Category Archives: travel

Travel Stories

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 4

Pat Walker sat in her seat and watched the world go by. Fields the colour of lightly toasted bread, haystacks, power lines, low scrubland and villages on hillsides were all becoming more of a blur as the train picked up speed, leaving the traffic on the road in its wake. Tractors came and went and limestone ridges and high, bare hills replaced the fields. It looked hot out there, though the heat wouldn’t bother her. It said ‘preferente’ on the glass door and she smiled; she wasn’t used to travelling in this kind of luxury. The only noise came from the door sliding open to let people through.

 

At the next two stops there was a rush of people to the exits, but only so they could have a quick cigarette before the train left. After Vitoria, Walker had a quick evaluation of her fellow passengers beneath the luggage racks full of bags. A woman with bulging eyes read El Pais, an overweight man with a pale complexion and dressed in beige clothes was hungrily circling words in a puzzle book, and a ginger haired youth wearing a Barcelona shirt ate his ham and cheese sandwich while reading Don Quixote by Cervantes. Walker wondered whether the human inside the Barca shirt ever heard the squealing of the pigs as they died to provide him with his lunch.

 

The older couples at the back of the compartment were whispering and pointing out of the window, without an apparent care in the world. A phalanx of family and friends would meet them at their destination, the Spanish way of caring for people and for connecting with their nearest and dearest. The forecasts are that in 2025, the Spanish will be the healthiest people in the world because of this social connectedness.

 

Walker began to read her book as she nibbled her lunch of prepared vegetables and fruit. She smiled at how the plot of the book was developing in a way that real life never did and continued to read until jolted from her reverie by a smack on the back of her head from a black rucksack. The owner of the rucksack continued down the train before coming to a stop in the next compartment.

 

She resisted the urge to remonstrate with the offender as she didn’t wish to start a scene. That scene would happen soon enough. She put her book down and watched the person who had placed the rucksack on the rack. When he moved, Walker would move, and she vowed to teach him a lesson in manners in her own inimitable, quiet style – after all, he should have apologised, shouldn’t he? Everything would have been fine if he had, but he hadn’t, had he? It would serve him right.

 

Walker bided her time until the train was ten minutes from Burgos, when the rucksack owner headed for one of the large toilets at the end of the carriage. Walker followed at a careful distance, noting how sleepy most of her fellow passengers were.

 

She reached the toilet door just as it was closing.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 2

Most people associate Pamplona with the Running of the Bulls – El Encierro in Spanish, part of the Festival of St Fermin which lasts from noon, 6th July to midnight, 14th July. The Bull Running takes place at 8 am each day from 7th July to 14th July and was first brought to worldwide attention by Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises.

 

Four rockets inform the crowd what’s happening with the bulls. They set off the first rocket at 8 a.m. to alert the runners that the gate to the bull’s corral is open. The runners can now run, though if you get too far ahead of the bulls, the spectators will boo you, especially if you reach the bullring without a bull in sight. A second rocket signals all the bulls are free of the corral and are in motion. The third rocket signals all the bulls are in the bullring and the fourth that the bulls are in their corral, marking the end of the bull running event, for the bulls at least. For the runners, there is still the excitement of being chased around the bullring by bullocks with padding on their horns.

 

An encierro comprises six bulls that will fight in the afternoon, six steers that run with the bulls, plus three more steers that follow the herd to encourage any reluctant bulls to continue along the route to their demise.

 

The release of the bulls occurs near the Piazza Santo Domingo. They take between two minutes thirty seconds and four minutes to run the 800 metres along a fenced-off course to the bullring. As well as the steers, official pastores, or shepherds, are on hand with sticks to ensure the bulls don’t lose interest. The reason people come to spectate is to watch 2,000 people (this is the limit for each day), wearing white tops, white trousers, a red neckerchief, and a red sash around their waist, who run with the bulls while bashing them with rolled-up newspapers.

 

Having seen some local bulls, I doubt any of them would even notice a direct hit from a newspaper, so this hitting is just an act of bravado by the runners, who literally fall over each other to get close. The wonderful sculpture, Encierro, in the city centre, shows the perils involved. At each festival, at least one person is seriously injured and 50-100 others suffer non-life-threatening injuries. Fifteen people have perished in the last 100 years, since records began, mostly by being gored by a 1,100-pound bull.

 

There is a ninety-degree bend called the Estafeta Curve, where El Encierro takes a turn to the right down Calle de la Estafeta after coming along Calle Mercaderes. Known locally as “La Curva,” the corner of Mercaderes and Estafeta Street is one of the most dangerous sections of El Encierro, and not for nothing is it called Dead Man’s Corner.

 

Most bulls will not have come across a 90-degree bend before out in the fields on the edge of the city. Consequently, some bulls run straight on and collide with the wooden barricades, causing the crowd watching behind, who thought they were safe, to scatter. Other bulls crumple to the ground when their hooves can’t gain purchase on the cobbles. The officials help the bulls regain their feet and make sure they’re okay, which seems ironic given the bulls are going to die in the afternoon in the disgusting spectacle of the bullfight. Runners also slip over and get charged by the bulls. Those runners who stay on their feet have to navigate around pointed horns, cloven hooves, and stricken humans.

