Saturday, 27 October 2007

STEPH Medugorje to Gabela 23/10/07

Today was highlighted by two delightful meetings; the first being breakfast with the good Fathers Rory and Tony at the Rosabel Hotel, Irish Catholics from Dublin and the Kingdom of Kerry respectively; and the second running into Nikola, our host at the Rosabel, and his son Joseph late in the afternoon as we walked through Capiljan, 15kms from Medugorje – the only locals in all the hills of Herzegovina with whom we are acquainted . . .

Timing is everything, isn’t it?

It was a late start to the day; slow because Ben was running on the minimum allowable sleep for a pilgrim and cruisy thanks to the Good Fathers, whose company over scrambled eggs was far too good to miss.

We laughed and we shared war stories, our own and others.

By 1pm we had said our goodbyes to Medugorje and were on the road. We made good time, leaving by way of Krizevac, or Crucifix Hill, where adult children of a Catholic god do penance by climbing to the top with bare feet.

We wound our way through the hills of Herzegovina (they spell themselves with a c, as in Hercegovina – actually, judging by a sign – Herzevacko – I wonder if they even call themselves Herzegovina!) and into the town of Capiljan, where we crossed paths with Nikola and the very wonderful Joseph, who we’d missed in our farewells at Medugorje.

The sun was just setting when we decided to call it a day and pitch our tents in a perfect little campsite on the other side of the railway tracks, just outside Gabela. There, among the shoulder-high reeds, we found a small bright green patch of freshly sewn yarrow with ground so soft that even my bent pegs found firm footing.

We sat on the ground and watched evening come to the village on the distant hillside, lights on, dogs barking, smoke curling from chimneys. The moon rose behind us.

I am glad to be camping in Herzegovina, privileged to be here among her people.

Herzegovinans consider themselves Croatian. Why then, I ask, are you Bosnia Herzegovina? They shrug. No-one knows. Just like the border with Bosnia, no-one knows where that is either.

War. It comes. It goes. People die. Borders shift. Someone, somewhere, knows what it was for.

Life goes on.

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