2 Mar 2020 – noon GMT – 3°C Showers Nearby – Co. Longford, Ireland
The notion of long distance walking was already in my head in October 2017 when Chris W contacted me out of the blue. University friends meeting again after forty years of divergent life experiences.
I had long hoped to walk from Rome to Madrid, an idea that seemed reasonable when I found myself in Rome in 2010. I had taken a train one Sunday to Naples and walked from the station to the top of Vesuvius and back. Just 50 km but it got me thinking about the communications and logistics in the eras of the Roman Empire, Anglo-Saxon trade, Viking incursions to name a few.
The idea of a walk to Santiago de Compostela from Bruges had occurred to me several years before when we visited Gijon and Aviles. I lost interest in that walk as the count of certificated walkers rose tenfold from about 30,000 to 350,000 in 2018. I’m not a pilgrim. If I seek anything, I seek the solitude that heightens experiences rather than social clusters that emphasise averages. It seems to me that ‘sharing’ is a politically acceptable word for competing or boasting. Reflection used to mean thought, associated with consideration and self-improvement. A degree of self-effacement implied. It seems to have morphed to mean echo, repeat, broadcast. Not so much self-actualisation or self-fulfilment as self-promotion. A sense of originality lost to herd instincts.
A trip to Lanzerote in the Canaries that December would redefine my notion of ‘long’. That was when I was given“A Time of Gifts”by Patrick Leigh-Fermor which I read with gusto. London to Istanbul. Nothing less than 2000 km would do me. All I had to do was retire.
And then we found ourselves visiting Dublin the week before Easter in April 2019. Chris proposed a coffee while I was hiking the Dublin Mountains Way, a 50 km day-walk, front door to Tallaght. We met the next day and Chris said he’d been thinking of walking to Rome. What a coincidence. He accepted my offer of companionship.
Today started with finding just one egg in the chicken coop. It ended trying on new clothes and having a bit of packing practice.
The preparation for the walk had continued with collection of new gear I’d need, ordered from a variety of sources. My Scarpa boots already have over 3000 km on them and now I have slightly wider fit by Meindl. I upgraded my excellent but well worn waterproofs to a lighter version by ArcTeryx. I added a few more Icebreaker merino layers to my ten year collection. And I needed a bigger, stronger backpack, a good Osprey pack replaced by a more suitably braced Lowe Alpine pack. Weight to be on my hips for some 2700 km. My once broken spine will appreciate it.
I hope I’ve made the right choices.
Tomorrow is another day.