Sunday, 29 May 2011

Life at Fontebona...

So!  We have just finished our first 2 week Helpx stint in Asturias, Northern Spain.  Helpx or Wwoofing is basically an exchange scheme where you 'work' for so many hours a day & in return get free board & food.  Great!  The people who host are often like-minded folk who are trying to create a more sustainable, low-impact lifestyle and so it is also a great opportunity to learn about that kind of stuff from people who are really putting it into practice.  

Our last couple of weeks were spent with Astrid & Thomas on the land they have been converting into a campsite over the last couple of years.  They've still a way to go (and a whole load of bracken to get rid of before then) but we've had a great time helping them out where we could.  Our main achievement (which we are still very smug about) was building the donkey shelter for their soon to be first guests.  Although it seems to be missing a few walls as our first ever construction I think we did a good job :-)

Evenings were spent around the campfire with long discussions, beers & toasties.  I thought I'd get sick of cheese toasties by about day 3 but it turns out the possibilities are endless, especially when combined with Thomas' amazing array of home-made chutneys!  Although we were blessed with a few sunny days, I do think we may have found Manchester's biggest competitor for the Rainiest Place In The World Ever title – it rained so much over the last few days that it took us nearly 2 hours & a whole load of muscle to get the van back up the steep & muddy driveway on our last day.  

Yesterday we arrived in Leon after an amazing 3 hour drive over some very steep mountain passes – Roo was really put to the test but did a stirling job and got us there without a hitch.  We had a really fun evening exploring the lovely city - not telling people we were from Manchester while watching the champions league final and testing out the local watering holes.  John's head is paying for it today & so we're staying put until tomorrow before heading south to Salamanca & then into Portugal.  

Oop and before I forget (apologies to anyone who couldn't care less), my 2nd biggest achievement of the past few weeks has seen me climb a knitting mountain to create my first ever picture – of the van!  It's really scrappy on the back but I actually think (or hope!) you can tell what it is! :-)

As laura has said, we were fed and beered very well at Fontebona, although she did not mention the box of melted/reformed/melted many times over eurosweets, that kept us swinging hammers and lifting logs.  generic chewy sweets with fruit symbols on the wrappers that remind you of being on family holidays in the back of the car when young. YuM!  We are both tougher and stronger for all the hard work, which is exactly what I was looking forward to.  Though of course I still got grumpy and tired sometimes with some of the hot work, its been a very cool time being left alone to make fences and the shelter and whatnot.  PS running water is defintely a very welcome luxury we should not take for granted should we! PPS now we are out from under the trees, solar panel is back up and doing well, i need to fuse it as anything over 10a will pop the charge controller and we dont want that.  this means lights etc are back online.  [end of my boring PV update]

not our van, but obviously from the same aerodynamics school

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A quick update!

Helloooo, John is concerned that our 3 followers will loose interest if we don't write a post NOW so here it is :-)  Just a quick one as internet connection is precious (took us an hour's walk to get it) and our battery is low.  We're in Asturias in the North of Spain not far from the Picos de Europa national park.  It's an amazing area & we're having a great time with our hosts Astrid & Thomas.  They're a dutch couple who are in the process of setting up an eco campsite so we're helping where we can - currently in the middle of building a donkey shelter for their upcoming guests!  A proper post with more info and pictures will follow soon!  :-)  x

Solar panel has peaked at just over 10amps, for those interested.  That is very very good. That was in a car park in town.  Now we are parked under thick tree cover for 2 weeks, so dont even have the lights on. Better luck next week eh...

Thursday, 12 May 2011

the second post...The Basque Country

This is me, John. in Italics from here on in.   I read a book like this once, written by two people, and i always liked that system.  

The ferry was fun, pretty choppy so we walked like drunks mostly.  We did general knowledge quizes in the 'Planets Bar', and killed 34 hours without too much fuss.  The cabin was big! Laura's first comment was literally "There's 4 bog rolls! We're havin one of them."  Yes we are good together.

So we made it off the boat and chewed through tight motorways with about a mug full of petrol in the tank,  a few stops, including a very nice place called Galiz (beans on toast breakfast cooked up in the beach car park, perfect!), and to our first camp ground which has the most amount of heavy set porcelain ive ever seen in one place.  Tonnes of it, big old heavy stuff, in the laundry, washing up room, toilets, showers, all complimented by very nice navy tiles.  I took a picture of some of it, but its not here. Oh and the toilets flush with such amazing force that my ears popped.

The new solar panel on the van is doing brilliantly, making a record breaking 6.9 amps from spanish sun (a PB for me).  More power than we can use on keeping the fridge running on pretty much full power, so im well happy with that.  We also made a 3-way washing line out of bungee cords (+ wool) which Andy W & Dad, you would like.

Last night we had a brilliant day/evening in Bilbao with Laura's friends Anne-Sophie and David who are amazing hosts!  We spent a few hours in the Guggenheim Museum, where the building itself is really the star of the show (for us anyway). There is not one straight edge in the whole building, apart from the floor (and that was wonky in one of the exhibitions), and it was so much so that we both felt nauseous after about an hour and half.  Dont think that was the intended result really, but it will stay with us (and in our stomachs). 

Anne-Sophie & David showed us around like pro's and treated us to some regional bar snacks (david had one made from squid ink, totally black- i didnt choose that one) and 2 very powerful martinis that looked and tasted very good.  Laura was even eating olives with them, and this is a new thing Im happy about.  

 So we were sent back merrily on the tram system to the campsite, which is about a 45 minute ride, where it is now the next morning- cloudy, but bright and warm.

Next we have one more day in Bilbao, and then on the Picos de Europa, a national park and mountain range west of Santander.  Onwards!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Time Has Come!

Hello & thanks for stopping by to hear about our travels!  This is our not-blog blog about our time on the road & will hopefully keep you updated on our many adventures along the way.

Only 4 days to go until our ferry leaves for Bilbao and we are very excited!  We've had a wonderful time over the past month spending lots of time with friends and family around the country.  Here's some piccies from along the way:

80's fun for Catherine's 30th in Crowden...

Marshmallows over the camp fire in Bala with Steph & Andy...

A lovely day with the GMYN crew at Mike & Anna's wedding...

Fun on the beach in Northumberland with John's family...

Fun and games with friends on our mass camping trip near Buxton...

 Hanging out with Leandy and family in North Wales...

Celebrating with the Pikes at Dunc and Becky's Wedding...

Now just a couple more days with the lovely Dotty and Dan before heading south.  We're stopping off at the South Downs Green Fair along the way before setting off on Sunday eve.  Next post from Spain!