Day 17 Camino – Najera to Grañón

Grañón is described in the guide book as a town where “they like to party.” I’m sitting outside a bar opposite the church, in the evening sun. There’s a piano and guitars just … scattered around for pilgrims. Steve is currently hitting the piano beautifully. He’s the guy who was singing hymns the other day. Earnest hard working Steve. He’s a beautiful human. I’m glad I’ve coincided with him and Cody, these pleasant talented ex US army guys again.

Another extra long walk today, and I’m glad to get distance from where I slept last night. I left that place with my immune system in tatters. A superhostel, packed with flesh, all in one room, very little space, brimming with all the transferable human nastiness you can imagine. No hot showers in the flooded bathroom. I stood at the edge of a cold trickle and swore copiously as I cupped and sloshed cold water on my tired limbs. It was something between a concentration camp and an army barracks where nobody shares a language. Someone repeatedly almost suffocated themselves noisily in their dreams all night right by me. There are probably bugs when you do actually sleep, and certainly horrific smells when you don’t.

My blepharitis came back overnight. Suddenly again my eyelids are red and trying to stick together. I feel like I’m coming down with a cold as well. I found a pharmacist in Santo Domingo and stocked up on vitamins and they actually let me have the antibiotic eye drops I need rather than just fobbing me off with some sort of palliative crap like the pharmacists in the UK did for a whole year until I took a course of antibiotics for an unrelated issue and it cleared up immediately. Bastards.

I also got myself weighed. I’m 12 stone 3.3 recurring. I have no idea if that’s good or bad but it’s lower than I remember and it’s infinite.

Another long hard road today. The path goes through Cirueña. Cirueña is a warning to us all. It sits on top of a hill, not far from the bustling town of Santo Domingo de Calzada. There’s an 18 hole golf course that actually still functions. The rest of the town is a dead monument to greed and optimism.

I remember family friends in the late nineties and early noughties, evangelising about Spanish property. It was a bubble. This is what their hubris created. Cirueña. And many other places like Cirueña. The streets are immaculate for all the feet that will never fall. There are huge playparks for all the children that will never be born here. There are beautifully landscaped totally pointless empty blocks of flats and empty houses. Thousands and thousands of empty beds across Spain. They could be used to house people who have nowhere to live but they’ll be kept by private owners believing it might come back. Everything here is empty, and desperately and visibly for sale for too much. Not even the pilgrims can sleep in this new town. Empty dead houses that nobody has ever slept in that will sit empty until they collapse because whoever invested everything in them was never interested in bringing gradual money through work or fostering community. They bought into the big shiny flip twist bucks bucks bucks dream. No cars on the roads. No sound at all but the crickets and the birds. Dead town. Dead hopes. Dead end.

If you want a retreat, buy a house up here in the dead hills and pretend you live in post apocalyptic Richmond. Although there’s no point asking. The remaining landlords are probably HODLING. They still think they can make some of their losses back… Maybe in fifty years there’ll be life again in these hollow tenements. An artistic community perhaps? But for now it’s just a sad folly. It’s funny how these get rich quick schemes so often do the opposite. My dad used to say “If everyone starts saying you have to buy something, just hope you’ve already got some and sell it immediately.” Devil take the hindmost. Pop.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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