Chapter 3: Almost on my Feet Again
May 11, Vila de Area
I felt at home. If there’s one place I want to be when I’m recovering, it’s in an empty surf house near the ocean among forest and mountains. I awoke to the sound of raining outside. Hard raining. The one square window in the room hung square open revealing a wooded mountain get sneezed and drooled on by dark salacious clouds. I love the sound of falling rain for sleeping though no matter how many times I rolled around, I couldn’t fall back asleep. I was up.
I waddled my still waking limbs out of the room, down the stairs and straight back to the kitchen. The night before I had met the two Swiss, Jean and Jacque who were apparently two of the figures I had seen the evening before attempting to surf on the paltry waves. Two young men in their mid to late 30’s, they’d been here for close to a week already and either staying or continuing, depending on whether the waves here would pick up. This week was bad for surfing, I learned. The waves were as flat as a wooden floor tiling after it’s been sanded away by one of those large wood sanding machines. But they had an entire surf hostel to themselves and a bottle of whiskey!
I yielded to a Whiskey Coke and learned a thing or two about them as I distractedly tried to write something about my experiences so far. It’s very hard for me to switch gears into work mode when I’m traveling. I was still so early in my travels and it would take a while to find what works. Eventually, the other manager of the hostel arrived.
Mathieu was a Frenchman in his mid-thirties, with grown out dark brown hair revealing short curls waiting for more hair to show their true shapes. He left Brittany, France in his 90’s hatchback several two years ago in search of waves. He was neither loud nor quiet, though he looked exhausted in his dirtied white shirt and navy shorts. I was too tired to stick around while he jabbered away in French with Jean & Jacque so I went to bed.
That morning when I got to the kitchen, I checked my edible inventory. I had canned tuna, bread, olive oil, a block of cheese and several tomatoes. I wanted something warm and Rebecca, the manager told me that the kitchen was only for Mathieu, hence I’d have to resort to cooking my tuna using the oil inside and two squares of toilet paper. Thank you, StumbleUpon for revealing this time-consuming but tasty discovery (it takes 25 minutes to cook down all of the oil).
Mathieu woke up shortly afterwards and I got the opportunity to learn more about him and his endeavors. He spoke perfect French and Spanish and his English was about as good as your Russian (assuming you don’t speak Russian). He told me about his travels to here; over the course of a Spring, Summer, and Fall he drove across the entire French and Northern Spain coast while living out of his car. He lived like so until he reached Vila da Area a year and some months ago and he happened upon an opportunity to live out of this hostel and teach kids how to surf and act as a camp chaperone. This was not his end all destination, he was simply recovering his funds before continuing his journey along the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. He was not as much a stickler for the rules as Rebecca the night before, talking to him had a calming effect. Talking to him felt like I was genuinely talking to him, not a person assuming the role of surf hostel manager.
The hostel was located nearby to the largest street intersection in over a kilometer or two, the intersection had a pub on it that apparently sold bocadillas, sandwiches in Spanish. Being as there was just one place to buy food ingredients several kilometers away, he invited me along for the car ride, seeing as I was running low on consumables. The neighborhood consisted of a handful of houses, each with their own fenced off yards and single two-lane roads connecting outwards to the other village-like establishments. We drove through forests and swamps along a bike path that, at times, plunged into the forest before resurfacing alongside us. Even though it was a few kilometers away, driving in a car always makes the distance look so much farther. I’m glad I wasn’t walking.
We eventually drove up to a strip of orange tile roofed buildings on each side that continued on for several hundred meters before the downtown ended. On this road were the only two grocery store-like establishments and bakery within a 5-kilometer radius. The people living here without a car had none of the conveniences I had growing up. One store hadn’t even opened yet at 11 in the morning and the other one resembled the closest thing I can imagine a Communist grocery store looked like. There was one brand for everything in the store, that is if the shelf had anything on it… Lucky for me they had canned tuna and two small crates by the counter selling smaller than average onion bulbs and tomatoes and bread from the bakery across the street. If you’re trying to live frugal on the road you must accept that beggars can’t be choosers.
I bought what I needed for the current day and Mathieu said he’d bring me along when he goes into Ferrol to do the bulk shopping later that afternoon.
We returned and I merrily chowed down on the warm tuna sandwich which I left cooking while I was gone. Then I spent the entirety of the remaining morning and early afternoon writing on a bean bag in the middle of the half-pipe.
Afternoon came around and I reconvened with Mathieu to go with him into the city. It was refreshing to get a glimpse into the life of a man growing up on the other side of the pond as me. In school up until college, I had unenthusiastically devoted 12 years learning French and their fancy-pantsy cuisine customs and culture. I relished these encounters because he resembled nothing from my snobbish impression of the French. He was like me, traveling his own life trajectory devoting his time at this surf hostel to bring him closer to his next objective.
We drove out of the quiet solitude of Vila da Area through the sub-suburban neighborhoods, then suburban, then the urban shopping lodes of Ferrol. This looked familiar. It was the changeless concrete environment you see from metropolis to the next. this part of Spain looked an awful lot like the dull concrete and asphalt jungles I had left in the United States. Nevertheless, I made use of what the urban world had to offer and I stocked up on the various breads, cheeses, and canned tunas I saw.
I felt at odds with myself playing the role of the curious cultural traveler while shopping at the westernized mega stores, which I despise in principle over more small stores, but I reconciled myself knowing that I can’t reserve myself only to the beautiful parts of a country, but the real parts as well. It’s a little hard for me coming to terms with a world that’s growing more and more like the over developed world I grew up in, but ***unwilling*** to admit it’s existence is a sure way to disappointment.
We were away for over an hour and in that talking with Mathieu and seeing for myself, I got a glimpse into how people in Galicia got by. The local stores were becoming less abundant and their goods paled in comparison to a growing generation that prizes variety & lower prices over simplicity & considerably less driving time (and costs associated). Same concept
We made it home after a short pit stop at the local tobacco shop in Vila da Area and the Swiss were home, obviously returned from the beach from their soaked dog appearance.
“How were the waves?”
They looked bored, but I didn’t care. I was hungry… As is the case whenever I get back from shopping with a full appetite, my stomach goes on autopilot, commandeering both my vision and my thinking. I was ***ecstatic*** Mathieu contradicted Rebecca’s rule that I couldn’t use the kitchen, it significantly opened up the possibilities for me eat. Furthermore, Mathieu having noticed the food disposal in me, gave me left over freebies from the fridge! Score, I got canned salmon and muscles plus the mustard and the now aging carrots!
I decided against a long walk in this gray ominous weather. Two days was enough, I thought. I gradually came to the conclusion, my feet are OK, I have to continue my journey, this time on foot and without knowing where I’ll sleep tomorrow. It all depended on the weather. You see tomorrow was not predicted to be any better than today, in fact, my weather forecast showed me a very depressing emoji. I saw even less reason to stay locked up in an empty hostel when I could be escaping out of this weather.
I kept to myself for the remainder of that evening as I looked at maps and ***hypothesized*** possible routes. Where I was in Spain was part of the northern most jut of land. The more I scanned through the landscape, the more I realized I had to see what was up there. I noticed a certain passage along one of the northern most tips, a lighthouse surrounded by nothing more than rocky cliffs. I was so intoxicated with curiosity to see what lie there that I couldn’t stand the thought of staying in this hostel one more day. I will leave at the first break in the rain I get.
Settled and determined, I found my way to my bed, stared at the empty white room, stacked with bunk beds and black mattresses and listened to the rain outside. Tomorrow starts a new kind of travel. I lugged camping gear all this way, it’s time I learn to use it.