couple looking in a rockpool in Torrevieja, Spain

2016 Spain

Bang Bang...Wait for it...BANG!

29 June 2016 | Mri Grout

So there’s this festival that’s been going on in Rojales for the last few days. We first knew of this because the library was closed Wednessday evening during its normal opening hours. Well, that and it had an offically stamped (jeah, the Spanish REALLY love their stamps) piece of paper stating the new hours during the festival, which would last until 4 July.

So I obviously Googled what was up and found out that there was to be a parade the next day. Knowing Rob would think attending such an event would be lame, I simply tricked him into thinking we were going on a night walk because it was finally cool enough to go outside. Of course, he fell for this and I got to blissfully enjoy the parade.

queen in Rojales' flower paradepirate couple in Rojales' flower paradeking in Rojale's flower parade

He, on the otherhand, didn’t think it was that great (surprise, surprise) because he couldn’t tell what was supposed to be happening. Which, I guess I can give him that as they were all carrying flowers and quite a few were carrying bags of pasta and lentils that they eventually gave to a dressed up priest outside of the local churche…so jeah, the Spanish culture is quite weird.

And awesome. The biggest case in point over this claim being what happened tonight. I kid you not, a bunch of Spanish people literally just walked around shooting old guns into the air. They claimed it was a reenactment of the ‘sacking the castle’ between the Christians and the Moors (not sure, which team was doing what), but only a deaf guy would think it was done for anyone else’s pleasure than the ‘rednecks’ shooting the guns at random intervals.

And bloody hell were they loud. The noise actually made kids cry and by the end of it, only half of the initial crowd was left. I was right on the verge of buying some cotton candy just to stuff in my ears, but we somehow made it though.

maniac with a gun during Rojales' gun paradefingers in ears due to gun noise
sacking of the Rojales' castle Moors vs Christians

Probably because a tell-tale sign of one of them about to shoot was that their faces split into a maniac grin right before they pulled the trigger. You’d watch some of them put in heap after heap of gunpowder or drop two or three firecrackers into the cannons and about pee themselves with excitement. And the shooting went on for AGES – like, way longer than any other reenactment would be, especially since there wasn’t any acting with it. Just a bunch of Spanish people happily firing guns into the air.

It was freaking brilliant.

Oh jeah, and there were also two dances by tavern wenches (I think) and some reading lines off of paper, but I have no idea what either signified or meant.

Where at in Orihuela is Calor Cave Again?

28 June 2016 | Mri Grout

For anyone thinking of coming to Spain and using their hiking trail maps, I would highly advise you to add an hour or three onto the estimated completion time. Jeah, it’s really hot here, especially from June – September, but that’s not the main reason I’m saying this. Rather, it’s because the maps and written directions (at least when converted into English via Google) are so bad you’ll undoubtedly get lost or struggle to find the starting point in the first place.

For anyone who’s read my previous travel blogs, like say The Local Attraction of Rio Chicamo, you’ll know that this isn’t even our first time using said hiking trail maps so our advice is totally unbiased and valid. You’ll also know that I use them anyway, but only because there’s nothing better (yet, hopefully). So knowing that the cave we were searching for was ‘up there somewhere,’ off we hiked under the overcast, yet still ridiculous hot, sky that covers Spain.

cave at the bottom of Orihuela castleThe first hole we got to was actually a cave surprisingly enough, but it was at the bottom of the hill, required no crawling, and ended within maybe fifteen metres or less. There were some rocks around the entrance though as if it used to be a ‘house with a yard,’ but other than that, it held no real interest.

The second hole we found, wasn’t a cave at all. It was just a hole, and so up we continued to climb in the heat so ridiculous that it made us feel physically ill.

Once we reached Orihuela’s Castle situated at the top of the hill, we figured we were getting close, but though we had this ‘awesome’ map to show us the way, we still couldn’t find Calor Cave and so roped in the help of two random strangers from somewhere in Eastern Europe (I think; they told us, but I can’t remember where).

After walking around for another half an hour, scratching our heads and turning the map this way and that, we finally found a hole roughly where the map said the cave should be. I had the impression that there was supposed to be man-made pillars in it and giant caverns you could stand up in (granted, I can’t read Spanish, but that’s what the pictures looked like). This, however, was a small hole that quickly tapered off into a tight crawling space.

calor cave near Orihuela castleIt also looked like it was about to fall down.

