I was walking, in my usual way, rather too fast, knowing that later on I’d probably be a little breathless, but aware that there would be times when I could slow down and enjoy the scenery.
And you were consulting the guidebook, pondering over the map, planning how long before the next stop and whether you’d make it in time.
Given the length of my stride, I encountered, greeted and overtook others on the track.
You were wondering whether you would run into those people again – you know, the ones you met back there, who seemed interesting at first, but soon bored you so much you found an excuse to take time out, long enough for them to get away.
I just kept on walking. Enjoying the wide sky and the rusty swing of the kissing gate. Relishing the brief panoramic outlook from the top of the stile, before the cautious descent into the muddy patch where people had landed and splashed many times before.
And you came to a wall and wondered how you had missed the gate, and how you were going to get over it. And you struggled with the kissing gate because your rucksack was too bulky and it wouldn’t let you into the neutral space in the middle, so your pack had to be handed over and thrown so as to avoid getting deep in the mud. And on the other side you struggled once more re-harnessing your rucksack which unbalanced you and sent you staggering.
I enjoyed my stroll through the wild forest, finding long-forgotten paths and even making my own. I had time to notice the flick of the wren in the hedgerow, the raucous sound of the rooks black against the sky, the flash of squirrels scampering up and round to safety.
And you had your eyes fixed to the path, following the footprints of those who had also trodden this way for their own reasons. You were constantly looking for waymarks to tell you that you were on the right track, the approved way, the numbered route. Your map was closely consulted for further confirmation and reassurance.
I was taking deep breaths and swallowing the fresh air. I took pleasure in the dance of the filtered sunlight, noticing the lengthening shadows on the buildings as they appeared over the brow of the hill, the low sun reflected from their window panes.
And you saw the hostel as a time for taking off your boots, losing the bowed encumbrance of your backpack. You wanted to wash away the day with a hot shower, have time to plan the next stage.
And I was sitting there waiting, watching the sunset, enjoying the moment, and the next moment when you arrived, and hoping that you would feel as much as home as I did.
© Peter Young 2016