Aug 162012
 

I am in the altered state of the pilgrim – it’s called Delusional.

In 2007, Australian author & journalist Stephanie Dale joined her son Ben for the middle leg of his pilgrimage from Canterbury, in England, to Jerusalem. Her newly released travel memoir, My Pilgrim’s Heart, is the story of their adventures.

EXCERPT: CROATIA: Why am I doing this again?

We wake in the dawn light to the excitement of being back on the road. It takes us a good half-day’s slog to clear Zadar’s industrial corridor and then clod our way through the riot of new cement works on the edge of the city; new freeway, new footpaths, new blisters.

Now why am I doing this again?

After a week of hotels and trains and ferries my biorhythms are not co-operating. My shoulders scream as the extra weight of the computer pushes me beyond anything at all I consider acceptable, even though I’ve posted home everything superfluous, even face cream!

Right on the fringe of the habitation wasteland, we hear the most terrible meowing hastening from the weeds. My heart sinks, certain a cat is about to present itself with half its legs run over.

Rather, it is just an extremely hungry ginger kitten, starving as much for human company as it is for food. Ben opens a tin of tuna and offers it gently to a very grateful little puss.

Half an hour later we take our first rest beneath a small palm with the Adriatic Sea just metres away. I hobble over to the only sign of civilisation this side of the road, a concrete jetty, and there I lie flat on my back among the dry seagull poo.

I look vaguely at the sky and give my attention to the wind. It blows harder. I allow the news it brings of otherworlds to sink into my bones.

I shade my face with my fingers and through the gaps I watch the birds. I like to think they are swooping and soaring just for me.

I am in the altered state of the pilgrim: it’s called Delusional.

We press on. Today is agonising, of spirit as much as anything else. I feel as if I’m dragging a sack of bones along the bitumen and indeed I am – my own. It is the time of the dark moon. I should be in my hammock.

We walk in the noonday sun. It is too much so we stop awhile in the shade of a small tree near the water’s edge. Ben’s great. He is happy to rest when I need to. There by the shores of the Adriatic he gets internet! I harmonise effort and ease and sleep.

We walk on, the heat of the day gone now. There is a row of houses selling produce on the street. We buy tomatoes and a string of dried figs from an old bent woman dressed all in black. I leave Ben to finalise the transaction and walk on. He hollers for me to come back. He’s not paying thirty kuna for figs and two tomatoes, not when he’s just feasted on a massive plate of spaghetti bolognaise for the same price.

I want the figs. They might be so common I scrape them off my bootsoles, but figs is figs and figs is quality dried fruit and besides, I’m presuming she grew them herself – or at least scraped them off her own boot soles.

Civilisation gives way to a two lane road south, bound on both sides by low, dark green scrub. The romance of the Adriatic coastline buckles under the weight of the rubbish that keeps pace with us. I think seriously about buying a donkey.

Then wacko-the-diddleo! We make Sv Petar!

Out of the Adriatic blue, here we are. And there’s a camping ground to meet us. We pitch our tents in time to sit on the rock wall by the shore, dangling our legs over the water, watching the sun go down behind the islands on the western horizon.

Surprisingly, my feet have held up okay. Sure I have new blisters. But they are new blisters. The old ones have held steady and I can walk at sundown without feeling like my bones are poking through the skin of my feet.

This is what it’s for

It is a beautiful evening. A pilgrim’s evening. The sun glows yellow orange through grey clouds. There are only shadows and light around us, the jetty, the islands, the low slung sun. I listen to the water lapping at the rock wall and gaze into the soft lime green of the rocks beneath the shallow waters; my spirit walks the shining golden pathway on the water to the sun.

Ah yes, now I remember: this is why I’m doing this again.

Available from Amazon.com
“You won’t find Stephanie Dale in My Pilgrim’s Heart, you will find yourself.”
Leasher Robinson, Talk the Talk Ladies Book Club
 August 16, 2012  Tagged with: , ,  Comments Off
Aug 162012
 

The spotted hills of Croatia

In 2007, Australian author & journalist Stephanie Dale joined her son Ben for the middle leg of his pilgrimage from Canterbury, in England, to Jerusalem. Her newly released travel memoir, My Pilgrim’s Heart, is the story of their adventures.

