Friday, May 4, 2018

The End of the Road

Well, we did it. All of us. A few sat out the optional dawn circuit of Lake Mladost this morning -- 6 km that I did without pack and boots as we were coming back to the hotel for breakfast. I nearly skipped it myself, but my roomie Christa got up, so I got up, too. It was pretty, but not spectacular, but as usual on our walks we paired off into couples and trios and had some good conversations. Not everyone agrees with everyone, of course, but I think that everyone listens and learns and we benefit from each others' experiences and perspective.

The morning was cool, the water, mirror-calm. The trash, in various picnic spots, disappointing. We are the only animal that fouls its nest so. I don't understand what is in people's head when they toss an empty plastic water bottle from a car, or leave bottles, utensils, and plastic plates in a place where they have gone to enjoy a day out... What do they think happens to it? That is magically disappears? Do they want to prepare their next picnic, pack up their children and drive to the lake only to find that their anticipated picnic spot has become a dumping ground...? Ugh... I could rave for a long time.

So, back to the hotel for breakfast, then we loaded our bags onto Roman-the-Bus, and off we went.  Eighteen kilometres today -- and it was a hard eighteen. The sun came out, the hill kept going up -- and it went up seemingly endlessly before it began coming down -- the road was tarmac which takes its toll on knees, hips, and ankles... But conversation and camaraderie made things easier, and some difficult miles slipped by. Chris kindly carried extra water for me again, and that made a lot of difference.

Toward the end, I began flagging and had to keep in mind my reminders for good posture: a blood-red helium balloon with a picture of a skull that wants to float upwards and forward, its string is my spine -- lengthened and straightened by the upward floating of the balloon -- and somewhere below, my feet are active feet, propelling me along, flexing at the toe and ankle joints. If the head and the feet are right, the bits in the middle will slip into place.

I found it easier not to stop and rest. I could not sit, so standing around was trading a discomfort that was at least moving forward for an extreme discomfort that was not getting me anywhere. I preferred to keep going.

...And at last Roman came into view! At last! May and I were in the front, talking about something that I can't recall, and suddenly I saw the white sides, the blue logo... and we were done. And it was group photo time, then pile on board time, then drive into Skopje time with a couple of stops en route, and check into the last hotel. Dinner is in a little over an hour, and tomorrow some of us will transfer to Thessaloniki and our next adventure. Or our planes home. Which could be one and the same thing.

You can help, you know. It's not too late to sponsor me, and you know that I have finished the walk. Please consider contributing to my fundraiser. This has been a tough week, but as I said before, we are walking in the footsteps of those who had it much tougher. And for refugees trapped in Greece, the ones that Refugee Support Europe works with, life is more secure than it was on the road, but it is still hard, frustrating, and lacking in the dignity of choice and independence.  And the flow of refugees is not stopping: this last week, thousands more crossed the land border with Turkey. The demand for relief doesn't stop.  Please consider a contribution -- every little bit helps.  Ramadan is coming -- your donation will make it a little easier.

I have a feeling that this walk has been a kind of a watershed. That ideas, thoughts, and feelings need to float around for a while, need to re-align, need to settle. I am sure we will meet again on these pages, so this is not 'Goodbye'.

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