Just think, Kristina, I breathily whispered to myself. Think what you'll be able to say. You walked 4 hours in the Alhambra and climbed a freaking mountain in one day. With, Kristina, I continued to murmur to myself, with a spinal cord injury. Just think.. just imagine what the photo's could look like. You can beat this sunset. You can get there in time.. Push.
I absently swung my Canon 50D camera around to a more comfortable position and continued my personal cheerleading, You can do this...
Hearing a voice clear I looked up from my focused stare down with my wayward feet and suddenly realized my motivational whispering wasn't quite as inaudible as I imagined it to be. People were looking, peering at me curiously. 'Loco touristica.' and a shake of the head.
I giggled silently and continued panting my way up the extensive stretch of long steps that pass for streets in the Albayzin quarter of Granada, Spain. Set on a mountainside the walkways are wide and meant only for foot traffic. Gradual steps press upwards relentlessly to the height of the hills. Tourist style tea houses, shops, and tapa's bars line the beginning of your climb, but eventually melt away to houses and local places to eat or drink. Beautiful, and completely charming, but, I'll admit, a touch challenging for a woman with gait, stability, and fatigue issues.
Still, I pressed on stubbornly.
Incredibly, more than once during my strenuous ascent, I was stopped by a concerned citizen. 'Tu es bien?', Are you okay?
I love the Spanish!
Seeing my labored breathing and awkward gate I was often stopped to see if I was all right. One gentleman even took my arm and walked me for a ways. After letting me go he sagely advised me the best way to reach the top was to dance my way, and with a flourish and a bow, which left me grinning from ear to ear, he actually danced his way back down the street of steps.
I love this place.
Caught unaware and distracted with my determined walk and chance encounters, the end was suddenly in sight, or rather, ear shot. The rhythmic pulse of distant djembe drums throbbed in the air, invisibly tugging me on. Practically bursting out of the end of a closely walled walkway I saw the edge of the square I had been so obstinate about reaching. Glancing up at the sky I grinned happily. The sun had not yet set. I made it.
Almost laughing I awkwardly climbed the last few steps and entered the square, lit brilliantly in the late sunlight. Dancing, singing and lounging people were lit afire by the last vestiges of the sun. I entered a hippy heaven, complete with an abundance of puppies and pooches running free and playing with each other and their owners. Soaking it in I looked peacefully to my left, and saw the gentle slope of the city leading to a view of the Alhambra on another hill of its own. The massive palace constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of old glowed majestically in the dying light. Drawing my gaze back to the square my senses were assaulted by the gypsy-like celebration that happened every night. Poi spinners, jugglers, guitarists, percussionists and a surprising number of canines all joined the evening and shared their voice, their talent, their moment, with each other. This was just life here for them.
Idly I wondered if other locals turned their nose up at this congregation of clearly new age mentality. Within walking distance (my walking distance!) there was another section of the city with wide boulevards and expensive shops. The contrast and closeness of these wildly different mentalities tickled at my curiosity. But I wanted to live in the here and now, so letting that thought slip innocuously back into the recesses of my mind - unimportant in comparison to my need to experience what I'd worked so hard to see - I swung my camera up, and began to photograph. Some noticed, some didn't. A few felt the rush of having an audience and immediately began showing off. I didn't mind.
Eventually I let my lens drop and just breathed. I wasn't photographing very well and my battery was dying. Distracted and quite fatigued from my long day I ached to simply exist in this one moment, this physical manifestation of the reason I travel. This was an experience so simple yet so heart warming in it's newness and easy beauty that peace and contentment coursed through my tired limbs. So I sat, with a goofy contended grin on my face, and bathed it all in.
You made it, Kristina. I smiled gently to myself. You knew you could.
And so I did.
Sunday, June 26, 2011