3 months sounds like a long time to be away. 3 months is actually about perfect. Time to allow quality time with those we love, plus equally essential P & J time.
3 months of almost perfect weather, including Scotland! 6 weeks of #Vanlife around Scotland and the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains.
Family time in Essex, London, Croydon, The Canary Islands, Kent and Jersey. A waft down to the West-Country to see our old school and an old school friend of ours.
Managed to avoid the train striking tosspots for a couple of nights with Hells Bells. Then, Bang! All over! Coach to the airport.
Could be worse!
Found a dunny with a difference in Singapore Airport! Can’t personally see these appearing in Sydney, any time soon. A selection of buttons to soothe and generally pamper the backside whilst you liberate yourself of 12 hours or so of beverages and nibbles! Never seen a warning on a bog seat before! Apparently improper use of this item can result in a low-grade burn! Have personally had many a burn downstairs, almost always a post vindaloo situation.
Regardless, pressing all of the buttons was fun. Hobbled back to the bar with a wet, and slightly burnt tea towel holder! Large Gin and Tonic please!
Sydney arrives almost too soon, looking forward to a few days R&R before getting back to work.
For once, worldwide calendars and busy work schedules locked into synch. Hard to believe, but it happened. Jax & I arrived first to a glorious Ima fanfare. Incredible seeing Jackie’s best mate again.
Nic, Sam and Hazza rocked up to complete the ensemble. Mr T assisted with the depopulation of Jersey lobster stocks for dinner. 9 lobsters and a couple of punnets of straight from the sea scallops it was off home. Didn’t take long to work out that the scallops weren’t going to cook themselves. Nor, despite their freshness, the lobsters were not going to present themselves in edible format. A few people copped some lobster juice spray whilst these were dealt with. Plenty of garlic butter later, we were ready for dinner. Yum!
Sloped off to Emma’s the next day for a spot of lunch. Her and Sister, Penny had knocked up the mother of all Paellas. Much fun again!
Sadly, all things come to an end. Took the difficult decision to leave JT in Jersey whilst I popped back to Blighty for a bit more time with Mum.
Witty words elude me here. We were running out of time, Jax needed time with some old friends so I peeled off to spend a bit more time with Mum. None of us are getting any younger and Oz is a bloody long way away.
Had a wonderful 5 days with Mum and Roy. Jobs completed, fridge and wine cellar depleted!
Holyfuck would be more accurate. What an awesome night to be here. The family event splutters into life at around 6pm whilst the rest of us top up with tapas, essential fluids and fire proof clothing. Thought this might be a cheap option for a haircut and a spot of misbehaviour and checked out the adult version. The raucous noise and fireworks begin further up the street as a ball of flame approaches with alarming speed! This is followed by waves of people dressed as devils and pyromaniacs on board dragons, spraying fire onto anyone stupid enough to attend.
Heading off to the blister clinic for sympathy and checking pockets for fireworks before heading to the airport tomorrow!
Not keen on returning the horse to Barcelona Airport, so talked her owners into dropping it back on the coast in Catalonia and giving us a cheeky lift into town. There are a couple of routes out of Ainsa. One is described as ’Possibly the greatest motorcycle route ever’. Further research also mentions that some of the tunnels don’t actually have enough room for 2 cars to pass inside. We are no strangers to risk and excitement but fairly keen on seeing our several hundred Euros deposit returned ‘sans haircut’ in a few days time. A quick shoofty at the map and the ever faithful park4night app finds Sant Julià de Vilatorta about 3 hours away.
€3 per night for plug in power, water in/out facilities. Cracking looking medieval town and a heap of awesome walks tick the necessary boxes for a couple of nights. Throw in a bar selling dodgy labelled, but excellent vino and some incredible ale 🍺. Sorted! Two nights here and we are on first name terms with the bar staff so probably time to move on again.
Besalú is another ancient fortress town in this part of the world mentioned by a couple of chaps back in Ainsa. Maps says only about an hour away, bolt all the windows and flappy bits down, off we go. Spectacular tree lined road waves us off. 20 minutes later we have covered about 3 kilometres! The twisty, narrow roads were probably designed for the hoofed variety of horse rather than the rather larger 3.5 tonne, left hand drive example that we currently call home. Happy we emptied all of the smelly fluids before setting off! We finally arrive. The horse parking area here is a dusty, shadeless plot, also being used by coaches to bus in small Armies of similar minded folk. Probably won’t be staying the night here. Clambered past the tour groups waiting for the toy train up the hill and headed into town.
