“Mating Season” (Gontan, Spain)

After watching the movie, “the way,” which features the French route, we were scared that we were doomed to walk through wheat fields the rest of the way with not a tree in sight. Though at first we walked away from the coast in sadness, with the inland walk was proving to be absolutely amazing. We hiked through the mountains and overlooked extremely lush and wooded valleys. All along the trail, we came across antique country homes that were caving to the ground and covered in vines. The views were amazing along the deep forest ravines, and we tried to capture them with our cameras, but somehow the ocean happens to be more photogenic.

There was a purple tinted fog that hung inside every valley, and though it blocked our vision, it was quite magical. The misty morning made walking much easier because no sun could pierce through the clouds. This weather was much better for walking than the sunny skies we had experienced while walking along the coast. The peaks of the mountains were dotted with massive windmills that cut through the heavy fog with every rotation of the white blades. They were much bigger than the windmills I’ve seen before in the United States. These giants towered above us as we walked through the forested path below.

We came across an older couple that was sprawled out, giggling together, in the grass. It makes me really happy to see so many couples making this incredible journey together. When we walked by, they welcomed us to this “free albergue.” We laughed with them and continued onward. A few kilometers down the road, Aria turned around quickly to catch a woman that had been following us for several hundred meters. We were startled to see that the woman was wearing floral medical scrubs and carried a cycle in her hand. Yes, they actually still use this tool for harvesting grains in Spain, but why was she chasing us with it? She grinned showing her singular tooth and asked us for a cigarette. When we said we didn’t have any, she started trying to chop at a random tree at the side of the road. We quickly made our way away from the woman and the weapon she was wielding.

We barely missed birthing season in Spain, so the fields are populated with the cutest fuzzy baby animals. Baby cows with knobby little knees, lambs with fluff as white as snow and goats that have yet to master their bleating have all been roaming in the pastures around us. I know that Spring is the prime birthing season, but is there a distinct mating season in the animal world? I don’t think so because we can’t even count the number of times we’ve witnessed the horned/horny beasts bang. We often pause on our daily hike to look on, feeling sorry for the female cows as they get practically attacked from behind with not even the slightest hint of foreplay to warm her up. It’s definitely a complex and cold process with absolutely no kissing involved–just a giant set of cow-hooves clawing down the back. Maybe we’re sick, but it’s nature. Don’t act like you wouldn’t watch in wonder as well.

The keeper of the albergue spoke excellent english and he seemed really excited to practice with us. Running the albergue was his full-time job, and he kept the place perfectly spic and span. The exterior was very clean, simple and modern. It had a white rectangular facade with boxy stone shapes protruding–jutting out and pushing back–from the surface. The entire back wall of the building was made of fogged floor-to-ceiling glass. It provided for a nice ambient light to enter the building, however, it gave me a hint of claustrophobia. At last I know what it feels like to be a fish or a lizard in a tank.

Gontan was very small, but seemed like it would be really fun on the weekends. It was designated as a “market town” as they hosted two large markets monthly. The two beautiful market buildings, one for livestock and one for everything else, were both built right next to the albergue. I wish they had been open while we passed through the town, but we had missed it by a few days. The hostel-keeper recommended we swim in the river, but warned that it was cold. It was freezing to the extreme and there was no chance we’d be getting anything wet besides our toes.

Two women in the hostel told us we had to try out the amazing restaurant down the road. There was no paper menu, but the waitress stood at our table repeating, “menu del dia,” several times over, so that seemed to be our only option. This was another “home-cooking” restaurant, so we were stoked about our decision to eat there. First, they served us a steaming pot of thick lentil, potato, carrot and lamb soup. We devoured every last drop because it was so divine. Our second course consisted of a rack of ribs, some thinly-cut steak and crispy fried potatoes. The woman seemed a little offended when we asked for ketchup. They seriously don’t understand our addiction to Heinz here.

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