My phone alarm and then my alarm clock woke me at 5.30am and I was out the door by 6. I walked to the station briskly. Previously I may have made misleading comments – the sky was pitch black and the sun would not rise for another 2 and a half hours, but the streets and laneways were well lit. This means when I say I walk in the dark, I am referring to the sky.
I walked with great excitement. This train trip would be the start of my journey back home, a notion that filled me with great satisfaction. And a sense of relief. I have survived and thrived in Argentina, Uruguay, South Georgia Island, Antarctica and now Spain. And my coughing cold has been a companion now for too many weeks. I have experienced marvellous events and places and its time to look forward to a rest sooner than later.
At the Granada train station, I learnt that a bus had been substituted to carry us to a connecting station further inland; we departed on time. No opportunity to look at picturesque villages as we whipped through the countryside – it was dark. Except that there is a massive use of energy resources. I remember as I travelled by train southwards a week or so ago, the landscape was persistently marked by massive electricity towers and transmission lines crisscrossing the country. Whenever I glanced from the train window, they were always there close at hand or in the distance. At the time I wondered about the extent of Spain’s electricity use. While it was still dark this morning crisscrossing the country were numerous well-lit roadways, and towns with very bright lights. I wonder if electricity is cheap for consumers and whether this is a good thing for the planet. Today I also noticed extensive ‘plantations’ of wind farms. And one area seemed to be a gas field.
The bus dropped us off at Antequera Santa Ana which has become a hub for travellers from Malaga, Granada, Seville and other smaller towns. All the north and south bound trains pass through here. The train pulled in and we had a minute to get on. A minute is a long time, so all was well.
My seat was already comfortably occupied by a middle-aged woman wearing a good quality perfume (not too heavy), with superb hair, impeccably manicured nails, and a bearing that was not pleased to be asked to vacate the seat. I recognised myself in her behaviours. The process is you stay sitting there a smidgin longer than you should and you hope the other person will say it doesn’t matter and plonk down in the adjacent seat. Of course, I didn’t back down and she got up slowly and then stood into the aisle in such a manner that it was impossible to get past her without giving her a nudge. So be it. And I claimed the window seat ‘as my right’. When she sat down next to me and crossed her legs with her body angled away from me, she asked the children over the aisle to take a photo of her. For one moment I thought of photo bombing myself into that photo but realised the pettiness of it all and settled in to be fascinated by the changing landscape.
The train stopped at a number of cities; Puente Genil, Cordoba, Ciudad Real, Zaragoza, Llieda Pirineus (where we were back to announcements in three languages – Spanish, Catalan and English). I made notes (well cultivated paddocks, some sheep, white cattle, fruit orchards, small towns with unsealed roads, lots of off white coloured soil -?limestone, the spreading sea of olive trees resculpting the hills and plains, so little wind that smoke lifted vertically and the rotation of the earth created a flat horizontal shape behind, pair of very large black and white herons nesting on the top of a large pole next to the railway line, soft fogs in the early morning after sun-rise and steam rising from the soil) completed puzzles, and read more of my Salman Rushdie novel ‘The Golden House’ which is a clever and intelligent read. Just before 2.30pm we pulled into Barcelona.
Throughout my time in Spain I have needed to stop and remind myself I am in Spain; I say to myself, ‘don’t forget you are actually travelling in Spain’. With my itinerary points set in place, it has been easy to think only of each as an isolated environment and to forget each place is situated in a bigger situation. In a country. This is a divided country – many Catalan people want to leave Spain and I found in the south that the Andalusians similarly want to control their part of the country. To some extent I have ‘felt’ Barcelona, Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Granada but I need to be here longer and browse more broadly to believe I am in Spain.
Here in Barcelona I was delighted that my hotel receptionist was waiting with a smile to tell me she had upgraded my room. This is lovely and spacious, and I am most happy. Shame I can’t sleep in. Another early start tomorrow – off to Frankfurt on route to Japan.
I need to warn you – I will be flying for interminable hours. Unlikely to be any story in that. Once in Japan I do not have an adapter and without one I won’t be able to recharge my computer – so stories should become thin on the ground until I get back to Hobart. If there are no new blog posts – worry not; simply expect new posts in the future.
Dinner tonight over the road; a tofu salad and potatoes washed down with a northern Spain cava – better than the Granada drop.
Oh – I found out in Granada why there is a lack of vegetables in restaurants. Residents eat vegetables at home and when they go out, they want their fried treats and bread based tapas something special. Hey – but what about the tourists? 40% of the income of the Andalusian cities I visited now comes from tourism – don’t we need our vegetables as well. Think of those on long holidays please.
By the way, why in Australia do we call salmon samon? How did we come to drop the ‘l’? In Spain the fish is called salmon with the ‘l’ pronounced as I was reminded everytime I said something about it and spoke of samon.
This ends my stories in Spain. On with new chapters…