Camino!

We are so way off track it’s not funny! We were “supposed” to be doing one of the Camino walking tracks on Daisy through the north of Portugal and Spain on this, our #SevenFerries trip. We hadn’t locked in anything yet other than Ferry number Five from southern France next Tuesday, but we had a whole ten days to look around the place and work out which tracks were actually ridable and find some we could manage on Daisy (and I could manage with my health).

We stopped in Porto for a couple of nights and had a blast. I still need to blog about that I think, but I’m too busy living, writing, and hanging out with him, that there just isn’t enough time. Not that it’s all a bed of roses mind you, we are working our butts off on writing/publishing, we’re working on the stuff we’ve taken this two-year sabbatical to do,  and we’re working on our plans for our Second Half which is set to begin, God willing, towards the end of next year.

We thought we could see the world (or at least much of Europe) in these two years but we’re nearly halfway and we haven’t even begun!! Anyway, I digress (much like this trip) and one last minute decision after another and we found ourselves in the south of Portugal with not enough time for Caminos in the north, pouring rain (so no riding) and trying to find the fastest route to our next ferry port in France yet desperate to get in at least a few days riding!

And that’s when we discovered the Camino Natural Via Verde de la Sierra. Vias Verde are green belts across Spain which are disused train tracks of varying lengths which have been restored for walkers, cyclists and travellers. Much like other Caminos or trails, they are tranquil and beautiful, but unlike many of the older paths which now run alone roadways, these are void of all motorised traffic, and they are wide and flat (both in width and inclines and declines – because that’s what trains do).

In true Spanish style, the rules about no livestock, no vehicles, no animal poop are thoroughly ignored, and I look forward to putting up some videos of us riding through a herd of newborn lambs, one with a death wish.

Yesterday, we rode the Sierra route which is 36 km long, but because we always have to land up in the same spot, we had to ride it both ways! It was the first time I’ve covered over 60km (we did 74 in the end) first time I’ve climbed over 700m in height over a ride, and the twice as long as my longest day with four and half hours in the saddle! We also rode through 60 train tunnels!!

That shows how easy it was and reminded me to dig out my very first Pino ride to show you how it works. (I’ll post both videos on my Facebook author page too)

Anyway, I’m way behind on Why We Don’t Tell which has to go to the final editors in a couple of weeks, so this is a brief catch up.

Tonight was our first sunshine in a week and we’ve moved camp to the edge of this olive grove that reaches as far as the eye can see in every direction… A new via verde tomorrow and then we have to zoom north as fast as we can. And somehow I’ve got to find the time to write!!

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Spain Photos

Some photos just don’t make a daily blog. Either I didn’t do one that day or there were too many things happening, or multiple stories which got lost in bigger or better stories. So now that we’ve left Spain behind, here are some of the “leftovers”…

Watch this space to see some fabulous videos and blogs about some of the fabulous people and food in Spain!!! (When I get the chance… I’m too busy living in the moment but they’ll come!)

#ASeatAtYourTable !

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!

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New Solar Panel!

So, the new panel arrived in the mail! Woohoo!! Thanks to Paola and Manuel for not only lending us your address, but for organizing an English-speaking Marine-engineer with a fabulous workshop who seriously knew what he was doing.

How thin is the panel 😵

It only took a few hours to get rid of the old silicone, prepare the roof, and install the new one. We should be on the road again by morning 😊

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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:
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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith

Still Settling in Spain

We keep having to remind ourselves we’re still settling in and mustn’t be cross when we lose whole days to frustrating things like rearranging Molly, building the Sphinx, sorting out the blown off solar panels or the stupid internet. We’ve set up the absolutely best ever WiFi for Molly so we’re constantly connected which has been amazing… till we crossed the border into Spain. Molly Hot Spot doesn’t like changing countries for some reason so going from the uk to France was fine, France to Belgium slow, Belgium to France again cost £5 and 4 hours in Phone nonsense trying to get hold of idiot help lines to kick her over and eventually he made her work himself (no thanks to them). Going from France to Spain however she just gave up the ghost and won’t work… even after a day of trying grrrrrr…. so while he worked on that (and learned a whole lot of new stuff which was brilliant, so it wasn’t wasted, but we’re now relying on phone hot spots which is far from ideal but will do for now) I pottered on Molly some more.

We didn’t hit the road till 3pm which was a little late in the day to begin.

San Sebastián was AMAZING. It was also very steep and there was nowhere in town to park. Which all means it was pretty much inaccessible for me without much time and planning. So apart from a couple of places, most of our viewing is on the move from inside Molly!

It’s a different view on life. Instead of walking seventeen blocks we get to drive fifty. It’s not the same, and you can’t stop for a coffee or go into shops or hang around a corner or an amazing view. It’s a faster pace but we get to cover way more… and go back a few times if we see something amazing. I wouldn’t choose it, but it’s this or nothing and I refuse the nothing.

But there’s no exercise at all! Travel eating and drinking plus no exercise is not a good combo!! …. we’re going to have address this somehow…

As we drove east we got to see quite a few towns. And stopped for the night at a strange, off the beaten track, mildly hostile very rural village. It was fascinating, tucked long and thin between the base of an endless line of cliffs and the vast plains of various crops. As we got closer I spotted little black squares in the cliffs themselves and we soon realized they were old dwellings!

I loved the contrasts of old and new. The “new” town (probably half a century old itself now) and the old one cut into the hill, and then the solar panels right across the top of the cliffs! Very impressive.

I was determined to see inside those cliff houses. It was hard work and risky (a single slip could have been disastrous … not in the lethal, tumbling down the mountain kind but in the Eeds there-goes-a-limb kind of fall), but I did it. It took forever and the path was only about 100 metres. This is soooo frustrating!!!!

This isn’t really a tourist place. The cliff homes are abandoned and dangerous, but one or two remain open with easy access. The cool inside hit me instantly as I walked in and as always I imagine myself living where ever I go. This was no different and I found myself transported into another world. Obviously, when this was a living home, there wouldn’t have been a town outside, but the view was breathtaking.

My favourite photo of the day was this one:

(Spot the bird!!)

The sun was setting and it was time to set up for the night. We have an app with free and paid places to spend the night. We’ve quickly learned that it’s mostly for motor homes as they aren’t allowed to stop just anywhere. We can, because we’re just normal van sized, but they can’t. So as we pulled up for the night they’re all lined up in the car park.

We don’t enjoy it. It’s not what we came to do. The town was also extremely rural and every few minutes the cliffs rang out with the booming echos of some huge guns out in the plains somewhere. They rattled me somewhat and despite the late hour we decided to push on.

About an hour later we stopped at a picnic point on the side of the highway. A few cars, a couple of trucks … and us. A stunning spot to make dinner in our little kitchen and tuck in for the night.

I slept like a log. He, not so much. The trucks bothered him. But he’s sure he’ll get used to it. We’ve woken to the same highway noise but also to sunrise, trees, birds, and a gorgeous view…

Happy Friday from rural Spain everyone!

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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!

Hare & Tortoise

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith