Written 2/18/2012

Let me start by saying that if you believe this right away after reading it, I will question your judgment. It happened to me and I am still having trouble believing it.

This adventure begins with me leaving the Panda Hostel for the last time this year. I was headed for the train station and had to drop off some mail on my way out. I hit the post box and went to buy my bilety (ticket). To get around our language barrier she held out a timetable for me to choose from. I learned then that Krakow has two airports. I was pretty sure Krakow Balice was the same as John Paul II Airport. I took the underground passage around to my platform. I got there ten minutes before the train left. However, my ticket was for the next bus. I had noticed on the way to the platform but I was pretty sure it didn’t matter. Now, I’m pretty sure it did.

So, I wasn’t getting on that train. It was all explained to me. I wish I knew more Polish.  I caught a cab and was there in twenty minutes. My flight was delayed by twenty five minutes for heavy snow. It lightened up and two hours later I was in Madrid. I took of my stuffed coat and put on my hoodie in front of this:

I hopped on the airport express bus that dropped me off in this plaza, upon which I immediately swore out loud on accident. But what do you say when you get off a bus and see this?

As I exited the bus driver pointed me towards the Estacion de Sur. Now that I knew pretty much where I had to be to catch the bus to Granada I had just a little over five hours to see what I could of central Madrid. It was kind of a blur. I circled the massive academy and strolled down the paseos and around the fountain-filled plazas. More than anything what I took away from my experience in Madrid is that I want to spend at least a few days in Madrid.

I left the Spanish capital on a bus bound for Granada. I arrived at the Granada bus station at around midnight. The next bus for Orgiva, which is where I was to meet a family that would be hosting me for the next few weeks, left at 8:30 in the morning. I set up a little camp on one of the benches in the bus station and tried to get some sleep. The benches had immobile armrests between each seat (probably so as not to encourage people to sleep on them and if that was the case it worked. I am very unenthused about the prospect of another night in the Granada bus depot.).

By nine the next morning I was entering the heart of Andalucia. As my bus sped through the mountains my ears began to pop from the pressure changes. My stomach dropped as we rounded corners on the edge of the mountain cliffs. As I looked out the window, all I could see were mountains and lakes with small villages dotting the landscape. After almost two hours of winding back into the the forest covered mountains we were in the town of Orgiva. The town had a market and a few shops on one main street. I used the town’s payphone to call my hosts and let them know I had arrived.

The patriarch arrived to pick me up after I made a quick stop in the market to get a snack for breakfast. As we rode out to his home we talked about how I ended up out in a remote part of Andalucia and how he ended up out here. He told me the story of the area surrounding what would be my home for the next few weeks. Almost twenty years ago he and a group of people he described as “hippies” started a settlement in the nearby valley. He lived there for about a decade before moving higher up on the mountain and building a home for he and his two children. Now he and his family live on the many plants they grow, including olive trees for producing some of the best I’ve ever had, and use solar panels for electricity. The amount of electricity produced is quite amazing. He powers the lights, two computers, a water heater, and all the other basic electronics with these panels and has never had a shortage of electricity. After we rolled to a stop in his driveway I got out and looked down over the cliff. He pointed out hundreds of tents, domes, and mudhuts that house the estimated four or five hundred remaining “hippies,” which he says are quite different than when he lived there. He recommended that I go down and walk through the village at least once and I am not going to pass up the opportunity after hearing some stories about the residents in the valley.

I still did not know what I would be doing here in… well I don’t think it has a name exactly so I guess the best description is the mountains of Andalucia near the Sierra Nevada Park.  After meeting his wife and two children it became a little more clear what my “job” would be. My daily work would consist of helping out with some light cleaning, help around the house, pruning trees, chopping wood, and doing small renovation jobs “if I feel like it,” as they always remind me. To start, the matriarch asked if I would like to go for a walk. I jumped at the chance to see more of this amazing area. She grabbed the three month old puppy, Bubba, and we headed up the trails. We wound around for a while before hitting a road. The road led to a tiny pueblo village called Caña (Kah-nya). She went to drop in on a friend and I went for the village. Every building is made of white and there are tiny streets not wide enough for a car that lead to the humble homes of the residents of the village. This town has been in these remote mountains for hundreds of years and has a history of having been conquered and reconquered by invaders, some of which were the Spanish led by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. That’s when I realized that I am walking around in the setting to Hemmingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”  I even the terrifying story from the some of the elders in Caña where Franco pulled seven people out of their homes and shot them in front of everyone.  This rings frighteningly true to the scene in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” where this same thing happens.

After leaving the village I climbed up towards the mountaintop. As my lack of sleep began to catch up to me I realized that I was not going to make it to the top today. I sat for a drink of water and as I tried to take a picture a thunderous snort came from just behind my ear. I jumped and if I had not had my camera strapped to my wrist I would have thrown it right of the cliff. It was a horse that was just out for a wander like me.  On my return down the mountain I would see many more horses roaming and grazing, probably in no small part to the fact that I got lost for about an hour.

When I got back to the house I thought I should set up my caravan. I grabbed my bags and the lady of the house showed me out back. On the way to my camper she showed me a workshop and the other small edifices on their property. I entered my temporary home and took stock. I had electricity from the solar panels on the house, a table, some chairs, a bed filled with blankets and comforters, closets, a radio, and a wood-fired stove for heating the place. I made my bed and sat for a moment considering my luck. This has got to be the most amazing plot of nature I have ever seen. I have my own camper. Most of my time, as I soon found out, would be spent playing pool and ping pong while talking history with her son (and of course adventuring out into the terrain every chance I got).

After a lunch of fresh sandwiches with all fresh vegetables, including my favorite, avocados, I continued on with my duties (if you want to to call them that, which I really don’t) of entertaining/tutoring her son and talking with the family. The parents invited me to go with them to a party that was being thrown for a friend’s birthday. They said it would just be a small gathering but I was more than welcome to come along. I politely declined on the grounds that I did not see myself being up for a “late night,” as they described it, after the last thirty six hours had left me pretty much drained. I wasted away the night playing pool, listening to music, playing the guitar, and talking with her son and a friend of his overlooking the mountains and valleys of Andalucia. After dark I headed out to my caravan, built a fire in the wood stove to heat it up, and settled in for the first good night’s sleep I’d had in a while. I woke up this morning and it took a few minutes for me to believe that all of this was true again. Now, I am going to head up to the house and see if I can make myself of use. I have a few adventures that happened during this story but they may have to be saved for another time, as I am running long. I am sure I have many more adventures coming up. I may not post as frequently as I have in the past (there is just too much to do) but I will catch you all up before it is all said and done. Until then here are just a few pics I took…