Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Revenge of the Savages

They did it. They ruined the trip of my life. My first time standing on Celtic ground was a disaster and I was practically forced to quit Festival de Ortigueira before the second day was over and come back to Madrid, defeated and disconsolate.

Since I had borrowed Juan’s tent, Jose’s sleeping bag and Ángel’s sleeping pad, and I was fully equipped even with an incredibly handy guide and checklist Diane prepared me to ensure the greatest camping experience possible, I decided I would get to Ortigueira as early as I could to enjoy every second of the bagpipes. But since Thursday early morning, when I arrived in Ortigueira, I had undeniable signs that the longer I stayed there, the worst I’d feel with myself.

It started with all the loud reggae and hip hop playing. Frankly, back in the early 2000’s, I was one of the people most excited with the hip hop culture I knew. But the hip hop overdose everywhere lately has taken me to the opposite end of the spectrum, and now everywhere that has hip hop playing gets my immediate frown. But ok, I decided I’d put up with that, even though I had faced eight hours of road to listen to bagpipes, fiddles and wirestrung harps.

Then, my tent was set, and I was really proud of that, being my first camping experience, and I was all by myself. I looked around, took a pic of my home of the range, and noticed two idiots arriving with five dogs. I looked around again, and noticed that early Thursday morning, that camping area was fraught with dogs. Really, there could’ve been almost fifty of them. Obviously, not the vaccinated type, held by ropes or chains. They were rovering free among the tents, covering the land with their urine and feces, eating other people’s food. For a caniphobic person like me, it was a sure sign that the whole experience now was going to be an undeniable disaster, but I’m not famous for being reasonable, so I just decided I’d stay there and put up even with the risk of being bitten by one of those hippy mongrels and getting rabies.

Since all brands of music were so loud (except for Celtic, which was nowhere), I understood I’d not be able to take my sleep of the just that morning, and I went to look for the shower. There were no hot water showers there, only cold pipes from which water fell without any walls surrounding it. I decided I’d then face the whole festival without showering, because it was just out of question that I’d put my Brazilian skin under that cold water in Galician open air. Galicia is one of the coldest parts of Spain.

I went for a walk to air my head, and saw that the city, too, was infested with the many filthy dogs the filthy savages had brought. They were everywhere, playing with the skirts of female bagpipe players during the performances, pulling the fabric of vendor tents, harassing the dogs of the locals, fanning their tails for anybody eating anything in the street, begging for food. Those unwashed vagabond hippies were clearly insane and lacking total respect for themselves, for the city who so generously received them, for other people who came to listen to the actual Celtic music and for anybody else. Even large German Pastors were running free on the concert area. Suffering from dog-phobia fits, I was confined to a half of the city where there was no lawn or anywhere dogs were expect to be found frolicking and defecating.

Obviously, I didn’t find vegetarian food there, as I had expected and been warned, but I managed with fresh fruit, yoghurt and junk food from the grocery.

And I fed on what I went there for!

The music was divine. The experience of seeing the Passarrúas (Galician pipers marching on the city streets, playing local tunes, dressed in typical clothes) was really awesome, exciting and deeply enchanting. Really, it transports you to another dimension. The main concerts at night were also fabulous, with some of the finest performers of the new generation of Celtic music, not just from Galicia. Between the acts, the small amount of people on the audience (the other 17 thousand were the hippies who stayed in the camping area with hip hop and reggae, drugging themselves to death) pulled fiddles, pandeiretas, vieiras and – of course – bagpipes, to improvise little jams while the stage for following band was being prepared. Heaven.

The landscape, as expected, was also a balm for the Spirit. No wonder the Celts produced some of the most marvellous legacy of Music and Tales in the World. The Land certainly was generous enough with them, to fill their Spirits with wondrous Beauty on a daily basis. The stage was set with a magnificent view of the Ría that surrounds Cabo Ortegal, and experiencing that with the wonderful music was more than a blessing. I took several pics of many places, and worked out some pretty nice self-portraits, my current creative obsession.

I managed to use the Casa do Concello’s loo to have my #2’s. There, I also saw a great exhibition on the history of Galicia as a country, called ‘Nazón de Breogán’, drawing inspiration from one of the many versions of how Ireland was first colonized, which states that Galician warriors crossed the Bay of Bizcay before Common Era. If you feel like trying your Galego, try the print version of the exhibition here: . Also, I bought a pair of Tejoletas for myself. Tejoletas are a typical percussive instrument from Galicia and Asturias that are believed to be the ancestors of castanets (castañuelas), or at least their relatives. The local largest newspaper, La Voz de Galicia also gifted me with a novel in Galego (‘Papaventos’, about weathercocks, but not printed in green ink!), a galician cuisine book, a book that taught Galician riddles and folk games, and the BEST CD by Susana Seivane, a great bagpiper born and raised in Barcelona, but dedicated to Galician and Celtic folk. She currently plays with Sud ar Su, who also performed in Ortigueira this year.

The farthest I was from that miserable improvised camping area, the better I felt, and had I found a way to stay there in Galicia (but not among the savages and their untrained beasts), I’d have had the most healing experience in this lifetime. But alas, the concert ended, and I was back to Mozouros, where the nightmares and my tent were, to faint asleep.

Despite the non-stop, eardrum-torturing reggae and hip hop, I managed to fall unconscious until half past seven in the morning yesterday (Friday). I picked up my stuff for the day, managed to leave the camp without being harassed by the hordes of dogs or stepping on the shit they left on the ground, and spent the whole day in the city and going to El Ferrol, where the bus station back to Madrid was, to book my trip back.

Early morning in Galicia is something extraordinary. The heavy dew shrouds and protects the land like a mantle, encompassing everybody in what felt like ultimate compassion to me. The irregular and crooked designs on the shorelines, called Rías, had a feeling of home to them that made me want to weep in profound reverence, and let the moisture in my tears feed and expand the moisture in the dew, and mingle forever with that magical, verdant place by the miracles of water in the air, and fire in the water.

During the day, I managed to watch another Passarrúas (the Escola de Gaitas de Ladrido), and went back to the camping area to get my photo camera for more photos.

I saw that one of those many beasts the savages has brought to infest the place had pissed on my tent. Now, there’s only so much a person can take, and despite letting everything screw my trip bit by bit, I was not going to sleep on a tent where some freaking filthy hippy dog had urinated on, and risk falling sick in a strange land where I was all alone and had no valid medical insurance. So, before I became a Republican voter, a convict neo-fascist dedicating my life to purge the world of the freak show concentrated on that miserable place and let hate take over me, I collected everything I had taken, took the BEAUTIFUL train ride back to Ferrol, surrendered my spirit to the incredible, faery-touched vistas, and as an emergency measure, I took the bus back home. That was an odd moment, feeling a strange cocktail of relief and disgrace for leaving behind such a fabulous place on Earth.

I was back to Madrid this morning, to finally have my hot shower and brush my teeth—four days later.

I really want to go back to Galicia. That place, and it’s lovely people, are an oasis in Spain. I don’t know when I’ll be able to, but it certainly is in my plans, and should be in the plans of everybody who hears the call of Celtic mystique. It thrives there.

I’ll now pay the 15€ tax to another workshop I got at La Casa Encendida, wash the urine from Juan’s tent, unpack, and upload my photos to my album here on Tribe. Keep an eye on it.

Image: Passarrúas on Thursday at noon, opening the festival.