Chapter One: Distress

After literally minutes of planning, I finally touch down in northern Spain. Predictably, the start is not without incident... All hail baptism of fire!

I’ve had more auspicious starts to a holiday.

The journey down to Portsmouth was unremarkable and involved tailing a wide load 50-something miles down the A34. Because of the delay I only had time to take a couple of photos of their killer pirate ship before boarding ‘Pont Aven‘.

Killer Pirate Ships
Looking out to see – nothing but an unplanned adventure awaits

A self guided tour, chatting with fellow seamen, some food and a beer later and familiar events began to creep out of the descending darkness. I’m not saying drinking a strangers neat whiskey from the bottle doesn’t have a place, far from it – but in hindsight I guess I should have just watched a movie on the inbuilt cinema.

Boat Friends (Spell Trouble)
And yeah… that whiskey (and assorted other drinks) sure did make me personable….


That’s not a trampoline – think more in line with those scratchy playground cargo nets. Didn’t dampen these guys (or my) fun though.

Some of us having a great time. 

The dawn chorus didn’t herald good tidings. Some malevolent acid reflux demon began contorting in my upper stomach. I’d peel my face off the prickly aisle floor for a bleary eyed second, just long enough to meet the gaze of a disappointed but sympathetic old couple, before being hit by self pity and nausea. Over the next 3 hours I’d blunder between running to throw up and returning to stick my face to a different bit of aisle carpet. Eventually, head pounding, I went to get rehydrated and bumped into Helen and Laurie from the night before. Apparently I looked like shit, so when the opportunity presented itself I made my excuses and went to sit by myself in a locked toilet cubicle for an hour, dry heaving aggressively. I also took my day old, crusty contact lenses out. It didn’t help much.

A number of passengers gave me knowing but sad filled looks as I walked past them, some even referred jokes we’d shared the night before and a couple even shook my hand in untranslatable yet fond reunion. Awkward when as far as you know last night never happened. Waiting in the bowels of the ship for the loading bay to touch down I had the cold sweats and no idea how I was going to ride anywhere…

Swerving out of the ferry into Santander at 6.30pm I set to finding my hostel. Conveniently this was placed right opposite the ferry port. Inconveniently, I had no idea… Cue the following three episodes (welcome to Spain el loco hermano).

Nearing the Spanish Coast
One of the few photos that isn’t blurred by hangover shakes
End of the big blue boat road – Santander

Episode One: Chaos
People in Spain don’t like speaking English much. So when I discovered I’d lost the address for my hostel, unhelpfully called ‘Hostel and B&B‘ and remembered I’d forgot to buy a map in Portsmouth (no time..) I started driving down random roads in random lanes in every direction. My booking page had a photo of the hostel on it but they all looked alike. I pulled up to have a quick panic and a rethink. My drunk brain would make me amble across to telephone boxes and car park metres just to investigate them. I didn’t have Euros for either and my mobile went dead as soon as I left England. What’s more concern was mounting that the dregs in my fuel tank would put an end to my futile search for pre-booked affordable shelter. I was loosing a battle with my inner voice. An unknown time later I relocated a garage and pulled in. Petrol and a map, garages have to sell maps…

Episode Two: Poorly conceived problem solving
They didn’t sell maps.. In fact the store clerk laughed in my face and stopped speaking entirely when he heard my attempt at Spanish. Afterwards, following an hour of riding in concentric circles a fatigue from lack of sleep, alcohol consumption and malevolent acid reflux demon was setting in in a big way. It was time for drastic action, I would find affordable accommodation if it killed me. Having spotted a sign for camping on concentric ring number 7 I took back to the road with renewed vigour before, 15 or so miles out of town, being overwhelmed by thirst and loosing the will to live. The camping sign was a one off which led to nowhere as far as I was concerned. So with my tail firmly planted between my legs and a weary mind I went back to Santander.

Episode Three: Wandering the streets at night
Turns out there’s loads of motorbike parking if you know where to look – which is everywhere. I left the luggage on bike and the bike down a dark alley, literally so far past the point of giving a shit. A woman in the first hotel I entered looked up the hostel and found the address. It was easy to get angry at the nonsense choices I’d been making for the last 3 or so hours. I later cajoled an elderly couple to help me find the street who in turn asked a whole restaurant of people if they knew where it was. When we found it, all of about 30 feet away I hugged, “muchos gracias’ed” and made my exit. After checking in I started giving a shit about the luggage I’d left in that dark alley, hot footed it back and regained some faith in humanity.

Now it was late, 10.30 or so. That trenchfoot smell enveloped the shared dorm as I relinquished 48hr booted feet into the cool air. They were white, blistered and in some parts potentially mouldy. Showering, cooking and bed all happened in an exhausted blur.

Surprisingly those white bits stayed on, despite feeling like wet paste…

Learning Points
1) Learn then print the route map to the first hostel off Google maps, then don’t loose it.
2) Phrase books seem like useful aids.
3) Spanish people can be reasonably helpful when you sacrifice your pride and ask them for help.
4) You can’t handle your drink any more
5) Your boots aren’t at all breathable. Achievement unlocked – Zombie Soles.


4 comments on “Chapter One: Distress

  1. OK, you’ve inspired me …………. the bike’s coming out of the shed for first time this year! Keep the stories coming kiddo!

  2. chrisdrops

    Only could all of this happen to you in the first 48 hours. An observation that you attract excitement, not a dig at your poor levels of preperation.

  3. Oh Tom I’ve missed you!

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