España II – Hide & Seek I

It was weird walking through empty streets, no cars. No nothing. I didn’t run into anymore police and I felt like I would need to take some minor precautions not to get caught by them. Still the police officer from this morning didn’t seem all that forceful and who knows. Maybe I can find a place where I could lay low.

There is a place I remembered on the camino called San Anton, a pilgrim hostel in a ruined church in a small village of 4 other houses and the last time I was there it was run by a French guy who had no clue what he was doing there. Arrived there and the guy running the place then, had just handed him the keys and told him he was running it now. He had no idea when his replacement was going to come or when he was going to leave and he just chilled until whenever. I heard he found a nice girl from pilgrims that met him later on so maybe that was the purpose for him behind it all. ANYWAY, a place like that actually sounds like a real nice place to quarantine myself until this whole thing dies down. Its still a good 300km towards San Anton (and neighbouring town Castrojarez) though and I would have to see how it goes.. I still had to cross 2 major cities and a shitton of little pueblo’s.

On the road there was nobody, nobody in the towns. No other pilgrims and everything except for little supermarkets was supposed to be closed. The thing that worried me more was the fact that there was a lot of bad weather on the program for the next couple of days. Thunder and rainstorms and sure enough, 20Km out of Pamplona it already started. I saw a very open sort of shed in a field and decided to go there. There were a couple of haybales and I took shelter there. The storm was only intensifying and some lightning actually crackled through the sky at some point, crazy phenomenon that Ive never seen before. I opened my poncho and built a little hay fort with my poncho blocking Lucy, me and my bag from any rain blowing in. I still had enough water and decided to just stay there. Lucy was fast asleep and the hay kept us pretty warm.

Ramshackle sleepingspot

I woke up the next day and the weather was just rain for the entire day, looking at the radar. No bueno! I put up my poncho around me though and that should keep me at least a little dry. I fucking hate poncho’s most of the time however. They are as wet on the inside after 10km of walking as they are on the outside. Insult to injury! I lost my blade, that I used to work on my walking stick and had to backtrack a couple of kilometers but I found it. Thank you San Antoni! So far havent lost anything this trip, in contradiction to my previous one where I lost towels, underpants, little gadgets and the like by the kilo’s..

Arriving in a little town I noticed some construction containers with little offices inside em. I tried the door and it was actually open. I wasn’t going to find a better place before it was dark and the weather was just fucking relentless.. I decided to sleep there. I walked around town trying to find a power outlet or a supermarket but the little pueblo had nothing in the way of this.

I crossed the square and I saw a police car driving around and I did my normal thing when I see police (Netherlands/Spain/France, doesnt matter). Not make eye contact, just go about your business and not look conspicuous (haha as if thats even possible), don’t walk into the path of the car. Down an alleyway to break line of sight, do a little sprint, wait a second, carlights in the distance turning around, swoop back around, through a church garden..and…listen.. car seemed to loop around again. Quickly cross the street towards the building site and my domain for the night, open the door and boom, home free. Close those blinds. The police car chugging along over the road 50m. That was close, although nothing really happened. I would have to treat the whole thing more like this from now on and be more careful. What the hell would I tell the man if he talked to me? Yea Im sleeping in that office over there? Oh yea I also have a dog? Yea, no I know about the virus. Doesn’t exactly sound like that interaction wouldnt have the desired conclusion..

I had multiple times during this trip that Im waking up at some ungodly early hour, decide to go back to sleep and all of a sudden its fucking mayhem 20 minutes later and I really should have gotten my ass into gear when I woke up instead of going back to sleep. This morning wasn’t any different and I woke up and it was still dark outside. Cold as fuck too. Lucy was snoring in my sleeping bag and I decided to change position and fell back asleep. It felt like I had slept for 5 minutes and BOOM, cars honking, doors opening and smashing, a lot of spanish people yelling Venga venga! Ohhh shit.. I went from half asleep to a 100 right away. Rolling up my mat, packing my bag, keeping an eye on the outside through the blinds and just praying they wouldn’t open the door. Most of the construction workers geared up from the other container and got into a vans/trucks and went away. Pheww.. 1 guy was left packing some stuff into crates and I opened the door and quickly turned my back and walked the other way, I could feel his eyes burning in my neck. I walked away in a calm fashion and looped back around towards the camino. This shit is all pretty intense lol.. It was about 7 o’clock in the morning and there was a light drizzle and fog around but I slept better than I expected.

