waiting for a bus to Gijon. A timetable said it was going to be here
at 11, but obviously that’s a massive lie, it’ll be here at 12
according to this old woman who is also waiting- and she said it’ll
be direct. So, as per my new mandate, I shall be walking a lot, but
not necessarily from one place to the next- there are places I
actually want to walk around IN and after walking 30-40kms to get
there I am physically unable and unwilling to do any more walking.
So. I’m going to get part way to wherever it is I want to go and then
make up the kms I dodged by taking the bus or train by actually
walking around the place I’m interested in. This way I’m not
cheating, (although, this, I realise, is a ridiculous way to look at
what is, essentially, my first holiday in three years or more) I’ll
still me clocking the miles, only in more amenable surroundings.
just asked for a long cafe con leche, instead the guy just made it
really, really fucking strong. And it’s my second. Who am I? I’m a
local, is who I am. Some guy just asked me how to get to Cantabria
and I knew. People approach me and ask me shit all the time. I
suppose I have the air of the traveller who knows stuff- it’s the
oversized beard, I’ve got to shear this off pretty soon and get a
haircut and I need to wash all my clothes in a machine, not in the
sink/bath/shower- it’s not the same.
what happened. Mostly I walked the wrong way for almost an hour, it
was a nice walk though, along the river, the misty mountains looming
in the background. Then I thought I saw a Pension to stay in in this
little village of Ribadesella and so I went over the road and ate
some limpets and had a cider and hung out. I then realised that the
place I thought was a Pension was in fact a social club for old age
pensioners- thankfully I realized this before heading in.
I wandered around for a bit and there were no Pensions or hostels to
speak of and the tourist office was closed because it was after 2pm
on a Sunday and so I walked into the only hotel I could find which at
35$ is a little pricy for me, but there seem to be no options and I
needed to spend some time on a pleasant toilet- not one of those ones
with no seat or the ones that have a timed light that goes out after
35 seconds with the switch conveniently wired over onto the other
side of the room. An electricians joke, I presume. The hotel I stay
in is lovely, the room is bigger than my apartment, with balcony and
marble bathroom- it would only be slightly more expensive to actually
live here instead and I’m sure I could get a deal. I consider it.
take a bath, do some internetting, use four towels and all the free
soaps and shampoos I can find, I open the lovely wardrobes and
drawers and imagine them full of my summer clothes, linen suits and
straw hats, a selection of flip flops, perhaps.
go back to the same bar to eat baracles, the freshest anchovies with
ham, croquettas and drink some cider. I watch El Clasico, which is
not a great game, but the atmosphere is great. It’s a pretty big deal
sleep like a champion.
this music video I keep seeing, it’s on now- some Spanish hipster who
looks a lot like Alvaro Negredo driving around town in a convertible
and standing on the beach singing into the camera and then he’s at a
party and everyone is having the best time that anyone has ever had
and he’s wearing a leather jacket and he has loads of tattoos and his
voice has that synth effect on it and I really hope I get a chance to
punch him in his stupid face.
Pension or a hotel, I’m not sure what it’s calling itself, Aviles,
place has to be a Pension, surely, although I think the sign might
say ‘hotel.’ Either way, it’s comfortable enough. To go back…
I had a second coffee and got on the bus. I read for about ten
minutes and then this wave of nausea came over me. I started to heat
up, the sweats came, I looked at my hands- they appeared somehow
paler, although that’s clearly what I was looking for. I looked
forward, knowing that if this was any kind of motion sickness, then
it’d be helped by following the direction we were going in. Maybe,
this had been caused by my looking down at a book? But, I reasoned,
this had never happened to me before. Not like this and not so
suddenly. It’s the fucking coffee, it has to be. That second one was
really strong and I had only had one an hour before that one. Who the
fuck do I think I am? Clearly not the sort of hardcase who can take
down two coffees back to back- although granted, that second one
would’ve troubled a lot of people just on its own. I look around and
there is a box of plastic bags not far away- so if it comes to it,
I’ll be okay in that department at least. My mind is still reeling
and for a moment I blame the sandwich I had- yeah, the sandwich, it
was that fucking sandwich, I knew I shouldn’t have deviated from the
tortilla, I had to go and be different and get the tortilla WITH
tuna- what a dick, it’s all my own fault.
