Manzanares el Real, July 20.
“It’s all downhill from here,” they said, this morning. And on the whole it’s true. But that doesn’t mean that the remainder of the march is going to be easy. Our Basque comrades, who have been walking for almost a month are already used to it, but today Jim and me got introduced to an exceptional opponent. The sun.
The first few hours it’s still a nice walk in the shade through the forests of the foothills. We arrive in the small village of Mataelpino, where a very pleasant surprise awaits us. Members of the local assembly welcome us on the town square with a banquet of sandwiches, juices, gazpacho, sweets and even beer. I love this solidarity. We thank them.
“No,” they say, “thank you.”
We march on. To the left we see the rough and rocky peaks of the Guadarrama. The sun is rising to its highest point. But before we take up the challenge, another surprise awaits us. Our arrival in the Comunidad de Madrid doesn’t go unnoticed. We are invited to visit an organic farm, where we are once again received as heroes. We lay down on the grass under the trees. We talk about things like bio-architecture, about the use of straw and other cheap sustainable materials. It’s the agricultural side of the revolution. I will shed light on that in due time. For now we’re here.
Some people propose to stay in this place. But in the end the assembly votes them down. We march on.
The people from the farm accompany us to the end of today’s leg, Manzanares. It’s straight ahead over a dusty road in the blistering sun. The earth is scorched. Even the wind is hot. Just a few rare trees give you a precious moment of shadow. We long for water. After a few kilometres we start to hallucinate. We see a lake in the distance. And, what’s even better, our support van with juices and water and nuts.
It’s enough to take us to the end of the leg. The lake turns out to be real after all, it’s nurtured by a small stream that runs through Manzanares. We follow the stream. This land may seem dry, but whenever there is just a bit of water, plants and trees sprout up to form a thick and almost impenetrable forest. So from the dusty highlands we suddenly find ourselves to be wrestling our way through the jungle. When we finally reach an open space next to the river, we find the rest of the group, and lunch already prepared. People are eating, some are bathing. It could easily be an eighteenth century romantic painting.
People are joining us. The Northern Column is swelling by the day, like a river flowing to the sea. We have visitors. Emissaries from the Southern columns of Sevilla and Málaga have come to coordinate the actions we want to undertake once we get to Madrid. There’s also a television crew from South America which found its way down to the waterside. The cultural link with Latin America is strong. Sancho, one of our iconic comrades who held up high the sign of 15M through the mountains, is a Mexican.
The goodwill we are harvesting doesn’t end. Since we left Segovia we have been desperately looking for access to the internet, to inform the world about what’s happening on the march. We meet comrade Petra and her family. They offer to take us home to connect us. So there we go, speeding away in a Mercedes towards the onramp of the digital highway. This is an emergency.
When we get back to the square today’s assembly is already over. The afterparty is in full swing. The drums are out and all is groovy. The comrades from Acampada Bilbao are transmitting live on their revolutionary radio station. But the best is still to come. When I get back from a quick caffeine boost I look on in complete amazement as the entire square is filled with food. Pasta, soup, various types of delicious Spanish salami, tortilla, rice, sweets and finally, a huge flying soucer filled with paella. A present from the people of Manzanares…