Sunday, 28 February 2010

Costa Brava

When I started writing this post, two men upstairs were skinning and butchering a huge wild boar in the kitchen. I am staying with Kike and his dog Tate in Saint Feliu de Guixols on the Costa Brava after having ridden 80km down from Roses and it is quite a contrast to my last host, Joaquim. After last writing I went and met Joaquim at his flat in the centre of Roses. I put my bike in the garage, was shown around the lovely modern flat and took a very luxurious shower. He is a Catalan teacher at a local secondary school and is a few years older than me. Although he thinks his English is bad, I would disagree and I listen to him talk passionately about his culture as we eat a delicious healthy dinner. He shows me the tradition of eating Pa am Tomaquet, toasted bread with a special local variety of tomato rubbed upon it along with a sprinkle of olive oil and salt. The tomato is one that can keep for a year if hung on its vine, and is expensive to buy in the shops. The Catalans tend to grow these themselves, keeping seeds within the families and passing them down through generations.
I hear a concise rendition of Catalonia's history, how Franco tried to eliminate the identity, language and culture of Catalans, but after his death how it became the first region of Spain to gain autonomy. How although it is one of Spain's most prosperous economies there are still tensions between the cultures of the mainstream country and theirs.
We talk until the small hours about all manner of interesting topics about life and society, but I struggle to take it all in as I am very tired.
The following day I take a well earned breather, I cut my hair, do the laundry, go to the internet cafe and stock up on food. I then think I deserve a siesta, so when I wake at 6pm I go with Joaquim to Figueres where he goes to Japanese lessons and I go to the Dali museum. Alas it is closed, so I take a coffee and watch the world go by, a lively bustle of Spanish city life on a Friday night. It is true, lots of locals of all ages are out and about, dressed up and enjoying themselves. We go back and meet another couch surfer, Tom, an Israeli girl who is working her way around Spain working on farms (wwoofing). It is another interesting night talking away until the small hours.
I set off relatively early and get going, cycling inland past the local industries of fishing, boat sales and repairs and smallhold farms. The land is flat and populated with small villages and cattle farms, but as I progress the dreaded headwind picks up. The runs alongside a new dual carriageway construction and even on an off season Saturday it is apparent why a bigger road is being built as traffic is heavy. The route guides me between three sets of hills and back towards Palamos, where the evidence of the area's main industry, tourism is apparent. Being off season, I pass huge ghost towns of empty high rise blocks, never ending lines of Dutch and British caravans stored closely packed in fields. The headwind is still relentless and the distance remaining reduces painstakingly slowly, and yet again the knee begins to hurt. I get to Saint Feliu where I grab a coffee and phone Kike (or Henriyk) who comes and meets me by the bus station. We walk a short distance to his place that he is building. Once a garage with an unused floor below, he has converted it into a home with found and recycled materials. It is quite a contrast, with a fancy granite topped kitchen aquired when a rich family wanted a newer one, to the simple shower involving a bucket of heated water and a jug. He lives a 'good life' with 5 hens, a vegetable garden, occasional fish he catches when snorkelling, and meat which his English friend Nick has just arrived with from a hunt. We drink beer and lend an occasional hand in ripping the hyde off this impressive beast, with Tate the huge alsation cross looking hopefully for some scrap. Kike works about 6 months of the year as a surveyor to pay for luxuries like car, broadband and beer but is well on the way for living pretty self sufficiently. As well as living he seems to have a good community of friends and a very content life, so it seems strange to hear his band, some of the angriest sounding metal punk I have heard. I like it though. We drink beer till the small hours and I get the feeling I'm not going to make it to Barcelona tomorrow.

Here is his band...

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