Back home. The weekend is about to end and the journey home is done quietly, no hurry, as if, instinctively, I refused to leave the Alentejo. I dip in my thoughts and remain in silence as the afternoon falls. Hanged in the rearview mirror, the little orange-and-white flag swings in front of me, beckoning me. I fix it absently and sketch a nostalgic smile. Then I look at it carefully and my thoughts go back in time...
Friday morning. It's a cold and rainy day. I leave to Nisa and to the North Alentejo O' Meeting. “We are children of the dawn”. The words of the singer Zeca Afonso come to mind, so today it has been 20 years since he left. I want to get to Amieira do Tejo quickly, but the thick drops of water advise caution. I must curb my enthusiasm and wait for the time it takes to open this “little box of surprises” called Orienteering.
I know it's principles, but I know that I am only at the tip of the iceberg. I need to understand what makes it so special, how magic is the potion that gives the gift of eloquence to those who live in it and who turns every conversation into a huge source of exciting discovery. I want to dive into that fountain too, to suck its substance, to drink its soul.
“Here it is the River”. The Tejo River, I mean. From the North bank, I see my beloved Alentejo, land of dreams where I lose and rediscover myself. For now, I'm lost. Dam, EN 359, nothing ... Return to starting point. Another dam, again the EN 359 (!) and the result returns to be negative. Another reversal and again at the starting point. The third time is for good. There I go with the right dam, with the right road, and I reach Amieira. So much mistakes for someone who's heading an Orienteering event can only be harbinger of “disaster”. However, I was just putting into practice one of the basic principles of the sport: “If you're lost, do not persevere in the error. Go back to the start and reorient yourself”. As everything in life!
It's lunch time. In the “epicenter” of this fantastic organization, a man deserves a special mention. It's Fernando Costa and it's him who welcomes me with open arms, introducing me to the “hard core” (and “less hard”), who makes a point of joining me to this fantastic “family” that is Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos. But now, the lunch is served. I sit down at the table, “cuddle” my stomach with a divine homemade chicken soup and indulge myself in sliced pork with black beans.
In addition to the delicious palette of flavors that makes my body satisfied, the lunch serves to feed the spirit as well. I get to know how important is the compass, I get acquainted with the signs, I get in touch with terms such as cartography, bearings, spurs. And I get a more precise idea of the heavy organizational machine. From logistics to course setting. “Seven thousand souls worked seriously”, Zeca Afonso and his music again in my mind. Everything seems to be set in detail, the hypothetical flaws identified and the corresponding alternatives properly equated.
Now it is time to leave for Nisa, to visit the Event Centre and then to Arez, for a demonstration course. It will be a debut, but there's a first time for everything. I don't know what's expecting me but the afternoon is promising!
[23.Feb.2007 - 23.Feb.2017. I was introduced to Orienteering ten years ago in Nisa, for the NAOM's first edition. The first flag I photographed is here, illustrating this message. The prose is the first chapter of my book, “Crónicas Norte Alentejano O' Meeting 2007 / 2008”, reporting the start of a beautiful friendship. This way, I wanted to point out a decade of passion for Orienteering and to thank all those who, every day, give me the strength and courage to continue this way.]