also not sure if I need to pooh. I might need to pooh. Again, there
are the plastic bags if it comes to it- but no, it won’t, I will
focus on not poohing and not puking and everything will be fine.
pull into a small town and pick up about eight old ladies. I consider
jumping of here, just in case, but no, I’m in cheap traveller mode, I
paid to go this distance and so I’m going to go this distance. That
was the mindset behind why I drank a coffee that was far too strong
for me- because I’d paid for it. I make a mental note to ask for a
long coffee, but with more milk than coffee next time, not some
super-strength tar pulled over 38 seconds so as to extract the
maximum caffeine available. It’s like I’ve licked an Andean frog, an
Amazonian toad- something you shouldn’t lick.
the bus weaves, my focus wavers, but ultimately I make to it to my
destination. I find a place to stay which is relatively shit, but
will do. It’s pissing down rain, but I go for a wander anyway. It’s
around three o’clock when there is absolutely bugger all to do
anywhere in Spain except sleep or hole up in one of the few terrible
bars that stay open throughout the day. I do neither. I find a
bookshop that’s open and scour their small, but not terrible section
of English books. There’s not a lot of good new stuff and so I buy
older, shittier editions of some classics- The Great Gatsby,
Frankenstein, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Around the World in
Eighty Days, which I remember being the most translated book in the
world, until quite recently, at least.
I’m famished. I still feel weird from the coffee, but my body has
decided that it needs to have either a burger, a whole roast chicken,
a pizza or a kebab. I wander for some time, everything is the usual
cafe with sandwiches and cheese and ham and all that other bollocks
these people never seem to tire of. Walking by the seafront I see a
tiny hole in the wall, the sign says ‘Hamburgeria.’ Boom, the
motherload. I eat a very thin 4oz burger with onions, lettuce and
‘spicy’ ketchup and I have a small coke- which is actually small.
It’s nothing like an American burger at all, but I am very happy. The
weirdness hasn’t gone, my body is recovering from the trauma, but I
know it’ll end at some point. I can only liken it to that moment
after you’ve been violently throwing up for hours and then you feel
some colour come back to your cheeks and you know that very soon
you’ll be able to eat some toast.
walk into a supermarket and buy some good chocolate, some crisps,
some toothpaste and one small can of beer. I eat some crisps in a
storefront as the rain comes down and try and find an inoffensive
place to drink my tiny beer. I end up on a street corner near some
bins, my re-imagining as a tramp is complete. To prove to myself that
I can, I venture into a cafe and have a beer and use the luxurious
internet for over an hour- the place I’m staying in ordains to have
this modern luxury, but it just doesn’t fucking work and I can’t be
fucked to bother anyone.
eat the free nuts that the fella brings me with the beer and then
wander some more. Back at my digs I finish off the Jonathan Lethem
collection and then start on Gatsby. I read it in school but remember
very little of it. I remember the film version very vaguely- the one
with Robert Redford, not that Baz Luhrman thing. Thankfully this
means, other than imagining Gatsby as Redford, my imagination is
otherwise unfettered by the films. For a second I try and picture
Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, knowing that Luhrman cast him, but he’s
just too… he doesn’t have that air, he isn’t capable of being
cool, he just doesn’t have it, he’s all strung out extremis and
wild eyed over-acting, deliberately playing quiet moments only so
that he can get to that bit where he shouts- which is his favourite-
like a one-dimensional Pacino.
