Back to the mountains

We have spent many days, nights and money on a campsite near the coast (in Nules), because along the coast was the only region where the weather was okay-ish. Mostly we just go wilding (park the camper wherever), but when it’s raining days on end, it is nice to be near a hot shower, some people you get to know and a laundromat.

Anyway,… after a long, rainy and cold winter, the weather finally started to clear up at the beginning of May, at the same time the Covid restrictions regarding traveling between provinces were lifted. This meant a run to my best friend Manuel, who has been living in Sitges (Catalunya) for 2 years. After partying there for a week or 2, Marc came to pick me up to continue our journey. The weather was fantastic, between 27 and 33 degrees and although we wanted to be in the mountains again and go hiking, we agreed we deserved a small holiday. So off we went to Delta Ebro. We were there before in 2019 trying to find some flamingos (there is a huge flock there – or a flamboyance as a group is called) but then the weather was super gloomy and we couldn’t see the tip of our noses at that time. So this was the second try and it was MAGICAL. There were so many just flying around and let me tell you; it is something else to see these pink and black majestic giraffe-birds up in the air. Every time we saw some soaring we were in total awe. And not only flamingos. As some of you know, I turned into this real nature-geek, trying to ID birds, and this area is amazing for that. We saw the most amazing waterbirds, waders and gulls. I will not bore you with their names at this time,…. But maybe later. ;)

The weather was a bit grey, and you can’t really see the majesticness of it all in the video, but I hope you can appreciate the effort.

The area is spectacular, the beaches are super wide and (outside of the weekend of course) there aren’t many souls around. We could park the camper right at the beach at daytime and at night we slept in a little pueblo called Els Muntells, were we could park in a quiet area next to some goats and with views over the rice paddies.

Except for all the sand EVERYWHERE we had a lovely time, but it was starting to get pretty hot. We sleep in the alcove of the camper (the upper bed above the driver and passenger seats) which is not very spacious and, in hot weather, well…..boiling hot. So after a week and a half we figured it was really time to get moving. We said goodbye to our new Catalonian friend (a farmer that shared some knowledge of the delta and gave us lettuce from his own garden) and off we were again. We were on our way to Maella, but had 1 day to kill before we were expected there and we stopped at Xerta to stay the night. A beautiful spot right next to the río Ebro. They split the Ebro to collect water for irrigation and transport by boat (the Ebro itself is too shallow) and we were right in the middle of the river and the canal. It was hot and the water looked lovely, so Marc and I walked about half a km upstream and jumped in, to drift back down. That was a very welcome cool down in 35 (!) degree weather. Repeated once for good measures hehe.

The day after we set off for Maella, and had agreed to meet with Nicolas at 4 o’clock at the piscina municipal to bring us to his and his partner Max’s Freedom Farm (www.freedomfarm.es). They have what Marc and I would like to achieve some day: an off-grid, rural finca with vegetable gardens, animals and be as self-sufficient as possible. I met Max online through a Facebook group for off-grid living and asked him if we could come over for a few nights. We wanted to pick their brain about everything, regarding the buy of the land and all that came afterwards. We stayed there for 3 nights and got a good feel of the place. Although we didn’t really participate in the work (you can go and volunteer there as well), we figure it is really hard work. But, to be fair, I haven’t really worked in 3 years (if you don’t include diving), soooo……

Freedom Farm excited me even more to get this thing rolling, but where to begin? Land. Online checking is no use in Spain. I have an app installed called Idealista (the Spanish version of Dutch Funda), but for land, most people that advertise on there are agencies. The real rural (and cheap!) pieces of land are found locally, where you put up a sign in the local supermercado telling them what you are looking for and where you ask the local bar if there is some land for sale. But to do this, you need to drive around. So, the plan is, since we now know the Valencia area very very well, to go down south (Andalucia) and see if that is an area where we could live. We haven’t really been there and we need a little taste of the area, because I am inclined to say I want to be in the Comunicidad Valenciana, the Valencian province, just because I know (and LOVE) it.

But, because hiking is life, on the 23rd of June, we headed again for one of our favourite spots: Benagéber, in the Valencian mountains. This beautiful area has everything for outdoor people and the views are spectacular. So now we are here, for a few days, to get back in training and do my very first overnight trekking from the reservoir of Benagéber to Chelva. It’s an easy hike (mostly flat), about 25 km long 1 way, but absolutely breathtaking, following the río Turia through the gorge. I say it is an easy hike, which it is, but with 13 kg of gear on your back, it is still quite challenging for an untrained mortal.

We have been hiking for a few days to get the juices flowing again. The first couple of hikes where quite intense, although not long: 12 km each, but with a lot of ascending and descending, which injured Marc’s shins, so he had to take some rest. I did a hilly 6 km walk by myself, had a rest day and then decided I wanted to challenge myself a little bit. There is a peak you can climb, that’s at 1160 meters, and the road there is very very steep. I figured I would do this. We did it once last November and I thought at that time it was okay. But this day it was 28 degrees, sunny weather, and for at least the first 3 km the road would only be going up, with the super steep hill from hell at the end. After that, it would be down again, obviously. It already took me over an hour to get to the 2.5 km mark, and I was nowhere near the top, at that point! At least I was smart enough to bring a lot of water, 3 litres (mind you, that is also 3 kg) and I took my sweet time going up this slope. I measured the distance and altitude and this slope was an ascent of 300 meters over an 800 meter distance! HELL. But okay, I wanted to be challenged and that’s what I got.

So here we are, a day before we set off to do my very first overnight hike and I am super excited! We dug up all the gear yesterday, put up the tent, aired out the sleeping bags and mattresses and packed our backpacks. I am ready to go! Catch you on the flip side!

¡Besos!

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