The dial on the speedometer swings between 120 and 140 as we race along the highway, only slowing down to feed notes into slots at disembodied toll-gates. Patricia, our app.-aquired driver, buzzes open her side window and absently throws out the gum she has been chewing, while manoeuvring the steering and talking to her friends, our co-passengers. She seems oblivious and disinterested in anything beyond that side window. Her interest is in the road ahead and streamlining to her destination.
We roll past large road signs; Padron, Pontevedra, Redondela and so many other towns and villages we passed through on our way, except now it is all in reverse order, and much much faster.
I want to ask Patricia to slow down so that we may bring the speed-blurred landscape rushing past us into sharper focus. I'd like to linger for a moment in these side places; small places on the way to bigger places, places where N. and I have trod the paths; cobbled paths, paths born of river beds, paths strewn with twigs, inlaid with roots or sprouting with grasses. Our constant treading, one step after another, each footfall a sole-print meeting the earth.
I even want to suggest we make a short detour and show Patricia and our fellow passengers the tree with the sweetest and crispiest apples, the vines heavy with plump, black grapes, the meadows, the streams, the worn footbridges. And maybe en route we could visit the village cemetery where we saw a man lay out red roses on his sister's grave.
But I say nothing. I sit back and let the engine and wheels hurry forwards. I know the lore of the motoring life; the priorities of speed and rush and destination. I know detours and delays are considered a waste of time and a nuisance. I myself have so often hurried, cursing the distance that is delaying the arrival to my destination. It is only now, in this car journey to back to Porto, our point of departure, that I question the uncontested value of speed and the exclusive and elevated status it occupies.
I know the lore of the motoring life;
the priorities of speed and rush and destination.
And I do accept the value and need of vehicles of speed,
but, I question the uncontested value of velocity,
and the elevated and exclusive status it enjoys nowadays.
N. and I, have walked the Camino de Santiago from northern Portugal, crossing the border at the Minho River, into Spain. Waking up at dawn and starting out at first light, we have followed the yellow arrows and shell icons, walking and walking, covering over 160 kms., and reaching Santiago de Compostela in nine days. And now we are covering that same distance in less than two hours.
I have heard all the arguments in favour of fast car travel. I know about its convenience and the time it saves. I appreciate it as an essential and integral part of modern life, but I think it is time we reconsider the value of slower more measured travel as an option at times.
So much of our lives demands speed, and with it the brazen dismissal of the dots and the details on the way.
You don't have to walk the Camino, but maybe it is worth adopting the pilgrimage principle from time to time, and walk to a destination that you usually drive to.
Maybe it is worth negotiating the hours we invest in screen-viewing and lend some of them to slower [and active] transit forms.
We are a plodding, treading, striding species and there is great value to body and soul in this form of slower transport.
Guaranteed surprises on the way.
We walked over 160 kms in nine days, and now we are covering that same distance in less than two hours
Tip of the post
1) walk to a destination you usually drive to
2) three days later walk to a different destination you usually drive to.