Howdy Amigos. This is unofficial report number five. Unbelievable how time sometimes takes on a different measure. Not to long ago, I wrote number one on a whim. Anyway, Let storytime begin.
I was able get the bead on the local whitewater establishment. After a long hiatus I was beginning to suffer from withdrawal. As things would have it, I didn't get the instructions right to the location. I was about an hour and a half out of Vigo, but took over 3 hours to find the place. Damn Spanish roads. About the time I was close enough to smell victory, I stopped to talk to a old shepherd of a small herd of sheep. He gave my car a funny look but provided directions on how to get to the river. Upon descending the "road" I reminded myself that this was a rental and accelerated as to use the underbody to slide over the craters. I finally found the tiny little shed that housed the gear for this day's whitewater adventure, but had missed the people who were going to hook me up. They left me a note and by the time I got there I had 2 hours to kill before they would return. What at first was frustrating quickly became very interesting.
I struck up a conversation with a farmer on this back dirt road I was waiting on. His name is Louis. He was tending to his family's vineyard and seemed not to mind this interruption to his work very much. Turns out he lives in Vigo, but his parents lived on this remote riverside farm where he grew up. About this time each year the family gets together to bottle the wine that has been aging in casks. Today was that annual day and Louis invited me to join. Seemed like a good plan. We headed to the rustic, red clay roofed house where Louis loudly introduced me to the family. There were at least 4 generations represented. As I shook hands I tried to gather the names: Traci, Chino, Carlos, Pedro.. there were about 15 people all told. The older looked at me with curiosity while the children cowered behind legs at the sight of the tall American. We then moved to an old stone barn with a dirt floor, wooden casks lining the walls and piles of assorted empty wine bottles stored in every unoccupied place. Seasoned ham aged inside a insect proof net box and a large manual press stood in the corner. I asked Louis if they danced on the grapes to extract their nectar. He gave a good belly laugh, repeated to him family and the room filled with laughter and people slapping me on the back.
The men proceeded to set up to do some bottling as the first cask was tapped. A small trough filled with wine and bottles were quickly placed under the tubes that flowed out of it. Louis dipped a short glass into the trough and handed it to me. Incredible. Then he looked around quickly and shot out of the barn. He returned quickly with a huge round of cheese and a loaf of fresh bread. And then he refilled my glass. They all watched as I took some cheese and bread, and more wine. Smiling from ear to ear I honestly told them it was wonderful. Pleased by this, they joined me for a glass. All paused and looked my way. Loud and bold I said ¡Salud! This was repeated with much enthusiastic approval, glasses clinked and we all drank. Health!
After insisting on refilling my glass once again, Louis and family quickly set up an impromptu assembly line. There was one man preparing bottles to be filled, another at the filling trough, one at a unique embottling press and others to pack and move finished bottles. The elder members supervised and the younger ran the line. I watched and enjoyed my delicious wine and good fortune. I asked if I could help and was politely cut another slice of cheese and served more wine. After a few more inquiries I was allowed to have a go at the embottler machine. A curious piece of equipment that has a lever, some springs and a strange gripper system that act in unison to forcibly join the cork and bottle.
I quickly became the cell bottleneck as I was slow in operating the device. I thought I had the hang of it until my fifth bottle exploded into a shower of glass and wine. I tried to resign from my post, but they encouraged me to continue. After I managed to clumsily break another bottle, I rotated out to the cheese gourd, bread and freshly refilled glass. Louis then took over the bottler machine, and quickly preceded to burst a bottle. I said that the Spanish were as strong was Americans and they laughed again. Maybe at my Spanish or my wine-plied wit, either way my back was slapped some more and I felt like these were people I had known for a lifetime.
After savoring the moment and trying to capture and hold the details, the people from the kayaking place returned and I said goodbye to my new friends. I hurried back with my camera for photos and apologies. Louis and I exchanged addresses and I fully intend to send him a letter and thank you for such a wonderful display of Spanish hospitality. After stepping back a century or two and living 2 hours in the life of a rustic Spanish farmer, the river was anticlimactic at best. Of all my unique experiences, I think this one will stay with me as the most pronounced and most special.
8 julio 1997
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