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I took these two photos almost a year apart. The first is Christmas Day, 2012, Flinders, Victoria. The second is September 7th, 2013, Byron Bay, NSW.  There’s nothing particularly remarkable about either photo (aside from the fact that little technological quirks can make just about anyone a half-decent photographer), yet together they form a nice little harmony. Certainly it’s fair to say that when I took the second photo, I had the first in mind. But back then, I didn’t imagine that they might carry as much similarity as they seem to have achieved.

Tonight I took part in a rather unusual gathering, a little shindig entitled No Lights, No Lycra. Imagine if you will, a scene of darkness. The basement of a church, where the windows have been deliberately covered, and only a few strands of light creep in through cracks here and there.

If you think that this first sentence portends some kind of ominous story, you’d be very much mistaken. For upon this darkened Ribeira Sacra (see later in this piece for some self-indulgent intratextuality) washes several hundred people, myself amongst them, ready to dance.

Once the music begins (a weird agglomeration of nostalgia hits, Disney songs and the occasional hip-hop track), we are urged not to speak, and a strange hush descends across the room. And then we dance. 

What a sense of surreality! Darkened silhouettes abound before me, throwing themselves to and fro with careless, carefree abandon. 

I suppose I took myself along to this strange ritual for several reasons. A throwing down of the gauntlet to my inhibitions, to see if they would care to be shrugged off. Mere exercise in its most rudimentary form. A deeper catharsis of sorts. When I first began, I was hesitant and stiff, clumsy and awkward. Much in the same fashion I suppose I must dance when the lights are on. By the end – well, by the end I was probably still all of those things. But possibly less so. And if I return next week, I will again throw down the challenge to myself, and see where it leads. 

Yesterday, for an exciting but brief hour, we were taken up a river of Spain, in search of an ephemeral and somewhat mysterious wine known as Mencia. We began our journey on the Atlantic coast, entering the Rio Sil near Monforte de Lemos. Here she was evanescent and fleet-footed, soft and quiet. This region is known as Ribeira Sacra, somewhat broadly and poetically translated to the ‘sacred shore’.

From there we continued towards Valdeorras – ‘Val de Oras’, where the Romans once searched for gold. We found her once again and as we climbed further into the mountains she became strengthened by day under the clarity and warmth of the sun. By night when it became colder, her figure grew sharper beneath the moonlight.

Finally, we completed our journey in the undulating valley-floors and mountain ranges of Bierzo, where Galicia meets Leon. We met her again here, where she was rich and impenetrable, and just as mysterious as when we had first met.

Whether she was all three, or in fact none, was no matter to us. It was enough that we had travelled the rivers and mountains at all.