Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The 200 mile aisle

  "Looks like a black cat done crossed our trail....."

  Everyone's heard of cold feet, but broken feet for both bride and groom, if I was a superstitious man i might think it wise to stay a bachelor... I mean, bad luck comes in threes, whats next ...? But luckily I'm a fairly rational man, and I will trust in my guardian angel, whose obviously been on a months holiday, to protect me against the trials and tribulations to come ...

  So that was the 200mileaisle and full of ups and downs it certainly was. We didn't even make it out of andalucia, we were about 20kms south of the border, just outside the lovely town of Galera when we hit the end of the road. The earlier rain had been a rare treat, but it was this combined with the grey clay that led to Rayo losing his footing, and my fiance's leg being sandwiched between a rock and 400kilos of falling horse.

   A second before I'm happy as Larry, just left Antonios bar musica el puente, where they do the best fish and chips this side of the costa del sol and a great cold beer, atop my nag with a couple of kms easy riding to go till camp, then I see Rayo scrabbling for his feet for a couple of seconds and then go thumping down on my loved ones leg, Nikki immediately shouted "I'VE BROKEN MY LEG" as Rayo was getting back to his feet. I'm straight off Tio and hobbling over to her hoping, praying, that somehow this is gonna be ok, that the ground softs, that nikki falls well, that we would somehow get away with it, that this is not in the script, that the power of love was too strong to let anything bad happen, that thats not fair, and above all and overriding all of these.... that my fiance was wrong. It wasn't broken, a little bruised maybe. I knew she knew, she knows her body almost as well as I do, so when I got to her and held her and looked her in the eye I knew it was over ..

   Still its an improvement on the last time I saw nikki fall off a horse which was 4 years ago and again I was behind her when she dived off the side of Rayo at full pelt straight into a concrete gutter and didn't move. Again I was straight off Tio and ran over to nikkis crumpled body and this time there were no shouts. At best she was out cold, at worst ..? after 30 seconds she made a noise (errrrrrrrrrrh) and rolled her eyes, looked frighteningly absent! But after another couple of mins she seemed to be aware, and finally understood what had happened to her at the end of the 40 minute journey to the medical centre ..Apart from concussion, a broken rib was the damage, and a vision in my mind that will never leave me, much like the one above, and which makes me wince every time it rears its ugly head.
  So where was I? In the middle of nowhere with a broken fiance, 3 horses, and a busted foot, don't panic, just ring an ambulance, explain where we are (to at least 3 different departments)in a foreign language, feed nikki brandy,          commandeer all passing campasinos para ayuder, wait, dont panic, keep nikki talking and drinking brandy, more phone calls, wait, don't panic, wait.. Hallellujah here it comes and now the comedy sketch can begin, its such a blur I can't remember if there were 4 or 5 but i'm sure 2 of them where on there first day, at least thats how it seemed. Nikki managed to tell them what they needed to do and up and into the ambulance she went, a quick kiss goodbye and she was gone. There I was with 3 horses, a busted foot, and a hugely heavy heart, and no brandy.
  Time to saddle up and head south, I got on Tio painfully with Lorna on a line and Rayo following which didn't work too well as he just wanted to eat, so off again with Rayo tethered to Lorna's pack and that worked fine. Had a bit of good luck in finding a wild bit of land just out of town with plenty of grass. The horses had been great throughout the whole drama and continued in that vain whilst I untacked them all slowly. Had enough daylight to set up the fence, the tent and get water..At this point the body was good and tired, but the mind, that was a different thing..Luckily I had a good book and lay in bed reading till the eyelids got so heavy that sleep was inevitable.. Then woke up early to a deflated bed, physically and mentally, and endured that first moment of waking after a disaster when your mind has to convince you that yes that did happen..

   Spent the morning staying busy waiting for help to arrive from home, which it did in the early afternoon in the guise of Debbie and Matteus. The lorry was coming to take the nags home 6ish so nothing for it but to retire to bar el puente for a cold one and tell Antonio the news. He was suitably aghast and filled my hip flask gratis. Then back with the lorry to load the horses which thankfully passed without incident until the driver wanted the money. I had next to none and assured him he would be paid at the other end. Next entailed your standard andalucian, hot men, fiery exchange of words which if you saw in England you'd expect the fists to be flying at any moment, but not here. We agreed to disagree, he left with the horses and I kept my cash due to the intervention of a bit of female charm a la Debbie.

