Endings. And beginnings. There is an edge, mostly bitter-sweet, that cleaves a finish from a start. The road has been that edge for me. A long circuitous edge that has taken me from the northern most tip of Scotland, to the southern most toe of Portugal, and back again. From cool Celtic islands where red stags stare from grassy banks, and sea rocks grow green hair, to whitewashed southern villages where sun-soaked stones whisper in Moorish undertones while you indulge in a vino verde. It’s been a long road.
Throughout this odyssey, the Atlantic Ocean has been by my side, mostly quite literally. How I’ve grown to love this rolling sage-like companion. The cool clarity. The strange, no bullshit beauty of it. The Atlantic has been here a long long time, has seen many beginnings. Many endings. And many roads leading from one to the other.
But even the roads have to end at some point. Hallelujah for that!
The end of the road was in Asturias. Pushing my van round the tight cobbled bends of what would hopefully be my new neighbourhood, I sucked in my breath. Would I be able to drive up to my land? Would my new camper make it? Because I had just sold my larger truck and downgraded to a cheaper, smaller, much older one, firstly to free up some money for the next stages of my new mud adventure, and secondly because the other caravan was too fat to fit through the village.
Now I won’t lie, the mechanics hadn’t exactly waxed lyrical about my new van purchase. “Oof! You didn’t get a Renault, did you?” There were flinches and winces from pretty much every boiler-suited man-in-the-know that set eyes on her. Still I liked the van. And this side of the 1200 miles she’s just driven, I’d go as far as to say I love her. But the real question was always going to be, how would she fare on dirt roads and potholes?
As the mountainside plunged away into a ravine of green folds, the stone walls of the village dropped back into the rear view. My wheels left the asphalt and cruised onto the rutted dirt track, and I grinned. This is why you want a cronky old vehicle. When it comes to tough roads, they can hold their own. My first worry had been assuaged.
But there were other worries as I entered the home stretch. They bothered me like a head-full of prattling hens. I’d had enough of being homeless. Well and truly. And while I was reasonably confident my land deal would go through, I was wondering exactly how long it would take for the various pieces of officialdom to fall into place. Perhaps I should have visited the estate agent first to learn what was going on. But I didn’t. Something inside me wanted to check on the land, to see if she was alright.
Thus it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I trod the muddy path to my new Eden. Worry fowl still clucked away in my mind. Was everything as I left it? Had anything been destroyed?
Dragging open the rotten posts of the gate, I gaped. Gone were the bare boughs and stony skies of winter. The sun stretched into the meadows and gilded each blade of grass. Everywhere buds had burst and leaves flourished. And the ash tree was now fluttering in a fresh robe of green. As I sat beneath her and meditated, the sun lowered. There was such a gentle reverence about the space. And I sensed the stir of the Earth.
The very next morning, I drove back into town. Lip-chewing and restless, I hurried to the estate agents to learn what, if anything, was happening with the dreaded paperwork. As I pushed open the door, I saw the agent clutching a bunch of papers. He turned and stared at me, eyes widening in surprise. "You're back! That's good timing," he said, waving a sheaf at me. "I'm just in from the municipality. Here's your paperwork! You can sign next week."
And so time rolled along, as it does. Next week became this week, which then turned into last week. Finally I saw the chequered flag approaching.
We met in a nondescript riverside office block, which the lawyer cheerily informed me had been illegally built. It took a good two hours, five people, three rooms of the noteria, and a book load of paper. But by 7pm on May 24th this rugged beauty did indeed become mine.
Note: This is the last On the Road Blog post. As from next month I’ll have my feet firmly planted in the dirt again, and listening to my land. So for those not on my email list, look out for the new Earth Whispering Blog next month.
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Atulya K Bingham
"This is such a compelling book. It will make you want to abandon everything you know, move to the forest and commune with the trees and earth." Luisa Lyons, actor, writer and musician.
"Inspiring and beautifully written."
The Owner Builder Magazine.