Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts as I was driving between Pontevedra and Palencia, Wednesday 23rd December 2009.

Did my daughter get the train to Valencia by mistake? Probably not. She’s the one with her head screwed on. The despistada one is flying into France from the UK. So this time won’t be confusing Santiago de Compostela with Santiago in Chile. [Not true. Family joke]

Spanish radio allows a lot more discussion of single topics than would be the case on the BBC. But why are they talking about religious solutions to the economic crisis? Oh, my God. I’m tuned into Radio María!

What does it mean when it says Obras (Works) and there are yellow lines for many miles, but no sign of any works? Is the speed limit reduced? Does anyone take any notice?

Why are the police stopping us in Verín? No, sergeant. I don’t have any snow chains.

So, how long will be have to wait here?

Thank God it was only 20 minutes and now we’re on our way, albeit slowly. Driving in convoy, in what the Spanish call a bus de turismos.

I’ve got a two hour margin before the arrival of the train from Madrid in Palencia. Will it be enough?

How come there are vehicles hard up against the central barrier and clearly going nowhere? Did the drivers really try to overtake in the un-cleared lane which has 10cm of snow in it? It certainly looks like it.

I guess conditions in Galicia must have been as bad as this when the British army, under about-to-be ex-Sir John Moore, were retreating from the French in the winter blizzards of 1808. Poor sods.

Has that 4x4 really parked up in the snow-covered lane just so the driver and his partner can take photos of the bus crashed on the other side of the autovía? Yep, it has. Only in Spain? Probably not.

When conditions are as extreme as this, driving is determined by the ultra-cautious at the head of the convoy and by the ultra-incautious – not to say insanely reckless – who cause the crashes that hold everybody else up. The link between them is, of course, frustration beyond levels which arrogant idiots can tolerate.

How strange. This side of the A52 is almost totally clear – at least in one lane – but things are very different on the other side. The going there is very slow and difficult. No wonder there’ve been several crashes. I wonder how long it will take people to get to the coast.

Oh, no. The traffic junction at the exit onto the A6 at Benavente is practically stationary. Does this mean the autovía is reduced to one lane? And how long will it take to join it? Fortunately not and about 5 minutes, respectively.

Hallelujah, the A6 is completely clear going south and the snow cover is rapidly disappearing. At normal speeds, I should be able to get to Palencia before the train arrives. After six and a half hours driving, against the four and a half it should have taken..

What am I complaining about? The traffic on the other side of the A6 had been stock-still for dozens and dozens of kilometres now. I guess many of the drivers are heading for the A52 in Galicia and don’t know that, even when they get past this horrendous jam, it could take them another 10 hours to get over the mountains and down to the coast.

Approaching Palencia. There’s a large sign saying Tramo de Concentración de Accidentes – which is the succinct Spanish for Black Spot. I wonder if this is because there’s the largest brothel I’ve yet seen in Spain on the right hand side. Which looks like a converted railway shed. So a different kind of shunting these days. And even more steam being let off.

Great! Have arrived in Palencia 30 minutes before the train is due. Just have to find the station now. There are no signs at all and the first person I ask for directions turns out to be Chinese, with a rudimentary grasp of Spanish. “Go further and turn right”. Do your own accent.

Fortunately, I find a helpful chap who can tell me exactly where the station is. Arrive with 15 minutes in hand. Nowhere to park. This yellow line will have to do. Can’t leave the car but am desperate for a pee. Oh, well. When in Rome . . . There’s a nice big tree.

The train from Madrid was due to take 90 minutes. It’s 45 minutes late. Happy Christmas, RENFE.

We’re Francia bound. And wondering what the snow is like around Burgos. Will we make it before the end of the day?


Yes. 1,150km in 13 hours. All in all, a miracle of good luck.

Or perhaps it helps to have a sister and a daughter who both pray a lot, waiting at our destination.

But not an old dog who falls off the back seat and then pees himself in consternation.

Won’t be eating the remaining bits of shortbread in the packet which had dropped to the floor.


Victor said...

Until your mentioning it today, I had completely forgotten about Radio Maria. I remember seeing posters for it in a church in the old part of Coruna. Is this station sponsored by the Church?

CafeMark said...

Huh! Multiply by 20 to experience travel in the UK (well by 200 if you used Eurostar). It was shocking seeing the amount of abandoned cars, buses and lorries in Basingstoke on the news. Hope you're all safe, warm and cosy now! Happy New Year to all who read this blog!