couple looking in a rockpool in Torrevieja, Spain

2016 Spain

Wild Fruit, Church Cats, and No Surprise Sex

15 August 2016 | Mri Grout

After such a wonderful day yesterday, I woke up to a stranger in the house. The only reasons I didn’t tackle him off the balcony were because:

  1. he was American and probably had a gun
  2. he looked like the couchsurfer we had agreed to host for a few nights and tackling him probably wouldn’t give me a good reference...
  3. I kinda, maybe had a memory of meeting him last night? Surprisingly enough it’s kinda hard to focus thourgh all the pain when you’re drifting in and out. All I remember is sitting out on the balcony in a cool breeze between two people, so given Rob wasn’t freaking out or introducing us, I figured this new guy was that other person.
So ignoring that second of surprise, I agreed to get in his car and go for a ride.
Lols. We did have a chat over breakfast confirming his identity and Rob came with; I’m not that crazy. And yes, I am completely ignoring that time I hung out with a drug dealer, convicted attempted murderer, and mafia target guy just because they offered me food and a shower. That was totally different. Like, completely. So, jeah...not that crazy.

el palmeral painted riverbed and palm treesAnyway, our first stop was at El Palmeral, a giant palm tree park in Elche. I had already read about it months ago, but dismissed it as not being interesting enough to visit due to palm trees being fairly common in Spain. However, for anyone else who thinks the same, know that I soon found out that this belief was a lie.

El Palmeral offers so much more than just a significant number of palm trees towering about you.

There are numerous fountains, both for drinking and playing in. There are a variety of color punching flowers that turn this park into a gorgeous garden and many different fruit bearing trees that make tit a fantastic place to have a picnic complete with a few self-picked dates, bananas, and some scary fruit or something I’m not sure what as I refused to try anything. I’m not sure when the best time to visit El Palmeral for this ‘wild feast’ is for when we went, everything was either really green or already shriveled and brown. Slava did find a handful of small dates to eat though, but it required lobbing a few sticks at out-of-reach bunches.

After having our fill of El Palmeral, Slava snagging an orange-lemon-hybrid thing that Rob and I refused to try, and a quick marvel at the architecture of the church across the street, we got back in the car and headed to Novelda. This was another place I had already heard of and dismissed due to not being very big on just walking around pretty streets. And like El Palmeral, this Spanish town turned into yet another free attraction that I actually enjoyed.

Unfortunately, however, the historical buildings we wanted to enter were closed on the weekend (which means Rob and I are going back :D) and we had arrived during the fiesta so the weird church a few kilometres out of town was also closed. Nevertheless, Novelda's Santa Maria Sanctuary is well worth the visit as the outside is just, well, look:

And no that is not just a random picture of a cat because I ran out of horizontal church photos. That cat (or rather, those cats) are the church guardians of Santa Maria Sanctuary. They fight crime against the cute, but destructive mice and if they fail, they get fed nice tinned cans of food anyway.

A whole buffet really with many different flavors to choose from and a giant pot to drink from. Rob was extremely happy about this fact because I now had no reason to kidnap the dozens of cats that roam the church's grounds. Lols.

At this point we were all getting hungry for it was well past 15.00, but we decided to carry on to Rio Chicamo anyway - mostly because we didn't have any food back at the house due to us forgetting to go shopping and all of the shops now being closed given it was a Sunday. Some great hosts we are. Another factor, of course, was the beautiful and completely different scenery Rio Chicamo offered, as well as its local swimming hole being most welcome in the blistering heat of Spain's summer.

Taking turns jumping into the cool waters was a great way to end a wonderful day out, especially since I didn't accidentally become a perv this time.

Oh no wait, getting Rob to hide one of Slava's shoes and pretending some douchebag stole it was actually the great end to the day. That was just hilarious because he really believed someone would steal one shoe and we let him hobble a few metres away before we told him where it was. Ahahahahahaha. Oh jeah, great hosts. Anyone else want to visit? :D

Just Another Day Traveling With Chronic Pain

16 July 2016 | Mri Grout

But this was a dull pain, centered in a small corner of my body about the size of the pointer-thumb ‘o’ in a hand-made okay symbol. Cramp pain is normally sharp, right? So I ignored it, thinking it’d just come and go like all of the other chronic pain, maybe spike up a bit more when I got out of the water like they always do. Rob might need to help me walk for a bit, but nothing too serious. Nothing ‘real’ given my pain comes from my screwed up brain sending out the wrong chemicals.

