I left Matavenero this morning and got a lift with Ba-Ba, a white man in his fifties wearing an orange turban and some kind of Indian toga. Also in the hippy van that jangled it´s way down the mountain track was a blonde dreadlocked woman I assume to be Ba-Ba´s girlfriend and Nick, a grumpy Londoner who has lived in the village five years. On learning that I am (more or less) vegan, Nick immediately began quizzing me about my dietary habits and challenging me with questions like: “If you couldn´t go to the supermarket, how would you keep warm in winter?” and “You use cars, yeah? How many animal products do you think are in them?”
I have noticed a corresponding, yet opposite trend in the amount of time people have spent in the village and how friendly they are.
A little way down the track we pick up David, a (Swedish?) guy I had met the previous day. One of the Rainbow people, but definitely not one of the stoned-soup-gang. Like me, David had moved quickly out of the Communal Kitchen, and had been working for and staying with a woman in the village. I had been considering travelling with him, but he originally wanted to leave a day earlier than me – now here he was hitching the same lift as me out of the village.
This felt synhronistic, and although I am hitching and he has an inter-rail (a real one), I felt sure we would travel together. But I spent a little longer than him on the internet in Bembibre and when I came out he was gone – presumably on the 12:50 bus to León.
David – if you ever read this – I looked for you!
I sit now in a cafe/bar in Bembibre, drinking a caña in preparation for the journey ahead… I have seven days to do with as I wish before I have arranged to be at Ecodharma in Cataluña, where I will stay for the whole of November.
I will go now to the road to see where the wind will blow me…
Well, the wind blew me round in a big circle. I walked out of Bembibre and after a little wait got picked up by a man who said he had to go and pick up a caravan, but would come back in an hour and take me to Palencia, 180km on the way to Madrid. He gave me a choice: he could drop me at a better spot from which to get a lift, if I got one then good, or if not he would be back in an hour. Alternatively I could wait in a bar. I chose the aforementioned, and for the first hour I was kicking myself for standing by a sliproad with the sun in my eyes when I could have been in a bar relaxing and writing in my diary.
Well, I had a sum total of eleven lift offers, ranging from France to the North down to 80km South. I refused them all because none were as good as the caravan man.
After an hour and a half I was glad I hadn´t waited in a bar, but I was kicking myself for passing up that 80km lift an hour previously. I decided to accept anything going further than 50km, but then the only offers I got were to Astorga 40km away, or Ponferrada in the other direction.
After two hours I was ready to go to Astorga and stay there for the night. The sun was dipping low behind the trees and a cold wind was brewing. But then the lifts dried up altogether and the cars were thinning out, so that when an old man stopped after two and a half hours of waiting I got in, although I couldn´t quite make out where he said he was going.
The old man was wrinkly and he had a hearing aid and he wanted to touch me between the legs in payment for the lift. Of course I said no, so he talked about the weather and the scenery for a bit before asking again.
He dropped me off in… Bembibre. Fucking wanker!
My spirits were really low as I stuck my thumb out again on a dark road with no traffic. I walked to a little petrol station and relayed my woes to the woman working there in my shitty Spanish. No traffic at all, so I began the 2kn walk back to centre of Bembibre to look for some food and a place to sleep. I stuck my thumb out to the cars that passed, just on the off-chance.
A dear, lovely man stopped for me and took me to Astorga, where I found internet, a cheap Chinese restaurant and an undeveloped bit of land on which I stuck my tent, and even slept reasonably well despite the cold hard ground. I´m beginning to think about getting a roll-mat.