Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Merry go round !

So the virtues of living on the trail.. Patience ! One must wait - if the other has to stop get off & adjust their load, one must be patient & then Tolerance ! - when this happens time & time again.. & humour ! - when whilst one is waiting you think, well I might as well put my so & so in the thingamy & the other says Ok I'm ready & you say hang on ! & we dont get anywhere !
But once were in the zone & the horses have taken to a comfortable jog, heads down, us in our own dream lands..we can lap up the K's. The track & road routes we've moved onto instead of the GR7 obstacle course are wonderful at first... you know Spanish mountain/countryside roads are all like that opening scene in The Italian job (where he gets blown up in the tunnel) long winding & picturesque, like gliding, with no other cars on the road... But now we kind of miss the wilderness.
Our next stop was near the town of Millares, where
we became quickly famous, having hidden our packs in undergrowth & riding free of saddlebags up to find the local bar (an exciting new development in tactics !) every single person - and I'm talking about maybe 10 of them, as they arrived at their daily local said ' Wow ! Horses, we haven't seen horses here for, let me see, at least 10 years ! Not kidding, they all said exactly that. In Spanish of course.. But we were like, astonished - incredulous! But it had to be true, cars stopped, people got out, phones, photos etc etc, but hardly anyone dared to actually touch the horses - one woman stood nearby ish holding her dog which by facial expression was clearly petrified !!
As we rode away through town after coffee in the same bar next morning, the streets were lined with smiling faces in doorways.. Wierdly royal type feelings again, but it's nice to bring something different along !!

We had to plan a delivery of Scoot boots, timing our arrival in Buñol to collect them & we got here too early ! We are camped just across the river from the town, lots of grass here for the horses, a few friendly passers by..
Yesterday I was invited into our temporary nieghbours house by the lovely Harmonia, she wanted to show me the house & share a coffee with her - first her patio with natural waterfall & beautiful plants, then through a door & a massive function room, another door another huge room (I mean hanger size) up a level, a massive pool, half empty & green - giving me a flashback feeling to my childhood where Nana lived at Copthorne house.
I followed as she beckoned me all over the incredibly decieving massive property - she was quick & agile along an open asequia in a dark tunnel with a slippery edge, up & down steep metal stairways - whilst I struggled to keep up (still slightly lame).
All the while at every far point before we turned around she was calling 'Copi  wohoo Copi !' with no reply, a dog ? a husband ? She hadn't said. She didn't stop saying all sorts of other things though & repeating herself so it was hard to get a word in ! Until she said 'How old do you think I am ?' to which I thought quicky how to reply with a compliment & said '65? '..She's 78! Over did it slightly ! ..But an amazingly youthful & stunning old lady she is. Still no Copi & I was beginning to wonder if there was one.
Finally, after seeing every corner & running out of spanish words for saying 'Wow !', a shout came from the far end of the olive terrace & a while later Copurnicus appeared, husband of 85 yrs..
Mark was invited down & we sat together in their courtyard discussing almost everything over a very strong shot of coffee with loads of sugar.
They offered their Olive terrace for the horses as it's completely fenced in, but on inspection I pointed out that they'd eat the grape vines - 'Oh sod the grapevines' Copi replied !
Still we've left the horses where they are, which is a lovely big grassy paddock with 3 natural borders & a double line of pretend electric fence.
In the corner there's a small shed belonging to a nice hunter man.. Every night he's been out to shoot wild boar & come back empty handed 😉. Last night we heard the shot & then galloping hooves ! Too light for a horse, so I guess it was the lucky boar. He keeps rabbits in the shed, stinks to high heaven, but even so, he invited me in & put a cute baby rabbit in my arms, how long until it's dinner I asked ?.. 6 months.
So we've found ourselves stuck here for 4 days waiting for the boots & after being a bit annoyed at the hold up, we now see it as perfect for the horses - nearly half way up the aisle, its a great time to stop & properly rest & fill up with grass.
We are mostly cleaning & repairing things.. We've got a lovely set up, tent & tarp under a wide fig tree on the terrace above the horses. It's raining on & off, but when off, it returns to full sun, so kind of perfect really !
As is usual here, none of our temporary nieghbours actually live in their farmhouses, they just come daily to tend to the land & trees.. They tell us to let the horses eat all the grass & where best to get the water, they have offered us much more than we could accept.
Copi bought us a loaf of bread this Sunday morning, just as we were serving up our omelette !
Last night we actually left horses & camp and went to town where they were having a Medieval market & fiesta with bands etc.. Alas we couldn't stay out long (which means you miss everything, as here nothing starts til midnight) & returned to find all was well & just as we sat under our tarp it began to rain.
Our luck this time around is (almost !) as good as it was bad last time.
- After riding away from Bicorp a few days ago we pushed on to make it here for the boot collection, finding ourselves out in the open as far as the eye could see & a storm was coming.. It was getting late & we were looking to stop - rounded a corner to find a picnic area with fuente, grass & a shelter big enough for all of us !
Finally we left Buñol without the boots ! We tipped the post office gal to send them three towns onward because we had to get on.
But we had such fun there ! Had a laugh with Copi & Harmonia over more cafe & sugar, extra funny when 80 year olds surprise you with a naughty joke about the only instrument Copi plays is the Harmoni(c)a..In Spanish you tocar to touch & you tocar to play an instrument.
Haha !
Hey on Sunday we just went for a ride ! No packs light as feathers happy bouncy horses, naughty horses - Rayo making fun of everything & lets gallop all the way back to Las Alpujarras! But what a place we rode to ! La cueva de Turche with a natural clear lake infront of a cave below a greeny grey rock face, the water aqua-marine. A few people were there to swim & some climbers/absailers were starting off from the cliff top, following the line of the waterfall & splashing down into the lake.
I decided I'd take Rayo in, the lake was big & clear, so you could see the depth, but it was going to be a bit of a show whether I liked it or not & I sat there worrying about doing it.. Then stripped off Rayos tack & my lower half & took centre stage riding in for a swim. People stood up, cameras clicked & there was even clapping!  I shrieked when he first launched into a swim ! It took me by surprise, a whole new thing to ride, like being on the merry go round ! - Next time, the sea ! - and Mark & Tio are coming in too.