But then it started to grow in intensity – though still dull pain, focused in a single spot, and not yet too bad to normally make me stop my activities. The key word here though is ‘normally’ - normal being ‘when on land.’ Which I currently wasn’t and given how swimming normally makes me feel - ‘normal’ here being ‘disoriented, fighting heavy and painful limbs, and a tight chest’ - I decided to swim to shore.

When traveling with chronic pain, or any other medical problem, you have to be willing to call it quits even when other people are still out there having fun. You have to be aware of your personal situation and act on the cautious side because when out on the road, you don’t usually have anywhere to go back to – not like when at home. For instance, I have a heck of a time trying to figure out how to open my eyes through all the pain, let alone explaining to foreign doctors what’s happening and what they should do. Then again, even when I do manage to tell them, they don’t listen because who just leaves a person semi-conscious to ‘wait it out in a bit of shade’? Oh, there’s a thought, maybe I should move to a big city like New York or London...

I kinda want to laugh at that, but not because people just walked past a dying person. Anyway…

It’s true that sometimes the call to call it quits isn’t needed – but you never know until after the fact and you can’t let that stop you from making the decision to be safe. Besides, I could have always gotten back into the water, but if it worsened when I was in it…

Luckily though, it wasn’t until I sat down in the car that the pain became crippling. And I mean, freaking crippling. Like, lying in bed, whimpering and sobbing for a whole evening as I prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that it’d die in sleep kind of crippling. And now that it’s done and gone, I have to be careful not to focus on the thought of it too much because my freaking brain will run with that and those marathons are never fun. But on the plus side, I didn’t drown and now know what that dull pain means so yay… :D

The Realistic Side to Traveling

08 July 2016 | Mri Grout

After nearly an entire week of doing absolutely nothing other than trying our hardest not to die of boredom, I finally decided that we should spend a little bit more of our quickly diminishing funds. The reasoning behind this being that if I didn’t do something soon I was going to go on a killing spree and what good is having safegaurd savings if you’re in jail or dead, as such things always end?

So after a few hours of struggling through Spanish and then giving up and trying to figure out what the heck Google translate was trying to say, I packed a bag and called it done.

Then Rob came home and when I filled him in on our one night camping trip, he packed another two bags and wondered if we didn’t need something else.

After deciding that we did in fact, have everything we would need, I then directed him to our first stop which was a via ferrata in La Nuncia. Having not quite accomplished climbing one before, I decided on a relatively easy route up a 1500 foot rock face on the mountain Ponoch. I’m not sure why I thought it’d be easy as I don’t understand any of the grading, but it was on the way to other free attractions that I had found and the weather was forecast to be very cloudy – with even a small chance of rain! What fantastic, ideal conditions for my medical problems– or rather, as fantastic and ideal as hot, sunny Spain can get.

Via ferrata on Ponoch in La Nuncia, Spain

Or not. You know, whatever. It’s not like I would be hanging off the side of a cliff when my body would eventually erupt into a burning mess of pain. Besides, there were actually a few wisps in the sky that technically qualify as clouds so what ‘lying piece of crap weather forecast’ could I possibly complain about anyway?

Already sweating like Moist from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog due to Rob deciding to turn off the AC in an attempt to lessen the strain of the engine (the car was threating to die as it chugged up the smallest hill ever - I would’ve just let it suffer for a few more minutes…), I wasn’t exactly very enthusiastic when we finally got there. Why in every gods’ and godesses’ and unnatural food’s name did I pick a 1500 foot rock to climb, again?

Oh jeah, eye-gauging-out boredom - a thing most people don't associate with traveling (probably due to all of our awesome photos), but in reality it's there more times than not in some range or another. Slightly motivated a bit more after this reminder, I grabbed some water and prepared myself for yet another, tough ordeal...only for us to get there and see police tape and 'DANGER! VIA FERRATA CLOSED' signs taped all over the board. But that was okay, cuz it's not like we climbed up a steep here in the hot Spainish sun to get here or anything.

Lols. Who am I kidding? I was more relieved than annoyed at having to turn around and go for a swim in a waterfall called Font de l'Algar, which was stop number two.

