I’d bumped into him at photographic exhibition in Mudgee, nearly two years ago now.
I knew him and his wife from a monthly dinner group we attended – the Mudgee Food & Wine Society.
He was tall, elderly (although that word no longer has the meaning it once had for me), and I’d always enjoyed our brief chats. He was a fascinating man – a retired engineer, working with indigenous communities in the far Outback of Australia.
As we stood there in the gallery, looking at the photographs taken by my cousin, he asked me what I’d been up to. I hadn’t attended the last couple of dinners.
I’ve just done a long walk, I told him. In fact I’d just returned from my first Camino.
He was curious. What walk?
I told him about the Camino de Santiago. He seemed interested, so I kept talking, as you do when you come back from the Camino and you find someone showing even a modicum of interest.
He listened avidly, asked a lot of questions, and then said: You know you ought to write a book.
I have, I told him.
He bought it. And within twelve months he too had walked the Camino.
At the age of 72, Michael Tarte walked from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago in 29 days, without a rest day. And now he’s planning his next one. This weekend in Mudgee he exhibited a series of paintings he’s since done – one for each day of his walk, plus a painting of St. Jean. Thirty paintings in all.
He explained that he’d decided to do the paintings before he started the Camino. He took photographs along the way, and when he returned he selected those images that he wished to turn into paintings, and began work.They’re oil on canvas.
As I wandered around the exhibition yesterday, his imagery took me back to those special places with a vivid recall. In his work he’s captured their essence. Which is no mean feat.
All proceeds of the sale of the book go towards the construction of a Cultural Centre, Art Gallery and Artist Studio complex which he’s helping build for the indigenous community out at Utopia – near Ayers Rock.
You can contact Michael direct on: firstname.lastname@example.org
I feel proud to have had some small part in Michael walking the Camino. The book will help make more people aware of the pilgrimage route, and that’s a good thing.
He mentioned yesterday that several people had come in, saying they’d walked the Camino too. This is in Mudgee, a small country town in Central NSW, Australia. The Camino’s call has come this far.
Even Jennifer’s mother, Margaret, came in and bought a copy! I walked out of the exhibition yesterday with huge admiration for Michael’s achievement – the walk and the paintings and books. And for the work he’s doing for the aboriginal people in the desert region of our country.