I look at my feet. Four days until we start our trip. Everything is ready and packed. We will travel the length of the entire Canary archipelago following the old communication routes of the GR131 path. It runs over 550 km, a month’s worth of walking with my life partner, Manuel. I haven’t had much sleep over the last few nights and I feel a little dizzy. It must be the excitement. Manuel told me to not carry too much weight. He doesn’t say it, but I can tell he’s a bit worried about my physical condition. Will my body simply give up during our trip? Manuel keeps telling me that when it comes to experiences like these, your state of mind is more crucial than your body. I’m really excited.
Manuel has been preparing this trip for months. He wants to document the path to make it more accessible to the walkers who come after us. I asked if I could come along. I want to capture this journey through my camera lens, to turn what we are about to experience into a lasting testimony. “It’s not your eyes that worry me, Amalia,” Manuel keeps telling me.
Three days left until our departure. I took a pregnancy test today. The little sign on it turned green. I can’t even begin to process this news. Manuel and I have been talking about it all day, trying to make a decision, getting nowhere. Can we be parents? What will we do tomorrow? Are we prepared? What about this trip we’ve been planning for months? Our questions multiply and hang in dark places.
One day left until departure. We come to an agreement: we’re going to start walking. We need to start walking. It’s the only decision we’ve reached. What would be the point of canceling? This adventure was meant to take us beyond our own experience. It’s about disproving the idea that the Canary Islands are just beaches. How unfair it would be to the mountains to forever be ignored, even by us. I hope our answers will come along the way.
Our trip starts in La Graciosa and continues following the beacons from the North to the South of Lanzarote, to Playa Blanca. As we start walking, I realise a new life is starting too. Shivers run down my spine when I think about it, but I don’t share this with Manuel. We take a boat to Fuerteventura and only exchange a few words. The rest of the time we keep quiet. I expected we would both be chatty at the beginning of this trip, but silence has stolen our voices already.
Fuerteventura is a faux-ami. I thought the island would be easy because of its flatness and shallow slopes, but Manuel turned out to be right. It’s been quite hard, and there’s an intense pain in my feet I have never experienced before. Fuerteventura has taken us to Gran Canaria, walking in the same direction as the trade winds. We’ve reached the most uneven point of our trip. I am crying, laughing, screaming and howling, every single day, as if my mind is reflecting the unevenness experienced by our legs.
Manuel and I have started talking from time to time. Our brains are receiving an infinity of images. I realise I can only grasp what he’s pondering about by paying close attention to the direction of his eyes. When he looks at the landscape, he’s thinking about the road and our project, when he looks at the ground I know he’s thinking about me, about the baby, about the idea of him being a father. As for me, I walk slightly behind, as if those few metres between us will enable him to protect me better. I know he’s worried about my physical condition and the thoughts flipping through my mind. I can only worry about the latter.
Manuel reminds me to use my camera, to not let the flashes of beauty pass us by. It’s strange but I don’t feel like taking pictures. I don’t want anything to be an obligation. I want to decide the exact moment to take a picture. I wonder why. Is it the pictures or the life growing inside of me? My camera feels different to me.
Tenerife Island,La Esperanza. I notice Amalia has started to smile while walking. Her feet are sore but she doesn’t complain. She suffers in silence. I feel relieved: her physical and mental strength are stronger than I expected. We now walk at the same speed, and her episodes of distress fade away a little faster every day. I realize we now have two goals: finishing this journey and finding an answer. Or is it making a decision?
My feet perform the same action every day. The same applies to my arms and the balance of my body. Inside though, things are constantly fluctuating. There’s times I see myself prepared to be a father. It tends to happen when I’m mesmerized by the surroundings. At other times my thoughts spin in a suffocating spiral. Confusion. Many hours go by without bumping into anyone, as if we’re the only ones walking out here. Only us, the rhythmic noise of our footsteps and the birds, floating on the rhythm of the whispering wind. The silence gives us a place to think. I sometimes wonder if we are thinking the same.
The peak of Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain. The path passes through the National Park but we decide to divert from the route, and sleep in the Refugio del Teide. We’ll climb the peak tomorrow. From down valley, I look up and see what’s to come. I’m nervous, but Manuel takes my hand. When the ascent begins we are on our own.
I can tell Amalia is nervous. As we watch the shadow of Mount Teide’s peak we notice the other islands sleeping in the sea. It’s breathtaking. The shape of our jouney’s path is reflected onto the water, and I picture Amalia and me walking on the sea, following the lines drawn on the ocean’s surface.
We reach the top of Mount Teide. Manuel kisses me and tells me he’s proud. I can only look at the sea and take pictures. I realise I’ve come to a decision. If we can master a mountain, we can master anything. I wait to tell Manuel. When I look at him I sense he’s thinking the same thing.
As we descend, our adrenaline flows in every direction. There’s a superabundance of energy that is difficult to manage. We shout to the wind. I take Amalia in my arms and kiss her belly for the very first time. Silence finds us again and we look at each other. Amalia can’t stop taking pictures. When she’s not using the camera, we squeeze hands.
The Island of La Palma. I’m actually starting to believe we’re going to reach the end of this trip. We sleep in Caldera de Taburiente, a shepherd’s’ cave. We talk to each other in the dark. Tomorrow we’ll start walking down the mountain for two days. Before leaving, Amalia shows me the wounds on her feet. She doesn’t want to look at them. “They aren’t too big”, I lie, “they’ll be gone in no time”.
We pass through the Volcano Route, the Fuencaliente Lighthouse and Teneguía, the last volcano that erupted in the 70s. The doubts that haunted us have eroded away. We move forward.
The island of El Hierro. The last one on the map, the most virgin of them all. According to the map of Potolomeo, this island is known as the island of the Meridian or ‘the end of the world’. It’s definitely been the end of the world we knew this month. We talk and laugh the entire time. Amalia is stronger than ever. I know her feet still hurt but she keeps walking. Now that we can see the end, we’ve entered a bubble. We’ve never felt more strong.
We find an incredible bay. We bathe naked from the jetty by the Cliffs of Julan. I feel the salt water healing the wounds on my feet. We submerge in the water for as long as we can. On this jetty we have two options to end our trip: either return back along the same road, or cross El Mar de las Calmas. Retracing the road was never a possibility: we already burned those bridges. All those questions.
We signal some fishermen and ask them to take us to La Restinga, a fishing village in the South of the island. We cross the sea, exhausted and happy. From the boat we can see everything we walked, and we are speechless. Our skipper, Vicente’s mouth falls open when we explain our journey to him. We don’t mention the baby.
We sleep until noon. They say decisions aren’t made when they’re verbalized: they’re already made before in our subconscious. When did we really decide to have this baby? Maybe it was that kiss on Amalia’s belly during the descent of Teide, maybe it was all those kilometers in silence, maybe it was her sore feet that taught her. We call Vicente and tell him we’re going to be parents. Our time in the village has turned us into good friends. Even though we can’t see his face, we both know his mouth will fall open again.
Nine months after. The Iberian Peninsula. The birth of our baby takes place in a particularly easy and efficient way. Apparently, this much walking while the baby was gestating facilitated the delivery. It also led to this story. A journey through the Canarias and towards our daughter. Welcome, Amalia.
See the article + pictures here