Almost there

Sketches in ink -38

It has been 28 years since I did exercises of any kind in a group. I kid you not. If you are a gym junkie and good at mental arithmetic and historical trivia, you will realise that I am making vague references to Jane Fonda workout tapes, and similar.

The warm-up exercises in the community hall before today’s walk reminded me that I lack a natural sense of rhythm, but unlike three decades ago, I do not care. I still seem to be quite fit (on this, my 51st birthday) and once again feel vindicated in saying that housework and gardening combined with caring for someone who is disabled provide me with more than enough exercise. Just don’t ask me to do the Jane Fonda workout, though!

I had already warmed up before leaving the house – by which I mean I had done some stretching exercises while tying my shoelaces. And it seemed silly to drive my car the roughly 500 metres to the Community Centre on this particular day, so I walked.  People of all ages participated in this community walk promoting health. I chose the eight-kilometre course over the five-kilometre one, since I knew from early morning walks in the humid heat of Brisbane with my sister a month ago that walking five kilometres entailed no particular strain on my part.

Dirt roads in the hilly Algarve with a cool breeze on this fine sunny day meant that the best pace at which to proceed was a brisk one, which is what I did, apart from the odd stop to take a photo. I finally worked up a sweat at about the six-kilometre mark, which coincided with an awe-inpiring panoramic view almost at the top of a hill. Finishing the course was comfortable, and mostly downhill from that point.

The couple I was walking with at the time had just told me that they had walked the 420-kilometre pilgrimage from Viseu in the north of Portugal to Santiago de Compostela. I had brought up the subject because something about the dirt road or the ease of our conversation reminded me about a friend in South Africa who is planning to go on that pilgrimage next year and has invited her friends to join her for at least part of the way. There are hostels on that route every 20 kilometres or so, the husband told me. He also told me that he spent a year of his life in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe in 1975 after Mozambique fell, and a short time in South Africa before finding his way to Portugal. A small world, once again. I always end up finding out where people are from because of my accent in Portuguese – and in English, for that matter. I thought to myself that I would have to do a lot more walking to toughen up for such a journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sopa de feijão (bean and vegetable soup) served in the community hall afterwards amidst happy chatter and laughter. It was a marvellous precursor to something which is most faithfully indicative that I am no spring chicken: the delightful afternoon nap under a warm duvet in front of the television which I made no attempt to watch.

©2015, Allison Wright


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