Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

In Camera, In Absentis – Part 2

Yesterday we had reached the foothills of the Pyrenees on the Atlantic side, at the start of The Way of St.James (Chemin de Santiago de Compostela) . Totally defeated by the weather, all thought of exploring the town of St.Jean was abandoned in favour of a reckless drive into the rocky, snowy reaches, with only a morning coffee to steel our nerves. Almost immediately, we began seeing what would become a regular sight, groups of two or three hikers, sodden, hunched, draped in gaily coloured plastic kagools, the rain relentlessly seeking a way inside, trying to no avail to dampen their religious ardour. These were the pilgrims. I’m guessing they fell into three distinct categorys: The devout, the health-nuts, and the just plain daft. (Make that four; I’m guessing after 800km, there would be a few coronary victims as well)

Sweeping bend after sweeping bend, we climbed ever higher, and as the bends tightened the lush greenery disappeared under crystalline carpets of snow. Miki’s cries of “oh, God oh, God” which I first attributed to a newly-discovered religious fervour were in fact directed at my gung-ho driving style, which I confess, is usually accompanied by maniacal laughter as we brush ledge after precipitous ledge.

The high point of the pilgrims route as you crest the mountains is marked by a stark, imposing chapel. Where one supposes the pilgrims get down on their knees and ask for forgiveness for having had the stupid idea to attempt such a bananas endeavour, given the fact that the route we’d just followed in comparative comfort is the single most arduous day of the whole pilgrimage.

From then on, its downhill all the way (well, almost) as we stopped opposite the monastery at Roncevalles, where Charlemagne’s lieutenant Roland suffered a catastrophic defeat and an equally catastrophic death. Not surprising really, he was probably knackered after that walk.

Eschewing a long coffee break in favour of prudence, with the snow flakes whipping around the Motorhome, we set off downhill, and the promise of the red-painted basque settlements nestling in welcoming greenery. These lands, so picturesque, are really a country apart, neither Spanish nor French, and the term “Basque Separatist” ceases to apply to the tourist-terrorist, and seems more a statement of geographical fact. We took in the sights as we seemingly dropped out of the mountains towards Pamplona, the town so immortalised by Hemingway. The strange thing is, as we realised later, we weren’t really dropping much in altitude at all, staying around 1000m for most of the trip.

Following the N-111, we passed through Logroño and suddenly came upon the village of Islallana, strewn like so many child’s play bricks across a breathtaking rusty red rocky terrain. As luck would have it, we found a large picnic area ideal for stopping the night. As bad luck would have it, it was on the other side of the road, and I entered through the exit, on a blind bend just ahead of the egress of a highway mountain tunnel. When Miki had taken her heart out of her mouth and replaced it in her chest, she began exploring the area, and we marvelled at the vultures soaring high above inaccessible crags. Before she trotted off, though, she captured me relaxing in our place for the night:

Kev and The Boomobile in Islallana

(I’m assuming the stone monument in the background there was erected to commemorate some other poor fella who had attempted to enter the lay-by illegally and failed)

After taking a multitude of photographs, Miki returned and we relaxed for the evening with our habitual “dinner and a movie”. The following day saw us continue southwards, and to our dismay, thinking we’d left altitude and bad weather behind, we began to say our farewells to the famous region of Rioja, and headed for Soria, as the road began to adopt the oh-so-familiar climbing twists and turns we’d consigned to history. Once again high winds and snow became our travelling companions as we ascended to a height of over 1700m and a spot called Puerto de Piqueras, which marked the beginnings of the Provincia de Soria. Engulfed in low cloud, low temperatures and biting winds, we did what any sane-thinking couple would do. We parked up, and put the kettle on.

