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Tag Archives: Spain
On the 23rd of this month Richie and I celebrated one year on the road! 365 remarkable days! If there’s one thing that has characterised the experience for us, it’s the people. As a tribute to the places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made, I offer a gallery of faces: each one beautiful and unforgettable in its own way.
These are people with whom we’ve couch surfed, Wwoofed, played, partied, wept, worked and dreamt. Thank you, each and every one of you, for the inspiration you’ve offered us; the chance to mingle our life journeys with yours.
Thank you… شكرا… спасибо… σας ευχαριστώ… gràcies… 谢谢… tak… merci… მადლობა გადაგიხადოთ… תודה… grazie… ຂໍຂອບໃຈທ່ານ… با تشکر از شما… mulțumesc… ¡gracias… teşekkür ederim… diolch i chi… Ake Issrebeh Moulana… tanemmirt…
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Richie and I have been known to attempt rash and zany things, especially whilst on the road. A whiff of adventure, a challenge, a dare, and we’re off, scheming of ways to reach B from A; testing the mettle of our spirits and the imperviousness of the soles of our hiking boots.
If they were made for walking, what’s the point in standing still?
It was during a particularly low moment during our stay in Barcelona that we decided to intercept Richie’s parents on their 18-day cruise of the Mediterranean. We were lonely and could do with a merry rendezvous. On the 14th of April Kay and Steve would be disembarking the Queen Victoria in Venice. Why not surprise them there, and spend a memorable 6 hours walking the streets; lagoon water lapping at our toes and the taste of gelato in our mouths.
Reaching Venice on the 14th left us with a window of 4 nights to get from Figueres (in the northeast Spain). We considered flying, then thought better of it. Why not hitch?
Dino and Amanda are the type of hosts that every Wwoofer dreams of: fun, sociable, passionate and accommodating. What’s more, they cook great food and live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited!
Right from the beginning, when our Wwoof Espania membership came through in the post and long hours were spent pouring over the host list, I knew I wanted to stay with Dino and Amanda at Can Col. They’re Wwoof profile said it all: “young couple living in a 17thcentury renovated farmhouse in the lower Pyrenees… surrounded by woods and silence for many miles around… we make our own bread, pasta, game sausages, pâtes, marmalades and jams… and we grow our organic vegetable terraces from which we eat all year round.”
After arriving in Figueres, we were met off the train by Dino, Amanda and their two dogs, Rita (mother) and Lucy (daughter). It was a wonderful reception full of tongue kissing (from the dogs) and excited yelps (from the dogs also).
Dino (Italian) and Amanda (Catalan) spoke brilliant English, and it was nice to be able to talk freely about their lives, as well as our adventures on the road.
After several peaceful miles driving through fertile valleys we began the ascent into a rugged uninhabited mountainside, covered in a forest of holm oaks, chestnuts, walnuts and wild apple trees. Great ridges and crusts of limestone jutted out like stern eyebrows.
Richie and I tend to eschew the type of tourist ‘experiences’ that require you to part with fistfuls of money. Waiting in line at the Alhambra ticket office in Granada was a fairly joyless experience. Richie fidgeted with his respectably hairy chin and seemed as likely to bolt as a colt after its first taste of the bridle bit.
I watched enviously as tourists who’d had the prescience to buy their tickets online breezed toward the open gates; silk shawls fluttering and leather sandals slapping the hallowed earth.
Eventually, after nearly forty five minutes of waiting, we acquired two tickets. Audio guide NOT included. “You’re kidding,” Richie breathed as he inspected the tickets. 2 hours to fill before the allotted time.
We walked back downhill over the saddle of Sacromonte where the sound of flamenco heels rapping on timber floors was almost sufficiently enchanting to disperse our penny-pinching fugg.
Through white streets; past portholes leading into mountain dwellings (the interiors of which we were never likely to see), we succumbed to the sadness and dislocation of being gypsies… of sorts…
Back up on the Alhambra we made ready to enter with our ticket and tourist map. “Choose wisely which monuments you visit,” the guide warned us, “save your legs.”
Richie’s permaculture perversion did the talking as we followed the shaded cyprus walkway to the gardens of the Generalife.
With the first glimpse of terraced gardens, fountains and scalloped bowls of trickling water everything was forgiven.
Richie was rapt by a series of channels and cisterns transporting flumes of water from terrace to terrace.
On day 58 of our ‘Overland to Oz’ adventure we arrived at our first Wwoof: a finca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia (Spain). The bus from Malaga took us along the coast road as far as Orgiva. From there it was a forty five minute hike up a rocky river bed to the steep white village of Bayacas.
