Basking in the Basque country at the moment. It’s a bit like North Wales; with an independant streak & a crazy language full of K Z X & G. I wing’d my way here over the dusty sierras, by the majesty of the Pyrenees, very tranquilo for my coming adventuring. After checking out Britain, the Baltics, Holland & central-eastern Europe I feel that only the dusky continental south-west remains to complete the picture. So I landed in Vittoria – classy shops & bars, clean streets & not a smelly kebab shop in sight. Spent my first night in a hotel & wandered round the old city, a fair place indeed, where kings & popes have slept & Wellington won a famous victory way back in 1813. English is hardly spoken here & my Spanish is terrible. However, I did get an e-mail off my very fluent girlfriend, Glenda.
A few years ago she had spent a cocaine-fuell’d couple of years in Peru & was now fluent. However, she was winding me up a bit & on one occasion I was trying to flirt with a bonny local lass, but Glenda exacted her pre-emptive revenge. I ended up saying things like ‘Desculpa mi, soy un homosexual, no me gusta mujers’ (excuse me, I`m gay and don`t like girls), ‘teinnes un coolo gordo’ (you`ve got a fat arse) & ‘estoy feliz y contenta y tengo una novia bonita quien me estraynya ‘(I am happy and content and have a beautiful girlfriend who misses me). I guess birds are a bit like Big Brother – eyes everywhere!
This morning I set off east on a seven euro coach, coursing like a river thro’ an oval shaped plain, peppered with little villages & their barn-like churches. ‘Good cavalry country,’ I thought as I read thro’ an internet print-out on those Napoleonic battles of the Pyrenees, when Wellington kicked the French out of Spain. An hour or so later I arrived in the tall city of Pamplona (high rise after high rise), famous for its bull-chasing tomato-throwing locals at the annual festival. Spent a couple of hours dining in the grassy centre of a massive starry fortress, a legacy of its vital strategic position at the foot of the Pyrynean passes. Idled the time by reading the Song of Roland. It is the French epic poem & the chief reason why I have come to this part of the world. It tells the story of the nephew of Charlemagne (Roland) & his death at the hands of the moors. It was primarily written as a piece of crusader propaganda – but in this world of post 9/11 it still holds great relevance – as well as being cool as fuck! The poem & my path led me out of the city on another coach which began rising into the green mountains. I was surprised to find that every now & again the terrain would flatten out into farm country, not what I had imagined at all.
I finally arrived in the religious hamlet of Roncesvalles. There is a large abbey & a very pretty panorama, all refreshed by a cool mountain air. It is the second port of call on the pilgrim pathway called the Camino de Santiago, after it begins in France. Apparently Saint James’ bones are in Galicia (N. Spain) & Europeans would flock down this valley towards them in the medieval age. Today, the route is still popular with hikers, with places to stay along the road from as little as 3 euros a night. I paid 5 & will be sharing my sleep tonight with about 100 snorers – so wish me luck!