Spain, December 2008. Part 1...

8th Jan 2009

Provence layers

December 2008 was an eventful month, an enjoyable adventure with highs and lows. I will explain…

Once I’d decided to go to Spain, I wanted to maximise my time away. My last commitment (not work) in November was to go and see the legendary Leonard Cohen at the Manchester MEN. So I booked my ferry to leave at 1pm the following day, fairly tight but doable.

Well, Leonard was not a disappointment. Even though the tickets had been the most expensive by a long way that I’d ever bought, it was completely worth it. He was, not to over state it, AMAZING!! Fortunately, for the people around me, I had completely lost my voice. Otherwise I would’ve been merrily singing away to all the songs, so I had to put up with lip-synching. He surprised everybody by performing until 11pm, Tim and I were expecting we’d be back in Sheffield by then. So it was a late night and I had an early morning but I’m not going to complain about that.

A few days before this momentous evening, I had been bragging to a friend that I hadn’t been ill at all for nearly two years- well, doesn’t pride come just before a fall!!.

Literally the next day my throat started to feel tickly and within a couple more days, my voice had completely gone.

I felt pretty pants and it wasn’t the best state to be in to embark on an epic van journey to Spain. But…it was all booked, so Kodo and I left bright and early on December 1st.

I estimated it would take me two and half days to get to Margalef (near Siurana, N Spain) and it did.

During this journey having no voice was quite worrying at times. I realised I couldn’t call Kodo out of danger and I couldn’t really communicate with anyone, especially because I was trying to talk French!

The journey was ok though, although I put in some long days but to be honest sitting behind the wheel was probably the best thing for me at the time. I had my itouch to keep me company, I’d downloaded some podcasts before I left and it was quite comforting to have English voices keeping me sane on my journey down. I think I was in quite a fragile state due to feeling pretty ropey. Also I had no idea how my trip was going to pan out. I’d left the UK on a complete whim, I had no one to climb with in Spain and it all felt a bit daunting.

The only guarantee I had of getting any climbing done was my housemate, Alicia, was going to come and meet me for 5 days.

It turned out I had some friends out on a week’s holiday in Spain, in a place called ‘Oliana’, which wasn’t a million miles from where I was heading. So it seemed a fortuitous opportunity to hook up with them and ease myself into van living and the Spanish way of life.

When I arrived my voice was starting to return but I really was very under the weather and was finding everything a bit of a chore. What didn’t help was that it was absolutely Baltic!! What had I done? This was utterly grim. I felt like I’d made the wrong decision to come, there was no way I could climb in these temperatures and this weather was only going to make me worse. I had no heat in the van when the engine was off, so the long nights were not going to great.

I really felt so down (as I said, I think I was in a fragile state) that I came very close to turning round and driving all the way home again, there and then! Not that I’m impulsive or anything…! I had to really talk myself out of it and at least try to make a go of it now I was here. I’m not a great fan of dosing up on drugs but I decided to go to a pharmacy and get stocked up, I was on the verge of going to the Doctor’s but the drugs did seem to help.

Having my friends there in their apartment was my saving grace. At least I could hang out there in the evenings and get some warmth into my bones. If I hadn’t detoured to theirs, I think I would’ve struggled to get better.

Anyway, I surprised myself by going climbing the next day. I did three 7a/+’s and enjoyed myself. There was nearly some sun and I was very happy to be climbing on rock, this is what I came out for! I had no expectations for these few days here, I was happy just to tag along with wherever they were going and if I climbed that was a bonus.

The next day, we went to two different crags and I climbed all day and again surprised myself by onsighting a very steep f7b+, it was a nice day. The f7b+ was at a very good crag called Tres Pons, which I would really like to go back to but unfortunately Kodo couldn’t get to it. It had a little scramble descent, then a couple of step across’s about 40’ above a river, She got freaked out at the scramble and retreated quick smart. I had to take her back to the car, where she stayed for a couple of hours. Fortunately, she’d had a nice time at the crag we’d been to beforehand.

The next day we went to another venue, small and compact, that was very worthwhile. I managed to surprise myself AGAIN by red pointing a f7c+ first go. Although I was still feeling pretty rough, I could still climb. Thank goodness climbing isn’t strictly an endurance sport; otherwise I’d’ve had no chance. It was also a beautiful day and we were climbing in t-shirts which was a real treat. I was starting to settle into it all and counting my blessings that I hadn’t turned tail and driven home.

I forgot to mention something that happened as I entered Spain. Having spent quite a lot of time in France, I was enjoying being back there again, albeit driving through on the autoroutes. I felt comfortable there, spoke enough of the language to get my point across and understood the way things work. Whereas Spain, is not so familiar. I speak almost zero Spanish and it feels like a very foreign place to me. So in my fragile state, I was sad to say goodbye to France when entering Spain, I felt like the foreigner I was. I crossed the border at about 10am Wednesday morning and literally within about five minutes Kodo started to look very green around the whiskers. Oh crumbs (my new years resolution is to stop swearing!), I thought, she’s going to be sick. I recognised the signs- the pained expression, the tightening of the cheeks, the uncomfortable posture; it was all there. Oh crumbs, I was going to have to stop. But where? I was on the motorway, so put my foot down hoping I’d get to a service station before the vomit arrived. Trying to reassure Kodo I saw a lay by coming up but my reassurance obviously had little effect, she puked up on the gear stick about 10 seconds from the stop- great!

I let her out and she proceeded to vomit about five more times, I have no idea why, knowing her she ate some undesirable lump of food and it wholeheartedly didn’t agree with her.

Anyway, while I was cleaning her mess up, a car pulled in to the lay by and a smartly dressed guy got out. With a worried look on his face he came over and started gabbling Spanish at me. Well obviously I couldn’t understand a word and told him so. He was acting strangely but I just took that as the Spanish way. Anyway, with all my doors open to air the van, he started looking inside while he was talking to me. At this point, I had started brushing my hair and was trying to detangle the mess and was doing it away from the van. He followed me still gabbling away and the gist of it was that he had left a box behind had I seen it? Then it turned out there was a dog in it that had been left too. It all seemed a bit strange, why would you leave a dog in a box out of your car? After pestering me for a while he finally went to my relief. Kodo seemed able to board again, so off we went. I noticed my camera bag in the back was open, I was sure I hadn’t left it open but didn’t think too much about it. Anyway, before long I came to a toll booth and proceeded to pay.

Well I tried to. I went to get my cash out, opened my wallet and realised it was completely empty!! I looked at the cashier in horror and quietly gave her my card. I realised the annoying Spanish guy with the missing dog in a box (yeah yeah), had done me over- welcome to Spain! Oh well, I shouldn’t complain too much, he could’ve taken so much more. The whole wallet, phone, passport, camera etc etc. I think he felt a bit sorry for me and somehow, I don’t know how, managed to snaffle my cash leaving behind the ferry ticket which was amongst it. Oh well, a good lesson learnt.

Part 2 to follow soon.