Day 121 – The pessimist complains about the wind…

Monday 12th November 2018

…the optimist expects it to change; the realist closes the roof and sleeps downstairs.

William Arthur Ward – (as amended by Mr P)

I already mentioned how we found a lovely free place to park Gandalf on a ridge near Arboli, Catalunya, Spain.

It had been a very peaceful spot on our first evening. Stunning views, close to the climbing, flat (very important). We both had a great nights sleep and woke to a beautiful sunrise. All in all, a great place for a wild camp.

No surprises then that, we had decided to spend another night in the same spot.

This may not have been our best move. The evening started well;

• Beautiful sunset – check

• Dinner cooked and eaten – looking good so far

Time to settle down for the night.

Climb into pop top roof and think;

Sleep, my sweet reward.

Nope. More like…

O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down and steep my sense in forgetfulness?

William Shakespeare

Ah, would that mine own words should compare to that of the great Bard. No. More like;

How in heaven’s name am I going to sleep through this racket?”

Pop top roofs. Great unless it’s really windy

What sounds like a howling gale has started up. Winds are gusting at a mere 43 kph. ‘Not too bad.‘ I hear you say. ‘A mere 26.179 mph‘. But, we all know what happens when wind hits a ridge or mountain and what happens to the wind speed at the top of said ridge or mountain… What do you mean “No”? Must I explain everything? Hey ho. It’s Mr P explains time again:

When wind hits a slope the speed increases the higher up the slope you go. Meaning that the wind reaches its highest velocity at the summit of the ridge/mountain/hill or, where Gandalf is parked.

The following diagram may help…

A diagram purloined from the interweb that manages to look like a 1970’s Open University handout

Not entirely sure how accurate the figures are but, you get the idea.

Additionally there is the eyes shut effect that automatically magnifies all sound to cataclysmic proportion.

The gusting bit is the thing that is keeping me awake. The pop top or, bloomin’ great sail, is causing the van to be buffeted around in a far from relaxing way. Yes, I tried counting sheep, but they kept blowing away.

There is a difference dear reader, between a tent in a gale and a campervan pop top roof in mere high winds. Strange as it may seem, I would prefer the tent in a gale. At least in a tent you sleep on the immovable ground.

By 11pm I had had enough, and so it would appear had Mrs P. On attempting to gently wake her to break the news that I was going to close the roof and we would have to move downstairs (“downstairs!?) I discovered that she was already awake, had been awake for some time and was thoroughly fed up of being constantly battered in the back by the side of the pop top.

So, down we go. Pop top closed. Noise reduced, buffeting diminished. But, I still can’t sleep (unlike Mrs P who is instantly out like a light). Finally at about 03.30 the winds die down and I finally, get some shut eye.

We wake in the morning to beautiful sunshine and new neighbours. A white campervan with British number plates arrived shortly after dark the previous night. The occupants are a lovely couple (Phil & Allie) of a similar age to Mrs P and I (well, at least Phil was a similar age to me) out here, in Catalunya, climbing for a few months.

We chat, and following a guided tour of their cleverly converted, if somewhat larger van, we [read: ‘Mr P’] suffer from the following:

1. Storage space envy

2. Oven envy

3. Fridge envy

4. Extractor fan envy

5. Shower envy

6. Even inflatable kayak envy.

Later that day our new acquaintances bump into us at the crag where Mrs P is honing her lead climbing skills and Phil (under the expert direction of his able assistant Allie) kindly takes some rare and rather splendid photos of Mrs P and myself in climbing mode.

Mrs P – Leading lady
Mr P, looking up to Mrs P (as always)

Thanks both.

Tune in again tomorrow when it’s back to the pretty pictures as Mrs P and I take a walk around the historic and even legendary, hill top town of Siurana.

Days 117 – 119 – The journey north begins…

Thursday 8th – Saturday 10th November 2018

Those of you who have been reading this blog since day 1, may, if you cast your mind back, remember that the title was;

“DAY 1 of 120”

If you were really paying attention you will have noticed that the, “…of 120” stopped being used after day 12. At the time this was pure idleness but I am thinking of reintroducing it just so, on Monday, I can have a title of;

“Day 121 of 120”

Yes folks, it looks very much like the blog and our trip is to continue beyond its original remit of 120 days or 4 months.

