El albergue

El albergue

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Surfing in Santander

Friday, around 4:30 –
            Kels and I are running about the apartment trying to pack everything we need for a weekend surfing trip in Santander that a friend invited us to not too long ago.  We’re kind of nervous for the trip for a couple of different reasons, the first being that the weather is going to be a little inclement, and the second being that neither of us knows how to surf.  Seems like kind of a big problem, no?  Well, I’m sure we’ll figure it out somehow…

Friday, after dark –
            After milling around for a little while under a light drizzle with the large group we are going with, we finally get in the cars and head north to the region of Santander, which lays on the coast of the Bay of Biscay.  The mantle of night soon drapes its sable folds over the landscape so that all we can see is the occasional outline of a tree-covered hill sliding by or the quiet shine of some light gleaming out from little hamlets or solitary homes nestled in the bottom of gentle valleys along the way, making up for the lack of light that would otherwise be provided by stars hiding behind a mask of dark cloud.  And so we pass the 5 hours of darkness sharing riddles and mind games.

Saturday, 10ish in the morning –
            I poke my head out of the room Kels and I are sharing in the 7-person apartment that forms a third of our party’s lodging to see what the plan is for breakfast.  It’s a flurry of getting dressed, and then we’re off getting tea and coffee at a bar before the supermarket opens at 11.  Yes, that’s right, none of the markets in this little town open before 11 in the morning.  How Spanish. 

Slightly later, BREAKFAST! –
            Among the smorgasbord of food our apartment bought to share is something called Sobao.  A typical dessert here in Cantabria, which is the region that the state of Santander is in, it’s a barely dry cake that tastes somewhat like shortbread and comes in large single-serve squares.  Yummy!

Saturday, 12:30-2 –
            After outfitting ourselves at the surf shop with some rental boards and wetsuits, we are ready to hit the waves.  Or, as we find out when we get to the beach, we are ready for the wind and waves to hit us.  Seriously, the airborne and watery blasts are pretty strong.  However, we experience something like exhilaration from the bracing effects of the weather.  We may be getting tumbled about and dragged through the waves, but it feels like a sort of dance with the power of nature – almost as though we were tiny crickets being pawed about by a giant friendly lion.  Of course, the currents are a little too strong to really try to learn how to surf on your own, so we end up swimming and body surfing for the most part, which is really fun!

Our walk took us along this wind-swept path
Saturday, 7ish –
            We’ve finished eating lunch/dinner with our apartment mates, so Kels and I head out into the gale while there’s still a little bit of light and it’s not raining to see if we can find a walk along the beach.  The wind whips stray hairs loose from our ponytails, combining their flailing tips with tiny grains of biting sand to make us turn out backs to the ferocious blast and hide our eyes behind gloved fingers.  At a couple of points along our way, the wind is so strong that we can lean backwards into it, and with arms outstretched we give ourselves over to the fierce beauty of the weather.  There is a wild energy and raucous joy in the tumultuous atmosphere that fills my heart with wonder.  It is a beautiful night, full of that savage beauty that raw displays of nature’s power usually reveal.
The beach right outside our aparment

Sunday, 10ish in the morning –
            People are sort of not really up yet, so I decide to head out for a walk on the beach.  The wind is even stronger than yesterday, but I tuck my chin into my scarf and trek along the sand in my boots (not really beach-worthy footwear, but it’s too cold for sandals!).  An undulating line of washed-up jellyfish marks the edge of the surf, and mixed in among them are several lovely seashells.  I start to pick out a shell here and there that catches my eye, however, it is as though the wind doesn’t want me to steal them from its clutches, which I don’t really understand since I’m sure that the few I’m picking up comprise only the tiniest fraction of the sea’s overall wealth of shells.

Sunday, noonish –
            Confusion!  Mayhem!  What are we doing?!  Where are we going?!  Those are the feelings of the hour, as the group tries to get itself into motion to pack up and head out to more favorable waves in a different location.  Finally though, the caravan is underway.

Group shot!
Immediately after –
            Our first stop is a beautiful lookout on a cliff above the loveliest little cove, where we all huddle together with our backs somewhat to the wind to take an endless number of group photos.  We head out after a couple of minutes though for another place, where we may or may not stay to actually surf.

Sunday, around 1 –
            We’ve been driving for a little while, on our way to the rendezvous point, but we’ve sort of lost our way because we took a detour to find a bathroom and because we don’t really know exactly where everyone is supposed to meet up.  There’s a bit of tension in the car, a compound of tiredness, irritability, and clashing viewpoints.  Eventually though, we make it to the others.

Sunday, around 3 –
            There is a little tension in the air as people try to talk over each other to figure out who is staying to surf and who is going back to Madrid, and the multiple repetitions that invariably come with big group planning don’t do anything to keep everyone happy.  And then, for a little while, there’s some music playing in the restaurant we’re in that has some ridiculously neurotic beat, that kind that makes it impossible to calm down or feel otherwise than nervous.  However, things get figured out in the end, and Kels and I head back to Madrid with one of the earlier cars.

Sunday, 4ish –
            We’ve left Santander and are now driving through the meandering roads of Cantabria, gazing out over charming little clusters of terra cotta roofs and glassed-in balconies framed by the background of a countryside lush to the point of being positively shaggy in its verdure.  A typical sight in the area, I take it.

Sunday, 6ish –
A scene delightful in its inclemency
            We just passed a sign pointing to some prehistoric caves in the cliffs nearby, so we turn around and go back, determined to have a little adventure.  We trundle out into the rain and heavy wind, and as the rain pours off the edge of my umbrella, we look out over a scene delightful in its inclemency – the wind plays a symphony with the numerous tree branches and shrubs that is accented now and again by the simple clank of a bell hung round the neck of one of the sheep in the small pasture below, and the peaks of the hills overhead demurely hide behind the filmy gauze of the lowest flying clouds.

Isn't it beautiful?
Sunday, 7ish –
            We’re out on a sort of plateau, so we can see spread out before us the beautifully brilliant orange glow on the horizon that astonishes with its intensity and colors the low clouds a flaming pink.  What a glorious sunset.

Sunday, just after sunset –
The Gothic cathedral in Burgos
            We decide to make a touristic stop in the city of Burgos, one of the most important of the district, to visit the historic cathedral and look around a little.  The cathedral, with its classic Gothic architecture set against the lowering background of dark clouds and strangely illuminated by the lights of the square, appears to be the perfect setting for one of the Bronte sisters’ novels.  One of the chapels inside is filled with the lingering scent of incense, a scent that reminds me of Christmas with its pleasantly strong overtones of cloves.  Before we head back to the car, we have to try some morcilla, the blood sausage for which the city is famous.  So we head to El Morrito, a snug little bar that is actually a lot bigger than it feels and that serves some amazing morcilla, morcilla so amazing that for a couple of hours afterward I even refrain from eating the chocolate I have stashed in my purse because I want to relish the flavor for as long as possible.

Sunday, the end of the day –
            By the time we leave Burgos, the sun has completely set, leaving the world draped in darkness once again and encapsulating the five of us in the tiny world of our car.  It is a pleasant enough journey though, and we soon arrive in Madrid, at the end of our weekend of surfing in Santander.

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