I have lived and led yesterday (5th of January) the richest and most grueling day since the beginning of the trip.
I had kicked through Sevilla the day before, and spent the other part of it fighting furioso con fuoco on the safe strip of a crowded national road, against strong winds blowing unpredictable gusts from my north-east. Distraught, I had ended up at the back of a public park of a few hectares, that felt very tropical with the fauna and flora typical of those new latitudes and the warm rain pouring down all night on my tent.
In the early morning was I to discover the village of Maribanez, sheltering the gardens, by roaming its small streets with a growing wonder, in a soft light already announcing a beautiful day, a thing that had been scarse in Spain. At this hour I decided to quit the main road that should have led me straight to Cádiz. Observing the Andalucia map I’d gathered in Hispalis the day before, I spotted secondary routes that would led me south, directly into (well, almost directly… my father, when still steering with authority the obedient barque of his four daughters, had the habit during long walks of imposing so called « shortcuts », and curiously those had an unfortunate and systematic tendency to never end… I put an honor to re-establish a sisterhood justice and have learnt from his wild turmoils!) the heart of Tarifa (never mind « Cadix-Tarshish », after all, I had no intention of hiding from the reach of any god!). They would certainly be less frequented and full of surprises.
It’s from that early semi roll of dice (the map is rough, does not figure relief) that would stem what follows. That is why it’s good, I believe, during an adventurous trip to allow oneself to decide from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, of the paths that seem attractive thanks to the immediate experience of the field and the handed map, even summary.
Spain will never have let me rest more than a few hours from tough hills or mountains, humidity and wind. This part of Andalusia was no exception, undulating, more and more embossed, accidented soon after I’d reached Las Cabezas de San Juan. The afternoon was a demanding but happy discovery of its central geography, evidently rich with precipitations, watercourses and fertile lands, olive groves as far as an eye can see had given way to cereals, flowers and vegetables farming. New birds, plump and white, nesting on the height of knee-high shrubs, fluttering about bushes to bushes or perched on the back of cows, sorts of jumping and cackling little hens rushing outside from the shoves, a huge amount of rabbits, dead snakes, storks, grayish mongooses quick and light with a long balancing tail ending in a tuft of hair, parading in gangs and living in burrows, shifting lights that would give a highly contrasted character to the whole scenery were efficiently turning my attention away from the uphills and the miles that were adding up, all senses awake.
I arrived finally, washed out after 40km of that scenario, still in awe of those blinding illuminations, in a small hamlet bearing the appropriate name of Espéra. One has to imagine the tiredness induced by several days of kicking in a continuous relief, in more and more unknown regions, the energy spent in the permanent adaptation and learnings, the savageness resulting by weeks of a solitary run, a life in the wild, and the brutal telescoping when encountering groups, or urban crowds in big cities. It’s a profound rapture of the deep that was then rushing in, and that lasted for the rest of the hispanic days. For here everything seems bewilderedly irradiant and dense. The ornemental elegance of the forged street lamps answering to the brutal compactness of the dominating castle (the whole village is planted on the highs, its discovery one must earn after another abrupt climb!), the chalky crudity of facades and the homogenous deployment of an immaculate sea made of identical houses high above hectares of green, of ocre and argile rocks, of palm trees, emerald and azur olive trees, here and there sparks of intense colours (red, yellow and blue tractors, clothes drying in the sun), time strangely suspended because of the sudden and constant changes of the sky, a brass instrument, so recognizable from the long pinched blow that I hear, escaping from the street a bit further, awaking desires of sociability… Indeed when I ride ahead do I stumble upon the village orchestra paused at the first cafeteria, preparing a blowhardy perpetuation of the three kings procession.
They shout as a choir on my way, explode in excitement, we all laugh and I U-turn to stop, in order to rest a bit, drink a cup. Foolish mood, glasses are full of whiskys, of unidentified beverages, young ones speak all at the same time, we understand each other with signs, or not, some of them articulate awkward words, supposedly french, provoking a general mockery. Hilarious they are, I set up a crazy group photography and an old man at the bar is now explaining to me in german (the only language we have found more or less in common) that at 4 p.m the joyful troupe will march in the main street under sweets thrown by the inhabitants, playing the music to enjoy the day. In Spain, it’s a habit that kids shall receive their Christmas presents on the day of the Reyes magos, much celebrated. Well, what a coincidence, only 8 minutes left!
