I have had to most random 8 days of the trip so far. Everything has been soo random, the people, the weather and the wildlife. I have crashed, starved, laughed and I had a wonderful christmas day cycling around the middle of Spain tryin to find a bloody village that had a public phone. It was worth the effort in the end to get to talk to my family, to hear about the fry they had for brekkie, I had museli. After hanging up I went to the nearest bench and made some coffee in the glorious sunshine, in the mid teens anyway. I had to behave myself as I had a guest for lunch, some random woman, stinking of last nights booze, came out of her house and just stood in front of me staring in awe at my camping stove. It was just gas craic trying to explain it all to her with no language, she did not seem to even understand my sign language. Just when I was about to hit the road again she gave me a pat on the back and that near melted my heart, just random love...
I got another super present for xmas. Since the start of the trip one of the really special pleasures I have is in watching all the different birds of prey hunting. Spain has really taken the piss in this matter over the last few days. Looking up at huge soaring vultures, hovering kestrels and massive hawks. Another great moment came as I whizzed down from another wonderful hill with a steep drop off right beside the road. I turned a corner and there was a massive hawk cruising along, he was a couple of hundred meters off the ground but their we were only a few feet apart gliding along at the same speed. UNREAL! I have alot of dreams I want to come through but I never thought that one would be topped in the same week but it was. On chrsitmas day I seen my first confirmed kill. I have watched probably thousands of these birds on this trip but never seen a completed hunt. It was a kestrel hovering at the side of the road. Usually I end up spooking them but this one must of already had his eyes on dinner. He dove, I held my breath and rolled closer for the millionth time, not believing I would see what I have dreamed about for months. Wings tucked tightly in, supreme stealthy speed, you could almost see vapour trails as he cut through the air. The mouse, sitting pretty, munching on some left over corn, trying to keep fat through the winter, he was wearing the christmas socks his kids gave him for the third year in a row, he had a little handful of corn to bring back to the hungry waiting family. Alas it was a meal they would never get to enjoy, snatched up and torn apart before he knew what hit him. It was the Kestrel family on the next block that would have the extra portions for christmas dinner. Heffo on the sideline whooping and hollering, blood in my eyes, I cheered on the kill like a spectator in a colosseum of old.
Then all my innocence was shattered in my last couple of days of riding through Spain. I stopped for a quick stretch and drink when something caught my eye on the road. It was a dead snake, I didnt know Spain had snakes haaa. Had I of known this I probably would not of slept in my tent with it wide open on hot nights. For all I know they could of been crawling all over me during the night. Highly unlikely I know but I deffo would not of had the bloody door open haaaa.
For my birthday I promised myself I would get into Portugal, so began one of many long days on the bike. Outside of Madrid the road was pretty flat so I covered some "big" distances. I always wondered how they came up with borders of countries, obviously the Pyrenees sould of given me a better clue as to what awaited before Portugal. Yes another great hill, I was told on the way down to go back by some boy racer as it was too icey and slippy, started to put the shits up me but I was not going back. Turned out to have a bit of frost and alot of sheep. As I got closer to the border I wanted music so I flicked on my Ipod shuffle and on came Bob with Like a Rolling Stone, just lovin your work Bob! An amazing valley with all sorts of rocks piled in unusual piles haaa, and only half an hour of pain up the otherside, camped out at the side of the road looking out over the valley, extra chocolate for the birthday boy!
South America by donkey
Stopped for food in some silly little village the next day and had a jam sambo. As is my routine just before I jump on the bike I have another quick coffee, one for the road, just then two teenagers came over and offered to buy me a hot drink, it was kinda cold out so I said of course. They bought me a single espresso and I got the coffee shakes, I love them haaa. Thiago and Anna, beautiful little kids full of questions. I asked them all about their xmass, Thiago got a guitar and Anna got shoes and stuff. They go to an English bording school so it was cool to be able to chat in English, they also gave me the change of the tenner their parents gave them to buy me a drink. I obviously refused and told them to tell their parents I took it and that they should buy sweets with it but their grandad came into the cafe and made sure I took it, so I did, and I bought Pringles and three slabs of chocolate.
I have a theory, I have developed many since starting this trip haaa. Now dont get me wrong, its just a theory, a lot of theories didnt pan out, The Lone Gunman, Algebra, haaa gotta love Joey. My thoery is that dogs are the reincarnation of people who have been killed by touring cyclists. My evidence is in the fact that every single time I pass a garden that has a dog, in every country, it will quickly run up and start barking its head off at me as I pass. If the garden is fenced it will bark and run along to the end of the garden and bark as best he can through the fence. If the dog is chained it will run towards me as hard as he can and bark until he almost cuts his head as the chain takes the slack. Even if the dog is way up in the hills they still bark at me and thus warn the dogs around the corner that a murderer is on his way so they will start barking. I even find myself barking back at them only to have the owner give me the weirdest look as the pop their head up out of the flowerbed. Sometimes it seems like the sound track to this trip is fecking barking dogs. And the next story has cemented the sound track in stone for me.
