Friday, 12 October 2007

STEPH Sv Petar to Vransko Jezero 10/10/07

Now why am I doing this again???

I feel as if we’re limping to Split and . . . we are. The dickhead who authorized the dumping of sharp and slippery white rocks on the forest paths along the coastline round here ought to be forced to walk them on their knees!!!

(Deep breath from my tent beneath the olive tree by the lakeshore of Vransko Jezero.)

Today we woke to a cloudy day, the benefits of which are threefold: we pack up dry tents, we walk in a heat-free day and Ben gets up early and thinks it’s late.

Best of all, I crawled out of the tent to see my towel hanging on the branch of an olive tree beside the Adriatic Sea . . . ah yes, now I remember, that’s why I’m doing this.

We ease into the walk along the roadside, cars and buses and trucks coming at us at ungodly speeds. I mean that – ungodly. Speaking as a pilgrim, getting about life at those speeds is ungodly.

My shoulders are screaming. My feet are screaming harder. I announce that I’m taking the bus to Biograd and will meet Ben there on his way through. We round a corner and we’re on the fringe of Sv Petar . . . no buses. I give way to the war within. The biorhythms are no more interested in this walk today than they were yesterday. I am totally engrossed in my torturous pain and then Ben says something very simple: ‘Isn’t this beautiful.’

My attention switches from the enormity of my agonies to the bluebound west, where sky and sea are one watery colour and inkblot islands come and go like ghosts. I decide I have nothing to lose if I surrender my crescendo of pain and turn my attention to beauty. I sip the yellows and purples of the tiny weed flowers on the side of the road, I delight in a rare crimson. I breathe deeply the bright-brown of the freshly turned earth. I marvel at the shiny black backs of the low-flying crows . . .

My shoulders straighten out and my feet find their rhythm. The pack is not as heavy as it was.

I begin to see beauty in ugly . . . the rich blue swish on a bag of rubbish, the orange scrap of ribbon that might have held a gift . . .

We walk Croatia’s tourist strip, where Kamps with English names – Suzy, Tim, Anita – give us insight into who the summer visitors might be. New developments are everywhere. New houses, new paint-jobs, new jetties. The EU’s latest money funnel. Unlike my own country, prime agricultural land has not been completely sacrificed for profit. Nearly every one of those new houses boasting rooms with an Adriatic view for rent has a front yard dripping with olives, oranges, grapes, tomatoes and the winter potato crop is taken hold in the ground.

We walk through the new new new seeking to settle for the simple . . . a supermarket, a post office – even a bar for coffee would be good. And suddenly shiny and new gives way to old as the hills and we find Taranj’s age-old ‘centra’ on the seashore.

It is here I decide to pay attention to the blister on my little toe bursting yellow from its bandaid. I wince as the Betadine does its work. I strap it up again. I breathe deeply as we limp into the distance towards tonight’s campsite on the lakeshore. We walk through clipped scrubby wilderness on a dirt road between the highway and the sea. It has the faded purple beauty of distant heather. We play backgammon in a pine forest, after stuffing ourselves on crusty bread, cheese, fresh tomatoes and great ham, unconcerned that we’ve lost our way.

And here we are, beneath the olive trees, tents flapping in the gale blowing through the grape vines between here and the lake . . . I do declare it’s time to set up the backgammon!

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