an idiot in spain

santiago diaries

Sunday, 24th September.
Underpants Man

The bars in Spain are invariably populated with old men, at any hour of the day. This morning we stapped at a town called Carrion de los Condes (no sign of Sid James anywhere) and dropped in at a little bar called Bar Sol. (Rhymes with arsehole. Kinda. Anyway...) We walked in and everyone in the place stopped talking. I stopped short of telling them that we didn't speak Spanish so they could say whatever they bloody well liked and we wouldn't know what was going on. Then again they didn't speak English so what was the point of telling them that in English. ANYWAY... The tv was showing Sweden versus Spain in the men's handball at the Olympics. To be on the safe side we barracked for Spain. (See? We are like you, we support Spain!) Then the weirdness began. An old man walked in, and immediately another walked out. Then two men walked in, and another two men walked out. Then a man with a walking stick walked in, and a man with a walking stick left. Hmm. Obviously working on a roster system or something. Crusty Old Bugger Deregulation hasn't come to Carrion de los Condes yet.

After being treated with contempt by the barman (hey buddy our pesetas are as good as anybody else's!) we went outside to prepare for our assault on the next leg. As we were applying sunscreen etc, a ratty-looking purple VW Golf convertible pulled up, with dodgy Spanish doof-doof music coming from the speakers. A greasy man slid out from behind the wheel, wearing black leather pants and a white singlet, and did a little dance. Ugh. They're out there, ladies and gentlemen, and they're breeding. After our little dance interlude, we proceeded to get lost in the square, then started on the long long long walk to Calzadilla de la Cuenza.

17km, flat, long, hot.




We crunched along the gravel road for kilometre after kilometre, a long brown strip in front of us and a long brown strip behind. The blue sky above, criss-crossed by vapour trails, a dome plopped on this parched landscape. We were propelled by a grim determination to get to the end.

Hours later we arrived at the refugio. Everything was covered in flies, but it was good to lie down. As we were ratting about, a bloke walked past and made some remark, in English. Dave and I looked at each other. "Was he a New Zealander?" "I think so, hard to tell from one sentence."

A few minutes he walked back inside. "You've got the same guidebook as us!" he remarked. "Oh yeah," I said, "he's from New Zealand. Do you know Uncle Howard?"

Turns out this fella was another member of Uncle Howard's party. Another member who wasn't actually travelling with Uncle Howard! It's a bit like Blake's 7. Well, maybe not.

(The legend of Uncle Howard spread far and wide, but who had actually seen this mysterious beast? There was one: the one they called "Ian".)

There was a troupe of French people at the refugio. One member of their party (the only bloke, as far as we could make out) was trotting about clad only in a pair of brief underpants. How shall I put this kindly, umm, this fella was not in his prime! Now I shall be unkind and to the point: he was a tubby middle-aged man with stringy white legs. He didn't get the girls' pulses racing. Well, that's what they said. Underpants Man didn't seem to want to put any clothes on. Maybe they're his lucky underpants?

After dinner (where Dave and Noelle ignored my comments about myxomatosis and had rabbit) we returned to the refugio to find Underpants Man still clad in only his black underpants. I was still writing in my diary when Underpants Man waddled over to the light switch and turned off all the lights!

It would be fair to say that I lost it. Big time. It was another Victor Meldrew moment. My travelling companions said that they were embarrassed by my outburst, and they hoped that the French people didn't understand much English. I was scathing, it must be said. Anyway, I packed up my stuff, in the dark, and managed to navigate my way to the toilet and back, in the dark, and made it into bed without shedding any French blood.

Then a few minutes later the Brazilians returned from dinner. They showed me what I should've done. They turned on the lights and kept on chattering away, not givig a proverbial about anyone who might have seen fit to turn off the lights before 10pm, and made as much noise as they could as they prepared for bed. It was beautiful.