So I followed, marching aside, the paced deambulation, hammered by the near bass drums spreading their profound vibrations at each pound, going up from feet to head. It’s a general festia, the whole Iberia with purple hats and glitter gets dressed, tiny pavements are crowded with the whole village under bars windscreens since it is now raining, more and more heavily.
I have to get going, with regrets, I must find a place to camp tonight and the day will fade soon. Hardly gone, after cheerful adios and acclamations exchanged with the orchestra, I turn back under the lasting squall, looking everywhere for the inevitable rainbow given such luminous, wet and dark a weather. Here is it! Escaping right from the heart full of incense, gold and myrrh of that surprising hamlet, hallucinated loot. Weather shifts more and more quickly, violent winds push at a very high speed groups of sooty whales in an aerial full galop. When glancing regularly behind, I can see Andalusia submerged by a black and threatening sea, Espera now silenced has disappeared integrally under a demential storm. It’s in my opinion that this dark mass resembling the end of the world rising in the midst of an ocean, or similar to some watercolour painting too loaded with liquid that dissolves the charcoal drawing just finished, seems to deverse itself towards the east, on my left wing, and that I might escape the terrible rubbing out of the globe happening in a whoosh behind my worried shoulder. I cannot avoid another brutal rain, find refuge under a plant with sharp and dense foliage, cherished a few minutes.
Now, I must have escaped the worst, I jump back on the board willing to set up the tent in the first correct spot before reaching any other town where it’s always complicated to pitch one. But strangely, no more bosque around, no woods allowing some safe and sound night. Some minutes ago, I noticed a ruin at the top of a hill, but chose not to go there, to my liking too visible from the road.
New acceleration of the elements, late indication of a black inked groundswell collapsing all at once on me. Not even worth opening the bag and get the full windproof equipment, all would be soaked wet in an instant (I can make no picture of those tempestuous moments). The rain falls laterally and the winds are nasty, I feel a slight panic clouding my judgment, something instinctive and quite hard to master, telling me that I have to find shelter, but nothing for a few hundreds meters around. I’m as flooded as those kilometers of upside down lands and sky, engulfed in a tornado with multiple arms, vertiginous, ferocious and as quick as a flash. A bunch of trees in the distance, but no apparent trail to access it, inconceivable to give it a try with the footbike and the load. I climb in a small road hoping to find on the other slope some protection from the wind and who knows, a shelter maybe. Worse and worse! Then, running out of option in a surrounding definitely unleashed, I try out a short and abrupt roll in a ditch where some plants might protect me a bit, ready to dare a lifting of my textile house by big winds. Impossible to master the beast on the slippery ground, it falls down heavily, on the side, and CRAC, the flag pole breaks dead. I fear it might be something judging by the sound of it, but only the rear mudguard shows a lateral torsion. It prevents any manoeuvre though, blocking the wheel from moving. The torrential dispersion of my rationality has left room for a plain feeling of powerlessness. I stay, for a minute or two in that ditch in the turbulences, wondering what to do, lacking any conviction. Can’t proceed to any decent repair in that rain, don’t want to, I have nothing against which to put the scooter to attack the wheel uprightly. I finally succeed in straightening the metallic rod up, muster up my strength and climb back with difficulties, lifting the whole thing. Go on the other side. I can now see a clear part in the sky and begin swearing loudly that this storm had nothing of a norman or breton sleet, well, that it had something more that was yet unfamiliar, that I must be facing a traditional meteorological phenomenon, undoubtedly triggered by my joking fanfare, or rather a very distant and avenging curse hurled by Atahualpa at the very moment of his capture by Pizarro, on a high plateau of the Andes, despite his 40 000 men against the 180 warriors, 37 horses, 4 canons and a few trumpets of the spanish conquistador, who obtained a ransom equivalent of a 22×17 feet large room filled with gold and then cold bloody executed the Inca emperor, that this weather is mad that’s all, laughing at the idea of that clearing I evaluate about 3 km from here, and of how rapidly rousted I was though no firearm had been shot, no unknown four-leg animals charging, no death trumpets played unless those of the dissembling orchestra of Espera.
So be it, I’ll go back and try the ruin on the promontory, given the circumstances. If the prediction is relevant, my stuff will get dry in no time in the sun with that wind, just before the solar fire extinguishes. What an idea! Hither and thither the trail going right up is as muddy as the reddish soil of the olive trees groves I’d walked on and immediately sunk into one day in Extramadura, just after a pathetic fall crossing a railway perched on mound of big rocks, in order to reach the coveted camp. But I’m out of option. Breathless, eyes sometimes filled with rage and helplessness tears, my left thigh banging, hurting and always colliding when I must lift the heavy beast full of pikes, steal and weight so that I can go on in spite of its sticking, more and more bruised, I get rid with my hands knowing I won’t be able to wash them (just enough water for a meal) of the mud accumulating centimeters thick, at each turn of the wheel, on the fork and the brakes, every two meters, furiously shouting some « of course » and some « nooooo ». Once at the top, I can only notice that the place is inaccessible, put in the very middle of a field as much loose and sticky.
