In Tents

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The only sounds to break the cold stillness are the geese and the church bell. Each morning I wake up and slowly adjust, thinking about where I am now. 

The man who runs this place calls himself Abuelo, “The Grandad”. He speaks to us in beautiful, rapid Spanish. He is in love with Emma and Selina and so we get a cheap camping pitch. He´s not so keen on Ollie and I, and dismisses me with a gallant wave of his arm. We catch the odd word, but it is his grand motions and gestures that endear us to this place. Particularly his actions for the toilets, a neat little crouch and release. We pay three euros and pitch our tents on the flattest part of the hill. We are, essentially, in the garden of huge old monastery. On the walls inside hang crossed swords and the odd shield. Abuelo and his wife eat goose eggs, fresh from the bird.

From our tents we can see a beautiful old church and behind that hills which we will see turned by tractors as the evening passes and the great orb rises. The geese chase us off at first, but we soon learn that standing firm, spreading arms and hissing will deter them. We have use of the showers, kitchen and lounge areas of the Pilgrim´s Albergue. This is luxury camping.

We have woken up in so many different places now. Our tent, Bonswali, has endured a massive electrical storm, tucked away by a river that was washed brown by the run-off from up-stream. We half-joked about being washed away. We have woken up in pristine pine woodland, the embers from the evening´s massive fire steaming from the rain. Once, we woke up on a hidden mound in the middle of two plouged fields. It´s harder than you´d think to get through a ploughed field with all of your possessions on your back. We have woken up to find a stove and eggs stolen.

We smell either of days of walking or wood-smoke, or both. I once caught a wonderfully sardonic Spanish receptionist spraying air freshener behind us. When we do stay in the Albergues we are unbelievably smelly  and ragged and usually drunk.Warmth is something to celebrate.

To those that we see regularly on The Way, we are either crazy, tough or stupid. I agree.

We have been battered by hard days of rain, lugging water-logged bags, bodies and everything else. The rain has stopped, for the meantime. Now it is freezing, literally. It is tough going, but we keep each other strong, and rural Spain is gorgeous in the autumn.

We make fires to keep warm until it´s time to huddle into our sleeping bags. A good night´s sleep is rare and highly prized. Surely we are all impossibly tired, yet we´re able to walk on each day, slowly making our way through northern Spain.

Emma unzips the tent inner and peels back the outer. It is frozen crisp and glistening with frost. We pack up our bags, wash the pots and set off into the cold and onto Burgos. 

We came here to get a good night´s sleep and rest for a day. Our timing, as ever, is brilliant. We were awake most of the night listening to a roaring party outside. Of course, they were celebrating Halloween and didn´t need to be up in the morning because everything is closed today for All Saint´s Day, except the bars and coffee shops. Fairly good excuse for a day of coffee and beer, I´d say.

Anthony, merrily from Burgos, 1 November 2012

 

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