Gandalf on tour – The journey continues

However, our time, as our cash, is finite and the end is in sight. We have booked our ferry tickets home from Santander, Spain to Portsmouth and we sail on Saturday 17th November returning late on Sunday 18th.

To this end we have begun the journey North and today (Saturday 10th November) we have arrived in a place called Arboli in the Catalonia region of Spain. It is kind of between Barcelona and Valencia but, inland.

Prior to this we had a couple of lazy days. One deliberate; resting after the Bernia ridge with just a few routes at Alcalalí. One semi-enforced due to high NE winds which meant our choice of crag (Gandia) was ‘chilly’ to say the least. We quit after just 3 climbs. It doesn’t bode well for our return to a British winter and climbing in… well, anywhere really!

Mrs P climbing in a coat and winter trousers at Gandia

A Long drive today (Saturday 10th) over 200 miles, so we just did a couple of climbs on arrival at Arboli to stretch our muscles after too long sitting in the van (sorry Gandalf).

Climbing at Arboli. At least the winter trousers have gone

Wild camp tonight. Beautiful spot. About 1 km outside Arboli on a ridge with great views in pretty much every direction. To the north, about a kilometre away across the valley we can see the hilltop town of Siurana beautifully lit by the sunset.

Siurana at sunset

To the west, nothing but hills with a line of wind turbines just about visible on the horizon (I like wind turbines). Stunning sunset.

Not a bad view for nothing

So, let me fill you in on a couple of thing we have learned over the last three days

Lesson 1. English coach tours can be embarrassing

We were parked up having our lunch in a place called Xaló. A pleasant little place on Alicante’s wine tour route. We were near a coach tour bus and watched as, in dribs and drabs the passengers returned. They were almost caricatures of the very worst of the unhealthy middle aged English abroad. You could almost hear their arteries hardening. One might question how people allow themselves to get in such a state or ask, “Why such dreadful posture?” or, “How slow is it actually possible to walk before you are declared stationary?” You could ask those questions. But what was the question that crossed Mr (aught to be ashamed of himself) P’s mind?

I wonder if they carry body bags. You know, just in case.”

Lesson 2. The Spanish have what can only be described as a laissez-faire attitude to parking.

Parking in England is bad and getting more inconsiderate as the years roll by but, it has nothing on Spanish parking. Rather than citing examples of this let’s drop in on Alejandro’s driving test from a few years back…

Driving instructor: “Now then Alejandro, you only have one more section in this driving test between you and a pass.”

Alejandro beams. He’s been looking forward to this bit. Practicing and observing his grandmother, an excellent exponent of this particular driving skill, when he goes out shopping with her

Driving instructor: “Alejandro, I would like you to park the car please near that supermarket you can see up ahead.”

“Mirror signal, manoeuvre.” thinks Alejandro and in a matter of a few turns of the steering wheel the deed is done. He looks expectantly at the instructor.

Driving instructor: “Well Alejandro, you’ve parked on the wrong side of the road, on a blind bend about 1.5 metres from the kerb, at a very rakish angle and to top it all you are on a pedestrian crossing. What can I say? You’ve performed extremely well all the way through the test and, right at the very end… (his voice falters) I’m lost for words.”

Alejandro looks nervous. He feels a trickle of sweat drip down his back.

Driving instructor his voice breaking with emotion: “Alejandro, that was… (tears well in his eyes) ..just about the best parking I have ever seen. You pulled out all the stops there. You have obviously been practicing everything I taught you. Well done you’ve passed your driving test.”

There is a difference though. In the UK people get very irate about this kind of behaviour. In Spain it seems to be just accepted as the norm by both other road users and the perpetrators.

I will not be writing a blog tomorrow. At 11am you will be busy observing a 2 minute silence.

Let us not remember them for just 2 minutes

Let us honour them with the silence

And remember them always

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.