  So now an hour in a car heading south to Baza hospital to see my bionic fiance .....................................................

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Back home but not where the heart is...

It hadn't rained atall on Mark and the horses, the fish tank didn't exist and the nurse wasn't that beautiful either.
But everything else, sadly, was real.
Our journey was over, for now at least...After feeling so great, after being so free!
My initial fears having been set to rest, things were going soo well. Never had I thought this would happen!
It was a tiny accident with a few unlucky factors that broke my leg! Shit Shit Shit.
The scene goes over and over in my head and I flinch and have to slap something.
Even as I'd sat waiting for the ambulance, I'd worked out how long until the wedding and how long a broken leg would take to heal.
I had already figured out that we could still get the horses to England and have our planned honeymoon return, but how to let go of our dream ride there?  

For now, for me, pain, and the hope of it getting less takes over my future and its all that matters, in some ways that makes it easier for me, than for Mark. 

Returning home was solemn, seeing all our wall lists bought tears, Mark tore them down.
Rayo, who I'd been wanting to see and touch all week hardly even cocked an ear when I went to the gate!
Jessy whined and howled as she does, telling us off for leaving, and she did uncharacteristically lick my face, but she too was already assured of her food and security without us.

So weird, all change, reset.

The next morning my spirits were lifted and life was taken over by the arrival of my daughter Poppy and sister Rachel, they cleaned, cooked,  shopped, and cuddled me.
These few days were fraught with agonising pain, but we talked alot and laughed loads - Im so glad they came!

Huge void.

Days punctuated only with pill popping and visits to the loo, every other day a momentous outing to get my bandages re done, such an alter existence...I have to get on, so I fill all my time working out ideas, costs and possibilities for plan B.
Life on the trail was cheap, horses eating grass, us eating little, all living alot.
Life now, expensive, horses eating hay,
us eating alot more, alive but not really living.

Next trip to Cadiar for my bandaging brought me a new raison d'etre.
Hannah, my neighbour and chaffuer spotted a fledgling on the road outside the bar and the barman went for a dustpan and brush to clear it away..
I looked down at it, bald, ugly and awkwardly walking on all fours on the tarmac, its kind of embarrassing to do around here, and I never thought it possible to hand raise a new chick, but it looked strong, quite determined in its vigour and I'm so bored, all I can do is sit.
I hopped over, scooped it up and wrapped it with tissue paper.

I googled it, then tried it, soaked the cat biscuits, tapped its beak with the morsel on tweezers...It took a while but soon began to eat greedily!

In my inner search for fate's reason as to why I broke my leg, I muse the idea of my broken leg = a birds life.. Given the choice in advance I'd say F*** you birdy! But that aside, I like to believe that all lives on this planet are equal. 

How apt that the bird will fly when I can walk..

Mark is supposed to be publishing before me, but he hasn't managed to put the words together yet..