It was just another day up in the rugged hills, where the hardy folk dwell. The inbred farmers busy tending to their goats, adorable in a purely ugly way. Ye get them everywhere I suppose. They still smile, obviously with only a few teeth but a smile is a smile. The odd one will give me that reaction that inspires me more than anyother. As I cruise past they thump their hearts twice and then the air in salute to my trip. I do the salute back, we laugh and then I am gone, hoping the next farmer gives me the same salute, I usually get a few each day haaa. I had been pushing hard all day and had climbed my last hill of the day, I had been holding a number one and a two as the going had been good and I promised my organs I would releave them of the pressure at the camp site. I found a nice out of the way quiet spot to camp beside an abandoned house overlooking a steep lonely valley. I set the tent up and sat at my front door pondering life with a cup of coffee looking down into the dark abyss as the last of the light faded away. My bodily urges had left as I was sitting so I lay down for a bit. Then the church bells rang, aww thats cute they are playing Silent Night, then I heard a bark, then another and another and they were getting closer. So began the night of all nights, the seige of all seiges. A pack of ferral fucking dogs surrounded the tent. Now it was not just a bit of barking, it was barking to end all barking, growling and snarling like I had just killed one of their children. It was pure madness, but sure they will be gone soon enough. Ye tell yourself these things all the time but it does not mean it will happen. Before I got a glimpse of them I imagined them to be some whimpy little jack russels. I had one side of my front door open and I got a look at one of them, a massive German Sheppard, I mouthed to myself "bollox" and closed off the tent door.
So I played the waiting game, stay silent, they did not see a human enter so for all they know its just a random empty tent. So I lay as silent as I could. It was as if I had been removed out of the galaxy, pure and utter stillness. Any time I moved I thought the sound of the sleeping bag was like picking up a bag full of shattered glass, so I didnt move a bloody muscle. When I could hear my pulse vibrating with the sleeping bag at my neck I moved it, thats the sort of quiet I was aiming for to try get rid of the hounds. For two hours they ran around the tent in a crazed state, at one stage one of them was howling like a wolf, sweet jesus. I was hungry but my food bag was outside, I was gonna cook up some popcorn of all things, not tonight my friend, I dined on hunger cursing the dogs. They finally went silent, so I waited a while to make sure they were gone, delighted, nature was calling so I made a move for the door. Up the dogs jumped and continued their frenzied barking. Holey fuck they had actually just sat down and had been waiting about twenty minutes. So they got all worked up again and I got all silent again, as pointless as it was as they clearly where super smart genetically modified intelligent army dogs. So I lay in my bag in the dark praying they would not rip the tent. I was doing a Ghandi with my peaceful protest. I drew the line at damage to my house, if they started to bite it I was gonna pull a Magyver and fashion a spear out of a spare tent pole and use my leatherman knife and kill me some dog. At one stage I was getting ready mentally for a show down, thinking yeah I will get biten but I will take a couple of them down and then get to the next town for stitches and a tetness shot haaa. I was bursting and I considered dumping into a plastic bag but I could not bring myself to do and it would of stank to the high heavens, I thought maybe I could hurl the bag at them or something. I know its madness but I was brainstorming as best I could. Eventually they went quiet and I resigned myself to getting some sleep, hungry and holding onto a peepoo but I was even to be denied sleep as the church kindly offered to sound the bell every hour and wake the dogs from their quiet vigil of my tent. Silent night my ass at 4am, 4fuckingAM are you guys for real, 5am, 6am, SILENT NIGHT driving the dogs mental. But I dont blame the dogs, I blame the idiots who probably bought the dogs last christmas and had got bored of them and just dumped them up in the hills like they do back home. The dogs didnt attack and eventually there was silence at the 7am Silent Night Remix so I had a quick look out the tent to find the beasts were gone so goddamit if I didnt just pack that tent up, load the bike and hit the road in under twenty seconds flat laughing my head off in the early morning darkness. I got into the next town and found an early bird cafe and did some serious damage to the toilet bowl, I also ate two of the most delicious custard filled sugar donuts...
I had picked out what I thought would be a nice hilly route through Portugal, I was planning to go to Vigo but changed my mind when I seen the most squiggly road of all time. It definetly has more bends than the Enniskerry road. Squiggles, which where also my fav biscuit in Welly, mean hills so I was pumped up for this one. The Dourro river flowed all the way to the Atlantic through Portugals wine region. Sandemans was about the only name I recognised. Man if I didnt just roll along the side of the river in glorious sunshine and happiness. Then the road takes to the hills, then down to the river, then to the hill, down to the river and back to the hills and ye get the idea. Man it is just a beautiful area, the farmers are all out picking the last of the olives, trimming grape vines and burning leaves. Which filled the valley with smoke, not enough to put you off, just enough to create all sorts of shapes with the sunlight. The smell of lemon trees, manderines and even near the end there were ecalyptus trees to add to the beautiful aroma.
So I arrived into Porto thinking it was New Years Eve, its the eve of eve haaa what a muppet. I am in a cool hostel for the night but its full for tomorrow so I might hit the road and enjoy the big night from the hills haaa. So far I like what I have seen of Porto, to sum it up in the few hours I seen, Oldschool.