across to Santander in Spain turned out to be a very bad joke. The sea, even in
the Bay of Biscay, was like a millpond, yet the ferry wallowed around and
heeled over like an old waterlogged scow. Didnt actually see anyone being
sick, but there were some very funny coloured, grim faced people and an awful
lot of leftovers at dinner.
Ran smack into
a roadblock in Santander; Guardia armed to the teeth like very bad Hollywood
extras, mal hombres and very unfunny - tried desperately not to
look like a Basque in disguise.
Got pattern of
travel established first day; arrive campsite early evening, eat, get smashed
out of our coconuts, sleep, wake, shower (cold brrrr!), play tennis, swim, back
on road. Seems reasonable to me, but Maggie not too keen on new idea of getting
smashed in the morning as well... cant think why.
language thing sussed, all you need to know is Dos grandes botellas muy
barato (cheap) vino tinto/blanca, por favor and you get two large bottles
of Freds medicine at 40-50 pence a litre.
taken three days to cross Spain - my way; I have this penchant for obscure,
grass-growing-up-the-middle back roads. On Spanish maps these are yellow roads,
on English maps theyd just about rate a dotted line, but one can do about
fifty miles to the bottle.
fantastic countryside that changes dramatically with almost every bend in the
road; vast, rugged mountains, rolling, barren hills, vast tracts of nothing but
sun flowers as far as the eye can see, olive and orange groves, wild figs,
almonds and walnuts, tree after tree of locust beans, miles of wild Spanish
type rhododendron and azaleas, cypresses and a million other varieties
Ive never even seen. Everything bone dry and bleached white by the sun.
In the back-of-beyond villages there is poverty and dereliction everywhere. But
the people appear proud and to actively resist progress, ie. hydro-electric
schemes to improve their lot, or so the authorities would have you believe, but
Im not sure the so-called peasants havent got it right in the first
place. Nothing here has changed in a thousand years; they still cut the corn
with hand-sickles and seem content with all but bureaucracy.
Met our first
English people today (Saturday) from Bath. Useful contact cos they knew
of a place in Valencia with wine at twenty-seven pesetas a litre - thats
almost fifteen pence! I reckon if I filled the water tank in the wagon
thatd be twelve gallons on tap - wow! Maggie says that at fifteen pence a
litre it would probably rot the tank... spoilsport.
are fun, they drive with their mouth and their horn...drive is a
euphemism for aim! They dont give a damn for their cars - or anyone
elses - they just hurl them around until they fall apart from sheer
metal-fatigue (or relief), they then dump them in the ditch and get another. My
theory is that they all hate driving so much they try to make their journeys as
short as possible - and in order not to frighten themselves they shut their
I love Spanish
camp-site proprietors who listen patiently and po-faced to your painful Spanish
stammering until theyve extracted the last ounce of amusement and then
answer in perfect English.
mountains are sheer magic and the roads... I fall about hysterically every time
I call them roads... are one-in-three gradients with more pot-holes than our
farm drive at home.
In the mountain
villages the inhabitants, sitting in the shade from the midday sun, seemed to
be surprised to see us. But I noticed that when we had passed and theyd
seen the GB sticker they nodded knowingly to each other and tapped their
foreheads significantly - a sort of peasant obeisance I suppose?
discovered one of the great pleasures in life and really the only way to drive.
A baguette in one hand, a Spanish cheese of unknown origin, but rather like a
crumbly Wenslydale, in the other and a bottle of red-biddy chambreing between
the naked thighs (shorts, you naughty people) to keep it nicely at body
temperature. Man! Thats livin. Cant think of a thing to match
it... well, not quite.