Monday, 29 October 2007

STEPH The hill above the White Lake to Banici 25/10/07

What happened today?

Nothing . . . and everything. The world turned. The sun rose, the sun set. The full-bellied moon lit the night and will soon begin her journey of return to the dark.

We woke before sunrise beside the little white chapel on the hill, overlooking the lake behind us and the ocean to the west. The sun broke through the clouds, clipping their tips a brilliant orange, just as we were eating chocolate (Toblerone) and mandarins (thanks Theresa!) for the road. The clouds a little further around the skyline were ablaze with a billowing yellow fire. The lake behind us was dark, the ocean before us dark blue. It was chilly; it was beautiful.

We wandered down the white stone road to the highway and that’s where we spent the day, walking into a steady stream traffic on the main road from Dubrovnik. I am beginning to wonder if I can detect a distinct difference in our wellbeing at the end of the day depending on whether we’ve been wandering the backroads or chewing up the main roads.

Main roads require a particular focus that rarely lets up. We’re in our own zone, for sure; cars and trucks and buses racing by as we wander along in the small space between the white line and the gutter, the advantage of the trucks being that at least they blow a welcome breeze our way as they roll on by.

My world is reduced to the minutiae of the roadside, an abundance of wild sage and thyme; blackberry brambles and fennel, thinner now than they were further north; there are crocuses, purple and white, and tiny sprays of pink snow grass flowers bursting from cracks in the bitumen; there are rocks, streaky sand-coloured boulders and stones all colours, shapes and sizes; and there is rubbish, the flotsam and jetsam of modern human existence, washed up on our bitumen shoreline, most commonly cigarette packets (Marlboro man is riding strong in these parts), disposable nappies, orange juice cartons and - new as the day they were bought - wedding ribbons, pink, yellow, white, cream and peach, that the Slavic peoples tie to their cars in their honking tooting wedding parades.

Now and then I raise my eyes to the skyline, to the low hills in the east and the islands in the west.

The world turns.

We walk and we walk and we walk. People honk and wave like we’re friends. They recognize us from Sunday’s newspaper article! We eat cheese and bread and mandarins and chocolate. We play backgammon. We argue about whether the dice is on the board or not. This is our first argument.

The world turns.

We find a patch of sunshine free from rubbish and spread our tents out to dry on the clipped bushes. We lay back on our packs to rest amongst the thyme and the dark green mosses, the white stones and the stalks of last summer’s weeds. We are two metres from the roadside and we lie there for all the world as if we own the place. And perhaps for a moment, we do.

We walk on.

Sun rises, sun sets.

A bus hits a blue car which ploughs into a roadside shop.

Moon bright, moon dark.

Abandoned stone dwellings. Crumbling city walls.

Tide in, tide out.

We walk too far into the night, seeking shelter that doesn’t show up. A spectacular moon rises before us. When there’s a lull in the traffic we’re in paradise – moon, ocean, mountains, night stillness. When there’s not, it’s crazy to keep going on the road. We stop at a house that has rooms advertised in a town that’s not on our map.

Like just about everything food or shelter related in this country, it’s not open.

It’s not the season, Ben reminds me.

We are led through the very old stone byways of Banici to an equally old woman who has a room. We are grateful. We take the room. No hot water till morning. It’s not the season, I tell Ben. He is not amused.

It is three days since we have showered. Funny how it’s easy to curl up unwashed in our tent in the wild places . . . and bloody horrible to sleep between clean white sheets – not sticky in the mountains, sticky in civilization.

The world turns.

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