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