Last night however, having left our comfortable place in Buñol, we were late & complacent finding a good overnight stop - the locals in told us there was grass at at the Vista Alegre above town, so we had another beer, but when we got there, there wasn't a blade ! And the fuente wasn't running. We went on past as it grew dark finding next to nothing, infact we were on rocks & gorse.. We stopped & I walked off to scout - found a Santiago walking home & then a Vincente, the boss, who more than happily let us stay on a small terrace where the only cover of green grass exsisted, he told us the rest had been poisoned. They gave us more water & we muddled on through in the dark. Can't tell you how difficult & tiring this can be, we're tired upon tired, but I'll tell you what..It is worth it !
Here in this region it's all Carob trees, the ground is littered with dark brown chocolaty treats & the branches are heavy with fat green runner bean looking things, beautiful trees ! I looked them up as a horse fodder (fearing Rayo getting another sugar rush) & they are sugary but high fibre..I kept him from eating too many..they were a god send for Tio on the small terrace, but he kept me awake crunching.
The next morning we had coffee in a bar on the edge of town, we arrived at 10am & all the tables outside were full & had eaten meals & bottles of wine on them ! At 10 in the morning ! Needless to say everyone was very friendly..

Roll on the good times !

Monday, 4 June 2018

Ramblngs on the ramble..