 

Another risk comes from runners falling and forming a pile at the entrance to the bullring which acts as a funnel, as it is much narrower than Calle de la Estafeta. When this happens, runners can suffer from asphyxia and severe contusions. Such a pile-up has occurred at least ten times in the run’s history; the first time was in 1878 and the last in 2013. A runner died of suffocation in 1977 when one of these human heaps formed. When a bull encounters such a pile, they don’t stop, but charge straight into its midst. This sounds like me when the odds are against me.

 

I have enjoyed my time in Pamplona. There are plenty of tourists and the ones I am interested in are heading towards Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, going via the train rather than walking. I will be catching the train to Burgos soon and I am looking forward to the journey – it gives me a chance to read my book, The Day of the Jackal.

 

I bought some new clothes here. They are very distinctive and memorable and totally unlike the clothes I normally wear.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 1

Alex Peters flew to Pamplona from Madrid. She was in her mid-thirties and her ginger hair flowed easily down to the collar of her light-blue shirt. Her blue eyes surveyed her fellow passengers on the turbo-prop plane as it rode the thermals just after takeoff from Barejas airport in Madrid.

 

As the plane flew over northern Spain towards Navarre, she thought about why she was on this journey. Her friends had recently expressed their sadness that no one was hunting the trophy hunters, who killed animals to boost their egos. Peters was a lifelong lover of animals and the sadness of her friends hit home, hard. She had vowed to pursue those who hunt the defenceless from long distance, a cowardly distance. She had been provided with the name of an organisation who could help her in this quest.

 

They had provided her with the itinerary of some trophy hunters in Spain and Portugal and she’d been delighted with their help. In her normal job, working undercover behind enemy lines, she had killed many animal abusers – people who hit their donkeys with sticks and people who’d run their horses into the ground. These people, the abusers, met their end. The animals were given some relief, some respite from their ordeals.

 

Alex took out her diary and started to write. She liked to jot down her thoughts about the places she visited, especially about their history. It would be fun in a few years’ time to reread these diaries and see what her experiences had been.

 

Peters had no hold luggage and was planning to buy some clothes in Pamplona, almost certainly from El Corte Ingles, the department store found in every Spanish city she’d ever been to. She wouldn’t need a bag as her carry-on luggage comprised a neatly folded black travel bag inside a rucksack. There was no point in buying a suitcase she wouldn’t need on the flight back from Lisbon to London.

 

As for toiletries, she was used to not brushing her teeth for weeks in her ‘day job’ back in the real world. She was working now, but not for her usual employers; this was more a favour, a career break in terms of target, but not in terms of methodology. The showers in the hotels would be a luxury compared to rivers and lakes. She looked at her passport as she walked down the steps of the plane. This was the last time she would be using her own passport until Lisbon. After clearing customs here in Pamplona, she would become Pat Walker, a name she would use until Santiago de Compostela.

She’s Coming For You

A recent review of this book – She’s Coming For You – said the following:

“I felt real sympathy for the protagonist in this novel, why nobody hunts the trophy hunters is beyond me. It’s such a repulsive ‘hobby’ and it would be great to even the odds in favour of the animals rather than see the murderer of Cyril the lion or his equally repulsive daughter smirking on Facebook with yet more corpses!
However back to the novel, I enjoyed it for the reasons detailed above. It’s a great idea, appealing to vegans and animal lovers in general.”

The book will be on sale at 99p from 23rd – 30th November.

You may wish to consider it for any vegans or animal lovers you know.

She’s Coming For You

A recent review of this book – She’s Coming For You – said the following:

“I felt real sympathy for the protagonist in this novel, why nobody hunts the trophy hunters is beyond me. It’s such a repulsive ‘hobby’ and it would be great to even the odds in favour of the animals rather than see the murderer of Cyril the lion or his equally repulsive daughter smirking on Facebook with yet more corpses!
However back to the novel, I enjoyed it for the reasons detailed above. It’s a great idea, appealing to vegans and animal lovers in general.”

The book will be on sale at 99p from 23rd – 30th November.

You may wish to consider it for any vegans or animal lovers you know.

She’s Coming For You

A recent review of this book – She’s Coming For You – said the following:

“I felt real sympathy for the protagonist in this novel, why nobody hunts the trophy hunters is beyond me. It’s such a repulsive ‘hobby’ and it would be great to even the odds in favour of the animals rather than see the murderer of Cyril the lion or his equally repulsive daughter smirking on Facebook with yet more corpses!
However back to the novel, I enjoyed it for the reasons detailed above. It’s a great idea, appealing to vegans and animal lovers in general.”

The book will be on sale at 99p from 23rd – 30th November.

You may wish to consider it for any vegans or animal lovers you know.

She’s Coming For You

A recent review of this book – She’s Coming For You – said the following:

“I felt real sympathy for the protagonist in this novel, why nobody hunts the trophy hunters is beyond me. It’s such a repulsive ‘hobby’ and it would be great to even the odds in favour of the animals rather than see the murderer of Cyril the lion or his equally repulsive daughter smirking on Facebook with yet more corpses!
However back to the novel, I enjoyed it for the reasons detailed above. It’s a great idea, appealing to vegans and animal lovers in general.”

The book will be on sale at 99p from 23rd – 30th November.

You may wish to consider it for any vegans or animal lovers you know.