Logroño. The capital of Rioja. I arrived here in a rainstorm. It’s a Sunday though, which is luxury day. So I booked an Airbnb with a door and a king sized bed. Tonight I’ll go for tapas and rioja.
Right now I’m in a sarong and thermal leggings in a launderette, washing everything I have. I took off my trousers and shirt and pants like that guy in the Levi advert. Everything is in the machine. I’ll be here for a while, but there are vending machines selling coffee and no overexcited older women like the ad.
If the music was better I’d be fine. They’re playing modern versions of eighties ballads in Spanish.
This morning I got out even earlier than usual. I walked through pitch darkness and it felt magical knowing the dawn was coming.
I couldn’t work out how I’d managed to get out so early. I’d dispensed with some part of my morning ritual. But what? “Who knows”, I thought. “It can’t be important”, I thought.
An hour into the walk, two hours before the next town, my body urgently reminded me of what I’d forgotten. Oh shit. Literally.
Thankfully it wasn’t an open part of the trail, and it was quiet. I clambered up to the side of the path, got behind some trees and reminded myself practically not to overlook that particular few minutes of my morning ritual again. I returned to the path much lighter and with a sealed plastic bag full of tissues that I was very aware of until I finally found a bin. But… but I carried those tissues until I found that bin…
Every inch of the side of this pilgrim trail is littered with other people’s discarded used tissue paper. It’s really noticeable, thoroughly offensive and entirely preventable.
“Hi pilgrim. Here you are, on this ancient trail, having a meditative time. I was here too, pilgrim. I was here before you, having a meditative time. Then I squatted down and had another sort of meditative time. I’ve left the tissues. Why? Well because I’m an idiot, of course. No amount of meditative time will fix that. I want you to contemplate how much of a useless human I am. I want you to think of me, of us and our effluent. I want you to be horrified by how many of us there are, the thoughtless ones. The world is overrun by us. Even here on thoughtful-road-central.”
Seriously. Tissues everywhere. If you can’t carry your own tissue until you reach a bin there’s something seriously wrong with you. If you’re sorting your internal crap out on this trail sort that callous/squeamish shit out first. Yeah maybe it biodegrades over about five years if there’s enough rain. But meantime everyone who comes after you has to contemplate you and your bodily secretions. Stop it. Grrr.
Ok so there are some pretty naïve types here. There were three delightful young American GodJocks last night. One of them passed me earlier today singing hymns beautifully. He’s walking with his imaginary friend. As the rain started I found myself isolated and took a leaf out of his book. It’s amazing how many lyrics I remember from those unhappy mornings at boarding school. “Onward Christian Soldiers!” The poor animals of La Rioja have been regaled with enthusiastic half-remembered marching hymns littered with equally enthusiastic commentary. “And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green NO OF COURSE NOT.” It devolved into showtunes as the rain got heavier and only petered out as i found myself in the suburbs, dripping and wretched, and started walking alongside people again. 150,000 population here. I had no idea it was going to be another big town so soon.
It can’t rain much heavier than it did today. The wind was busy too. If that’s the worst it’s got then I’ve packed well enough. My thermals came into play and I was glad of them. I’m coming to like my highly organised carefully packed sack of everything. I’m starting to value the few little things I carry that aren’t strictly necessary. And I’m especially looking forward to tapas treat night tonight.
I’ve moved from the laundrette to my cheap Airbnb, with a door I can close. Sunday luxury. I’m heading into town now for that tapas and rioja. Wish I could call a friend to join me. But there’s always the inside of my head. And Jesus…
I’m starting to feel like I’ve been solitary too long. Yap yap yap.