Nearly a month now down the aisle and it's mostly heaven and sometimes hell.
It also comes highly recommended as a positive impact physiotherapy program for an ex broken leg.
Heaven is being on horseback pretty much everyday, it's being as free as you could be, it's the countryside & the lovely people we encounter along the way. It's Mark cooking, us laughing, a cold beer after a day in the sun, it's just looking at the horses & knowing they're fine. It's heavenly finding a perfect night spot & finally getting into our cosy bed, we've come to love our tiny tent and food tastes glorious because we're so hungry!
We've had little or no problems camping each night, if it's near a town, almost everybody is welcoming & helpful.
Kids flock around the horses, we often reach a town at 2, just missing the shops - doh! but catching the kids coming out of school to rings of 'Caballo Caballo!' People want to take pictures of them beside the horses, sometimes we sit kids on top, but often we want to save the horses & don't offer.
Kids are great! They will hang around & be honoured to fill the horses water containers from the fuente, delight in just touching them & in awe of their size, feeling proud to have come so close. Strange how in some of these very rural areas there are hardly any horses and often the kids have never touched one.
Heaven is the simple way of life.. as in things like this, now sitting under the bridge in the shade by the river for the horses to graze and drink, chatting to passers by, improving my spanish no end!
Some of our night spots are so perfect, you feel like it's a miracle, there has to be water nearby for the horses and plentiful grass, but often there's a natural boundary or even fencing, where we are now, there's loads of grass next to the track going under the bridge on the edge of Bicorp town. There's a lavandería here, an old washing house, they still exsist in alot of small towns, so our clothes and the saddle pads are now drying on the fence.
The other day, just as it started to rain, we came to an abandoned mansion with a beautiful & very handy portch we could all get under to keep dry, it was an amazing place, gone to ruin, as many have in Spain, obviously wealthy & luxurious in it's day, but times changed, in this case, perhaps a slump of the silk textile industry in the area.
There at the mansion was a perfectly fenced area waist high with grass! As we led them to their night spot (forsaking our preference to put up our tent in the beautiful portchway) I saw a nasty hole in the ground ahead of Mark & Tio, said 'mind the hole! ' & Mark said 'there's a toad in it' and sure enough there was a toad in the hole.
Later we ate dinner beside the old ruined swimming pool. Stir fried noodles - yummy! 😂
Going back a couple of weeks, we've enjoyed various hospitalities.. That of Julia & Ian, such a lovely over night stop while Tio saw the dentist, (wonderful vet called Rocio). Apart from having her own horse too, Julia has a lovely husband &
Beautiful house with a playboy back terrace, swim up to the bar pool, fluffy headed chickens & very lucky cats. we had such a fun time, ate out (chinese!), showered & slept in a bed in a room!
Then realising we could actually plan ahead & get some more luxuries, we have since booked in to a couple of campsites, both of which have been totally horsey friendly..Villa Carmen in Bocairent, with Roger & Nina, a really nice dutch couple.. Beautiful place & we got a pitch with the best view of the old town and castle. Then an oasis in the midst of the pine hills & valleys from hell - for horses! The paths were at the max you could expect a horse to do, it was slow going, their boots on & off, some of it like a deep rock staircase!
Yes, we had realised it was a long and barren stretch, so had booked into Las casas de Benali, thank heavens! A lovely vegy dinner, great attentive staff & a friday night (the next day) party with a band who were jolly good!
Off at dawn which was difficult! But since then we've taken the forest pistas & C roads that are generally very quiet, but loads of cyclists & motorbikes, Rayo sees the roaring motorbike speeding by as a challenge, he hears them coming & really seems to want to race!
So we've pepped up their grain rations to give them the energy they need (not to race motorcycles of course!) but Rayo, even with the work he's doing, the grain soups him up like a turbo.. I'm going to have to give him little & often.. Yesterday he was manic. He couldn't settle to eat grass, he pooped everything one by one, spinning around a tree in the shade insensed by flies & watching for any scary/exciting things that could be coming towards him, I had to put the bit back in (after goung bitless for a couple of days) because I thought he might leap the armco of the bridge if a bike came by. This is a horse that isn't normally spooky. Yesterday was a really difficult day and this is where the hell bit comes in.. We had been drenched in the evening before, no sleep because Tio doesn't stay inside his pretend electric fence anymore and is now tethered, we had a piece of elastic tied to his tether rope, which if Mark felt stretch, whilst tied round his hand whilst sleeping, he would run out to the rescue.. Hmmm, that didn't work! In the end we filled a hay net with alfalfa from a nearby field & left him the rest of the night tied short with the alfalfa.
He was fine, we were exhausted ed. The day passed with exploding tempers, everything was so hard.
It rained throughout the day, but gloriously as it does here in Spain the sun came out in the evening, we found a lovely bar, then walked 500 metres late at 8pm & found heaven again!
Last night Tio was tethered and stayed on it happily with no problems, he was tied firmly on the long rope, but with string that would break AND he was inside a fence..
Another fab night was spent in Ontiyent with Manolo no problemo & family.. Manolo drove up beside us on the road outside the town & literally ordered us to come to his brothers house! You go to my brothers, he has horse he has stable he has picadero he has english friend with horse, your horses, no problem, you no problem! So we followed him there and met his whole family who were visiting because his brother Paco had just broken his hip! What a great family! Full of fun & character! Paco was super genourous & funny & really looked like Steve Buscemi..we met their English horsey friend Suzanne who has a stunning palomino arab & kindly gave us some alfalfa for the boys.
It was a good thing Manolo did order us there as the next day we headed on up to the pine forests & there was no grass or water (apart fom puddles - thanks to the rain!).
Today we left our lovely riverside camp and our new friends in Bicorp, as we came up the hill looking down on the village you could see the old houses nestled in the valley so perfectly, pastel coloured, not ugly & out of place but like they've always been there.
The road was empty, we had 25 kilometres feeling like kings on fresh & happy horses, Rayo calm & bitless again, maybe 5 cars passed us and out of those, 1 man stopped, waited for us, directed us on to a shortcut (saving 10 k) & told us of a great camping spot by the river here in Millares.
You know those happy feelings you get from time to time ? They happen alot here.

