ant wrestling


Plasencia. Fairly sure there was a comedy Roman called something similar in a Carry On film. This one is a nice enough town with a nice enough campsite. For most of yesterday, it was an elusive goal (kilometres on signposts appear to be strictly guesswork, and have even been known to go up as you get closer), as I had my first encounter with Extremadura.

Extremadura is basically the bit of Spain nearest to Portugal. To my English ear, however, it’s a combination of ‘extreme’ and ‘endure’, which seems very appropriate.

The man at the campsite yesterday morning was dubious (as well as doing that thing of ignoring my lack of Spanish). “Plasencia? That’s 90km. The first 10 are OK, but after that you’re stuffed” was the gist of what he said. His extensive miming skills further informed me that he used to be a truck driver, so he knew what he was talking about.

I’ve already done many 90km days, so was not overly worried. Even when I stopped for coffee at ten-thirty to see the town thermometer already showing 32 degrees C. I did make it in the end, thanks to roadside springs and a long siesta, but it was a bit touch and go. Extremadura – it’s beautiful, but it’s hard.

One advantage of travelling by bike is that you get to notice things that you wouldn’t see from a metal box on wheels. And during my enforced afternoon rest, I discovered the sport of ant wrestling. I should point out that no ants were harmed while I was there. In any case, find a place with some of those big mountain ants (the tiny ones from home are too small). Then accidentally drop a honey-covered peanut on the ground. Then watch in bewilderment as the ants begin fighting with each other, the peanut and occasionally themselves in a desperate battle to be the first back to the nest with the prize. Ignoring the fact that they can’t actually carry the peanut (they’re not Sci-fi mega ants, and they are stupid). Hours of free entertainment you won’t get in the car. And maybe a potential commentary comeback for Phil Neville after his dire World Cup performance; you couldn’t go wrong talking about ant wrestling…

This morning, another Extramadura surprise. It’s drizzling and cloudy. Good news for me, with a shortish (and hopefully flattish) day to come before the climb up and out of Spain begins. Just the coffee to finish, and I’ll be away…