Puig de Maria 2.30pm

Dining Hall

It is utterly silent up here. At first the silence is heavy, almost like being underwater, but after a few minutes my ears adjust. I hear the hushed scrape of the cars on the road far below. I hear the creaks of the caretaker in the next passageway. But for him I think I am completely alone with my thoughts.

All is peaceful and white in here. I feel the sweat trickle down my body. Rivulets run down my chest, my forehead, even drip off my nose into my lap. I feel a lone line running down the small of my back, before it is swallowed into my singlet. The day outside is hot, and the walk to the summit long.

The walls in this dining hall are cool and whitewashed, almost a metre of cold stone to protect this interior from the baking sun outside. Two long tables run the length of the room, to the tall, open window at the far end. The shutters are thrown open, in the hope of receiving some cool breeze off the distant sea. Through the window I can see the undulating landscape, mostly brown but for the blue bay of ocean. It trails away into the distance, where far mountains blurrily meet at the horizon with the hazy white sky.

High above through the window the sky is a light, clear blue. It looks almost watery in this white light. In front of the window, less than three metres from where I sit on this old wooden bench, is an old stone well. The winch above is broken, the chain long lost, the metal lid padlocked shut. It looks cold and dark in the strange wintry light from the window above. I wonder what it smells like in that well. Cool and damp from years of moisture? I wonder how deep it is, and the thought gives me a sudden, strange sense of vertigo, that this tunnel right beside me stretches down into the bowels of the mountain.

I can smell lunch now. It smells like pumpkin soup and freshly baked, crusty bread. The smell makes me realize I am hungry too, but all I have is one ciruela amarilla. The sweat has dried on my body, salty tracks coat my glowing skin.

Time to go out again, back into the relentless Spanish sun.


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