Wednesday, 27 July 2011

East Side Yo

hello! So, its been a lot of Kilometres, a lot of petrol (and more oil than id have liked) and we've seen some wonderful things- I'm writing this from our first day in the Pyrenees, at an incredible wild camp spot high up, but more of that in the next blog when it comes. I pull you in don't I.

We headed out for a long drive from Cabo de Gata, the south east tip of spain, up to Valencia, which took the best part of the day. Our friend Mario lives there, so it was great to have a local to show us around. 

Our camp site there was bang next to a nuddy beach. Anyway, we needed to recharge a bit, and so of course booked in for a few days. There was a pool n a shop selling cheap booze and very nice bread, so was perfect really. We hired bikes, which we should have known earlier would be a great idea, cause as we all know there's no better way to travel than on 2 wheels. Although our 2 wheels were heavy, uncomfortable and slow, and had me dreaming of my beautiful fixed wheel back home in storage waiting for me. Not to worry! 

It was great fun and a bike friendly place. We rode around the new science park, full of space age buck rodgers buildings and watery pools (and curiously, completely and absolutely deserted at 4am on our ill advised but enjoyable and successful ride home later that night). 

Mario took us to a lovely nature park south of town (no nuddies there though) and we had a great picnic under some cool shady trees. I saw one of the coolest men I've ever seen, who was about 60 with a cowboy hat and grizzly chin, smoking a cigar and riding the dodgem cars at the fun fair. Awesome.

I really enjoyed Valencia- a great size, pretty old town, excellent food markets and lots of young folk and goings on. We made friends with our neighbours, which made the camping evenings fun. So we ended up staying 4 nights in all, feeding and watering well.  

Also we gave Laura a new haircut - I did some complex layering at the back.

Onwards! Barcelona was next on the map, and as we headed north the temperatures cooled off a bit, and suddenly 26 degrees was a chilly day and something to savour! Our first bit of rain in 6 or 7 weeks was a lovely sight, and living in Manchester as we did, we should not speak in these tones! We had a bit of trouble finding our camp spot in the city, but when we got a tip off it was just round the corner actually, I think our spirits lifted and we rolled into probably the crappiest Aire (organised campervan sleeping spots) yet. which was a shame as its your first impression of the place - guess they don't have to try though, with Barcelona being such a draw by itself (It was a truck stop with flooded porta-cabin toilets). 

Anyway anyway- we walked miles and miles pottering through the streets making the best of the 3 maps we got hold of, and took a lot of pit stops for rests, drinks and snacks. Think we got a bit carried away, since we burned through our wallets fast (its a purse as it happens, and shared. Laura is luckily the banker, and a good one!) Shops, parks, cathedrals, even a bar called Manchester, which we made good use of and ate a lot of their peanuts. 

We stumbled into a secret band playing opposite from a 2nd floor apartment balcony, and from that into a pied piper lead walk to another outside venue to watch a full band play, very fun and spontaneous.

 Basically all the fun of the city, and I fully enjoy being in cities for these kinds of things. Our final day was spent trying to slow things down a bit, and we had a nice lunch at a vegan place and then went to the Picasso museum which was free on Sundays.

Obviously as happens with such big places, they kick your arse and leave you feeling broken and broke- and this did happen, but of course we enjoyed ourselves tonnes, and it will still be there to explore further when we next visit some day.

So right now as I mentioned firstly, we are inside the van and it is dark now high up in the Aaragonese pyranees. Laura cooked a tasty meal and is now crotcheting something that looks complicated and it is about bed time. Good night!

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Mulberry Harvest

After a fun couple of days in the beautiful city of Granada we headed down to the town of Orgiva for a last minute helpx appointment with our host family Anna, Chris & their two adorable children Frankie & Savy. Their beautiful home was nestled on the side of a mountain with the most amazing views and was made up of a series of giodomes (large yurt-like tents). It was a fifteen minute trek from the road so we decided to leave the van & opt for the on-site accommodation – a mattress outside on the decking. Doesn't sound great but it really was & once we'd gotten used to the sound of crickets & covered up from the wildlife, sleeping under the moonlight and stars was bliss.

Days were long & tiring but never dull & I spent a lot of my time occupying the kids while the others got on with more serious work. John's new favourite toy was the big petrol strimmer which he put to good use on the land. I was a bit concerned when he came back & mentioned he'd slid star-shaped down the big slope on numerous occasions but he assured me that he only went 20 or 30 metres at a time. The other main task of the week was the mulberry harvest from the many trees dotted around the land. After a half hour stint we looked like we'd been in a bloody battle with the red juice everywhere but it was great fun climbing the trees & collecting as many as possible to make fruit bars, crumbles & juice. The mulberry's tasted amazing and if we'd have been doing it for money John would have been sacked a long time ago as he ate 99% of what he picked.

