Flamenco and Beer con muchas Tapas!
Saying a long goodbye to Catalonia…
I spent nearly 4 months in Catalonia, mainly around Pratdip, just south of Barcelona. Volunteering helped me meet some amazing people who have now become personal friends of mine. I would like to thank Hen for allowing me to be so creative in his secluded dream, and Vivian and Carlos for their non stop kindness and love over the 3 months I stayed at their beautiful home. My mum came for one of the last two weeks, and we spent the time relaxing around the farm playing with the animals, and trying to get her a tan on the beach. The last few days we spent in Barcelona exploring the beauty of the inner city, and the gardens which cover the surrounding hills. We had a memorable time walking and talking, and ended it sitting around a huge musical fountain display well into the night.
My next voluntary placement was in a small hippy town called Orgiva, just south of Granada. The journey to Granada was going to take 10 hours, and I had the option of a night train or a day train, I chose the day train after hearing how uncomfortable the night train was without paying extra for a bed. On the day of departure, I arrived at the train station only to find out the train had broken down a few stations before, we tried going to the previous station but all passengers had been boarded on another train and it was totally full. It meant me staying at the farm a few extra days, but I was glad in the end, as I got to spend more time playing boules, petting the animals, and tasting a delicious meal of corn bread and salsa from Carlos – absolutely yummy. I finally did manage to board my train to Granada. As the train pulled away, I waved goodbye to my friend Vivien, the whole of Catalonia, and opened myself up to the opportunities which lay ahead in the province of Andalucia.
Arriving in the beautiful Andalucia…
The journey went smoothly and the train pulled into Granada station early evening. When getting of the train I felt a great feeling inside, like I had taken a step back and reflected on my journey so far – 7 months of volunteering – helping myself and others, I was proud of what I had achieved, and knew I had made the right move in choosing to travel that way. I made my way to the hostel (Granada Inn) in the 30 celcius heat of the evening sun, taking in the beauty of the city – the little cobbled side streets, the flowers growing all around the city walkways, and the beautiful girls of Andalucia. It gave off a great first impression, one of which would certainly hold true.
On arrival at the hostel I was stunned at it´s beauty. Albeit it´s only just opened but still, the place has real character – a cobbled outdoor area with a fountain and Spanish music playing softly over candle lit tables, spacious rooms with perfectly finished bathrooms, the place was incredible value for money.
As I wondered into the street that night, I sat on one of the benches that surrounded the huge fountain outside the hostel. I started speaking Spanish to the girl sat next to me, her name was Ruby, and she was Columbian- working and studying in Granada. We sat and listened to some classical music, and then she showed me one of the best viewpoints in Granada where you can see the old fortress of Alhambra lit up in the night sky, that night was a full moon, and it arose from behind the buildings – it was a truly spectacular night.
The old hippy town of Orgiva…
The next day I took my bus to Orgiva, the bus didn´t take long but it was a breathtaking journey – quite literally, as the bus rushed along a heavily mountainous area with huge drops at the side. The mountains were like nothing I had ever seen before, a true paradise for hikers and rock climbers.
When the bus arrived in Orgiva I was picked up by Julia – my new host, and her son Kes. We drove high up into the mountains where the views got even better – Julia told me on a clear day you could see out to Morocco, perfect!
We pulled up outside the house and I was soon greeted by the rest of the family, Rupert, Wim, and a few family friends. The house was an eco build with solar panels for electricity, and water from the surrounding mountains, Rupert had done a spectacular job with the building – it was truly amazing. I was shown around the land by Wim, my accommodation for the week was in a cob house made of clay, it had views deep into the valley – it was funky and cute all rolled into one.
My stay with Rupert and Julia´s family only lasted a week but I had a great time, and connected really well with their two lads Wim and Kes. Most of the work involved gardening, helping Rupert clear space around the various fruit trees so they could retain more water, and I made a good start on a small area which needed levelling and laying with bark so Julia could surround it with plants. The rest of my time was spent hanging around with Wim playing chess and table tennis; having super competitive competitions (that sounds funny) with Kes in everything from arm wrestling to pool; or hiking down to the little hippy village of Beneficio where everyone lives in peace and harmony – supposedly. Beneficio truly was an eye opener for me, you could just go and pitch your tent in this beautiful little village for free, and stay for how long you want, their were natural springs for water, community vegetable plots, and even live music in the evenings – it´s somewhere I would love to visit again.
That weekend I was invited to a family friend´s house for lunch, everybody had brought their own speciality dish. It was good fun talking to some of the locals whom were English, apparently the whole of Orgiva, and the surrounding area is full or English speaking people – it was a nice change to be able to speak to so many people, and even be understood with my accent. After lunch me and the lads went to the river for a swim, we could see schools of trout, and even seen a snake making it´s way through the current – didn´t stop me going for a dip though! We ended the day at a local fair where we all chilled out, and took part in a bit of live music – I contributed by shaking a pair of marakas, nobody said I was bad so I´ll assume I was an excellent musician! All in all it was a beautiful day, and it gave me a true glimpse into the type of lifestyle people live around that area.
Back to the heart of Granada…
My week sadly came to an end quickly, I thanked Julia and Rupert for a great time, and headed back to Granada on the bus. I´ve been here one week now and I´m loving it. I spent the first few days doing a bit of exploring in the surrounding hills. I´ve explored Alhamba which is the old restored fortress which sits overlooking the whole of Granada; I´ve ate loads of tapas which come free each time you order a drink; I´ve listened to live Flamenco from street musicians – a really catchy type of Spanish guitar which I´m starting to fall in love with; and met lots of cool travellers staying in the hostel.
Unfortunately, the last three days I´ve had food poisoning, and I´ve been really sick. Ruby took me into her home, and has let me stay until I´m better. She has really looked after me, and I could not thank her enough for her kindness. I´ve been speaking to the manager at the Granada Inn hostel and he said he could have some voluntary work for me lined up for a few weeks – so when I´m better I will see if I’ve got the placement. Early July will see me travelling south of Granada to do another voluntary placement. I will tell you more about that closer to the time, but it will see me moving towards Morocco – my next destination.
Until then people, hope all is good in your life, and nobody else is suffering from food poisoning – it´s hell!
Peace and love, Jonathan xxx