Hola Espana


I guess people celebrate the passing of years in different ways, especially when it’s a momentous one. For me 25 isn’t that big or depressing despite the fact that it’s a quarter century. And what better way to celebrate it than in Spain? You know what I did? I had a beautiful restaurant dinner in a hotel by myself in a town I didn’t even know the name of. How cool is that! OK I looked on the map and the towns name is Loja. Look it up, I turned 25 there.

Actually the day itself was pretty cool it’s just that at dinner time Clive really needed to lie down, the remnants of Moroccan stomach still lingering. So he shouted me dinner and went to bed. So there I was sitting by myself after a drive from Tangier to Ceuta (the Spanish part of Morocco), a ferry to Algeciras in Spain and a short drive up the coast. We decided to wash the car before going through the border to Spain so as not to draw suspicion. How filthy it was! One week of festering streets, desert sands, dusty roads, fly storms, and farm produce literally caked on the car. Maybe that’s the reason why it was never broken into.

It didn’t really work though, the Spanish border agent still searched the car for the none too uncommon hashish. Don’t worry he didn’t find any; we hid it pretty well…simply by not buying any. Granada welcomed us the next day and was a beautiful way to properly start Spain. It was still quite Islamic in its architecture though which threw us back to Morocco.

I seem to be lucky when I travel in that whenever I arrive somewhere there’s either always a festival or parade on, or the main attraction in town happens to be free that day. Valencia was no exception, Clive and I got off the bus and walked straight into a parade. I asked an old guy what it was about and he said something about a celebration of the opening of a church there, or the anniversary of it.

Actually I pretty much had no idea what he was saying, I just nodded and said “si, si, vale” which means ‘value’ or ‘worth’ but in that context means ‘ok I got ya’. That was a complete lie; I should have said “no vale”. Oh well, we were both trying.

The problem with the festival was that all the buses left from stops different than their usual because half the city was blocked off. And so we waited and waited for our bus but to no avail. Eventually we stood on a corner where we saw buses passing, waited for our number then sprinted directly behind it down the road until it reached another stop. If it didn’t stop I would have thrown myself in front of it to make it. Fortunately it did, about four blocks away but there was no way I was letting that bus pass.

The next day we went to the Americas Cup Village which was a complete anti-climax. It would have been nice with all the cafes and beach during the races but it was dead when we arrived, unlike Tarragona further up the coast which was buzzing with Roman ruins and students.

We reached our camping ground near Barcelona that night and realized we had no gas to cook our pasta with. Oh well, the camp ground was full of Dutch people and I thought this would be a good chance to practice my Dutch. I eventually managed to borrow a cooker from a couple who are planning on travelling New Zealand shortly. Nice.

Remember what I said about being lucky with festivals and parades? Well the exact opposite is true when it comes to hostels. I always seem to get all the snorers in my dormitory. We picked up my cousin Martin from Poland in Barcelona as he was going to travel with us for the next two weeks. We booked into a hostel in the centre of town for two nights and got a room for four. So that left one bed free for someone else and I said in jest “I hope we don’t get a Chilean”. Of course Martin and Clive asked why so I related my story of the Chilean tag team snorers from hell in Madrid. Seriously, these guys were professionals. The two nights I stayed there they snored the whole night, chainsaw like and not one but two. They’d have rests every now and then so the other would cover for them.

This experience and the fact we had a Chilean homestay who snored made me assume all Chileans are snorers. Anyway I went to the toilet and unbeknown to me our fourth person showed up. Clive being his friendly self asked him where he was from. Need I say it? Chile. Unbelievable! Martin was laughing so hard he had to walk around the corner and Clive was left trying to hold a straight face while this guy was trying to figure out what changed the mood. I came back and he was gone. They told me what happened but I didn’t believe them, until I head the ominous rumble that night! What a noise. I must actually conclude that ALL Chileans snore. So if you get a room and find out it has Chileans in it, change rooms. I was not happy at all.

Oh well, Barcelona itself more than made up for a Chilean sleep spoiler, it certainly is an amazing place. One walk down Las Ramblas, the main street, will convince you of that. You can see flamenco dancers, people dressed up as vampires, and eat all the tapas and paella your heart desires. Then you can be wowed by the amazing and not so slightly weird Sagrada Familia. The last day in Spain was spent driving towards France, into a thunderstorm (at least it was a free carwash) and cooking pasta in a hotel room. Backpackers huh.