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Oston 2004 Expedition Report

Picos de Europa, Spain

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Mike Hopley

It's 3:30 in the morning. I need to be up at 6:30. I've had a very strange night.

I moved out of the tent tonight to escape the gurgling drone of Matt's emphysemic snoring. It was audible a long distance from the tent - I was practically on the Trea path before it relented.

- Thank God for Matt's snoring -

It was a mild, clear night; I settled down to doze under the light of a lambent full moon.

- Thank God for the full moon -

The first time I awoke, I observed a cow and calf investigate the water bottles outside our kitchen. "Perhaps," I thought, "we should move those inside too. They are being licked a lot." But the water bottles remained sealed and intact; I returned to sleep unconcerned.

The second time I awoke was different. A cow was near the kitchen again - I could tell by the sound of its bell. "I suppose I should check what it's doing." I squinted into the darkness.

Surely not. I must be mistaken. Oh bugger, not again.

The cow had pushed our daren drum barrier out of the way and was standing in the kitchen. I had only seconds to spare: time and turd wait for no man. I could already hear the gluttonous slurping as I approached - that must be the curry - which presaged another rancid defilement of our kitchen.

I reached the kitchen. But what now? I risked quite serious injury if I went inside to shepherd the invader out: in its panic to escape, I might be kicked or impaled on those not-quite-blunt-enough-for-comfort horns.

A rock. A nice hefty one with sharp bits. I've been wanting to do this for days. Pity I didn't have my dive knife instead.

Take aim at the cow's backside. Good arm swing; rotate the shoulders and... THROW!

* * * * * * * * *

The effect was spectacular. The cow performed the bovine equivalent of a 65-point turn and bolted out of the kitchen. I jumped up onto the rocks as it sped past.

Now to assess the damage.

It is said that quick action saves lives. This is true, but what is often omitted is that quick action also saves lentils. In the short period that it had spent inside the kitchen, the cow had sprayed wine everywhere and knocked over the bin; there was little other damage. To be sure, the cocoa would have to be thrown out as well, but it was nearly empty anyway.

I sighed the sigh of a weary caver whose kitchen has just been attacked by cows for the second time in four nights. It's a distinctive and rarely heard sound, but no-one was there to appreciate it. I wanted comfort food. The chocolate would be needed for tomorrow's caving, but there were some sultanas that would be a (poor) substitute.

The sultanas tasted of petrol.


Yes, petrol.

It's been a bad night. The walls are covered in cheap red wine, and the sultanas taste of petrol.

I'm going to have a pizza in Cangas tomorrow. Hell, I might even have two.