Having divested ourselves of 5.79kg of excess belongings we were feeling lighter and more mobile than ever. “All we need now,” we said, as we trooped uphill, “is a 2-person tent and a saucepan for self-reliant off-road living.”
Shortly before nightfall we crested the ridge behind the finca. “Is this La Granja?” we called over a gate painted with images of free-ranging chickens. We were in the right place!
Our host, Kate, was expecting us. She showed us to our cassita: a rustic stone cabin with a timber and bamboo roof, wood burner, double mattress, 2-hob gas cooker, solar lights, table, two chairs and a few shelves of books/objects left behind by previous Wwoofers. It was a joy and a relief to be alone in our little cassita with a plateful of leftovers in front of us, and the night closing in outside. Very peaceful.
In the morning we joined the gang (4 others Wwofers + our host) to commence the day’s work. We cleared brush, stacked firewood and were shown about the finca.
It took a massive effort of will to leave Marocco. We’d been there 8 weeks and had a hell of a time (in a good way!). We weren’t prepared for the strangeness of re-entering Europe.
By morning: Tanger.
By mid-afternoon: Algeciras.
Two cultures with much in common (but world’s apart) separated by the narrowest stretch of water. We were flummoxed!
Europe posed new problems for us – like how to keep from munching through our meagre budget in a matter of weeks. A combination of Wwoofing, hitch-hiking and Couch Surfing was the key. Within the space of 2 days we’d tried all three of these money-saving/people-meeting techniques and were pleased with the results.
Bouncing along in the backseat of a Toowoomba couple’s mobile home we grew confident that we could overcome our Euro-dollar poverty (1st world problem!) without missing out on exciting new experiences and the odd ice cream or cold beer here and there.
In spite of our feelings of deep love and fealty to Morocco we opened ourselves up and let our new host culture do its work on us. Bull fighting colosseums, gelato, catholic fervour, flamenco fever, and gorgeous houses with fine balconies and timber shutters won us over.
This was not Morocco. This was something different. A different aesthetic. A new way of behaving. A different climate… a new opportunity. I christened myself anew: ‘Nina of Espana’ by bathing in the Mediterranean. It was bloody freezing!
It seems fitting to say ‘goodbye’ to Morocco and ‘hello’ to Spain with a flutter of photos. Can you spot the differences?
p.s Family and friends are on our minds every step of the way – we’re coping daily with homesickness and the desire for togetherness. We carry you with us at all time. Love you!
On the 23rd of January we set off on the first leg of our ‘overland to Oz’ adventure. In a mad dash to get to Morocco we passed through four countries in half as many days. It’s not a style of travelling I normally endorse, but it’s remarkable how far you can travel in Europe, and how quickly, when you’re motivated by the thought of rejuvenation in warmer climes and spurred on by a hunger for mint tea and cous cous.
We traversed the spaces between Norfolk, England and Tangier, Morocco by bus, bus, train, train, ferry, then bus. Ejected into the sunshine and luminosity of Africa’s northernmost country we pinched ourselves and said with a mixture of surprise and disbelief, “We’re here. What do we do next?” Feeling like Dorothy – a long way from Kansas – we enacted the usual circus of finding ‘gas, food, lodgings’, amid a million entreaties to buy kif, smoke kif, eat kif…
I don’t care what the rest of the world says, Tangier is brilliant! The trees in the street are festooned with spheres of orange – citrus aplenty – and the Medina is alive with exchanges, equal and unequal, of money, goods, services and greetings. “Salam alaikum”. “Hola”. “Bonjour”. “Ca va”.
Fumbling with the currency and our few meagre words of French, we found ourselves a table at a cafe on the Rue de I’talie, taking part in the clamour and elegance of life in the medina by imbibing our first sweet glassfuls of coffee and ‘tae-a-la menthe’ (mint tea).
Everywhere, people were dressed in the local garb: a long-sleeved ankle-length tunic called the ‘djellaba’. Hoods up. Hoods down. Homespun. Viscose. Patterned. Plain. Everyone wore theirs differently. Some women wore head scarves. Others did not. Mobile phones were in hand. Hand carts reeled by… it was Hemingway’s ‘moveable feast’ all over. And after two days of sitting, standing, making connections and trying to stay awake on trains, we were glad to be there. Taking part. Spectating. Savouring. But also, equally, not there: caught in the no man’s land between departing and arriving. ‘Jet lag’, we learnt, is not just for those who travel by plane: it’s as much a psychological as it is a physiological condition.
And like all ‘first’ days in a new country, this one ended in bed, where we hoped to round off the experience with a little sleep. Thereby giving our souls the opportunity to catch up with our bodies – which were viscerally, undeniably, unambiguously in Tangier, Morocco!