So this brings us up to date & I hope to continue with shorter, more in the moment updates..

Extra photo accompaniment on the facebook post..

Sending love to you all !  

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Horses.. My observations

So if you're not that into horses, this one might be dull, but I'd like to comment on things from their point of view.
I try to think in a horsey way, limit (& open) myself to their understanding of what's going on - see things from their point of view.
For the first few days they want to go home, they know direction, they're used to doing a long circular ride & getting home at some point, but home is changing now, home represents food, water, security & that now happens at each stop, they like to have some expectation & know roughly whats going on.
Rayo is learning to eat whenever possible & I'm showing him how to snack on route!
As the end of the day comes & we're looking for a stop, Rayo might try a dash into a grassy terrace saying that'll do! He knows if I'm relaxed or dispondant about our night spot..
But there must be water.

The horses are beginning to enjoy the nomadic life, our herd moving on from grass to grass, water to water, they get grain in the mornings when we plan to move, not stay, this gives them energy & with this habit, expectation.
Like having a baby, life is almost simplified, as long as the horses are fine.. Nothing much else matters..

My relationship with Rayo is deepening & this is inevitable but particularly special as Rayo isn't a particularly human-loving horse. It's wonderful to notice some appreciation, respect, comradary & even love from him.
Of course one imagines the horses are also reading & learning about us.

You know, with a bit in their mouths, horses salivate, so whilst Rayo can be a difficult (very lively) ride in normal circumstances & requires a bit, on this journey, alot of the time he doesn't need it & I've noticed he needs to drink less.

On this trip so far
our boys have surpassed themselves - & most of us, in heart courage trust & generosity.
Oh! and there's lots of giving of carrots & apples which certainly help! 😋


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Guerra de las Avejas!