Atop Puerto de Piqueras

Next: Beneath the Battlements…

You can see some watercolour travel sketches from Miki in her blog (but she started to sketch a little bit later on in the trip, as the outside stopped to be that awful big grey mass…)

Kev Moore


April 7, 2008 - Posted by | Art, culture, drawing, fun, life, nature, painting, photography, travel, writing | , , , , , , ,


  1. […] In Camera in Absentis, Part 2 […]

    Pingback by One everything for everyday of the year! « Infinity + some + 2 | April 7, 2008

  2. I made it through the journey with you to this point. Kevin this is getting really good bro. And Miki’s paintings bring Light into your words as I am sorry to say the photos do not do this. Its the weather. But Miki’s paintings bring it all into the light the whole story and then the photos can be taken in a pleasurable context with the story itself so well written with humor that made me belly laugh–the best kind–and a tenderness of timelessness I feel anyway.

    Comment by Michael | April 7, 2008

  3. Oh yes, it was the weather of course! The next photos will be better, we promise, as we come closer to the sun!
    Thanks for the wonderful words concerning my paintings. But you know, in reality, there was not so much light and colours there, I always add light and colours where ever they are not! Artistic freedom, you know….

    Comment by Miki | April 7, 2008

  4. By the way: what a wonderful expression “tenderness of timelessness”!!!! God, it speaks eternities of love to me!

    Comment by Miki | April 7, 2008

  5. did I say that? I need some more coffee. I think I am in a state of flow or cafe induced withdrawl because i can’t remember writing it. Now I have t go find out where I said that and note it. I like it on reflection. Glad to hear it had effect on you, but this story of your journey with Kev and how both of you are putting it together is rather wonderful. Better than Peter Mayle, sorry Peter, but Kev is a force to be reckoned with.

    Comment by Michael | April 7, 2008

  6. Great travel log. Does that thing sleep three? Take me, take me.

    Comment by wrjones | April 7, 2008

  7. I enjoyed seeing the photos of where you’re traveling. It looks cold, though. The last two days herein Marrakesh have been about 37 degrees C (unseasonably warm). Today is cold and cloudy, though.

    What kind of gas mileage do you get?

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | April 7, 2008

  8. @Bill
    Great to see you, Bill, and to hear your screams!
    Yes, that thing sleeps three, and even six. In fact we could take the whole Cafe Crem team with us, that would be great!

    @Madame Monet
    Oh yes, it was very cold! On that Puerto de Piqueras it was 2 degrees celsius, and I got a cold as i went outside to take the photos!
    But where we are now, near to Alicante, it is warmer, although a quite cold wind is blowing all the time since we came back from France…
    Did you know that we sometimes have a wind here, from which they say that it comes directly from the Sahara, it blows warm some hours, and leaves everything yellow/brown after it, the cars, the windows, the hair… a very unpleasant thing!

    I agree with you, Michael, Kevin is writing wonderfully about our trip, I am so happy about it. His writing makes it even more worth, for me, to travel!

    Comment by Miki | April 7, 2008

  9. Hi again Bill! This thing sleeps about 6 but we tend to keep that quiet as a bunch of kids having a sleepover is not my idea of a holiday.
    @madame monet: we get about 100kilometers out of 10/11 litres of diesel fuel, not bad really. But I could sure do with U.S. Fuel prices. The fuel costs are ominously creeping up in Spain and France and will soon be on a par with the frankly exorbitant U.K.
    @michael: your praise and comparison humbles me , my friend, many thanks.

    Comment by kevmoore | April 7, 2008

  10. I love Peter but heck you are here live and you write so damn well that I am feeling like I am right there with you guys. I’m the fly that won’t go away.

    Comment by Michael | April 7, 2008

  11. Michael, if I can create that feeling that you guys are all travelling with us as we gad about the world, then I’m a happy man. And the next time I hear an inquisitive buzzing, I’ll leave the fly swat in the cupboard!

    Comment by kevmoore | April 8, 2008

  12. […] In Camera in Absentis, Part 2 […]

    Pingback by NO to perspective and NO to straightness! « Infinity + some + 2 | April 9, 2008

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