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spain

Family Travel

The desert hippy who laid a golden poo

5 December, 2013

“I’m doing a seminar in menstrual activism this afternoon, if you want to come?”

Hold on. Menstrual? Activism?

“Um. Oh. I, er…”

I am not very often taken aback. Especially when it comes to bodily functions and protest. These are, like, two of my fave things, y’know?

We were in the middle of the Spanish desert, in the barren landscape of the Deep South, staying in a tiny oasis – an alive, green, eco community bustling with hippies. At least once an hour someone said something completely absurd and completely accurate.

“Excrement is GOLD, worth more than money!” (This statement was accompanied by a handful of “humanure” shoved under my surprised, and therefore unfortunately gaping, nostrils.)

This was Sunseed, a group of people devoted to living sustainably, off grid, who were slowly restoring one of the desert’s many “lost villages”. The project began as a way of developing technologies that harness the earth’s power and an attempt to thrive in a pretty hostile land. It continues to do that, hosting volunteers from around the world who will hopefully return home bubbling with ideas about solar energy, converting waste into, er, gold for the garden, and generally living in peace with their environment.

We pooed into compost bins, built walls with local clay, harvested pumpkins and every vegetable under the sun to eat, prepared olives for jarring, showered with the river water heated by the sun, ate every meal together, talked a lot about menstruation. IT WAS SO FLIPPING INSPIRING! .

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We spent the spare hours wandering around the desert, poking about in ruins, buildings long abandoned by villagers unable to survive in such a dry land. We watched a whole family of turtles sunbathing by the local river and tracked some wild pigs along the gorge. Tim and I spent whole afternoons discussing the eco-house we will build when we get to New Zealand.

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(I know; this is the MILLIONTH thing we have seen on this trip and decided we are going to do it. You’ve got to dream big, right? So far it seems that we are going back to New Zealand to create an imaginative kid’s festival celebrating the wilderness, run a Forest School, on a bit of land where we are building our own house out of clay, with a compost loo, in an intentional community full of families loving each other and eating together, whilst building a vineyard, an avocado orchard and running a Centre for Peaceful Adult-Child Relationships. Hmmm. It’s all compatible. We just need that cloning technology to hurry the heck up. Or YOU could join in, if you like? Come on, it’ll be WELL fun!)

I bloody love hippies. I love being in an environment where people are so passionate and it was a JOY being amongst other people for whom it makes complete sense to not wash their hair, rather than being the weird one. I didn’t get to the seminar on menstrual activism but I read a brilliant book on it that evening and am completely convinced! (It’s going to be a whole other post: WHAT A TREAT FOR YOU!)

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It was just five little days amongst our kind new friends at of Sunseed but it was like stepping in to new pair of boots; it kind of got us ready for a new home and life in New Zealand. It hasn’t felt that real, the whole “moving to NZ lalala” thing, but imagining the kind of eco-lifestyle we will nurture over there got us well excited. As long as I don’t think too hard about the family and friends we will be leaving in England. *Heaving sob*

We are on the very last leg of our European roadtrip, just five more days. We have passed through the snowy peaks around Granada, and we are now in sunny, warm Seville. We had to say another farewell to Betty a couple of days ago – can you actually believe it?- as she blew another head gasket and required £700 to fix her up that we just don’t have. If we hadn’t already spent £2000 on her pesky innards this trip alone we might have considered it but we decided to get her towed home for a DIY job over Christmas. It was a bit stressful but we are having a cool time zipping around in a rental car courtesy of our insurance, so it could be a lot worse. *Frank Spencer voice* Oooh, Bettty.

Family Travel

Campervanning around Spain with two kids, a surfboard and a caterpillar

25 November, 2013

A Spanish señora, as bronze as she is old, as rotund as she is wrinkly, wearing nothing but the very clothes she was born in raises her ams in the air and claps, everything jiggling. This was not the start of a rude flamenco though, but the middle of a series of star jumps, half submerged in the Mediterranean sea. Superbly, gloriously uninhibited.

Only in Spain.

We are in a desolate, sheltered cove just beneath an old castle built by the Moors. I’m sat here with Juno, poking plump pink jewels from a pomegranate in to our mouths. Tim and Ramona are building the castle in miniature form out of sand and there in the sea just behind them was this buxom old lady, butt naked, tanned deep in every crease. Doing aqua aerobics.