Holy crap again! The way in is over a fortified walkway complete with portcullis and seriously uninviting doors. The tourist shops inside are selling bow and arrow sets next to cross bows, maybe to remind us modern folk of the town’s original purpose. Not sure that Aussie customs would approve of such hardware so wandered past in search of tapas. Found a cheeky little place on the edge of one of market squares inside. Local Catalan Tapas and sangria seemed to fit the bill so we ordered with confidence. Sangria arrived first and any thoughts of the dusty carpark were blissfully rinsed away. ‘Roman squid’ and local anchovies arrived next. In hindsight, the clues were right there! The ocean in this part of the world is certainly NOT local and pretty sure the Roman empire never included frozen/battered squid rings on the legionnaires lunch menu! Anchovies were delicious once you navigated a path past the soggy bread wiped with tomato pips. ’Squid’ was nasty, chewy worm like things in shitty batter. Surely can’t get any worse? Croquettes and jalapeño peppers 🌶 next. Oh dear! Four deep fried turds that needed an axe to access the barely warm insides and a handful non descript blobs of batter/cheese/chilli fresh from the overused deep frier! Foolishly, we scoffed the lot and washed it down with the tasty sangria. The rubbish served up as sea food platter with mounds of deep fried stuff and a few week-old prawns in any RSL would be better than this stuff! Seriously considered shoving a few fingers down our throats to get rid of it. Found a handy gelato stall to see if that would make us feel better. It didn’t, but we happily wandered around this ancient place for an hour so before avoiding the train loads of geriatrics and returning to the dusty carpark. Definitely not staying here tonight.
Sulked in our van for a while whilst scouring the internet for somewhere devoid of dust and deep fryers. A campsite at Sant Llorenç de la Muga looks like it ticks the boxes. Shady plots, 20 mins walk from the nearest small town. Also happens to be yet another ancient fortress town on the bank of a river. Arrived a bit late so plugged the van in, grabbed a head torch and wandered into town. Almost dark when we arrived but hard not to be impressed by ancient water wheels and portcullis guarded entry points. After a few late nights of music and general lack of sleep, it was almost bliss to find the town virtually closed. Closed that is with the exception of a community hall type thing in the main square that served snacks and beverages. Don’t mind if we do, Dos Cervezas por Favor 😀. Headlights on and took the gentle stroll back to camp. Super quiet night although the rock hard bed in our trusty horse is starting to take its toll now, looking forward to a ’real’ bed.
Lazy, late, dippy eggs for brekky. Toast, marmite, filled up the Camelback with a full 3 litres and went off exploring. Apps like Komoot are unlikely to appear on most phones. It’s for idiots like us who decide to wander about without phone reception in the middle of nowhere. Headed up to the watchtower outside town for a shoofty. Perfect idea in the mid afternoon sun! Beginning to understand the whole siesta thing. Utterly cracking view from the top before our electronic guide works her magic with incredible accuracy through forests and back to town.
Two nights here and our Spanish van adventure is coming to an end. The 🐎 lives in Pineda de Mar on the Costa Brava. Birds of a Feather come to mind as we book into a campsite near the beach for our last 2 nights. Not a lot to shout about in Pineda de Mar unless sitting around a pool being entertained by screaming kids and pissed POMs is your bag. Calella is about a half hour walk and looks more hopeful. Oh yes! This is what heaven must look like! Cheese and other yummy stuff is there too. Rude not to.
Sloped off for wood-fired pizza next then a slightly irresponsible midnight hike back home. Quiet night in with pasta and Netflix for our last night before being violently roused at 3.30am by the doof doof set. Van clean and return tomorrow. Barcelona next
For a couple of million years, doing one’s business has been the result of an awkward design fault. On day 6, a bloke called God created animals and us. With a world population of 2, and a diet of forbidden fruit, Mr Whippy and his antisocial chums were probably not an issue. Several eons later, there are few more of us. Stir a few chillies and other fun stuff into the mix and God’s day of rest looks more and more like he got on the piss on Saturday night without finalising his design! Samuel Pepys’ messy encounter with his neighbours’ turds revealed a few unpleasant realities. Anyone who has experienced that squidgy feeling between the toes on the beach has been treated to a more modern example.