Yesterday we found a great area of grass near the riverbed in Elda, so today gives us a well earned rest.. It hasn't been so easy this time around finding good grazing with water, so poor Mark is having to fetch and carry while we're here.
I can't walk that far yet, let alone carry 20 litres of water.
Lo & behold here comes Mark already with some water & telling me there's a lake just over there! - and we're leaving tomorrow! Doh!
Tomorrow is exciting! For us more than for Tio who may have a tooth ache - we've been invited to the house of a very kind co horse owner in Spain, 6ks north of here for the night, but our alterior motive is for Tio to see the dentist! He has been gurning on & off for a few days, as if he has toothache.. Can't let him suffer & though he does seem to be eating normally, we can't let him be under par on such a trip as this.
We have naughtily been inside another house with a fenced in paddock recently, by invitation of course, lovely man called Trevor throwing a bbq! We certainly have some luck!
We have endured some harrowing experiences though! & no exaggeration! Passing between two rows of bee hives  (right on the GR7 route!!)  was terrifying, we were swarmed! stung on our faces & heads riding through at an increasing speed, panicking, swearing, Marks most sentimental & ingeniously repaired cowboy hat falling to the ground amidst the hives...
He had to go back of course, wearing a full (rain) cape with hood, it was a tense few minutes as me & the horses waited at a 'safe' distance for his return, Rayo was stung on the nose!
I pulled a sting out of my cheek which gave me a chubby cheeky look for a few days which Mark found endearing.
He thankfully returned unharmed & with his hat on.

There's plenty of time in this mode of travel to wonder about the glory of nature, most of our daily routes go over mountains (smallish ones) between towns. So the terrain changes, lush grassy plains, planted, not to be eaten! Then stoney climbs (very hard on the horses feet) amongst the pines, through high gorges, eagle country, bandit country, always wondering whats over the next hill or round the next corner.
Sometimes as we enter towns you can almost hear the eerie whistle of 'The good the bad & the ugly', the tumble weed blows across the dusty track blowing up a cloud & there's not a soul in sight.

Now at dusk, sitting next to Mark as he cooks just outside the woods, I'm looking up at the orange lit town and I can hear kids playing & one in particular, a girl, singing flamenco, sounds amazing, dogs are barking, all very Spanish. I hope no one walks by, as I think it's embarrassing sitting here cooking our dinner on the track! But as Mark says quite rightly, it's too dangerous to cook in the woods, even though it's been a wet spring, the undergrowth is tinder dry.
We had a lovely sighting of a family of wild boar! Animals aren't so disturbed by the sound of hooves approaching, so we could watch them for a bit, none of them were large & the babies were so cute with little stripey bodies.
One night a lone adult boar wandered quite calmly around our camp, it came quite close to us & almost seemed tame, the horses were interested & a little nervous, but actually Rayo lunged forward at the boar to see it off!
Down to the lake now with the horses for a drink, beats a walk to fill bottles at the garage!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Non stop to the border

So here we are in Los Ramanos just over the border from Murcia into Alicante week we'll leave Alicante and enter Valencia province took us about 11 months to get out of Andalucia ..but just a week to get through Murcia we're on the good foot finally!!
  And now about a week later we're at a ruined mansion in ontinyment , Valencia ..
  It's been a long year since that car ride to Baza hospital to see my bionic woman. A year of treading water , a sense of waiting a year to have that year you where gonna have last year...And now it's this year again. .
   This year the boots on the other foot, I've managed to work and walk my way to 90per cent recovery on my ankle . Nikkis recovery is obviously less advanced but being stalwart and stoic she's making a fist of it and is now able to just about mount from the ground..
   However not to be outdone I decided to drop a speaker on my big toe , left of course ,3 days before we left , see attached photo ...will the nail fall off or not? Answers on a postcard to 2000mileaisle. ..
   My understanding of life is that bad luck comes in threes so that's an end to that. ..
   Good luck to all...m

Friday, 18 May 2018

The horse console..

Hours of roaming the glorious Spanish countryside what's a cowgirl to do?
Snacks, suncream, make up, power bank & data... Not to mention the hip fask.. 😀😀

Monday, 7 May 2018

Start of the 2000mileaisle part 2

Nikki striding past the site of last years disaster and hence striding onto the 2000mileaisle part 2 .. looking strong brave and lovely .....