The guys also had another place down in the valley – a lorry beautifully converted into their 2nd home. They kept it on a friends land that was also home to at least 20 other vehicles – caravans, horse boxes, trucks & vans – all home to other friends. The place was pretty incredible and the van suddenly felt tiny in comparison to some of the other things we saw. We spent a couple of days down there helping them sort things out before their long drive back to England to work on the festival circuit. 

 One our last night there was a party (which we liked to think was held in our honour) which transformed the space into it's own mini festival & gave us chance to see Anna sing in her drum and bass band. After helping Frankie put on some make-up I miss judged my exit from the lorry (pre drinks might I add) and hit the deck face first so I now have a bruise the size of Spain on my left leg.

We grew really attached to the family and were really sad to say goodbye to them on our last day. Orgiva is a really alternative & laid back place with a load of people who've just decided to opt out of modern life and live in yurts, tents or whatever they can on the land. It's an amazing place and even having been here only a week it's opened my mind to so much stuff, we'll be sure to visit again.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


**N.B lots of writing & no pictures for this post, bad internet connection!  You can view our pics here though: CLICK HERE!

Hello again readers, its been a while for me here since last post, and its a good job i'm typing because I was filling in a visa form the other day (with a real life pen) and think I might be losing that ability to write.

So, as I sort of mentioned above, we took a trip into Morocco for 3 days, which I found incredibly exciting. I'm sure plenty of you have been to the wilder countries in the world, and i've travelled a fair bit too, but for me at least, that place was very different to anywhere i've been. After stepping off the FRS ferry (FFS I should rename it if given the chance), the barrage of scamming and hustlers, babbling crowds of arguing Arabic women and general pushing and yelling began!

We blindly found our way into the hands of our shuttle driver to the hotel (part of the ferry deal, first hotel we've been in- what a treat). He was a friendly sort, looked a bit like Goldie, but with black teeth, made of more rotten stuff. And so after offering us drugs and giving us his number, just in-case we needed anything (anything at all, I got the feeling) during our stay, we were soon on our way.

Now I'm pretty sure Tangier has a bit of a rep for being a bit edgy, a bit like Tijuana has, and I'm proud to say it was on fine form for us. It is a bit sad that talking to anyone there ends up with them wanting some money off you for some perceived favour they've just done you, and so making you feel constantly on guard, and pushing you into being rude basically. We did get the odd brush with genuine 'for free' help and advice which was brilliant, and I'm sure there's tons of it about- just not in Tangier I think.

Saying this, we had a superb time exploring. The Medina is an old town market area, an actual labyrinth in fact. Except at the middle was probably another man selling you a 60 foot rug or something. Tiny tiny streets and dead ends, sewing machines, kids on play stations, monkeys, pipes, bags, fruit n veg, cotton and silk, music. Children even make a bit of money by leading people back out of the Medina into the normal streets. Very amazing, but very very intense. Exiting the Medina brings you into a different sort of chaos, but chaos non the less.

We enjoyed lots of Moroccan mint tea, something I'll have to try and remember back home. Many cafe stops for tea to escape the heat were made. I did have the Best Taxi Ride of My Life though, which for £2 was better than anything Alton Towers has. We even bumped a pedestrian at one point, almost missed about 50 other cars/kerbs/lorries/people, and my personal high point was the kid on a motor scooter doing a 200 metre wheelie along side us right by my door. He did everything but handbrake turn into the lobby. Anyway I loved this, and tipped the man kindly as he blasted off into the night. I think for a moment we were the fastest people in Africa.

Day 3 we needed something else, and took a train to Asilah, 45 minutes west of Tangier which was an absolute oasis of calm and we both agreed it was probably the most beautiful town we had ever been. It started with a horse and cart taxi ride which worked out brilliantly and was tons of fun. It is a brilliantly white washed town, which is decorated each year with fantastic wall paintings, and then painted over for the following year. The mayor has a bit of a thing for cleanliness, and even dust is literally swept away manually by women in funny hats. Somewhere we will be sure to try and visit again, and you should too! A lovely lovely day. Then we dashed for the train back (which was late), dashed into another taxi to catch our shuttle back to the port with 1 minute to spare. That didnt show up anyway, dont know where Goldie was, so we got another taxi and joined the mind bending queues for the passport kiosks. Im not going to detail the return ferry and late bus back to La Linea, as this is already long, but it was pretty bad and thoroughly confusing (the queue took so long, that our boat which we could see through the windows gave up, took in the ropes and car door and left without us). Excellent!

So presently we are in Granada stopping for 2 nights I think, and shall wander into town later this evening and explore. We have a pool!

PS well done if you have read this far :-)