Two weeks in Italy with the family was just the tonic to the ills of Rock Werchter and by the time Mum flew out of Rome I was back on track. Fortunately, because my next stop was another festival and all the glory and horror of four days in your own filth.
To celebrate being alone again I slept on the floor in Rome’s Fiumicino airport with the other temporarily homeless, before rising early to fly to Bilbao. Redbeard and I were soon reunited and back trying to figure out another unorganised festival set up. In contrast to the Belgian precision the Spanish were positively ambivalent. We wandered up the hill behind the stage and, with no one to tell us any better, joined the rest of the people trying to make sense of camping on a slope. While the view was spectacular the novelty of angled camping wears off pretty quickly when you are constantly sliding out the bottom of your tent.
Having stocked up on victuals we set in for an afternoon’s drinking in the sun, watching the stream of late arrivals struggle up the hill before moving on in search of non-existent greener pastures.
The night of broken sleep at the airport was a bad mixer with the day drinking and I tapered off before The Cure finished their set. I was sufficiently out of it to wake, spew tidily outside and pass out again without being entirely sure it had happened. Sufficiently purged I woke a few hours later to ask Redbeard’s sleeping form whether Bloc Party had started yet, to which I got a laugh and a “you’ve fucked it mate” in reply. That particular ship had long since sailed.
The following days were pretty standard festival fare but damn entertaining none the less. We made friends with our Aussie neighbours and quickly adopted their slang, telling anyone who would listen that it was “hotter than heroin” and that we’d “sozzled a circuit.” Not alone in being foreigners, we encountered a number of other roving antipodeans fresh from the adrenaline of the running of the bulls and keen to know “where’s the goey?”
It wasn’t long after a splendid set by Radiohead that we found some goey ourselves. I have a recollection of the guy I was berating with broken Spanish smiling a lot and very intently opening a folded piece of paper, then gesturing to his gums. No need for language here, I had that one down pat. I turned, yelled for Redbeard (this is a package deal buddy), and, smiling back at the guy, dipped my finger into the mystery powder.
“Gracias, gracias, mi amigo tambien? Gracias.” (Perfect Spanish, I know).
Redbeard dipped himself and we were off. In typical Spanish disregard for limits the music was suicidally loud and we grimaced through it, not sure if birds were giving us the eye or not. Chalk that one up to cultural barriers.
The next day was fairly haggard and our rare attempt at planning failed completely when we discovered that the buses to Barcelona were all booked. Organising is shit at the best of times but it was considerably worse, burdened as we were. A heap of toing-froing and general unravelling later and we finally had a bus for the day after we’d planned. We’d had little success cancelling our accommodation but at that stage it was all water under the bridge.
The night slipped by in typical fashion. I was denied smuggling booze in so topped my already well-topped-up self up before hiffing the remainder. Later I was fortunate enough to fall asleep (pass out) while standing, jerked back to a wobbly world by the impact of my knees hitting the ground, struggling back up, a tranquilized rhino on his last legs. I retired not long after dawn; Redbeard found some more speed and didn’t really sleep at all.
The next day was a struggle of Vang Vieng proportions. I did my first shit in a squatter toilet and managed to get my tent packed while Redbeard looked for his sanity. We met a bunch of international stragglers rounding up the left behind goodies and joined them for a few more drinks, in the spirit of it all. Redbeard’s reclaimed sanity was threatening to jump ship so we said our goodbyes and headed off back to town. Naturally, the free bus service had finished.
Fortunately we had a local friend from the night before who, ignoring our pleas to the contrary, insisted we stay with her instead of our booked hotel. We acquiesced and trudged down the hill into town, a shower and a night on the couch. Excellent hospitality and a lovely girl, even if she did have a pet hedgehog.