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Our left feet

I knew it was broken because of the waggle, I said so, and as i clutched my leg I heard it click (Ew) and hoped I'd popped the bone back..
Rayo had a muddy side, but he was fine and all three horses just stood still for the first half an hour.
Mark rang an ambulance, so difficult for him to explain in Spanish what had happened and where we were..
Meanwhile, I just held my leg together, drank brandy from the hip flask and smoked a fag. Feeling myself hyper-ventilating, calming myself, panicking, calming, becoming more and more desperate every minute for help to arrive, it was bearable if I held it still, but my body was aching and giving up the position I was forced to stay in. I wrapped a lunge rein in a figure of eight around leg and foot and held my toes up towards me.
I could only slightly shift my weight from one buttock to the other..
Mark was frantic, he kept having to call different numbers and explain things again and again and he hates phones. The horses stood.
The ambulance arrived after about 45 minutes and naturally I expected the team to just take over the scene with calm efficiency..
Well, they were all very nice but couldn't get the stretcher to click together underneath me, they tried to maneuver my boot off while Mark jumped in to cut the laces! Me crying out ' LA PIERNA - LA PIE !!! '
They had a leg stabiliser but with no foot bit, so it waggled again with every jolt of mounting the ambulance.. 'OW! OOW!
Inside I received the (begged for) pain killer and the hour long journey to hospital began, the nurse holding a folded blanket around my foot in an attempt to stop it rocking with the bumps on the track.
Mark had leaned in to kiss me as we left and was then faced with 3 horses, alone with a walking stick in the middle of nowhere..
On arrival at hospital, looking back now it was comical!
A young (rather handsome and very smiley) man came out with the trolley to transfer my stretcher from the ambulance..
I rolled out of the back doors into thin air! he looked down to check linkeage with my under carriage, then up at me with an uncertain but hopeful look..I looked down, then up at him, with an uncertain but hopeful look.. 
Perhaps it was his first time?
He pulled and I moved, thankfully he got it right.
He breathed out, and so did I.
Corridor, ceilings, lights, doors, and into a room.
Clothes cut off, electrode things slapped on everywhere! questions asked and answered.
A nurse came in with a massive fibre glass L shaped leg thing - Yes!!
But the doctor said 'not that one, where's the softer pink one?'
'I threw it away yesterday',
'It was covered with blood',
'Well, nevermind, retrieve it if you can and line it with something'.
She returned with it, truly a much better fit for me and more comfy looking - hey ho.. I guess they thought I couldn't understand!!
Electrodes off, drips on, X-ray's, nods, and away to my hospital bed (with a help button) to reflect on my own for the night.
My phone had been packed in my belongings bag, along with chopped up boots, chaps, leggins and knickers!
Clearly I was fucked. No riding for weeks or months.
There seemed to be a fish tank somewhere in the room, or was it raining? All night I felt for Mark and the horses, out there in the pouring rain..
I didn't sleep,  but of course I was kind of only semi-conscious.

Early morning off to surgery, down there in the green room I was greeted by the most beautiful nurse ever (more beautiful than Gerda, I thought).
With a soft smile, her face fresh as a childs, her pony tail to her bum, I almost told her, thinking that would be ok..
She asked if family knew I was here in surgery, then rang Mark to tell him. She glided away, or I glided away..
I heard the sound of serious mechanics going on behind the green screen, quite a struggle infact, like trying to line up and fix a car wishbone arm. With power tools.
By contrast, I had strange amphibian dreams and awoke thinking I had a sort of Dr who type mutation, but I was elated and immediately felt right in the left leg.
I had thick bandaging from my mid thigh to toes..with a pin from my knee to my ankle, they didn't do a plaster cast. (I had mixed feelings re that, as it felt so vulnerable, but now Im glad I can work at moving the joints).
Mark arrived that evening with our neighbour Mathius, and friend Debbie.
Nice to see them all, but still a bit noddy, I learnt that the horses had been transported home safely and Mark would stay with me.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Loving it

On the edge of Castillar, next to the river, shade amoungst the poplars, dense green grass, we found paradise 5.
The horses were a little over exuberant when we unleashed them in the almost finished fenced area, naughty Tio spotting a bit I hadn't closed off launched himself up a terrace, fast followed by Rayo, both bucking and squeeling!  Buggers, as if they didn't have enough grass and space in the area I was making them, no, they preferred small fresh almond trees on the terrace above!  Horrors! Managed to catch and bring them back down quickly, but not before they'd had a succulent branch or two.

Mmm it was Sunday, this was a nice spot, two days riding, one days rest, seems ok, then we can shop in Castillar tomorrow.
Clearly we weren't pushing the horses!
These glampsites often lure us into relaxation... But with Mark still 'cojo'(lame)...& we're on holiday!

After climbing the short hill up to town for the imperative evenings litro, I came happily back down to camp, wearing shorts and my utility belt, I was feeling fit and Lara Croftish. My back had held up and I had passed through into strong mode. (Humour me!)