The only other people in sight are a Wedding Cake Top couple perched on the rocks next to the castle having their photos taken. They preen into every classic pose, her glistening white dress billowing, his waistcoat stiff.

It’s as surreal as a Dali, who hails from just around the corner. The sheer peculiarity of the scene strikes my heart with the wand of joy and my brain with the wonder of how we get to be here now, doing this.

These funny little moments happen a lot on the road. I feel tender; easily surprised, amused, unbound and unburdened.

It is obviously the basic awesomeness of having very little to do but sit around in the sun having bizarre things take place around us while the alternative was simply slogging away in the grimey depths of winter in South London.

And perhaps this general, elated sense of feeling is simply just an extension of that; the sense of alternatives. After getting totally lost amongst a tangle of tiny, dodgy streets in the middle of a massive city, coming across a huge square in the shadow of a beautiful basilica where it seems a micro fiesta is taking place just feels completely exhilarating. Because the alternative was getting mugged and stranded and still lost. Waking up next to a roaring ocean, the sun bouncing into the window, is a moment filled with relief that we didn’t get turfed out of the free parking spot by the Guardia over night.

(Or maybe aqua aerobics in the nick, grand basilicas and sunrises on a beach are simply enough in themselves.)

I think I could travel like this forever. This lazy, wild, seize-every-moment or just-sit-around-if-we-want kind of living.

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Back on the beach, the lady wades out of the water, pubes dripping, and two enormous Alsatians have bounded onto the castle tower and are barking aggressively at the Just Marrieds. Juno has cast the pomegranate aside in favour of a gob full of sand. Ramona has begun to cry and I realise it is way past lunch and all we have is a gritty pomegranate and half a packet of rice cakes we opened when we first hit the road 4 months ago.

When we first left England our Campervan was jam packed. But new things have been added everyday. There is a Julia Donaldson book, A Squash and a Squeeze, where a wise old man advises a woman who feel her house is too small to take in collection of farm animals. (Mansplaining, I think it is called these days.) At the end of the book she gets rid of the animals and realises her house is perfect for one.

We have acquired a double buggy, for rampaging over dunes. And a secondhand surfboard, which we couldn’t resist but takes up a lot of space. And a pet caterpillar which doesn’t take up much physical space but rather a lot of mental space, trying to keep him alive amidst the mayhem. (We shouldn’t have let him in. It will only end in heartache. His name is, predictably, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.) I concentrate on the principle of A Squash and a Squeeze; this is great preparation for whatever new home we end up in eventually – anything will feel like a mansion compared to this. But mostly I swear as my foot gets stuck in a potty as I’m rummaging in the dirty laundry for the least stinky tee shirt and I bump my head on a bunk. (We are still bumping our heads.) It is a tiny, tiny space but we’ve somehow managed to misplace our two knives so I’m crouching next to the surfboard cutting an onion with a pocket knife.

Calm descends on the beach again. The Guard Dogs have disappeared, the bride and groom have gone to their banquet somewhere and the bare naked lady has gone. We caper around the beach as uninhibited as her, the need for lunch suspended. We are roaring lions, we are diggers, we are splashers, we are laughing baboons.

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We are on the same team the four of us. It’s my favourite thing about this trip. With no agenda there are very few power struggles, with all the day to accomplish very few tasks there is no stress bleeding into the adult-child communication, making a gory mess. We all go to bed at 10pm and sleep until the delectable hour of 8am.

We’ve crawled slowly down the southern coast of Spain, coasting from cove to cove, and have landed in the barren, rocky beauty of the Cabo De Gata. We are climbing hills and collecting shells. Foraging pomegranates and oranges. We saw Africa on the horizon, it was pretty epic.

We are unfettered. Free as birds. Each one of us as wild and excitable as toddlers.

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We pack up our beach things, now covered in pomegranate, sand and rice cakes gone mushy with sea water. We need to find a shop not having a siesta so we can buy lunch stuff. As we scramble up the hill we pass another old soul, kindred of the Señora, a man this time, himself completely starkers. We obviously missed the NUDISTA sign posts (again!) You know the Nudist Beach signs here are simply stick figures? Two stick figures, one with with two breasts and one with a penis almost as long as his leg. I imagine that for this beach they were probably naked male and female stick figures doing star jumps. An Official Aqua Aerobics in the Altogether beach.

Only in Spain.

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