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Monday, 20 June 2011

Back in the saddle

I have been home four days, and in that time, I have finished a fifth draft of Curious Minds. Now all I have to do is use software to convert the text to mp3 files, listen to it while following the text on-screen, and I will be done with it.

Now about the travels: 

We seem to have a remarkable affinity for popping in on places with Royals: UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Thailand, Japan, Denmark, Sweden and I think one or two others.  We still have Norway and Tonga to collect, but this trip saw us sauntering through Chicago (architecture, museums and galleries and a visit to the Indiana Dunes, where the notion of plant succession was first conceived), then San Antonio Texas and on to an emu farm in Burnet Texas, back to SA and on to Boston (history, museums, foods, opera).

Then via Madrid to Morocco, where we had a few days in Casablanca before spiralling around Morocco.  During our time in Casablanca, we got to Rick's Cafe--perhaps a bit touristy, a remake of the film set but with great food and drink.  There were a few demos in the streets but they were mild: the king is a decent bloke, his wife is committed to women's rights, and some time this month, there is to be a big speech, outlining the way forward. Morocco has literacy levels of 40%, so it will take a while (and this is a matter that I will probably come back to at some stage, if only in relation to the influence of dams on literacy in an arid landscape).

Then Barcelona for a week (looking at architecture, galleries, concerts) before heading off to Bilbao (the highlight was the Guggenheim) on the Camino de Santiago, once a pilgrim's track but now a regular hike for hippies, hairies and such.  There's a great yarn, cooked up in the 9th century, about how St James (Santiago in Spanish) was buried there, and naughty people were set the task of a pilgrimage or Rome or Santiago de Compostella at times when Jerusalem was on the tourist danger list.  I don't think anybody takes it too seriously now, not among the walkers.

The camino is loved almost to death by cyclists, people speaking all sorts of language and bound by the twin greetings: "Holá!" (g'day) and "Buen camino" (good track), good mountain walking, good beer, great wine, cheap olives, excellent sausage, brilliant bread, stuff like that.

I was doing a bit of research for two books and spent some time on the sight of an old Roman gold mine near Las Medulas (see the post before this) where they used primitive hydraulic mining to collapse a whole mountain and extract the gold from it.  I also "collected" (with the camera) an immense number of fences and walls, one or two of which may emerge in a book that is on the back burner.

We came home via Singapore, where we had a two-day stopover to start the mind-healing process after eight weeks, five continents, four seasons and using up two jars of Vegemite.  The next 16 days will be fearfully busy.

And now I need to get back to business.

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