A tale from the travel trail of Rhonda and RyanWe’ve done very little hitchhiking in our five years on the road, but it seemed like the best course of action when we decided to go to a fairly nearby medieval festival in Alcuadete Spain as there was no easy bus route and we just don’t do taxis unless we have to.
Less than twelve miles away and ready Freddie with our hand painted sign out the door we went about three hours before sundown on the Saturday night of a three day event that a local had tipped us off to.
Side note: We’re here as “workawayers” housesitting for a month.
This region of the Andalusian mountains is a bit hot, dry and rugged, especially in mid July. But nonetheless gorgeous with its rolling hills of olive groves wrapping across them like tight braids as far as the eye can see.
In the beginning we felt no concern as the first few cars passed sharing a friendly wave but not stopping.
It was after our route turned down an even smaller road and passing traffic became nonexistent that it first began to truly settle in the walk we may have ahead of us. Not new to adventure or long treks, we had water with us and plenty of podcast downloads to help pass the time.
It was the long and steady inclines with unrelenting brilliant sun beating on my back that really kicked my bootie.
I stopped as needed to catch my breath and take in the vast amazing scenery.
Our mapping system estimated a 4 hour walk that apparently did not allow for hills and breaks. Four hours later, it was nearly 11:00 at night and we still had about an hour to go.
Like an oasis to the poor soul lost in a desert, a small cafe with a lit up Coca Cola sign appeared and as we approached, we both held our breathe a little praying it would still be open, so ready were we for a real rest and an ice cold drink.
Hallelujah! Not only was it open but the kind owner after hearing our story generously offered to drive us the rest of the way to our destination.
We knew heading out that it would be an adventurous night, even if we had caught a ride right out of the gate because we had no where to sleep and wouldn’t have wanted to spend the money even if we had found one.
Being penny pinching travelers is how we’ve managed to continue our world explorations for so long.
I had tucked in my messenger bag, 3 light weight shawls and a airplane style blow-up pillow.
As we sat in the little restaurant waiting for the kind keeper to close things down, deep exhaustion began to settle into my bones making it harder and harder to believe that this had been such a good idea after all.
I began to notice that my foot had not stopped aching, pulled the heel of my tennis shoe down to discover an enormous blood filled blister just above the bottom of my foot. It was about the size of a 50 cent piece and not from the rubbing of my shoe but rather from the pressure created from going up and down steep inclines.
The bottom of my b-cheeks were beginning to cramp up and all I could imagine doing was curling up somewhere and crashing.
All that changed and my energy came rushing back when our destination came into view with its 700 year old Moorish castle high up on a hill ablaze in festive lighting. Within moments we began to see the crowds, the tents, the fluttering colorful cloth banners and traditional shaped fabric garlands so familiar from childhood storybook and Disney movie memories.
Awareness of aches, pain and fatigue immediately vanished, swept away and replaced by a flood of excitement and curiosity.
It had the feeling that the party was just getting going good although certainly many had already been there for hours.
Costuming a big part of the merriment, to my delight knights and fair maidens of all ages walked the narrow cobbled streets. Children enjoyed the luxury that small towns can provide bounding about with friends as carefree as playful puppies in a wheat field.
Ryan cautioned me to look over my shoulder as suddenly a giant camel emerged through the crowd behind me with a young girl not looking entirely certain that she thought the ride was such a great idea after all.
After walking a few windy blocks up a cross roads emerged, a lovely plaza, gaily festooned and partially filled with tables where hundreds were seated, eating, drinking, visiting and watching one another and the kids who had fun activities of their own, smallish rides not authentic but more in keeping with the going back in time nature of the event than everyday carnival rides.
Stalls lined the streets from here up to the castle and its adjacent cathedral selling all kinds of crafts and treats.
I expressed over and over how glad I was that we had persevered and how worth it the long trudge had been.
We spent the next few hours meandering, capturing photos or at least trying to in the low light conditions.
