Monday, July 28, 2008


Time for a 'holiday'.

We flew to Menorca, in the Balaeric Islands, to meet bro BOK, Sally, and the boys for a week of holiday break.

And yet another Spanish language.

Lovely spot. Great beaches, fantasic swimming bays, and a manageable and pleasantly cooler 30-33ͦC. Swimming, swimming, swimming.

We stayed at Sol de Este, from where we could watch the comings and goings of the yachts and pleasure launches of Europe's wealthy. Man, is there ever some money tied up in these craft.

Anyway, as has been the case many times for Deb and I during out time in Spain, we arrived for a fiesta week, this time that of Sant Juame.

It kicked off on the Sunday morning with an Urbana Milla race, which was in fact 1,950 meters long - so call it a 2km race. Anyway I scored a podium finish, photo with the mayor and the running club president, for my third place in the over 50s. Sister-in-law Sally scored second in the womens over 40. BOK and the boys all ran, Deb gave this one a miss.

The Spaniards have an inherent craziness. You know of the running the bulls. But Menorca is famous for horses. On the Thursday evening, the fiesta programme lists a jaleo. This begins with horses walking casa-a-casa, from house to house, collecting horses positioned around town. As each one joins the procession it does a stand on its hind quarters, rearing into the air.

They make their way to the Plaza Mayor where they are joined by a band. It really starts warming up now. All the bars in town have set up outside on the footpaths. Customers have started getting rather merry, having already started kicking off on Pomada - Menorcan gin and lemonade, which is consumed by the bucket loads.

The band marches around town, stopping at the bars, consuming Pomada.

The horses follow all doing hind leg stands at each bar, some ride into the bars to have a Pomada.

Everything is humming by now. They make their way back to the Plaza Mayor where the real jaleo begins, translated as 'uproar'. This is a real Rark Up.

Two by two the horses - all two year old stallions, fiesty beasts, canter straight into the crowd standing on the sawdust strewn plaza, then rear up and prance two legged through the thronging crowd. The crowd, mostly males, then all push in and attempt to hold the horse up in the rear standing position. The story, apparantly, is that if you can touch the horse near the heart, its strength will be passed onto you. The other version is that if you can touch near the heart, you will in turn become hung like a horse. For either reason, plenty of young men were keen to get in there and hold the horse up, pushing near its heart.

There were 30 horses that went 'around the block' many times to repeat the activity. It went well into the morning.

They repeated it Friday afternoon.

But Friday night is another crazy happening. The horses raced two at a time at full speed. It all starts off pretty orderly but gets a little out of control when crowds start pushing in from both sides of the street trying to give the horses a smack on the rump. Crazy stuff.

The lady mayor of the town is a keen horse woman, and she was there, full on, for both events. It's the sort of thing you just can't imagine being allowed at home, yet here it is just considered part of the fun, with the mayor taking part boots and all.

Friday night finished with a spectacular fireworks display over the harbour.

A great week, in which the Spanish got very excited when Carlos Sastre took over leadership, and went on to win, the Tour de France. Marca went to 10 pages of coverage. And Rafa won in Toronto, and looks a real threat to take over Roger Federer's number one spot. And Spain is going to win bucket loads of gold in Beijing - if you believe Marca.

Lying on the beach gave me a chance to read Eric Newby's, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (Secker & Warburg, 1958). I had this book shipped from NZ. My attention was first drawn to it when I was crewing in the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race, 1986. But that's another whole story, but did generate for me a term I have come to use called 'an Eric Newby experience'. I eventually tracked down my Picador, 1981 edition at Ferrits Bookshop, in Cuba, Wellington which oddly enough lead me to the Nambour Book Exchange, Nambour, Sunshine Coast, Queensland in December 2006, where I bought Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari, which I told you all about sixteen months ago from South Africa. But that is all yet another story.

Anyway, Menorca was our chance to say our farewells to bro and family. They will stay on in Spain until mid 2009 before moving back to England with his job. Expect we'll spend more time with them again there.

Back to Antequera, and to say our farewells there. Not without a few pangs.

aka Max

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