The Big Scare!

It’s easy to forget that things can go wrong in an instant, and today we learnt this the easy way. We woke up to the most beautiful sounds of the alpacas, dogs, chickens and kittens by the dozens. This place is magical on so many levels and many of my favourite memories are actually just in my head, like a “good morning” from Lorna as one of the dogs dragged her sideways past the fence on their return from their walk.

We ate scrambled eggs straight from the chickens for breakfast then he went for a ride while I thumbed back through Alan’s first book. It’s so different (and wonderful) reading it from the real life setting. Then it was time for a quick visit to town for money and groceries.

Montoro is such a beautiful town. It hugs the steep cliffs along the river with the town built high on the left.

The photos don’t do justice to the steepness of the hills.

We needed some cash but with siesta, of course everything was closed including all the ATMs. So we did a quick Google search, found the only 24 hour machine in the whole town and prayed it was true.

Google took us down an ancient, one way, cobbled street with stunning shade sails down it’s length. It ran parallel to the road along the river in the photos above, but was a whole story higher. It was single lane, so when the ATM on Google was closed but the bank across the road surprisingly open, he stopped Molly and ran in quickly.

It’s almost creepy how quiet these towns are during siesta, there really aren’t any people around and almost no cars. But we didn’t want to be rude, so I climbed into the driver’s seat in case I needed to move.

Sure enough, a car approached slowly from behind and I should have been brave enough to let them wait the thirty seconds or so till we were done, but it’s not the end of the world to drive around the block is it?

His version of what happened next:

I came out the bank in time to see Molly’s shadow disappear around the bend in the road. I had nothing but my wallet and the money, I hadn’t even thought to grab my phone, so I settled in to wait a few minutes for Jennifer to return.

After five minutes I wished I had my phone, after ten I felt annoyed. After twenty I started to worry, and at thirty, when a tow truck hurtled down the road after her I started to panic. Do I follow? Run? Or stick to the plan and stay exactly where she left me. I felt sick to my stomach!

Visions of Spanish hospitals and crumpled Molly raced through my head, was Jennifer even alive???

At forty minutes a police car emerged, blue lights flashing, traveling in the wrong direction down the one way street towards me, turning cars away as they backed up into the square around me.

My version:

I knew I couldn’t turn right. The hill climbed steeply up to my left, and down to my right. A right-right-right-right block was never going to be an option, but hopefully some version of lefts would work.

The road was beautiful and longer than I thought, but I eventually emerged into the original town square:

It was stunning and ancient and he would love it if he was here – we’ll have to come back later again.

But as I slowly crept around the tight, single lane circle, I quickly realised the roads only became thinner and thinner. So I pulled over to check Google maps:

The square was tiny, but incredibly, also had six roads feeding it. The photo of the church above was taken as I emerged into the square at the pin on the map. Road 1 was behind me, the one I’d come from and a one way. Number 2 was the same so not an option, numbers 3 & 4 quickly became so skinny no cars could use them at all. 5 had an arch over the entrance so 6 looked like the only option and also in the right direction.

So I drove slowly round to position Molly for number 6.

Again, the photos don’t do it justice, the road was so steep and I wasn’t entirely sure it was wide enough at the top. But I hesitated for only a second … all the time it took for a policeman to appear at my window.

Sadly, I don’t speak a single word of Spanish. But she was young, maybe thirty or so. Very pretty with bright orange lipstick and perfect eye liner. She appeared modern and I was glad she’d likely speak a few words of English but I was mistaken. Not even hello, or no, or help. But she was very kind. She clearly very much wanted to help me.

She spoke at length what may have been offers of all kinds of help, but no amount of sign language, gestures, showing of maps, helped either of us understand the other.

At five minutes we were both laughing, at ten it stopped being funny for me. She asked the few passers by for help but none spoke a word of English either. At twenty minutes she had a brain wave and took out her phone. She spent five minutes typing incredibly slowly, opening and closing things, eventually showing me her screen with beaming pride: A translator! Woohoo! Very clever!

“Why daughter from where with?”

Huh?!?!?! I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but I could not for the life of me work out her intended question.

At half an hour we were back to square one. Had it been a helpful stranger I would have thanked them profusely and driven off long ago, but this woman was a police officer and wouldn’t let me.

Just short of the forty minute mark a middle-aged woman and her mother walked past. Only the fourth people we’d seen the whole time. I called for them, praying hard they knew even a few words of English. They did, thankfully and I was quickly able to establish where I needed to go. They pointed up road 6, which is where I wanted to go all along. I asked is it wide enough further along. Yes they both assured me, nodding knowingly.

Trying not to be rude and fly out of there, I gently backed up a little, ready to take Molly up the steep cobbled road, nervous of my small audience, and making a stupid mistake. As they watched me they were all speaking at once to each other in speedy Spanish.

As I crept forward, the three of them suddenly stopped and raised their arms in the air in alarm, stopping me in my tracks. The police woman dashed to her car, and the ladies told me to go with her. I started climbing out of Molly when they shook their heads vigorously. It turned out I needed to follow her in Molly.

She turned her blue flashing lights on, and took off slowly down road 1… the wrong way up the one way, … arm out the window, gesturing madly for me to follow.

I was so embarrassed as I realized that the earlier strangers who’d shaken their heads and not been able to help the policewoman, had plonked themselves down to watch the crazy English woman in the camper van. They waved me through encouragingly and shouted loud Spanish farewells as our little procession of two drove slowly down the road.

I started laughing, I couldn’t help it, I was soooo embarrassed!

As we ventured round the last curve my heart just broke at the site of my love with his hands on his head in dread and fear! They dropped to his mouth as he saw Molly… I’d no idea what was going through his head but his fear and worry again, broke my heart.

He was beside himself with so many feelings mixed in with his relief at seeing me. I hobbled out the driver’s seat as he rushed to take my place. I could tell his heart was racing and the people-pleaser in him distraught at the group of backed up cars and the police, blue lights still flashing.

They all pointed in one direction to the short road out of town, but that would require us to drive round the circle to get there, right through the middle of the gauntlet of cars watching and pointing.

He was so frazzled he just wanted to bolt in the other direction…. straight back into the labyrinth of streets I’d just escaped from! Instead of taking the blue route they pointed to, we headed deeper and deeper into the old city, higgledy-piggledy all the way to the river. His stress levels rose the further we got, but there was no turning back…

We made it through streets so tight we had to fold in the mirrors on both sides. Thank goodness for siesta and the mostly empty streets, but it was another good half hour before we were out again and heading home to the Olive Mill…

It’s all part of the adventure. But as many know, the outcome could’ve been very different. Holidays go wrong, car accidents happen anywhere, and medical emergencies don’t care whether you’re at home or abroad. For the fourth time in as many weeks, we feel thoroughly thankful for a pretty good outcome….

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith

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