So I sent Rob in first while I hung back with the two girls because what else are husbands for? Lols. Joking. On the ‘what else’ part; I actually did send him in on his own.

But despite him yelling back that the hole kept going and the description of Calor Cave actually mentioning something about crawling, we didn’t believe this was the one we were searching for. At this point, the girls left us due to them not having any flightshides and no desire to crawl in some dark hole under rock that looked like it was about to collapse.

Jeah, it was a bit sketchy, but there was rubbish inside, some old bolts, and it was actually in the place marked on the map, so I too went in.

After crawling for what felt like ages and trying not to develop castrophobia, it finally dropped off into something like a fifteen foot drop. It was slanted, but too smooth to climb back up I thought, and so after about thirty minutes of hmmming and ‘what-about-this-ing’ we finally admitted defeat. For now anyway.

The next cloudy day, we are definitely taking rope up to Orihuela Castle and checking out Calor Cave. And two flashlights. One dying headtorch and a phone surprisngly isn’t an ideal setup for going caving. Who would’ve thought?

Motoring Along (AKA: Sitting on a 'Train' All Day)

18 June 2016 | Mri Grout

calm waters of the Mediterannean SeaAfter two days of little to no wind (ie: motoring), we decided to spoil ourselves by anchoring in a paridicial bay for a lovely lunch and swim off the southern coast of Spain. I, however, quickly changed my mind on the latter as the place the guys picked was too deep for my liking. Though to be fair to their judgement, anything over sand where I can’t touch the bottom is a personal no go (though suprisingly I’m okay in much deeper water if it’s over rocks) – a preference that would always come second to the boat’s and for good reason.

If I got the ship sunk just for a freaking swim I would be full-on pissed and the boat’s not even mine. Though I’m not entirely sure if the ownership would make a difference with Kevin (if it was an accident) as he’s like the most laid back and nicest person ever. Then again it would be his whole six-months-of-the-year livelihood that would be gone, so who knows.

Luckily, however, we didn’t have to find out and even better, the guys also agreed that we actually were too far from shore (albeit for a different reason I think) and a closer voyage was necessary.

But if you think we then all went for a lovely swim to cool us off from the burning fingers of the sun, you’d be 100% wrong. For though we wanted to go elsewhere, the anchor only wanted to go one way and that was down. And though I am all for the philosophy that the pen is mightier than the sword, it’s no match for a stubbornly dug in anchor.

Rob trying to fix the anchorKevin trying to fix the anchor

As the men took turns scratching their heads and figuring out the problems, I left for a reviving nap – not because I was lazy (or rather, not entirely), but because my knowledge on the subject was lacking and so there wasn’t anything beneficial I could possibly bring to the table. (*COUGH COUGH* TAKE A F FREAKING HINT, ALL AMERICAN VOTERS)

Though, thinking about it, having the country torn apart might be a good thing for me personally as I could then claim assylm, thus fixing Rob’s and mine’s problem of living-in-the-same-country.

Either way, heading back off of that tangent…

When I woke up a few hours later Rob had figured out and fixed whatever was wrong with the windlas (ie: the anchor mechanic beep bop thing). Too late for a swim now, we simply motored off towards our planned anchorage – though obviously the many hours lost meant we couldn’t make it.

So instead we dug in to a random, unsheltered spot along the coast, a route that somehow seemingly added an extra thirty nautical miles to our trip. Now unable to reach Almeria (the place we left our car) in time for our immigration appointment, we’ll have to see which random bit of town we actually get dropped off in.

anchorage for the night

Sailing Up From La Linea

16 June 2016 | Mri Grout

Up for a different kind of adventure (man, you know you’ve got it good when you have to differentiate between them), Rob and I decided to try our hand at traveling via boat. For weeks on end he read everything I could find him on the subject, which was quite a feat for a dyslexic who swore he hated reading. :P Though I wasn’t too surprised given I’ve known for a long time that everyone loves to read; those that think they don’t just haven’t found the right story to fall into.

church and statues in La Linea, SpainAnyway, a couple weeks ago I contacted a guy called Kevin (but named Tom) on crewbay.com and asked about us joining him on his sailing trip up Spain’s south coast. Over a few emails and calls we worked out a plan between our immigration meetings and then Rob and I drove down to the town we would get dropped off at on the way back up. Not wanting to pay 50 euros to park it for a week, we simply abandoned the car in a random, trash-filled carpark and hoped for the best.