As Im crossing in front of the city hall, I notice the door is open and I decided to go in. Nobody there. Hmm, a stamp? That would be cool. I went upstairs and I saw a cleaning bucket standing in the middle of the waiting area. Ahh that explains, some stumbling upstairs but I also saw a stamp standing on some desk. I put my bag down and made a little too much sound. I had my bookroll out and the lady came downstairs yelling at me to go away. I told her I wanted a stamp but she said no impossible! I said ok ok, tranquilla lol. While I was packing my bag she started making hissing sounds towards Lucy, I could only laugh at her stupidity and the ridiculousness of the situation but didnt feel well enough to confront this sour old lady and just get the stamp without her approval.

I continued on to Puenta la Reina, a little bit of a bigger city and I went to the supermarket to get some food. No clue why but it occurred to me that literally every song playing in the supermarket had an element of selling your Soul in it. Fucking strange shit and adding to the whole Apocalyptic end times feel. The cathedral was open as the rain was starting again and I was sure to find a power outlet inside. I had my lunch and chilled around in the cathedral a little bit, recharging all the electronics I had with me.. When I walked around with Lucy for a while I saw more police rolling around but they were friendly and I just greeted them when they passed me. I left at the end of the day when my phone and powerbank were almost fully charged and the drizzle plaguing my path earlier had made room for a nice although humid sunset.

I was a little worried about getting stamps on the way, that and personal hygiene were going to be my biggest problems I had contemplated during the day. Right at that moment I found a stamp just sitting outside a closed tourist office in a little town called Cirauquai, funny.. I GET IT! RELAX! HAVE FAITH! Stamps will come..

I decided to keep on walking through the dark and passed a couple of great wild camping spots but they just didn’t feel well, I already chilled in a cathedral all day, I needed to get some distance in while the weather was still dry enough. Its also not like Im not used to walking in the dark these days. I walked on until a place called Lorca and just put my tent up next to the church.

The next day some dog was barking at Lucy from the neighbors balcony, the lady came outside and threw Lucy some treats as well. Nice. An old lady scolded me in Spanish, I laughed, smiled and waved. Spain..a country of extremes..

On the menu today was Estella, an also slightly bigger place and as Im nearing the town I remembered I lost my credential (pilgrim stamp book) around here 5 years ago. I ended up backtracking 5 km and found it again in a church where I got my stamp. On the way there I stopped at a little hermitage between Estella and the town I just passed and maybe that was going to be a good place to stop this time as well. I could already see it on the horizon and some Spanish guy walking his dogs came towards me, we chatted a little and apparently the guy was living the mad hermit lifestyle. I asked if I could look inside but the guy got extremely defensive however, yelling that he has been on the camino for 12 years and that he knew what he was doing and that he wasn’t crazy. Lol I never said you were, I said the world was going loco amigo. I decided not to push it and get into a bumfight in the middle of nowhere and this spot was clearly taken anyhow. Still cool to find an actual crazy hermit though haha.

Estella looked like it was business as usual. Cars driving around and police that did pass me didn’t even look at me. I went by a store and pushed a little further, not going to stay in the city. As Im walking out of the city I saw a sign for the legendary wine fountain, 100L of red wine for pilgrims passing by and I remembered I completely missed this 5 years ago. Not getting my hopes up this time but to my surprise it was open! Fucking winning! I filled up one of my waterbottles with red wine and decided to get my drink on at the edge of the town. The free wine definitely needed to breath a little lol but I was still glad that I did got “check this box” against all odds in these crazy times.

Wine fountain

The next day I was packing up stuff and all of a sudden a car pulls up. Guardia Civil in a civilian car..well played motherfuckers. They talked a little English and started telling some other people chilling around to get the fuck off the streets. Then they of course expressed their interest in my pilgrim ass.

I explained to them that I was well prepared, showing them my solar panel and my tent. Also the fact that I had been on the road since 6 months. They called El Capitano and I think the guy told them that I was nothing but a shitton of paperwork and that if they pretended they didnt see me, I would just walk out of their jurisdiction.. The guy told me to just hit the road again and I assured them I would and thanked them for their service.

Hmm, they were definitely a little more forceful than I had encountered before and I wondered if its because they were Guardia Civil, the policia local in Puenta la Reina did not give me any shit and hardly took notice of me. The great thing about Spain is that they have 3 different branches of police, all with different tasks and I got a vague suspiscion that the Guardia Civil were responsible for keeping the people off the streets, while the policia local their responsibility was to help old ladies cross the street and make sure no cats get stuck in trees..

I continued on and the route was pretty nice. I decided to only cross cities in the dark from now on and not sleep inside villages anymore, the risk was just too high and I would run out of luck at some point for sure. So far so good though..