“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”
“It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”
My third day in Spain I took on the windmills. Though I saw them not as giants or enemies, the journey to get there and the hike to see them was as fierce a battle as any. I woke up early that morning and navigated the metro to the bus station on the other side of the city. in my bad Spanish, I bought a bus ticket to Consuegra that didn’t have any information on it. I didn’t know where the bus picked me up or dropped me off, and I only knew what time it left, not what time it returned. Down at the bus slips, I showed each bus driver my ticket and said “Es correcto?” until I found the right bus. And then I sat on the bus nervously for two hours hoping it was indeed correcto, and that I’d get off in the right place. Fortunately, I did. I arrived in the town so early there was nothing going on, no one awake, nothing open. Again, I was totally alone. This time in a small Spanish town in La Mancha, surrounded by buildings a thousand years old, and mountains millions of years older.
I started meandering through the town in an attempt to find a route to the windmills and I eventually came across a seemingly endless flight of stairs to the first two windmills. Though there was another two mile hike to the main set of windmills and the castle, I stopped and caught my breath and enjoyed the incredible view of La Mancha.
And then further up the road, just beyond the ruins, stood los gigantes. Don Quixote’s windmills in all their glory. The wind was so intense I often had to sit down on the ground or brace myself against the windmills to avoid being toppled right over.
On the way back down, I stopped in to this strange, old Spanish church at the start of the stairs. I put a 20 cents in a little automated box to light a battery operated candle. I sat in the church a moment and kept waiting for an old Spanish woman in a black veil to appear crying. The town was empty. With the exception of a French school group in the castle, I saw almost no one. Traveling alone was my windmill, and I’d fought an strange and intense battle against it.
In the afternoon, I headed back to the bus stop and waited for an hour or so before catching the two hour bus back to Madrid. It rained the entire time and I napped one of the best naps I’ve ever had.