We booked a ride the rest of the way down on Blablacar (it’s normally cheaper and quicker than public transport) and stayed at Hostel La Esteponera in La Linea for the night as we weren’t supposed to arrive until the next day. Nevertheless, we met Kevin (a man who also hailed from Cockermouth – a coincedence I still can’t quite get over) that evening and was told we would be stuck in the marina until Wednesday due to needed repairs.

So for the next few days we simply got to know each other. We learned that Kevin was an ex-policeman and had been sailing for a number of years, but this was to be his last due to him feeling like he was getting too old for it – not that you could tell given his sharp wits and physical ability; they were both well above average for a 70ish year old if you ask me. I also had the chance to learn which side of the boat was the port and which was the starboard and other basic stuff like that. Rob, on the otherhand, seemingly knew freaking everything already (due to all those books he had read and I hadn’t…>.>) and was busy helping Kevin plan and make new things for the boat.

two men putting up goose wings on a sailing boatIn a discussion I couldn’t quite follow they picked Thursday as the day we would sail, which only left us a mere five days to get back to Almeria in time for my Spanish residencia appointment on 22 June. We motored out of the marina and headed off to the great blue sea with the strong forecasted winds behind us. It was supposed to be fierce and rough (conditions I was really looking forward to testing :P), but as soon as we put up our sails the wind dropped to nothing and we were barely drifting along. Fifteen minutes of head-scratching, checking the forecast again only to see it still claimed strong winds, and a bit of light complaining/good humor passed before the wind picked back up and let us race across the ocean...at a mere five knots.

That might sound like good going for you sailors out there, but having never been on a boat like this before I thought that was ridiculously slow. To put that speed in to perspective for those that don’t know, it meant that it would take us six hours by boat to travel what would only take us one hour by car. Rob had told me it would be slow and Kevin had mentioned it probably wouldn’t be the adventure I was expecting, but being the stubborn mule that I am, I obviously ignored the both of them.

Luckily, however, there are lots of things to fiddle with on a boat and that helped to pass the time a bit – not that I helped with anything other than putting the fenders away and holding the helm a bit before the autopilot was turned on.

Mri from Lifelong Vagabonds sailing a boatSo instead I chose to pass the time by eating (and yes I am aware that once my metabolism goes, I’m going to blow up like a balloon). Just as I finished making everyone else’s lunch and sat down to eat my own, I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.

Now given we were on the ocean, everything is blue and I get that, but this was a darker shade of it and I was really hoping to see a dolphin so I may or may not have been constantly calling every wave a fin of some sort or another…

But this time it actually was one and it was so close to the boat that if I wasn’t fussed about falling into the water I could’ve reached out and touched it!

Obviously I was the only one that saw it and it was also the one time I didn’t have my camera...but it was totally real. I swear.

Honest.

Determined to call them back with my mind, I stared nonstop at the sea for the next hour until I spotted a pod in the distance. I may or may not have also mentally sacrificed Rob to Poseidon; in that I plead the fifth.

Super excited, I called the two men over to see and Kevin exclaimed that they were actually coming towards us! My depth perception’s not the best, but he’d mentioned dolphins playing under his hull numerous times before so taking his orders on faith, I hastly made my way to the bow.

And boy were we not disappointed!

common dolphins in a podcommon dolphins swimming at the bow of a boatcommon dolphins swimming under water
Common dolphins playing at the bow of our boat!

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The dolphins must have played at the helm of the boat for a couple of hours for by the time they disappeared we were nearing land again. The pulling down of the sails and ride in to the marina was relatively smooth...until one of the engines stopped working right in the middle of it, which as you could imagine, was not ideal – especially when one realizes that the reason we were stuck in La Linea until Wednesday was because the same engine was getting fixed! After three days of looking at the blasted thing, couldn’t the mechanics tell – oh no wait, the engine failure was actually my doing… >.> :/ :( I had accidentally dropped half of a rope off the side of the boat...right beside a propeller… Long story short, Kevin had to buy a diver to cut it free as the marina wouldn’t let Rob do it himself. On the plus side though, the mechanics did an okay job. But despite all of this, it wasn’t until we bedded down for the night and was kept awake by the clacking of metal on the mast, that Kevin said, “Now you know what sailing’s really like!”

2016 Spain: July

2016 Spain: May

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