Wake up at 09:00, get a good shower. As a rule, I like any campsite which provides facilities for washing small companion animals. The men’s room at this one provides just such a contraption, rather like a bidet with fold-up metal grille, which is presumably useful in retaining the cat or dog undergoing treatment. A tap, mounted safely several feet above the porcelain device so as to be out of the way of thrashing claws and teeth, provides water via a high-pressure nozzle. They think of everything. My thoughts turn to laundry.
After brewing tea, I enquire about the possibility of using the lavadora, and following a conversation mostly lost in translation am provided with a small parcel of washing powder and a silver token, which I am to insert after carefully reading and heeding the instructions on the lid of an industrial washing machine lurking in a dark corner of the men’s washroom. I have to move the lawnmower aside first, and having studied the multi-lingual instructions (do not let your children play in or near the washing machine) I dump a week’s worth of fragrant underwear and T-shirts into the monstrous aperture. Some of it protests, but I’m quick with lid and token, and 25 minutes later am rewarded with clean clothes of roughly the same size as they were when I dropped them in.
On my way back to the tent last night I noticed the owners of the only other tent on the site cooking a meal for themselves by light of candle and head-torch. They’d borrowed a plastic table and two chairs from reception, and were busy over a small stove. There was no car or other transport to be seen. Decided then that I like them and will make an effort to impress them with my recently acquired command of the Spanish language if the opportunity presents itself. This morning they are nowhere to be seen, the meal and accessories tidied away, the plastic table bare. My self-service laundry costs 3.50, bungee line between tree and bike is free.
My breakfast is the walnut bread from last night’s super-meercat (contingency purchase along with curry noodles in case I don’t find anything else) and the last of the Iberian pork pate that’s been rattling around in my panniers for a fair few days now, as well as more tea. Unsure of what to do with myself for the day, I take a few more idle photos of the campsite and update the notebook. I need to stay near my tent in case the washing takes off in the strengthening winds.
11:45. Still no fixed plans or bright ideas, washing remains damp despite sunshine and wind. For something to do, I put up the tarp shelter, fixing it higher than usual using a tree next to my tent. I move the tent under the shelter onto some dryer ground and, as I learn later, a nest of ants. A flash of inspiration strikes, and I undo the inner part of the tent, letting it fall down and cover my sleeping bag and inflatable bed. This exposes the frame of aluminium poles, which lend themselves brilliantly to the suspension of damp socks an underpants, thus keeping them out of the wind and guaranteeing me at least some chance of clothes tomorrow. Honestly, sometimes I think it’s just me and Ray Mears. I head for the bar to partake of Iced Tea (1.50) and the free WiFi connection.
Dissatisfied with the prospect of spending an entire day doing nothing but laundry, I fire up the bike at 16:00 and ride to San Vincente, just 5km away on the coast. On the way I develop a craving for pizza, and spoil the tranquility of an empty restaurant with yet more butchery of the Spanish language. In keeping with the nature of my trip I order chorizo pizza, which turns out to be excellent. Munching my catch with a bottle of San Miguel (I’ve discovered that it’s a safer bet to name the brand than risk repeated mispronunciation of cerveza) I watch a local resident trying to stuff an absurdly large black bag of rubbish into one of a row of tiny bins across the street.
How selfish, think I, to take up all the available room in an entire bin just for yourself. Minutes later he returns with an even bigger bag, which he fights into the same bin with the assistance of a passer-by. It dawns on me that the receptacles are only the opening; all the rubbish actually ends up in a huge container under the street, hidden by the large metal plate on which the bins are fixed. How clever! Pizza comes to 8.50, the beer 1.30. I leave behind 10 Euros and a happy waitress -she can go back to the badly dubbed soap opera playing on a TV in the corner.
Wandering back through town towards the bike, I stop at a super-meercat on a whim in case anything catches my fancy for dinner. After last night’s 25 Euro gastronomic roulette I feel I should have a cheaper meal tonight, but nothing on the shelves inspires. I do notice though that in all Spanish supermarkets you can buy things from the frozen section in whichever quantity you desire; whitebait, clams, prawns, assorted vegetables and even chips are simply scooped from freezer compartments with the provided shovel, weighed, stickered, and paid for as though you are buying loose fruit. I also witness an older English lady attempting to transact in dairy products, and simply have to stay for the show. “I want to buy some cheese” she repeats thrice to the nonplussed Spanish deli counter operative, each time in a louder, shriller pitch. The server’s discomfort is obvious to his colleagues on the shop floor, who pretend to not hear his pleas for anyone that can translate the lady’s request of “something local to the region” and carry on unpacking boxes of sardines and olives. I’m sure I hear one sniggering.