Very well. Ad absurdio comic. Movie of the useless gesticulations. Let’s watch the place. Nothing. Let’s get back down. Same process, a bit quicker though. Good. No more rain, it did happen, but now night is coming.
I’m drained. I understand and I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for the human animal that I am to resolve to stay a night standing up or sitting in the obscurity, under a few leaves, soaked, cold. I would like to surpass that state of facts. I’m heavy-hearted in the perspective of that failure to do so, and the comfort I’m instinctively seeking. I can see far away the next consequent town, and end up deciding to ground in a room, not proud at all, very disappointed.
For I’m there – like other people in other places, by other means – to try and interrogate those limits, to reevaluate by the experience (an emancipatory action, empirical states of facts, complex reflexivity) and by taking things in order, what can be in our time the dispositions, the milestones for a human ethic when one refuses them to be defined and dictated for us by the process of a globalizing civilisation (the spectacular-mercantile-technician hyper-civilisation). It is indeed an ongoing guerrilla and a philosophical inquiry, of which I share and will share the results and very concrete conclusions. And of which the proliferation of forms (to each individual its rebelliousness to invent according to contexts – happily enough there is stil some diversity in them) will end up for sure in a fragmentation, a diversion of the trajectory of that destructive mastodon our planetary megasociety is. Its unequalled inertia effect, doubled with an ability of reintegrating its subversive or revolutionary tendencies, is glueing most of its « atomic » components by mass submitting and alienating them with the mean of oblivion of the essential and a trickery of their needs and envies, by mechanisms one can yet get aware of and extract oneself off in a radical manner. Radically, for one can not settle with a few small gestures easing one’s conscience, a re-examination at the core of our activities and behaviors is necessary. I believe one should be quite demanding concerning those forms of cunning disobedience, even if progressive. It is surely not about tabula rasa, but rather a question of wiping a formerly multishaped and multicolored tableware, now becoming uniform and empty under a thick layer of dirt. The contemporary traveller can not miss the current process and the way it’s spreading on the whole realm of the living and things.
So here am I, arriving in Arcos de la Frontera, when I spot at the periphery of the town the remnants of a small building. That’s it, no more was needed! There I’ll spend the night, getting in discreetly in the semi-darkness, between two passages of vehicles. When I explore it, it appears to have been a home for both men and beats. On a wall of what once was probably a living room, an inscription in the dirt: a couple slept here in the course of a journey, in 2013! Since 3 years, the embossed letters formed in that highly dispersable but tenarcious material that dust and earth are, have been left unmodified. Better than pigment cave art in this moment, I must say.
A bit later, when I got out in the middle of the night, I discovered a totally clear sky made of a proud and glittering arch, bearing loads of constellations. Overhead the lake full west, standing on its star Alkaïd, Ursa Major were rising in a strange poise, vertically, just above the horizon, I had never seen that before. As for me, I had lived the most incredible day in years.
Friendly reader, as I’m writing those lines, I sit in a garden populated with families, behind a festive casa of El Chaparrito, where I followed the growing crowd, and where hams, cakes, dried figs and beverages are sold, in the deep countryside. They are celebrating the journey of far coming men, arms full of present, that had followed a shining star (a planet). A small flee just drowned in my americano. My mind functions on auto-pilot, tiredness is pulling behind my ocular orbits, sensations are adding up without any selection anymore, usually done by the brain in a permanent background process. Sun is shining, few clouds, small children in pants are playing with wooden scooters. One of them dared climbing up on the board of my patineta, delicately put against a twice its size barrel. That tiny epigone of Alkan, a composer who died crashed under his bookshelves trying to seize his Talmud (were he trying to decrypt by the number the mystery of Chopin, his genial contemporary? Perhaps even were he about to decipher the Presto of the second sonata, short, enigmatic and dark like a deluge in al-Andalous), ignores everything of that thing, and the risk he’s taking, so close, at every moment, of a catastrophic collapse on his short person.
Back on the road now, since the extreme south point of the european continent is waiting for me.
See you soon, a luego!
5 (Thanks, keep going !)