The Old Railroad
In March on Brussels on 11 August 2011 at 19:21
Day 17 of the March on Brussels. From Vitoria/Gasteiz, 28 km.
We have a tight schedule. Just like on the Northern Column the idea is to get up at six and to be on the march at seven, so that we can cover as much distance as possible before the sun starts to become a real nuisance. But in practice it doesn’t work that way. Usually at seven most people start to wake up, and it’s not uncommon to be on the march only around eight thirty.
Today we did better. We departed just thirty minutes behind schedule. And still we managed to waste another hour to get out of Vitoria, because on almost every street corner people stopped to hold an assembly about which direction to take. It’s exasperating. A local map would be of great help. When we finally reach the outskirts a message arrives from the vanguard. They don’t know either. “Just take the motorway. At least you don’t get lost.” Another assembly. I don’t partecipate. They can decide whatever they want, but I, as a free individual, have decided not to walk along the motorway today.
We’re about seven persons who take an alternative route. We know the direction, more or less, we know the name of the village where we are headed, and the rest we can ask. So we walk off, into the mist.
The fog covering the meadows feels nice and cool. It seems as though not only the visibility is dimmed by it, but also the sounds of nature. The only thing you can hear, apart from social-political discussions, is the call of the crows. Together with the wind playing through the foliage of the poplars it makes me think of Holland. After a couple of kilometres the road bisects. We stop. Fortunately one of us has a bike. While we sit, the bike goes down one of the roads on reconnaissance. When he reappears out of the fog we can also start to distinguish the rest of the group joining us. In the end they too decided that the motorway was neither the most pleasant route, nor the safest route to follow.
Instead we follow the old Basque-Navarra railroad. The tracks are gone, but a green path through the woods remains. Once in a while we are treated to the romantic sight of an abandoned station.
Late in the morning the fog finally clears and the sun reveals to us the Basque Country in all its glory. It’s marvellous. Thick green forests cover the hills and the valleys, dotted only by isolated houses and old villages. There is a lake untouched by human exploitation in the distance. This is what I wanted to see. This is the country that I wanted to cross on foot.
Finally we descend on our destination for today, the tiny mountain village of Leintz Gatzaga. You will find no Spanish flags here, not even on the municipality in front of which we camp. The village is inhabited by a handful of mainly elderly people. They sympathise with us, and compared to the people in the cities, they offer us loads of food.
Places like this, however stupendous they are, are at risk of extinction. A comrade of ours has a map of dozens of phantom villages in the Pyrennees, ready to be squatted. It will be a very important aspect of the revolution to allow these places to be repopulated by people who are prepared to work the land and create vital, sustainable communities. They could be completely self-sufficient, without the need of outside government, but connected to the rest of the world through the great medium of internet.