The next day we went back up to town to do some shopping, Mark painfully slow, limping along with his stick.. I teased him!
Then in the afternoon we took the horses over the other side of the track for more variety pickings..we then took them to the river to drink and have a splash..
Baked beans supper and we prepared things ready to break camp first thing.
Come morning the clockwork preparations we're all undertaken in the shade which made things much more pleasant.
We headed up through Castillar stopping for a coffee and refilling water containers from the fuente.
Admirers, when questioning our plans, faces agog.. Francia!? Inglaterra!!!???
Having done so much riding in the full heat of day, it was refreshing that it rained, we donned our rain cape coats which did a great job keeping us and most of our two horses reasonably dry and comfortable.
Lorna's pack was wateroroof too,  though we soon realised that our sleeping bags tied either side of the top bag, were drenched!
Still I thought, (normally being a fair weather only girl) this is OK, I can do this.
Again for a while we followed a narrow, little used tarmac road, the going was easy, Rayo had a full set of boots on as I wanted to give his soles a rest, the other two barefoot.
We found some nice grassy stops en route and enjoyed seeing the various cave houses, common to areas in Spain with the sandstone rock landscape, all individually designed, intriguing us as we passed by...
On arrival at Galera on route to Huesca, we stopped in a really friendly bar for lunch.. Fish and chips!! Loverly!
We chatted a while with the barman who loved horses and then had to move the horses aside for a customer who was too scared to even drive his car past them!!
Heading on towards Huesca, we had a taj of road work then over the motorway, thankfully a bridge.
Turned left on to a track between farm land with grassy banks to snack on, my mouth almost waters at the sight of it!
We let them graze here and there whilst vaguely looking for a suitable night spot, I hopped off to fill some water at an asequia waterfall and thats the last time Ive walked since.
A little further on there was a warning that tragically didn't change fate, Rayo slipped on a ramp but just about kept his footing..
I trust him totally on the most precarious terrain.
Minutes later I instinctively guided him to the side of the track that was less stoney, there was a slight camber, there was on old stone wall to our left.. In a second where hooves desperately grappled for purchase Rayo slapped down on to his side,  I felt my lower left leg waggle oddly, Rayo straight up on to his feet, me screaming on the ground holding foot to leg..

This isn't the end of our story.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mission just about possible

