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60% IS WATER

 

Davide Aramini

Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. I guess the remaining 40% is made of our memories.

I was cycling towards Pamplona and had just waved goodbye to Fiona and Ian, two cycling buddies I had randomly - and fortunately - met in the Basque Countries.

After a long day cycling on my own, thinking too much and probably not pedaling enough, I start climbing los pre Pirineos, i.e. the mountain range that comes before the Pyrenees and gets you ready for the hard climb. It is a long and steep ascent, and when it starts raining I am lucky enough to find a sort of Albergue just before the mountain pass. I am welcomed warmly by the lovely couple that runs it, and soon realize I am the only customer: there are not many pilgrims on that route, one of the alternatives to El Camino Frances, which is undoubtedly the most popular (it attracts more than 50% of over 300,000 pilgrims reaching Compostela every year).

The lady is a strong, chatty and definitely very opinionated woman (especially when the news starts on TV), whose name is Jewish after one of her ancestors. She treats me to a latte and some of her homemade bizcocho while explaining her view of the Spanish political situation. Her husband is a quiet and handsome man with the sweetest look and very calm manners; he has gone out to enjoy the sunset. They let me camp in their backyard and she cooks for me as genuinely as my grandma used to - and just as salty too. Meanwhile her husband pours the wine and stokes the fire. It is late May. The TV keeps blabbering in the background.

Ready for another night in the tent, I enjoy the view from the top of the deep and green valley: down below lies the traffic of roaring trucks. They don't have to take the diversion to avoid the tunnel across the mountain, which means that they will never enjoy the food or the company of the lovely couple. That night I am awoken by the heavy rain, and suddenly realize I am almost out of water and surrounded by the darkness of the mountains and the cloudy sky.

A thirsty throat in a dark and rainy night and a foreign country can be a dangerous concoction for a lonely traveller, and a perfect trigger for the same old fears. When they come back to the surface, I am overwhelmed, and start a crazy wonder looking for a tap. I even try to get into the building, which turns out to be as accessible as Alcatraz - or The Tower of London if you have got more British tastes. After God knows how long - long enough for my torch to run out of battery - I find one, and you know what? I barely drink any of that curative water.

The following morning the lady asks me if I managed to sleep despite the stormy weather and before my departure she wishes me "que llegue a buen puerto". I made it through that night, as I made it to Italy after a journey of about 2,500 km of (almost) pure beauty. Another diversion from 'normal' life, another opportunity to explore the inner motherland, another great metaphor for the bigger Journey. If 60% of our body is water, the remaining 40% must be our experiences.