Fortunately for most of us in the modern world we have a flush and forget system as an add on to our water bills. Sink and shower stuff happily disappear at the pull of a plug. Nastier stuff heads in the same direction via the porcelain U-bend. Problem solved. Living in a motorhome generally has a similar solution. Sink and shower stuff drains into a smelly tank underneath somewhere. Bits and bobs from the small room go straight into a cassette thingy that lives underneath the poor excuse for a dunny. A measure of chemicals keep the niff to a minimum and off you go. We have a self in-forced ban on numbers greater than 1 in close confinement but off roading or any vigorous movement is likely to result in an unfortunate reappearance of fluids. Not recommended!
That brings us to Aires. A legal and sanitary means of dumping waste rather than a larger scale version of taking a shit in the bush. Park the bus over the concrete/drain area signposted Agua Gris, locate the big handle at the back, give it a sharp yank and step swiftly away. The result is a smelly racehorse on steroids as up to 100 litres of fluids that have been quietly festering in 30 degree heat for a few days meet fresh air. Yummy! Emptying the contents of the under khazi cassette into the same open drain is unlikely to make new friends. Agua Negra has its own special spot for emptying. You know its getting a bit full when the toilet paper tickles your arse if you sit down. The cassette thingy lives inside a locked door for some reason. Can’t really imagine these being on the list of things to pinch amongst the local yobs! A few days worth of Number ones is surprisingly hefty. Lug it over to the disposal point, unscrew the cap and off you go. Pressing the anti vacuum button speeds up the process but leaves little margin for error. Feedback in this matter is universally negative! Rinse, shake and repeat a couple of times then find a hose for washing feet!
So, arrivederci Italy. Hola España! Nunca pensé que mi español sería necesario de nuevo! Also, terrified about the possible consequences of driving a 3.5 ton motorhome on the wrong side of the road! Skinny roads in Scotland have heaps of passing spaces. Moving targets such as Sheep and Cows are fair game and tasty. The POMs, Aussies, Cloggies, Frogs, Krauts etc all fall into the same ’sort of welcome’ box in Scotland. Not so much in Spain after Boris and hordes of geriatric voters decided to fuck up the status quo by leaving the EU! Red passport about as welcome here as a Russian oligarch. Also, chuck in the lack of an International Driver Licence and this could be exciting! I always thought that these were something invented by corrupt Balinese cops to extract a few extra bucks from pissed Aussies on scooters. Apparently not! Impossible to comprehend that the NRMA have been granted sole authority and revenue raising rights to issue these things. Digital copy please? No sir, paper only! Not much use when our mailing address is ’No fixed abode’. How the fu(k did an organisation less watertight and older than the ark get awarded that gig?
Anyway, confidence high after returning the Scotland van unscathed, I painted L & R on the back of the opposite hands and ventured into the unknown.
Our new horse arrived at the airport to greet us, together with the owner and her Catalan only speaking boyfriend. This could be fun! An hour or so later and several hundred Euros cash deposit lighter, we get given the keys. Nearly dark now so we point the bus North and head out of Barcelona. Quick stop in a supermarket then happy to discover the trusty park4night app works here. Somehow we woke up next to an olive grove in a national park. No interest in Alicante with associated fish and chip venues, we continue North to the mountains.
A few hours later, my trusty co-pilot parks us again overlooking the Pyrenees and a reservoir. Never too shit to have a chef and handy kitchen in these places!
