an idiot in spain

santiago diaries

Saturday, 9th September.
Back to nature

I could've slept for a month. It was still dark when I got up at 7am. I met up with John and Sandy, and we walked to Burguete for breakfast. I had great difficulty ordering bread and butter. I feel hopeless.

Walking out of the village, I hear gunfire in the forest. Then more gunfire. In fact I hear a helluvalot of shots being fired in there! Either there is a lot of quarry or these Spaniards are hopeless shots.

I spend the day walking alone. I pass through sleepy towns bathed in heat, with lazy dogs flopped in the shade near large sheds for Basque games.

In the morning I passed a sign which indicated which way for the Camino. (I knew this because of the word "Camino", the rest of the sign was in Spanish, strangely enough.) Not understanding what it meant, I just blundered on. Then I noticed a lady behind me, who read the sign. I looked back, and she read the sign to me. In Spanish, alas, and I gave her my look of non-comprehension. She tried explaining it to me, then said, in French "what is the word for" (strange how little bits of French are returning to me, eleven years after I last studied French). "Parlez-vous francais?" I asked. "Oui!", she exclaimed, then rattled off the directions like nobody's business, in French. Guessing, I pointed straight ahead and she seemed to nod, so straight ahead I went.

Phrases to strike from vocabulary: "Parlez-vous francais?"

I walked along paths slashed through slate, stopped to eat my gourmet lunch of bread, butter and chocolate, then crashed my way through the shrubs.

At Alto de Erro I stretched out under a tree and rested. As I lay there I heard some distinctly antipodean tones. Nearby sat a Portugese guy I met earlier in the day, who was getting an earbashing from an older-looking (ie grey-haired and grey-bearded) New Zealander. Poor lad hadn't heard of New Zealand, let alone knew where it was, and he was finding out all about it.

Soon after 3pm I arrived in Zubiri, where I planned to stay in the refugio. The refugio was full, people milling around everywhere. Deflated, I walked down the road to a hotel, but it didn't seem to be open.

I returned to the refugio, and slumped under a tree. It was only 5km to the next town, Larrasoana, where there was another refugio. As I sat collecting my thoughts (I had spilled them when I sat down) a lady came over to me and started talking to me. In Spanish. I said that I only speak a little bit of Spanish. (Another phrase that I soon banished from my vocabulary, to be replaced with "I don't understand" or "I don't speak any Spanish".) The phrase book came out a few seconds later, and she explained to me that the refugio at Larrasoana was closed. The next refugio was too far for me to walk in what remained of the day. Besides which I was knackered.

So I resolved to sleep in the woods. I didn't have a tent, or a sleeping mat. I just had my sleeping bag. A French lady who spoke a little English told me where the shop is. I went down there to find the shop closed. The French lady magically reappeared and told me (in French) that the shop would probably be closed until 4pm, 4:30pm perhaps. "C'est Espana!" My French is improving, which is bugger all use to me in Spain. So I trudged off to the service station at the other end of the town and loaded up on sugary foods.

I scouted about the nearby woods for somewhere to camp. At 4:30pm I returned to the shop, and loaded up on food. Tomorrow will be my 26th birthday, and I'd be waking up in the woods somewhere in northern Spain. Good grief. I bought bread, salami, custard and some wine. Wine? Ian, have you forgotten that you're a non-drinker? Well, if I'm going to be spending the night in the forest, I'll do as I damn well please.

I found a spot devoid of brambles, in a little hollow so that I wasn't visible from the road. I hung some clothes on my bungee cord to air out. I opened the wine, and munched away at my gourmet meal. White bread and salami. I swigged the wine from the bottle. This is living. I could hear children playing at the river's edge just a few score metres away from me. The factory a couple of kilometres downriver whirred and clanged. I watched the northern stars appear as the sky went from blue/green to black. What is that buzzing noise, I'm sure it's getting closer. Is it a swarm of bees? They could be killer bees. Killer Spanish Bees. "Tasmanian Man Attacked By Swarm Of Killer Spanish Bees". I fell asleep.