32. Light at the End of the Tunnel

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

Last night it felt like there were about seven people in the whole of Santa Marta de Tera.

We had dinner in the only bar in town. The Spanish guy joined us late and choose to dine alone and watched TV whilst he ate. There was another pilgrim but he also sat alone chatting on his phone.

There wasn’t a choice… we had egg and chips with kind of thick bacon slices… and some fairly dry bread.  The egg and chips went down very well… as did the coke.  Postre was also limited to 2 choices… Magnum or Cornetto. .. but my Magnum went down as well as the egg and chips.  We didn’t linger after dinner… our cosy warm room beckoned us.  We bought some water and biscuits for breakfast and retired.

Today was going to be short.  We could have walked a 28km or two shorter days.  Given our recent trials and tribulations and Maggie’s cold we opted for 2 short days.  So today we’re heading to Olleros de Tera.

We left around 8.30.  No need to rush today. It’s cold and grey and very cloudy but dry.   We headed out of town and into an endless birch forest.  Row after row of birch trees… young small trees and older taller trees… all in rows… row after row after row after row after row. At the end of each row you could see the light.

The sun tried to burst through… we waited and hoped because our forest would have looked even more magical with sunlight… but that little pleasure was hidden from us today.  No matter it was still magical.

We stopped at a promised bar… oooh we needed coffee… alas it was closed.  So we sat beside the river and finished the cookies and drank our cold water.

My thoughts at first wandered to the farmers who plant these trees.  Really you need a lot of faith and patience to be a tree farmer.  How long do these fabulous trees take to grow. How much faith must you have to trust that one day your work and investment will pay off.

We walked on.  We could hear the wind rustle through the leaves.  We could hear birdsong and the occasional woodpecker.  We could hear the river Tera bubbling along beside us and it all sounded like some strange forest symphony.  It made me want to sing.  I’m really missing my music… and sorry guys and girls but I’ve not learned my new songs yet!

On and on we walked.  The leaves in the trees are green and red and orange and bright bright yellow.  Even without the sun it’s a riot of colour.

Yesterday when we walked Maggie said she didn’t really like autumn on the camino… that it looks like life is coming to its end rather than in spring when life and colour is bursting forth. I wasn’t sure I agreed yesterday and today I decided I didn’t.

Dont get me wrong… she is right in that spring is fabulous… amazing… vivid and bold. But so is autumn in her own way.

I thought of the seasons a bit like a day.  Winter and we sleep.  March and April are more like 8 or 9 in the morning… May is maybe mid morning… we’re awake and full of life and ready to tackle to day.  Summer is midday through to early afternoon.  We’ve eaten and we’re maybe a little tired from our work.

Then there is Autumn… it’s that time of day when the hard work is done.  You come home after a long day… the fire is lit and dinner is cooking and smelling great… you kick off your shoes and coat and settle down in a comfy chair with a steaming mug of tea… that’s Autumn.

Winter of course is bedtime… replenish, revive and ready to start again the next day.

The leaves are falling all around us… tiny colourful parachutes drifting down to earth.  Ten thousand trees and ten thousand more all letting go of their autumn colour.  I imagined one tree saying to his neighbours… it’s no good chaps I’m tired… see you in spring… as he settled into his comfy chair dropping his leaves like a heavy coat. And then I imagined some of the younger greener trees shouting out… no not yet… we can stay for just one more day… let’s sing for just a little longer.  And the older trees with their bark like lines on an old face, creating character and depth.

On I walked through this forest. Watching the trees take form and life.   Feeling kind of sad when I came across one that had fallen or died.

Watching beneath the canopy at the forest floor.. the ants have flown their nests.  Bees and butterflies gather the last fruits of autumn.  The last late flowers for this year burst forth in the early afternoon sun… berries rippen in the last of the warmth.

The path is at first hard stone and then sand and then flat dry earth baked hard from the long summer… then it turns to grass and clover and mushrooms grow along the forest edges.

We pass water channels and small canals and veg plots full of produce and before we know it we’ve arrived.

We wander up the street just as senora is plucking chickens.  She greets us like children returning home. Come in she says and shows us our beds… lunch she asks us… and we silently nod in agreement. And what a lunch we had.  Hot warming soup… fresh sweet salad… tasty tasty chicken and flan… washed down with a jug of wine. As she cleared our plates she told us to go sleep… I feel like I’m staying at my grandmother’s house.

I loved our walk in the forest.  Our thoughts are edging towards Santiago… we’re thinking maybe 14 or 15 more days… perhaps?  And then this incredible walk will be over… and nothing more than memories… but oh what fabulous memories we’re making.

Ps as my forest took life Matt and Gerry were at home cutting down an old dead walnut tree… no more autumns for that tree but plenty of wood for the fire.

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4 thoughts on “32. Light at the End of the Tunnel

    • Haha Ruth… hello! No pilgrims on the Via… could do with one or two for company. Still thinking 5 Nov for Santiago… be great to catch up. Enjoy the Frances xxx

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