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Petit Port to Icart


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Day 2: I retrace my road route to Petit Port and set off along the cliff path. I’d started the day with an on-line meditation with the beautiful Satish Kumar. A meditation focussing on gratitude. Gratitude for the air, the earth, the fire and the water: all the fundamentals of life, which sustain everything on our planet, without discrimination. Gratitude for the ancestors and all that they have given us by way of life and art and architecture and philosophy and culture and science. And in thinking about the ancestors, the need to think about the future generations and what we will
bequeath them. I suspect they will have less cause for gratitude.

It was equally a meditation focussing on inter-connection, reminding us that we are the cosmos and the cosmos is us. There is no separation, only continual exchange, interchange, interconnection.

These are good thoughts to carry out onto a walk.

Non-discrimination, only love. Non-judgement. Perhaps there are good reasons why the two beautiful women with the dog were sitting with their backs to the view, scrolling through photographs on their phone. May they be happy. May they also learn that the value of turning off and turning round. Sea and sky and trees and rocks. The land itself reaches out to us. We are healed when we tune in.

I pass a box of apples outside a house with a “help yourself” sign. I take just one.

There’s a gentle road stretch, deep under the trees that reminds me of the Ardennes. There are steep steps that remind me of the rice fields of Nepal. Idle memories of other places creep in and fade out again. I keep walking.

I feel gratitude for my body, enabling me to do this. I feel gratitude for the people who built these steps and continue to maintain them. I come back to the idea that a walk is never just a walk, it is always a pilgrimage. And if every walk is a pilgrimage then each footstep is its only purpose. The purpose of pilgrimage is not to arrive. The purpose of pilgrimage is to journey – to travel – in faith and trust and gratitude. And in enjoyment.

Something that often gets overlooked is how many of the prophets and masters tell us to “smile”, to enjoy, to be present. If we can truly learn to take life as it comes, to accept that many of the paths we walk, we do so by choice, then surely we should also learn to enjoy them.

Even when they are not gentle, not easy. Any seasoned walker will tell you that the best paths are not gentle or easy. They ask something of you in return for the views and the solitude that they afford you. They ask effort in exchange for the rewards.

Reflecting on yesterday’s passing conversation (and on passages from the book I still have to review) I realise that I walk now at a writer’s pace, not a walker’s pace. I remember a guide in the Alpujarras who spoke of each day’s walk as a ‘job’ – we’ve got a job to do. Well, technically, I guess he did, but we did not. I did not. And increasingly I am rejecting that notion of my walks: the idea that there is a route to complete, a job to do, a certain distance to walk, a place to get to. No. Pilgrimage is not about getting there, it is about travelling

I remember reading somewhere about a guy who would walk in the mornings only, aim to finish at midday and start looking for somewhere to stay, spend most of the afternoon recovering, lazing, connecting, enjoying the being where he was. I’m sure it was a he, but can’t remember who. When I get back home to my books I might look it up. I probably won’t. It is enough that I like the principle … walk until you feel like stopping and then stop.

Beyond Petit Port I am on unfamiliar tracks. I have not walked here before, high above Moulin Huet Bay, and yet they bring back to familiarity at All Saints Bay. Here I have been, but think I must have walked in from the road previously. I am sure I would have remembered descending the Ch’min des Anges. The way of the Angels. I would have liked the comfort of wings. It’s a steep descent. I am grateful for my third limb, the third point of contact that means I can worry less about my balance. I am, once again, grateful for my Leika pole.

And then there is the climb back out the other side. There are steps that in places are no longer there. There are steps that require the right-angling of the upper leg. I said I wanted to do some squat work. Ask and it shall be given!

I pause for the fitness girl on her run up. “Tough old climb” she says. “It is when you get to my age,” I reply. Being present to my own limitations, I am taking all of this really slowly. I am remembering not to look too far ahead on the challenging sections.

Most of all I am remembering to stop and look at the view. There’s no mist today and I’m gifted a true contrast of sky blue and ultra-marine. Yachts lie at anchor in every cove, because on days like this why wouldn’t you?

Renoir came here to paint. Along part of the trail there is empty picture frames to show (as near as possible) views and matching them to his paintings. Someone else’s sublime. And mine too.

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I round Icart Point and then decide to bale out for the day. I’m stupidly delighted when I find myself at a bus stop – but when I find it will be a half hour wait, I figure I could spend that time idling down the lanes.

These are my learnings from today: that when I spoke about four miles a day, I didn’t factor in my getting to and from the path – the fact that the links to bus routes would add time, the fact that sometimes I'd rather continue ambling down these Ruettes Tranquilles rather than waiting for transport. That these roads are part of the pilgrimage not off-shoots from it. They are part of embedding more of this island into my memory – the stone walls, the flowers, the maize fields, the very expensive modern houses and the old country cottages, like farm house with its inscribed lintel EM1721. I wonder if EM was the builder. Or perhaps the bride for whom it was built.

I take time out to have lunch back at Del Mar. I take more time to practice in the play area, where I can put my bare feet onto the grass. I take time to wander down to Fermain Bay and swim in the sea.

I take time to be happy. And to be grateful.