I cannot recognise many of the markers on this road I walked with my daughter 4 years ago. We got off the train at Colmenar and after enquiring in very bad Spanish “Donde es ?” the flèchas or arrows that direct along the path, we walked up a very steep hill and somehow reached the right place. The first flecha was on the wall next to the church of the Annunciation. My memory of that cold, unsettled morning is of a smaller church and the plaza full of workmen digging. We clicked sticks and off we went on our mother/daughter adventure.
It was icy cold along rocky treeless plain, that’s my memory of it. We sheltered behind rocks whenever we could from the wind which whipped around our head. Our faces were too frozen to move our lips and talk. Every now and then soggy cold bits of water fell on us, enough to run off the surface of jackets and into the tops of our muddy boots.
Today it’s very hot. We started at 9am, too late really, but even and hour into the walk I feel the sun coming off the gravelly path and hitting my face. The road stretches on relentlessly and I watch my feet over the rocks and gullies. I also watch for bikes. It is Sunday and people are off on their mountain bikes for the day to the next place Manzanares el Real. Bikes come hurtling zigzagging across rocks and dirt and I have to move out of the way on this narrow path. I recognise the rock behind behind which we sheltered from the wind four years ago, and we laughed against the cold wind as we spied the flecha on the rock. We were on the right path. Today after that recognition, most of the way was unfamiliar.
How could I have forgotten the markers on the path? Maybe I was so intent on watching where I put my feet and contending with the cold. Or perhaps the path has been re routed. Or maybe memory plays tricks. Perhaps I am attempting to rediscover or reinvent an atmosphere or mood which cannot be recreated: the exhilaration of a start of an adventure and a hope.
Today I am conscious of the sun bearing down and regret my missed coffee. We rushed out of Colmenar, it is Sunday so coffee shops not open that early. The path varies between stoney and flat and stones and uphill. Even 3 weeks ago the countryside would have been pretty. Today the lavender and yellow bushes have passed their best. Maybe I have too because after 10km of walking, and getting out of the way of cyclists as they hurtle past, I long for coffee or coke Xero , and shade.
A rest under a tree and we eat the chocolate wafer brought from Colmenar, water, some stale bread. Off again. A few bits that lighten the walk: the trees against the mountains as we approach Manzanares el Real ( village of real apples!), a single white cloud in a gimlet blue sky. Then it’s a wind downhill beside the lake and a walk into the Centre. First bar, here we are. Coke Zero and beer and all’s nearly right with the world.