3 (mad) Gentlemen of La Mancha

Segovia to Cuenca

…there is no way, my comrade: trust
your own quick step
‘ Don Paterson, ‘Road’ (re-setting of Machado’s ‘Cantares’)

And indeed there was no way … Even our old friends in the Guardia Civil (!) couldn’t show us the way forward….

The Guardia Civil find us on yet another motorway!

So we became proper Knights Errant, erring our way through lanes and woods and scrubland, tackling giants (boulders), muleteers (mountain bikers), castles (barns), enemy armies (sheep), and fording deep dangerous rivers…

Adelante, Rocinante!

But the three gallant caballeros won through and entered the city of Cervantes himself – Alcalá de Henares. It’s good to see that the great writer is still very much part of the community. Statues to him everywhere, streets named after him and his characters. His house is a museum… except we don’t think there’s a single remnant of the man himself there; perhaps not even the bricks themselves… (Years ago, I went on a Quixote tour, with promises to see the actual windmills he fought – except he didn’t, he fought giants, or imagined ones, and anyway the mills weren’t nearly old enough to have been around in the 17th century. Oh and the Don didn’t exist himself either… Quixotic or whit?!)

First Communion day photos, kids clambering on the plinth, Liam pondering – Miguel de Cervantes is very much alive.
I shake hands with Sancho and Don Quijote… Eddie feels him up

‘I know who I am and who I may be, if I choose.’  Don Quixote / Cervantes

Here’s a short (irreverent, and slightly updated) audio portrait of one of fiction’s greatest characters…

Quijote pen portrait

It must be the enchantment of La Mancha. It drives us all mad. (Although there is a very real reason why we’re singing this song… Points for anyone who can deduce what it is. And points mean…)

‘Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.’ Quixote / Cervantes

We are cycling such beautiful roads, watching the landscape change from the misty mountains of Galicia to the flat arable fields of Leon, rugged Guadarrama tumbling down into the vast central Plain, the rolling expanse of the Alcarria and La Mancha. But everywhere there is a repeated sad story.

A day or two ago, after a hard hot cycle, we needed provisions. We were relieved to arrive at a little village. Our hopes were soon dashed – no bar, no shop. Only one elderly man who told us forlornly that there used to be all of those things. The Spanish interior is emptying out, and in every region. Our destination for the day was a larger, and pretty town, Estremera. We met María (below) who told us the same story. All her family have left for the cities; Estremera is dying on its feet.

Maria in Estremera

‘A decade in the country can slip down the gullet with the deceptive smoothness of an oyster. Yet the last ten years have marked rural life more than anything done to it for centuries ‘ Laurie Lee, writing about the Cotswolds, but tragically applicable to Spain

It seemed to Eddie and me that the Gran Organizador had managed to disprove the universally accepted maxim that What Goes Up Must Come Down. Until we came to this magnificent descent. Three things to note: we’re trying to go slowly so Liam can film us; Eddie and I never pedal – for the first time in a month- exhilarating but scary! And El G. O. films the entire thing with only one hand on his handlebars, wheeching round steep bends….

‘…there is no way, my comrade: trust
your own quick step, the end’s delay
,’ Paterson / Machado Cantares

More often than not, the Sexygenerians played to adoring throngs in towns and cities. Aye we did. But for some obscure reason we were often directed to remote spots out of hearing to do our set. Perhaps they reckon it helped they hay mature and soften…

(Rockin’ and) rollin’ in the hay

Spain is not Europe. It is not even Africa-in-Europe. It is an island cut off by pride and geography.’ Laurie Lee

You may have noticed that these blogs are getting backlogged. The honest truth is, as we near the end of a month’s cycling, interviewing, discussing, blogging, busking we’re running out of time and energy. The next blog will take us to the jewel that is Cuenca, and nearly up to the end of our tour. Stuff happens, I can promise you that. Not all of it good – tiredness catches up with the Tres Locos Hidalgos! But we will try and bring you up to date as soon as we can.

8 thoughts on “3 (mad) Gentlemen of La Mancha

  1. It has been immensely enjoyable to travel along with you 3 guys via the blog. Title for the book has to be “Chris hauds Liam N Eddie back” or maybe “Peddling at windmills” Well done to you all 😎

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  2. Excellent blog…these are guaranteed comedy gems even if unintended.😕The crisis in rural Spain is significant though not unique to Spain. On the Cammino it is strange to see endless countryside empty of people whereas these lands would have been teeming with workers even 60 years ago. In 800 Kms I counted maybe 20 and a few more in Galicia where some local market gardening is worked by the Joe and scythe. The weather here is glorious, such a bonus when I was expecting rain. We arrive in Santiago tomorrow so hopefully that should be interesting and fun. I had the Pulpo Feiria a la Gallego with home made chips and baby grilled peppers in sea salt with lashings of Galician white wine- who says there is no god(it)? To die for, muy rico!
    The Cammino itself has been a delight. And feet intact. C’ Mon the pilgrims! Hope youse all get back safely with no more trauma or unexpected surprises! Take care, hombres. Hugh

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