A favorite discovery was a tent with at least a dozen different predatory birds calmly standing on perches as though there was nothing at all unusual about the mayhem about them. The giant owls especially cracked me up, slowly opening and closing their eyes, turning their heads impossible distances to look around.
The evening’s final big moment was held right at the foot of the castle where the horses were openly stabled, their saddles and regalia off to one side, the jousters’ lances, and long spears arranged on the other.
Musicians and fire dancers led the closing ceremonies wrapping up the day’s event at 3:00 AM. Now my you, as a many time “Burning Man” attendee, this production was quite amateur in comparison to many performances that I’ve seen but fire, costumes and crowds are always thrilling. Throw in a star filled sky, a beautifully lit fairytale castle and the giddiness of extreme fatigue and you have a grand finale of a night to remember.
At that point feeling grateful that gravity was working with us, we ambled down the cobbled street along with the crowd of weary revelers now feeling seriously ready to find a place to rest our bones and tuck ourselves away for the night.
In my thirteen plus years with Ryan, we’ve found ourselves quite a few times on fun adventures where we’ve needed to snuggle somewhere without true shelter, a reality that I could not have even begun to imagine for several decades of my life. Intentional short term “homelessness” while not the most physically comfortable of realities has always been fun and thrilling.
Each situation has special memories and stories associated with it for which I am deeply grateful. I’m also grateful that we’ve never had a critter or some other uninvited guest join us.
This time the closest that came to happening was a guy looking for a place to take a leak head our direction before seeing us up above him then doing a quick zip up and walking quickly away. We were not at risk of getting sprinkled. We’re experienced. We know how to assess a curl up spot.
For a few brief moments as we were walking along with the throngs, no yards, parks, benches or woods nearby (fortresses don’t have a lot of those things generally), I started to expect the search my take a little while and goodness I was tired, but I’ve learned not to feel fearful or anxious in such situations. Solutions always appear. And then bam, there it was, an open gate that lead down a small empty walkway that seemed to beckon. Without discussion, we both made the gentle turn into it and soon found ourselves looking at an ancient wall with a small cave just a few feet off the ground in the hillside that it was built upon. I made the slightly awkward climb up the rocks to get to it, turned on my phone’s flashlight and checked it out. Nothing gross, nothing scary, no signs of recent occupancy by other humans or critters, fully enclosed on three sides with the exception of a hole about the size of a dinner plate near the floor that lead deeper into the cave. That did creep me out just a little and I warned Ry to not be startled if a mass of bats should decide to pass through during the night. Fortunately that did not happen. I’ve had plenty of upclose experiences with bats and am not mortally fearful of them as some are but I’d just as soon not be woken up by the frantic flutter of them dodging around my head.
(The red teardrop marks the alley way where we were. The cave can actually be discerned just a bit to the left. Wow. The internet is such a crazy cool things isn’t it?)
‘Twas a quick and easy decision to stay put. The earth was hard packed and a bit lumpy with small stones but nonetheless our Home Sweet Here felt wonderfully cozy, safe and extremely adventurous.
We got up with the sun both of us having gotten at least a bit of sleep. Every now and again we would be stirred awake by voices passing by that took no notice of us.
As the town came back to life, people started showing up on the sidewalks and a street cleaner directed us to a place about a half mile walk away to a part of town where we were able to find some action, a coffee and eventually a local willing to let us pay him for a ride back to our village where we’re staying.
The miles go by so much more quickly in an automobile but we still were pretty impressed by the distance we had traveled by foot.
Physical recovery took two days. The wonderful memories will hopefully last forever.
Do you dream of taking to the road, RV’ing, adventure traveling, exploring America or the world at large, becoming a digital nomad, participating in the sharing economy through wwoofing, workamper, or workaway, becoming an Airbnb host, or just yearn to somehow recreate your life? Well every situation is different but I am happy to answer any questions I can, help think through challenges and obstacles and share what I’ve learned from our 5 years on the road and what it took to make it happen. For details please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook Rhonda Effron Brown. I’d love to help you figure out how to live your dreams.