A booming guttural roar thundered across the calm food court as Vlad threw his significant girth into the arm wrestle. Passing Saturday afternoon shoppers slowed to a crawl as the spectacle spilled over, the beer glasses piled on the table clinking and clanking as the table shook under the fury of the contest.
We'd entered the food court to acquire alcohol and caffeine but somehow found only excessive quantities of crap beer and a wild brute of a man, Vlad the loud, obnoxious, hilarious Slovakian and his pleasant British fiancée Louise. They, and Vlad's insistence on buying us drinks, joined our table at Krunch's pseudo Bavarian cafe.
The night before, wed taken down one of Barcelona's abandoned metro stations, station Gaudi, and narrowly avoided being clobbered to death in our sleep by a wooden cudgel wielding Spanish security guard while trying to sleep in the crumbling husk of a building near the port. Defeated, instead we bedded down atop a road tunnel up above the city as the sun started to rise. Waking to glorious weather we took our best guess at a quick traditional breakfast (Sangria, we suspected), lazed on the beach eating almonds and drinking beer, then sought the shopping centre wherein we encountered Vlad, his much repeated suggestion that we "lacked balls" and the following manly competition of the arm wrestle. Again Vlad, more beast than man, bellowed like a charging boar and concerned mothers led their children quickly away.
His suggestion we lacked balls confused us greatly, as those who go head to head with the rolling stock in the grimy, dimly lit, alcoveless metro tunnels are usually not short on testicular fortitude, figuratively speaking. The following night we descended from street level into the old Correos station, surprising a load of Saturday night revellers as we disappeared before their eyes. The station retains a little of what identified it so: 1m wide platforms, tattered advertisements covered in a thick film of metro grime and the faded red lettering of the station signage upon the wall. There are few places to hide from passing trains in the station but fortuitously we got a good split time where the trains passing in either direction were evenly spaced; thus allowing one ample time to switch sides between trains and remain hidden.
Keen for more and hungry for larger prey we took to the Renfe system, an equivalent to Paris' RER - bigger tunnels and their faster meaner trains. We picked a suitable gap in traffic and took off down the tunnels leaping from sleeper to sleeper. There's plenty of clearance but nowhere to hide so we legged it, taking a quick stop behind an old switch hut waiting for the next pair of trains to pass. In this next window we charged on, covering the last stretch of track to the abandoned Bifuració Vilanova station and its enormous platform. Little remains at platform level but the long stationary escalators lead up into what was once a long pedestrian tunnel and inside lies the most bizarre hobo encampment I've ever seen.
Against the rough brick wall terminating the passageway were clothes, suitcases and throwaways organised into piles, duffel bags filled with similar objects and a rotting mattress and quilt, neatly made but covered in mold. A tall bedside table sat alongside, covered in an assortment of collected items - coins, watches, rolls of tape. Two wooden trinket boxes brimmed with pieces of shiny metal - chains, more coins and ID cards. The curator of this vast collection was long gone but his presence, for lack of any scientific term, could still be felt. Where had he gone, why had he left and had he intended to return?
With a final great heave and a flurry of cursing and yelling Vald's hand hit the table, backside down. Clearly these bar room antics made the afternoon shoppers uneasy, this schism in the natural order of their lives upset them. With Vlad vanquished and security circling closer, clearly eager to return peace and tranquillity to their jealously guarded domain, we finished the drinks, grabbed our quad-shot coffees and fled the scene via the maze of emergency exits, using a ninja-like smoke device commonly known as a fire extinguisher to conceal our path through the tunnels and vanish into thin air. The day was still young and Barcelona, a city brimming with adventure potential, was just warming up.