Author Topic: A Piece of Travel Writing  (Read 2330 times)

Offline mrd56

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A Piece of Travel Writing
« on: June 05, 2007, 07:07:24 AM »
A piece of Travel Writing, Reviews gratefully accepted.

A Chance Encounter:

Night was falling and a storm was lighting up the peaks of the Pyrenees. Traffic was getting lighter and the chances of thumbing a lift diminishing with the light. The pyrotechnic display of  the storm as it came closer was inspiring but tempered with the prospect of a bone chilling soaking in the attending torrential rain. The first drops of rain kicked up the dust on the road side. The smell of the ozone in the air mingled with the dust made us cringe for what was about to come our way.

A car horn startled us both as a small van pulled in a little way ahead. The driver got out and called to us in Spanish. He looked so familiar, then I realised where I had seen him before. He was the guy portrayed on all Spanish tourist information posters. White hair, neatly clipped goatee beard, rough peasant smock over blue wide cotton trousers and rope sandals.

“Buenos Noches “he called,
“Buenos Noches Senior, Muchos gracias” I answered
“Ah Ingles” he replied
“Non, Irlandes,

“Bueno, Bueno he laughed,” I love the Irish, quick get in out of the rain” We threw our rucksacks in the back and gratefully squeezed into the front seat out of the rain that was gathering in strength.

“Where are you going” he asked

“France” Anne replied

“Not tonight you are not; you are coming home with me out of this storm.”

We really didn’t put up much of an argument. He told us his name was Santiago. Neither of us were really surprised; we felt the Spanish patron saint had turned up to help us in our travels over the mountains.

Santiago explained he had some friends to call on before going home. His friends greeted us like long lost family. They fussed over us, all asking questions at once. Anne nudged me,” Look, Look” she said in a whisper, it took me a minute to realise she meant the bowl of red and white flowers on the table. A shiver went up my spine as she said;” they are a sign of death”.

“What are?” I asked. Anne was forever coming out with weird and wonderful sayings; her life was ruled by superstition.

“Wise up, they are only bloody flowers” I told her with more than a little hope in my voice.

We got back in the van and Santiago drove deeper into the mountains, the storm now in all its fury, forked lightening illuminating the jagged peaks and even deeper ravines at the road side. Eventually we pulled into a mountain chalet.

Several German Shepard dogs ran out from under the house barking at the car and running in circles. Santiago asked us to stay in the car while he got out first and quietened the dogs. Once in the house he advised us not to go outside without him. No argument there.

Anne was beginning to get more uneasy and to tell the truth I was putting on a brave face. Santiago unaware of the mutterings and whispers made a stew and salad opening a very large container of red wine before settling down before the log fire. Anne nearly flipped when Santiago produced an arsenal of rifles. German Mausers, a British Lee Enfield even an American Garand. They may have all been left over from the Spanish Civil War as he said but each one was oiled and in perfect working order. These were not rusty relics.

Anne and I spent a restless night waiting on Santiago to show his murderous side. Thankfully in the bright sunlight morning he was as gracious a host as ever. Over breakfast on his veranda to a staggering backdrop of Pyrenean peaks Santiago told us his story.

He had fought in the Spanish Civil war although he didn’t say which side other than he had fought beside lots of Irish. Afterwards he spent a lifetime travelling for the Spanish Diplomatic Corps. On his return he and a group of friends formed a group called “Marco Polo.”  The aim of the group was to help travellers in any way they could. Taking them home, feeding them and putting them on the right road the next day asking no payment in return. Their reward was for the travellers to promise to remember the hospitality and to show the same consideration to other travellers when possible and relate the story of Marco Polo asking for their promise in return.  They hoped someday travellers all over the world would be helping each other.

The promise we made to Santiago that bright morning has been fulfilled on numerous occasions. The chance encounter on a mountain road all those years ago continues to spread Santiago’s wishes. Who is to say how many lives that act of kindness will