EXCERPT – CROATIA:  Life, the colour of roses

We load up and hit the road, hoofing out of Sibenik up a brief and very steep incline on the edge of town.

I am walking hunched over, face to the bitumen, one foot in front of the other in the afternoon sun, feeling like an Egyptian slave hauling blocks for a pyramid.

Three heartbeats later I’m flat on my back on the footpath laughing so hard I swear I nearly burst an appendix. And not because of the slave humour.

Ben had put his arm out to stop me walking into a post just as I spied it myself. What I didn’t see was the sign attached to it. Thanks to Ben I didn’t hit it as hard as I might have, but it still knocked me sideways.

Farewell Sibinek!

I grab the pole and thus prevent myself from being a total write-off, but the laughter sets in and my legs no longer hold me up and here we are, two hysterical pilgrims weeping with laughter as we roll around the footpath on the edge of Sibenik.

The thing is, people do not get us.

They Do Not Get Us.

No matter how clean and tidy and pleasant and polite we are, we are incongruent with everything that exists in this world.

Everything.

So we are already ridiculous.

And something like this happens, me rolling around on my turtleshell back, Ben in tears trying to give me a helping hand, laughing our guts out in the middle of the day on the edge of a town where stony faced is the generally accepted term of engagement.

Once we have me back on my feet, heading for the spotted hills of Croatia, the pack is a whole lot lighter and my spirit a whole lot freer for the laughter.

We walk along the roadside, keeping pace with a concrete irrigation channel funneling water to the vineyards on both sides of the road.

We are in the country; we are off the tourist trail. The road is flat and not busy.

We pass through small villages whose scant inhabitants offer only cool detachment. The strange spotted hills roll along with us, as if the same hill is racing ahead to get there before us.

As the sky lights yellow and the sun dips low, we sit on the steps of a little chapel all by itself on the roadside for a feast of bread and cheese and chocolate and mandarins, watching as the sun concedes the day.

It is a glorious evening, still and bright; the white walls of the chapel are lit crimson-gold by the setting sun, the colours of roses.

Hills ablaze in the dying light

The little church at sunset, the colour of roses

 

Resting in the afternoon light

Available from Amazon.com
“You won’t find Stephanie Dale in My Pilgrim’s Heart,
you will find yourself.”

Leasher Robinson, Talk the Talk Ladies Book Club

 August 16, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  Comments Off
Aug 152012
 

In 2007, Australian author & journalist Stephanie Dale joined her son Ben for the middle leg of his pilgrimage from Canterbury, in England, to Jerusalem. Her newly released travel memoir, My Pilgrim’s Heart, is the story of their adventures.

EXTRACT – CROATIA: Gatecrashing the family dinner

The road climbs steadily up into the spotted mountains. The view is spectacular, down the frilly sapphire coastline into the mists of perpetuity, over the rooftops of settlements large and small across the sea to Hrvatska’s blue islands.

The sun dips low and streaks the evening yellow. At the top of the highest mountain, we spy smoke pouring from an oven in a restaurant built from the mountain itself.

Heaven! Ben has finally arrived in time for his pig on spit. We enter the restaurant on sundown, the sun a dying blaze of gold. There is a family in the room and Ben makes a great show of admiring the oven and its sizzling supper.

The family home which on this particular evening we mistake for a restaurant

Something’s not quite right, but we have no idea what it is. We take our seats in the wide empty room at a window that stares right into the sunset. We glance at our menus, Ben scouring for his roast.

We are confused.

They are confused.

They bring us wine.

I ask for pasta with tomato. The mother nods.

No-one can make sense of Ben’s order – until eventually we realise that the pig he has his heart on is chicken and not only is it not on the menu, the restaurant isn’t open!

We have gatecrashed the family dinner.

Available from Amazon.com
“You won’t find Stephanie Dale in My Pilgrim’s Heart, you will find yourself.”
Leasher Robinson, Talk the Talk Ladies Book Club

 August 15, 2012  Tagged with:  Comments Off