In the spotlights of hoons
Twin spot headlights cut through the darkness and flash across our poorly concealed tent. I wish we had decided to push on to a proper campsite, but this was such a beautiful spot; high on the Basque coast, amidst the eucalyptus, looking out over the Bay of Biscay. It was everything the last few days of camping prisons were not; quiet, spacious, with spectacular views, and free.
Another set of headlights swept around the car park. Was this some local gathering point for Friday night al fresco parties or maybe a popular spot for late night romantic rendezvous? I clambered gently over sleeping babies to peek out of the tent and assess the situation. Had our cover been broken? Should I wake the children? Move to amber alert? Put some clothes on?
Did ancient pilgrims feel this way?
But all seemed quieter; just lads chatting, smoking, sharing a beer, hanging out. Naked and vulnerable I lay watching, waiting, wondering what next.
These feelings of vulnerability are much more familiar on the road, especially in the early days and weeks in a new country. Without the comfort of a habitual existence there are a thousand daily decisions to make, most of them complicated by the added unfamiliarity of a language, customs and culture I don’t really understand. And while it feels good to try and strip away habitual responses, doing so reveals something of the inherent uncertainty of life and leaves me to face the consequences of every little decision. Maybe ancient pilgrims felt this too, far from home, in unfamiliar surroundings but at least they had the Templar Knights to protect them.
Wheel spins and doughnuts
Squealing tyres on a hairpin bend and a third set of searchlights arrive on the scene. But these are not stopping. Rubber leaves asphalt and hits the gravel, a cloud of dust rising up and swirling towards the tent. Lads down beers, cheer and toot their horns. The arriving hoons carve doughnuts round and round the car park, revving angrily, tyres crunching, spitting stone, sliding, slipping, swerving, headlights spinning, horns blaring. Then away. The lads follow.
Silence returns. Dust settles. As the fumes disperse in the midnight breeze I pick out the sweet smell of eucalyptus once again. The kids are still sleeping and I sense my calmness returning. For now. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll go back to prison. Camping freedom is not without a price.