salt Path, while walking in her footsteps on England’s South West Coast Path.
Except I am hardly following her lead.
Winn walked after she and her husband Moth lost their home in a business deal gone sour. Plus, he had just gotten news that he was dying from a neurological disease. They camped, mostly, and she wrote that they lived off 48 pounds a week. In two segments, they trekked almost all of the 630 miles.
Sue and I are fortunate that we are healthy and will return to our Oregon home. We have a shower, warm bed, and pub meals at the end of each day. We are carrying everything we need on our backs, sans the tent, sleeping bags and stove. Finally, should our script play out, we will hike “just” 260 miles from Minehead to Land’s End.
But, like Raynor and her husband and all who venture here, we are astounded by the glory of England’s southwest coast. The steep path challenges, but our senses bask in this experience.
A detour had taken Sue, Gert and me to Castrillo Polvazares, a traditional Maragato village off the Camino de Santiago. It was raining with darkness closing in.
From Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows:
“I was about to suggest that we walk to the next town when an old, small pickup stopped next to us. A man with short, gray hair rolled down his window, stuck out his head and shouted questions in Spanish so fast that I had no clue what he said. Gert talked to the driver, also in Spanish, then turned to us with the bad news.
”He said both albergues here are not open for the season yet.” We eyed each other quizzically, even panicked-looking. A wet journey in near-darkness loomed. We could not be certain there would be empty beds in the next village. Suddenly…”
When I put on my backpack in Pamplona on my first day walking the Camino de Santiago, I worried that it was too heavy for me to carry across Spain. I worried about undressing in front of strangers in coed dorms and bathrooms. I worried about trying to keep up with much younger trekkers. It turned out I had no idea I was carrying things far heavier.
I couldn’t fool these curious Spanish kids at this iconic rest stop on the Camino de Santiago. I turned on the spigot and red liquid filled my bottle. “Red water!” I told them. “It’s wine!” said the boy. My wife Sue captured the memory in ink and watercolor.