Encountering the Pilgrims
In March on Brussels on 16 August 2011 at 18:33
Day 22 of the March on Brussels. From San Sebastián, 23 km.
In the internal assembly people have decided that the hour of departure should be seven thirty. And at that time every morning, many of us are ready to go. But not everyone.
So should we wait for the others and go as a group, or shall we leave them behind to go on their own? It often leads to discussion. And just as often, people just start walking.
Everyone has his or her own rhythm. It’s of no use to try to impose a military marching spirit. Different groups depart at different times, and also on the march it’s not unlikely for them to stretch out into small concentrations of only a handful of people. Add to that that there are different routes to the same place, and the march on Brussels can soon become something of a ‘see you later’ kind of walk.
Today people split between the old national road and the Compostela route. I went on the latter. More difficult, more beautiful. Even before it started, the route split once more when we arrived at a big commercial port just outside of Donostia. Some walk all the way around it, others smuggle a bit by taking an old fishermen’s ferry. I do too, so when the time comes I can say that the march also crossed the sea to come to Brussels.
After a steep climb up the coastal hills the remaining group disperses. In the end I’m alone. But it isn’t that bad. The blackberries are beginning to ripen. If you’re lucky you can steal a couple of apples from an orchard. Also the figs look good this season, even though they’re not edible until late august. And only in september they reach their explosive maturity. The road will be long, and I do hope we’ll encounter some more fig trees in France.
In the late morning the traffic on the route increases. Marchers going the other way, from Spain and from the northern countries, fully backpacked. They’re lunatics like us, only they go to Compostela, we go to Brussels.
I don’t know where I am or how much I have already walked, but assuming that these people come from the place where we’re headed, and assuming as well that they departed approximately at the same time, I must be more or less half way.
It’s true. The pilgrim traffic diminishes while I walk on. And then, from between the trees I see a scorch of the town. Irún, and the Atlantic coast. In the distance there lies France.
So here we are, at the border. It took us a week to cross Euskadi, and it has been an enormous pleasure. I really like this country, and I was happy to meet various Basque comrades of mine yesterday in Donostia. Earlier in Vitoria I had already met two veterans of the Northern Column. Here on the boulevard I meet three more from Bilbao, and a comrade from San Sebastián who had come to Sol for the National Assembly in early June. I don’t remember all of their names. Not everybody remembers mine. They’re my Basque brothers, and for them I’m ‘el Holandés Vagante’, the Flying Dutchman from Puerta del Sol.