But if you're wondering why there aren't any photos of this paradiscal and free place it's because, despite Google translate assuring me the falls were in fact, free, they were not. And neither was parking (though we eventually found a bit of gravel off the side of the road that suited our needs just fine). You'd think after having driven all this way, we would have just paid the 5 euros/person to get in, but it's the principle of the matter! What principle that is, I'm not really sure, but nevertheless we decided against going and instead opted for stop number three: canyoning down a river that actually ran into the one we just refused to pay to enter.

Now, if you're wondering yet again why there aren't any photos of this awesome and cooling trip, it's because I didn't think to bring my waterproof camera.

Well that and despite seeing that our position did indeed match the starting point marked on some of the maps we found, we couldn't actually find the darn thing...

But no matter, off to cool down in the nice lake at stop number 4! Aka: Guadalest

Though of course the lake was just one of those irrigation ones that didn't allow for swimming because why the heck would it?

Lols. Gotta love the real side of traveling. :D The trip actually started to look up a bit from here though if you can believe it, as we soon found a water spout we could cool off with and actually enjoy our mooch around the small, but beautiful village of Guadalest.

Guadalest Lake

Finally some pictures!

But despite things finally starting to look up, the car decided it wasn't going to have any of that and constantly started beeping at us when we asked it to go up even the smallest of hills. And I mean the SMALLEST. That combined with a growing migraine and Rob's desire to call the frustrating day over, we decided to skip the other canyon, backup via ferrata, and camping - at least for now. Man, that's a phrase I keep saying way too much these days...but it's not because we've grown too soft.

As evidence to this feeble claim, here is a castle we may or may not have accidentally broken into.

Well, I Didn’t Crash Into a Tree This Time...

02 July 2016 | Mri Grout

Believe it or not, being on the road can get a bit boring – especially when you’re unwantingly tied to one place. You’ve checked out everything there is to check out nearby months ago and the new cave you found is on top of a mountain (ie: somewhere that requires way too much effort to get to in the boiling heat that is Spain’s summer). So what else are you able to do all day but sit around and wish you could afford to turn on the air conditioning?

Nothing, that’s what (well, minus the constant swimming) and it’s this attitude and lack of things to do that can push someone into a rut where they just slowly melt away into nothingness. Now given I have a blog to maintain, new adventures to research and set up, and loads of other meaningless things to do, I rarely feel this ‘travel depression’ if you will, but Rob needs something more to focus on than a laptop in bed or else he gets into this mentioned rut.

And it was for this reason alone that I agreed to go paragliding today.

paragliding at Santa Pola, Spain

Now don’t get me wrong; I love being in the air and learning my limits, but I haven’t flown in over six months.

And that was
into a tree, so...jeah.

You can bet your house and your kids that I was fairly nervous (and I mean more so than I normally am before launch). I couldn’t even remember where the risers went (ie: how the wing clipped on to the harness) or how to reverse launch (ie: how to bring the wing up over my head without being dragged over all the rocks).

Luckily though 1. Rob was there (yay!) and 2. physical memory is a real thing. I couldn’t for the life of me mentally imagine myself flying the wing straight or even figuring out how to get it off the ground. My heart was through my ears at the point of launch, but as soon as I turned around and ran for the edge of the hands just did the rest and it was freaking awesome.

Being the small woman that I am, I easily caught the light breeze and managed to stay afloat. I turned towards the cliff and rose a few more feet and in no time I was soaring above the ridgeline. For anyone who hasn’t felt the amazing sensation of flight, you should definitely try it one day. You’re always supported and it’s common for paragliding pilots to be afraid of heights. Weird, isn’t it? Not exactly the sport you’d think someone with that fear would try out, but it’s true.

Paragliding landing on a pathUnfortunately, however, the wind started to die after about fifteen minutes when I was way off ini the distance and away from the official landing field. For some reason, paragliders call this ‘forced landing’ bombing out, but all it means is I had to land in a different field and I wasn’t the only one either so I was okay with that. Of course, Rob was not one of these people and managed to top land - but it’s not like I could be too annoyed at this as that meant he could bring the car down so I wouldn’t have to walk up carrying a heavy ass glider.

All in all, it was a great day out. I got my confidence back (well, some of it), managed to land on an actual path that I was aiming for, and had a wonderful cooling off swim at the end. Life doesn’t get much better than this, does it?

Unless of course, we could afford air conditioning. :P

I say ‘unless’ because if you always compare your life to perfection, then you’ll never be happy and where’s the fun in that?

2016 Spain: August

2016 Spain: June