Sometimes it feels like I'm Indiana Jones, on a mission that is a constant search. Picking up clues wherever you can find them and all against the clock.
I guess that feeling will pass as we realise survival regularly on the road.
We have been in paradise again for the last few days, but let's go back a bit first.
After Ferreira we rode to Calahonda,  on our map it's called Cacalahonda which is more apt.
We weren't planning to stay there but as we passed through, we came upon a tethered stallion, very handsome, so I don't blame her wanting to show off, but when she started strutting her stuff, Mark lost hold on her lead rope, (it happens).
The huge ungainly pack on her back didn't stop her doing a perfect extended trot with suspended elevation, tail pointing straight up.
This performance was executed in a large field of wheat ready for cropping.
The worst happened, the pack began listing and with every stride fell further to one side, things were flying out in all directions, then she galloped full pelt! By now Tio was trying to join in and Mark was nearly unseated.
I was off by this point and making calming woah noises which I'm sure couldn't be heard, but I knew she would  stop, she has sense and she isn't one to panic. The pack was under her belly as she came to a halt.
I undid the girth and with my handy penknife I cut the belly strap from which the whole lot was hanging.
Amazingly nobody else seemed to have noticed the fiasco, even though the field was a big open area like a stage for all to see!
We picked up some of the debris and put her all back together again.
This might not have happened if the girth was tighter, which we will have to do..
Being on evening alert already, we had spotted a couple of possible camping areas, so we went back to have a look. We spoke to some old boys about a grassy area we had noticed and they said it would probably be ok but told me where to find and ask the owner, he wasn't home, but a neighbour too told me it would be fine, so we unpacked and settled in.
Just as we were relaxing and darkness was setting in, a voice out of nowhere with a big dog alongside came marching into camp, this man wasn't very agreeable and charged us 50e for the night! 
He had us over a barrell, we had to pay.
Jeez, we suggested a bed, shower and breakfast ought to be included in that price, but he said he'd call the guardia, so hey ho, lesson​ learnt.
Next day we  packed and set off fairly promptly, we had to search the field for the rest of our belongings on the way and we found everything bar the benzl benzoate (for Tio's sweetitch). 
So on we went towards Charches,  crossing a huge windy plain full of windmills and the largest thermo solar park in Europe.. It was incredibly windy but that effectively cooled the sun.
Soon we came upon our third horsey hazzard!
We passed a farm with a tethered donkey and a loose horse. Well, any horse prefers horse company and the mare (thankfully) followed us the whole 10 kilometres to town.
You might think we could have returned her and tied her up but a) You expect her to turn for home herself at a certain point, and b) Having obviously passed this certain point its a long way back,  and c) She had no halter,  and d) We have 3 horses already between us and Mark cant walk.
In Chartres we caused a stir, everyone was lovely bar the owner of the mare who gave us hell.
We had a couple of beers, chatted to the locals and were given directions on route for a place where we could stay the night.
Cortijo la fragua was 5k up the mountain track and provided us with a fenced in grassy garden with picnic tables and chairs, water points and a beautiful big covered terrace to camp in - not to mention a massive pool with a natural shower beside it!
We decided it would take more than one night for the horses to clean up the area, so settled in to paradise number 3.
Onward a few days later, us cleaner, the horses fatter, all refreshed.
A long hard days ride, strike that.
Arriving on the edge of Baza at dusk, no sign of grass or water.
We have no food either and its Sunday.
AND Mark had no fags!!!!
You can imagine how pleasant things were.
We passed a shepherd with his goat herd and I thought to ask him something, didn't, regretted it, then got a second chance.
I spotted a massive pile of new forage up a side road, asked around and was directed to the returning shepherd and said goats.
He was our saviour, sold us forage,  gave us water and we set up camp on a (nasty) bit of scrubland nearby.
Settled the horses and made it to a bar restaurant for dinner (and fags!).
In the morning we made for a quick departure but it still got really hot before we were ready, I had a minor breakdown saying I couldn't  go on, but after smoking a fag myself I felt much better, sorry family and friends, I have finally blown it. A holiday perk, just until the wedding, night, honeymoon, return trip...until Im home & thats it.
Cheerfully riding on and puffing away we had to do the first part of this leg through town. Rayo the brave heading the convoy, high viz's on.
We had an important shopping list to accomplish and not alot of time, this was when I had the Indiana Jones feeling, bear in mind Mark still can't walk, so I have to find and bring everything (This includes water for horses & last nights hay, which I put on Rayo's back).
Finding the right shops in a new town knowing legless Mark is minding 3 horses on a street corner is stressy.
Mission accomplished, we're on our way again.
Mark promises a lake, grass, a bar and hot springs at our next stop and though it was a long ride, mostly tarmac, he was spot on,  here we rested at paradise 4.
After making a huge electric fence paddock we took the horses down to the lake where they wallowed like hippos..
I got on Rayo bareback and he strode into the water and when the ground ran out he began to swim!!  Something I've always wanted to do,  it was beautiful, he seemed to take huge strides lunging upwards and forwards, rising and sinking into the water.. Another special moment with my horse, Ok, you can walk a dog etc,  but when you're on a horse and doing something really together,  sharing the same experience, its wonderful, like when we're galloping full speed.
I know Rayo has been in the sea before and it was like, he showed me, and he gave me the joy.
We had a lovely few days, basking in shade, eating in the restaurant & drinking G & T. (that bit was with Mark by the way!).
Well, that was a long'un! I wanted to catch us up to the present so I can write more 'in the moment'.
I also want to put more than two photos but it doesn't seem possible on here, so I'll be sending extras to go on our facebook page.
Ciao fa now..

Technical failure.

Hello folks, I'm most upset and annoyed that my last epic blog has been in the state of 'publishing' for nearly a week now! 
There are more updates lined up and Im waiting to send them each in turn.
Our trip certainly has had some thrills and spills, more than yet you know, but stay with us..
Coming soon...