Off again for a couple of hours before we waft off for a few hours walk in Morillo de Tou then a gentle few k’s to the medieval castle at Ainsa. Holy crap, driving a motorhome up here is stressful enough, can’t imagine trying to get in here wearing a suit of armour whilst the inhabitants are pinging arrows and stuff at you! Just behind the castle, there is a massive carpark. 3 Euros for 24 hours, free ‘water’ emptying facilities for the van and handy toilets for Mr Whippy and his chums! By chance we also landed in the middle of a fiesta, town square heaving with all sorts of market goodies, (Cheese, Jamón ibérico and wine mainly!). Parked up the horse and locked down for a couple of days…
Jaca and Pamplona next…
Took a baby pause to plug the horse into the campsite at Morillo de Tou for the night, shower time for us, battery charge and water for the horse! Some knob called Wim Hof had somehow convinced a hundred or so paying folk to come here from all over the world on the basis of learning how to breathe, then get into a blow up pool full of ice. Not sure what was more silly, the huffing and puffing/dancing abound a few annoying bongo drums or the complete ignorance of such incredible surroundings and a bar! Not for us! Will save the ice for beverages and head off.
Jaca tapped into the map and off we trotted. Slight concerns were aired as we passed a roundabout clearly indicating left! Never mind, map knows best right? Best that is on a motorcycle or something smaller that a Fiat 500. Had to check Jackie into a stress clinic and nearly shaved a few layers of paint off the van as we weaved 100km through some fairly tortuous roads better suited to two or four feet. Worse still, Jaca only has one legal spot for motorhomes, arrived to find it totally full with coppers lurking on all corners to book ’illegal’ vehicles. Didn’t fancy a €200 haircut, so buggered off to a nearby village. 20 mins out of Jaca, we land in Santa Cruz de la Serós. Restaurants and bars all closed here mid afternoon so settled down for the night.
Given the lack of hospitality in Jaca and the probability of running with the rozzers in Pamplona, we binned this idea and headed back to Ainsa. Just in time for another festival! This one kicking off with a band at midnight. What is it with the fish stealers and lack of sleep?
Somewhat sluggish the next morning, we decided that a pizza would help. Just at the same time as a group of a dozen or so musicians came plodding around the square. Each restaurant would put out a few plates of food, wine poury things and beers. The entourage of about 20 children and old people got stuck into the freebies whilst the band smashed out a few folk songs. Also ordered an oven baked, black pudding casserole for fun. I generally thought that a casserole was a soupy number, not here. Had a crack at the wine poury into gob things too.
Local band in the square kicked off about 8.30. Pretty tame, rock/metal mob and thankfully still able to enjoy normal levels of conversation. Early night for us then 😀. Until about midnight that is, when the not so tame, rock/EDM/anything goes mob fire up their speakers. Holy crap! 500m away from ground zero, our bus starts shaking as the limits of the Richter Scale and Medieval foundations of Aínsa Castle are given a 21st Century testing! Eardrum/vibration tolerance test winds down around 5. Won’t be partaking in a third one! Back at the campsite in Morillo de Tou. We seek medical attention for bleeding ears. Wim and the learn to breathe set have moved on so we book in for a couple of nights RnR.
Spotted this four-legged rug in serious need of a wash and a haircut
Wim’s next set of people paying for how to breathe lessons are arriving, so time for us to move on. Catalonia next…
Thought that a spell in the old town would be a giggle! It was except for the whole zero sleep thing! Music Square is epic and the excitement of being there after such an amazing time with the troops was awesome. Deciding to give up the grog was possibly an error as various versions of Spanish AC/DC invaded the unit well into the night.
Cheeky hike up a local volcano may have helped sleeping patterns!
So it is cheerio Canary Islands for us.. Rome was next but way to costly and shitty flights pointed elsewhere. Campervan worked in Scotland, Spain next ….
Sri Lanka with Sam, Hazza and partners was #1 in this adventure. Liz and Moonie have much to be thanked for the idea of getting our extended family together, the reality is way more scary! Off we go!
Awesome Nic plucked this one out of the booking.com quagmire. 4 couples heading to a villa on the basis of a few photos and reviews from people we will never meet! Our flight lands last and we are gleefully greeted by messages from everybody else enjoying the pool! Fears quashed we hop into our cab and head to the villa…… Had a handy drone for piccies!
Crazy place on a volcano in the middle of nowhere! No water, no life. Just tourists! How good.
Cheap as chips scooters to care for tired feet are handy for trips in and out of town. Cactus plants, cats and pedestrians hinder most of these journeys!
Feeds, Boat hire, karaoke and general misbehaviour ensue. Unbelievably privileged to call these beautiful people our family xxx