Sometimes you meet people who make you question your faith in the future of the human race as a whole, and the white haired, retired brummie on the wrong side of the glass from three dozen different cheeses provided today’s exhibit A. Having been in Spain for four or five days in my entire life, even I would have come away clutching a smelly parcel had I uttered something like “queso tipicale Asturias por favor”. Were I an alien being, freshly materialized between the shelves of shrink-wrapped halibut and trays of pigs ears, I would have received all the cheese I could carry in my six arms if only I had pointed a spiny green finger at and one pile and made an enthusiastic clicking noise with my schnibnah. Unable to watch the full act for fear of intervention I went for a walk to the castle instead.
The castle was on a hill, I was wearing riding gear and carrying my helmet and camera in 25 degrees that felt like 30, so by the time I got there I wasn’t in the mood for paying to be let in and possibly witnessing more English Abroad. Instead I descended back to street level, and took a walk along a whole road lined with restaurants. The cheaper-looking ones were on the north side, spilling plastic tables and flapping tablecloths onto the pavement. I walked along the south side, for no reason other than the shade which was provided by the overhang of buildings above. This side too had tables and chairs on the pavement, but they were of the altogether sturdier variety, their occupants older and plainly not the kind of people who eat pizza, burgers, or anything on a stick. Most of the establishments had a fishy theme about their wares, which were always displayed either in a glass cabinet lined with ice or behind a refrigerated window. Although I like fish I did not recognize any of the whole, lifeless forms before me, some of which were quite large. I thought it odd that beside a tray of very surprised looking eel-like creatures stood a pyramid of asparagus parcels on their own little silver plate. Each parcel contained perhaps 5 sticks, 3 inches long and tied with green string. Some of them had a light green sack of goo coming out of one end. I drew closer, fascinated, and right before my eye one of the sticks sin sac moved slightly and ejected its load onto the bundle below. I was fumbling with my camera when the waiter came over to enquire if I wanted a table, and seeing my game just shot me a look of Don’t even think about it amigo, so I left without a picture. Thinking back on the whole affair I wish I had rallied a bit tried to get him to take a picture of me with the snotty asparagus, or at least learnt the creatures name, but there’s hindsight for you.
I aim for the campsite but take a random detour down a side-road and end up at a small seaside village. There’s a graveyard at one end, and I take a few snapshots of the walled enclosure with its tightly-packed murals and headstones before doing a loop around a rocky outcrop which the villagers had turned into a little retreat for themselves through the addition of tables, chairs, troughs of plants and – bizarrely – a blue and white striped lollipop pole bearing the name of a Bavarian lager. How nice it must be for the old folks to sit with their life-long friends, sipping beer or wine of an evening with the village on one side bathed in the last rays of the setting sun as it sets behind the surf on the other.
Back at the campsite, I try to write for a while on the terrace outside reception but am put off by the perpetual wailing of a baby, brought about by the barking of the receptionists dog, which clearly objects to the crying of the child. I think if feeding one to the other and killing two birds with one stone, as a car arrives carrying four lads and a very bat looking dog. Personally I think it’s unfair to breed such a small animal with such large ears, but it’s owner is quite taken by it and pulls it past the No Dogs sign into the bar. His companions stop him and point out the sign, and I see that he’s a futbol fan by his Real Madrid shirt and a hairstyle that you can only get away with if you have a Real Madrid shirt. Back home he’d be pulling a Staffie or a Pitbull, here he’s got something that looks like a cross between a Pug and Dumbo. They retire to a far corner of the terrace to drink beer and smoke pot without checking the wind direction. Everybody else on the terrace notices but plays along, letting them enjoy their joints and the illusion of subtlety alike. I retire to my tent for a second night in the company of frogs, but there’s a fiesta of some kind going on in the adjacent village and the amphibians are soon displaced by what can only be described as an Israeli tenor trying to break the world record for the most repetitive and drawn out wailing in one breath.