05.10.2010 - 09.10.2010
Well the day didn’t start too brilliantly. We faced a long drive to Santiago del Compostelo from Cadavedo, so I could have done with a good night sleep (especially after the tempestuous last night we had at Santillana Del Mar). But some midgies decided to have a party in our van during the night using me as the buffet - I was scratching all night.
The day was wet and squally and it made driving at times a little difficult. Roadworks seem to be everywhere – the EU must be supplying Spain with billions of euros for their road infrastructure, because there are huge motorway bridges being constructed along the north-west of the country.
Our camping guide gave us no address for the campsite at Santiago del Compostelo, but John (the chap at the Cadavedo campsite) kindly printed us out a Google map of the camp’s location. We arrived in the rain in the rush hour on a horrible day. It was as much by luck as anything that I programmed in on the GPS a street that looked as if it might be near the campsite. The street was about three kilometres long and there was no indication where the campsite might be. I stopped at a fuel station; luckily the girl at the counter said it was first left at the next roundabout. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but we eventually found the place. We picked a site and dug in for what was sure to be a very wet, grey and muddy overnight stay in town.
Well it certainly was a grim night. We left a damp and unimpressive campsite that morning without seeing Santiago del Compostelo at all. It may have been a great place, although having ‘compost’ in the name didn’t exactly fill me with confidence (just joking of course). We drove south and west for only a couple of hours until we reached Portonovo, right on the coast. The campsite had great views of the sea and the surrounding promontories; it’s a shame the site looked like a caravan graveyard. It is clearly a weekender’s getaway, littered with caravans and all the detritus left behind by recent storms and careless holidaymakers. The weather cleared to a bright sunny day; we walked into the town looking for a place to have dinner to celebrate our five years together.It was a nondescript sort of place; Ann decided it was all a bit too blue-collar and asked if we could leave the next day; which we did.
We drove the fifty or so kilometres into Portugal the following day on what was another another grey and rainy day (the previous night’s weather forecast had shown a massive front heading for the north of Iberia and southern Europe – lots of rain and wind were promised).
We drove mostly on the motorway until we got to Porto in northern Portugal in the late afternoon; the weather had been a mix of bright cloudy skies and the odd squally rain shower. We found the ‘Orbitur’ site (Parque Campismo de Madalena) on the south side of Porto. It had obviously been raining recently as the site was very damp -it was a prelude of things to come!
It rained almost all night but seemed to clear up slightly in the morning. Too damp to do any washing but at least it remained dry. We decided after lunch to take the bus into Porto; that’s when the rain started in earnest.
Porto’s an interesting town, all steep slopes and narrow streets. We didn’t see it at its best because after about an hour, it started tipping down. We spent most of the time cowering under doorways from the deluge. Ann took this opportunity to buy up lots of silver jewellery from the quirky artisan silversmiths, all thankful that the rain was forcing tourists under cover. We did stop for a coffee and a couple of ‘pasteis de nata’, the small famous Portuguese custard tarts.
The ride home on the bus was interesting. It was running hopelessly late, having been caught in the gridlock caused by the cataract. It was full of damp steamy people going home from work, the floor wet with countless soggy shoes and umbrellas. The ride itself was mad – hurtling through absurdly narrow streets in the inner suburbs of Porto.
That evening the rain subsided and Ann and I got dressed up to go out to our celebratory dinner at a nearby fish restaurant. It was a really nice evening. The restaurant offered excellent food and wine – I started with a creamy seafood soup, and we both had the grilled sea bream. Ann had the cheese plate while I waded through a gigantic profiterole dessert with ice cream and chocolate topping. The waitresses were friendly and courteous, and I practised my Portuguese on them. Ann and I had some good laughs and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
At 6am the next morning, we were still fast asleep in the van. It was pitch dark (but for the camp lighting); it was still raining, and it was cold and miserable. I heard the side door of the van being tried and assumed it was Ann popping out to the loo. That was until there was a forceful banging on the door, and a voice saying “Let me in!” in a definite Australian accent.
Naturally I was instantly on alert and Ann quickly woke up, the alarm in her voice evident. The window in my ‘bedroom’ above the van’s cab was open; so I could look down on the figure outside but he was unaware of my presence. I called out to him to go away, but he seemed insistent that I let him in. He was wearing what looked like a brown checked jacket and he stood under the partially opened awning to hide from the cold rain. He looked a sorry figure I must say; but there was no way he was coming in.
After a couple of tense minutes he started to walk away; but my heart sank when he returned and stood under the awning again. Next he banged loudly on the door again asking to be let in. When I told him I wasn’t letting him in, he appeared to get angry and replied that if I didn’t let him in he’d “break the f**king door down!” At this point I was ready to jump out and confront this idiot; but I first told him that if he knew what was good for him he wouldn’t even try it.
After a few moments’ hesitation, he sloped off down the path and disappeared into the distance. I thought he’d possibly wander off to trouble some other campers; but as we heard nothing more I assumed he’d gone to cower in the sanitation block.
The next morning I visited a neighbouring camper to ask him if he’d been troubled by anyone with an Australian accent. He said he hadn’t but that he thought there was a motorhome across the way with some young Australian lads in it. As their van (which was very similar in appearance to ours) was located near where I last saw this joker, the penny dropped. It had been obvious to me from the start that an Australian would be unlikely to just wander in from outside the camp; when the neighbour told me about the Aussie guys, it was obvious what had happened.
Try this for size – a young Aussie gets totally bladdered in town, comes back in the early hours, cold and wet and disorientated, mistakes our van for his own, and gets angry when his mates won’t let him in.
The mystery was solved when early that afternoon. Ann and I went to the van to learn the truth. The two young guys who met us confirmed what I suspected – their friend Scott had come home drunk and gone to the wrong van. They were extremely apologetic for their friend’s behaviour, but they said he was a nice guy really who would never have carried out any threats. ‘Apparently’ he was still unconscious in bed while we were there.
We laughed it all off, but I warned that he ought to be more careful in future, especially with threatening behaviour. After all it was quite a scary situation to be faced with, a stranger banging on your door in the night.
We had hoped the young guy might have had the courage to come to us at some point and apologize in person; however, by mid-afternoon the next day the van had left the camp.