Shelving City Life for Nature
Two months in and they’ve finally hit their stride, not without the odd drama or two, and Spain has providing some incredible memories
Column by Jo Gregory
We have finally hit our stride. Don’t get me wrong, the setbacks keep coming thick and fast. At present the gas has packed in so we now have no hot water, fridge or cooker and yesterday the pump went meaning no running water either. At the beginning, setbacks like these would be monumental however, you quickly learn to adapt. I guess Gladys isn’t used to being used on a daily basis, she’s usually a weekend girl with trips to the lakes and such like. A van of her age should be in retirement so I shall cut her some slack.
After her major breakdown in Portugal followed by our rendezvous with my father in Seville, our Spanish adventure truly began. We’d learnt about a place called Caminito Del Ray through a fellow traveller and decided to head over there. It’s a hike along a suspended walkway on the side of a cliff. I am terrified of heights but I promised myself before setting off for the trip to challenge myself and push my limits. When we arrived at El Chorro, where the start of the hike was, we found ourselves surrounded by emerald lakes and pine forests. I’d never seen landscape like it, let alone in Spain, Tom and I were completely taken a back. We parked up high on the banks and watched the sun go down from Gladys, marvelling in the beauty of our new back garden.
Tickets for the hike were sold out online so we headed there early the following day to try and bag one at the gate. Thankfully, we managed to get in, hard hats (complete with very fetching hair nets) in place, we started our walk along the wooden walkway. It’s an old mining trail and parts of the gorge’s history can still be seen in places. My knees shook and my stomach flipped, especially walking across the gorges adjoining bridge and up the wide set stairs. I couldn’t believe it was me doing this, something I’d never have dreamed of in a million years. The experience of this trip, journey, whatever you want to call it has thrown up a lot of surprises, this being one of them. After the two hour hike, we headed back to the side of the lake and washed down our packed lunches with a very deserved ice cold beer. Pats on the back a plenty, I’d faced a massive fear.
After our high from the walk we decided to stay by the lakes for a few days, being in nature felt so right. We filled our days hiking, kayaking and reading. There was a restaurant not too far from us which served us our first paella of the trip. During the day El Chorro is a buzz with people but at night there’s not a soul in sight. The place was silent and moon was full. We slept with the windows open for the first time, warm breeze gently disturbing the vans white cotton curtains. I woke in the middle of the night to hear an owl from across the lake, I lay awake for an hour listening to it twit-too-ing. Then out of nowhere, what seemed like ten other owls (one of which was in a tree right next to the van) all answered at the same time but then fell silent, never to be heard again. It’s like the Messiah owl asked for an Amen or something. I chuckled quietly from my bed while the owl continued its speech into the wee hours and I drifted back into a dreamless sleep.
The following day we moved onto Granada. A vibrant city where spring had most definitely sprung. The blossoms were out and the snow on the distant Sierra Nevada mountains was beginning to melt. It was also Palm Sunday and the place was alive with celebrations. We treated ourselves to a long lunch overlooked by the Alhambra, the cities famous palace before spending the afternoon wandering around in the Moorish part of town, picking up some trinkets along the way. Even though it was by far our favourite city yet, it was a stark contrast to the natural paradise we had been inhabiting.
After a few days we ventured across to Valencia but something just didn’t feel right. Both of us felt a little jarred. In the lakes we were so happy and that’s when we realised where we‘d been going wrong. We just needed to be with nature. We’ve never really been the sightseeing types and visiting the amount of cities we have, as amazing as they’ve been, is just not us. In nature we felt settled, we felt calm, we felt happy. It’s like we both forgot what this trip was all about. Why leave a city to constantly visit many others? Leaving the van all day worried that someone might break in (Tom’s bike got stolen in Valencia) and sleeping in urban carparks isn’t quite the wanderlust dream we had envisaged. Visiting small villages where you can actually get to know the locals & parking on the side of a lake amongst the trees – that’s the ticket. And up in El Chorro it was the first time I truly relinquished my anxious hangover from London life. The daily commute and the fast paced environment, I was finally still. I felt reborn!
Since then we have visited little slices of utopia across northern Spain. The enchanting forest of Orrius and Cadaques, a small fishing village were both so good for the soul. And as we start our third month on the road, we don’t really know what our plan is however, be sure that we’ll be surrounded by nature and no doubt some noisy owls.