Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 61: More adventure

The discomfort of inactivity is harsh enough, but without overmuch risk or exertion, time has been crawling painfully slowly across the western half of the Mediterranean. More than a week has passed without the joys of a pilgrim walk filling my day.

Although it's true I yearn for adventure, the broadcat order 'Await the Signal to Abandon Ship' came unwelcomed even to me. At least the fire struck at a respectable post-coffee hour of 9 in the morning. Dressed in a one-size-fits-all life jacket, I assured my designated group leader that I would certainly take off my backpack if and when the order would come to climb into the inflatable liferaft. A lot of people promised the same; everyone I'm sure intending to fight for the contrary.

Billowing sepia-black smoke streamed up from the Fifth Deck, Cargo Vehicles. The slight South Pacific men making up the emergency response team trotted by with air tanks and face masks. My assembly group of largely indifferent passengers was lined up and counted repeatedly on the upper-most deck - smoke 'em if ya got 'em - despite the no smoking signs. Europeans.

The hour passed and we fell out of rank. And the next and computers stashed under clothing came out of hiding and into use, groups of men played cards and dice. I buried my nose in a brittle yellowed paperback of 'Selected Short Stories/Great Authors of English' bargained for 1€ at a street stall near the Barcelona docks. At the third hour of the emergency, passing Corsica where I once spent a lovely New Year's holiday, caffe lattes were passed around, though too quickly cooled in the strong wind. The emergency was soon after declared over though the noxious stench of burnt rubber and melted plastic lingered all the way to Civitavecchia. If nothing else, a length of the 20-hour crossing was shortened by the distraction. And all of the instruction being in both Italian and Catalan helped push the mounted Castillian out of my feeble head and reintroduce the hibernating and unpracticed Italian.

A little sidenote in response to the comments about my boots, which were my biggest concern during the preparation phase of the trip... they've passed the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) mark holding up very well. The super durable Vibram soles of the guide boots have out-preformed the standard issue of hiking boots I wore previously. The trade off has been comfort - at the beginning they were as stiff and heavy as ski boots. Now, still heavy, they've softened up and I wax them every few weeks to keep the leather from cracking at the toe box. I think the heels will need to be replaced after another 500 kms or so, if I can manage to get back on the pilgrim trail!


Compostelle 2008 said...

Each pilgrimage has had its challenges and this one is no exception! Hope you are back on the trail soon!

Michèle (Ottawa, ON) Canada

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

More adventure in one day than many people have in a lifetime. And to think my morning was spent at the dentist, while you were getting ready to abandon ship. Those boots were made for walking.

Anonymous said...

Another woman who makes longer walks in Europe and North Africa is:


Anonymous said...

"Longer" meaning longish.