need a dictionary, there are a few words that I’m unsure of, but
there’s no internet and so I remain ignorant. I sleep well after a
packed up my shit and rolled out. It’s pissing down. It’s been
raining for three days now and I am in no way enjoying it. It’s fine
when you just want to tuck in somewhere, eat seafood, drink and watch
football, but today I want to actually get somewhere. I walk around
town for a little bit, I know where the trail picks up and heads
west, it’s not far from here. I duck in somewhere and have a coffee
(careful!) and some tortilla with bread an a fresh OJ. I read for a
while, not sure what plan of attack to make. Do I stay here another
day? Do I walk and just see where I get to?
decide to get a bus to the next town along and wander around there,
that has to be better than sitting here. It’s been a pretty miserable
last couple of days, the weather compounding my loneliness. I haven’t
really spoken to anyone in a while- it feels like a week, but it’s
probably only been five days and to be fair that was probably the
German kid who really, despite his best efforts, just compounded the
isolation I felt and made me crave my own company.
get the bus. It’s only half an hour and I don’t feel in anyway sick,
mostly because I never feel sick on buses because I don’t EVER get
sick on buses except for when I fuck up and drink too much coffee.
arrive in Aviles and find the tourist office. The woman gives me a
map and a list of hotels, pensions and the like. I walk to the
nearest Pension. I buzz and walk upstairs. The place smells funny.
The woman is changing bedding and something about this place just
makes me both nauseous and depressed, it’s the kind’ve place where
one might go to die. The woman quotes me 25 Euros for a night and I
duck out saying that it’s too expensive.
forgot to mention that I must’ve laid funny because my lower back is
slowly beginning to seize up as it likes to do sometimes, it started
in Gijon, which along with the rain is one of the reasons I decided
to get the bus. It happens every now and then, it’ll pass in a day or
two. Maybe it’s the coffee eating away at my kidneys. Can it do that?
decide to walk across town to the Albergue, it’ll be cheap and maybe
I’ll run into some of the guys. I get there but it’s closed until
April. Balls, I tried. I walk to another Pension, its windows are all
smashed up and there is scaffolding all over it, no-one has been here
for a while. I walk back into the centre and another Pension on the
list is no longer open. I walk west of the town to another one which
is nowhere to be seen. All the while my back is getting worse. I stop
to sit somewhere and have a glass of wine, the lovely owner brings me
a complementary tapas, it’s basically fries with cheese/cream/garlic,
it’s hard to tell- he tells me it’s a typical local thing. I eat it
out of politeness. I walk west again, to the furthest Pension which
the woman in the stinky place had said I should try as I was ducking
out of her shithole. I get there. There’s a little bar and restaurant
downstairs, it’s busy, looks clean, a young woman ask me if I’d like
a room, she buzzes of hastily- yes, this will do nicely, I wonder
what time she finishes work because obviously once I’ve had a lovely
bath and a glass of wine she’s going to want to rub me down and ask
me all about my exciting life of nearly shitting myself on a bus
because of too much coffee.
comes back. They’re full. Full? No one’s ever full. Okay, fine, I go
back a bit down the street to a place that I didn’t like the look of,
but it’ll make do. They’re full too. I walk back into town- by this
point I’ve done more than 12 kms just fucking around and my back is
getting worse. I go to the bus station, maybe I should leave,
there’re no buses in the direction I want to go for over two hours.
Fine. I grab a beer somewhere. I change my mind and decide that I
will stay in the most expensive hotel, I just need to lay down.
accident I find this place, where I’m writing this. It’s a mere 35$ a
night, the same as my luxury pad from two nights ago. The owner,
Antonio talks to me for ages about how great he is and how he only
charges one price and it’s Semana Santa which is why places are full
and it’s only going to get busier and he gives me a set of 5 (FIVE!)
keys for the place ,each with a tiny piece of paper cellotaped to it
telling me what it’s for. This guy’s mental. He talks for ages, I
understand 36% of what he’s saying, thankfully he isn’t interested in
any kind of response. I get into the room, plug in the electric
heater, get under the covers and read for a bit. Then I sleep. I
sleep for nearly three hours.
it’s 8.30pm, time to try and find some food.