Hey friends, I have a lot share with you so let me jump right in…

My last night at my temporary home in the mountains of Andalucia was spent at a riotous birthday party.  There was music and mirrorballs (complete with a laser light show), dancing and singing (“Happy Birthday” was sung in both English and Spanish), and feasting on a gargantuan spread of vegetarian dishes (over the last three weeks the members of my host family have turned me partially vegetarian through their non-carnivorous culinary prowess).  Long after I went to bed I could still hear the music reverberating throughout the canyon.

I woke up early the next morning so that I could finish packing for my next adventure.  I stoked the heater in my caravan and finished drying my clothes.  I stuffed and restuffed my backpack until everything fit just right.  As I was tightening the last strap I heard Will, the family patriarch, coming down the trail.  He greeted me with the typical “hi-ya” and told me that everyone had woke up early so that they could send me off.  I hurriedly double checked the caravan to make sure I had everything and headed to the house.

Will, Selma, and Kevin, their younger son, chatted with me over breakfast.  We reminisced about some of our adventures and shared our gratitude with each other.  Then it was about time to leave when I noticed that Tim had still not come out of his room.  This was not unusual because Tim refused to leave his room before ten but I was hoping he would make an exception just this once.  I yelled through his door and told him how much I had appreciated his hard work during our three weeks of tutoring.  I walked outside and the rest of the family followed.  Will put my bags in the car and got in as the rest of the family gave me hugs.  I found this moment to be particularly challenging as I fought to hold back my tears.  Then Tim came out of the house with a big smile.  I took a few minutes to tell him how impressed I was with him and how bright of a future he has.  I finished by telling the rest of the family what appreciated most about each of them.

Will and I got in the car and took off down the mountain.  As I looked out over the town of Orgiva, the valley of El Morreon, and the teepees of Beneficio for the last time on this adventure I became engrossed in a conversation with Will.  Apparently, we both have a very deep respect for one another.  He told me how rare it was for him to meet a fellow such as me.  I told him how impressed I was with the community he had helped build over the last eighteen years.  He explained that there were beautiful places all over the world but what makes this one special is the people.  I agree completely.  By the time we reached the bottom of the mountains I was beginning to wonder just what this experience would come to mean to me in the future.  As of yet I still do not know completely but I have a feeling this three weeks has changed me in ways that will improve my life in many ways.

Will parked across the street from the bus stop.  We got out and he got my bags for me.  He helped me strap them on and then we hugged and said our goodbyes.  I was very happy when Will told me that I was welcome back for as long as I want anytime I am looking for a little time in the mountains while I am travelling.  I asked him to thank the rest of the community for me.  I smiled and headed off to the bus stop when one of Will’s friends spotted him and they began chatting.

I waited at the bus stop, watching the stray dogs and hippies wander the sidewalk, for ten minutes before the bus to Granada arrived.  I was last in line and as I was waiting for the driver to get my change I heard a voice from behind me.  It was Will.  He told me that he just wanted to make sure I had a “proper” send off so he waited until I was gone to leave.  While the driver fumbled around trying to make change we exchanged compliments.  I will never forget how Will put his hand over his heart, looked me straight in the eyes, and told me that it was an honor to have met someone like me. I took my seat and waved goodbye as I beamed with pride over his final comments.

As the bus pulled away and we traveled the winding mountain roads that brought me to this place three weeks ago I noticed something.  The cliffs and turns that had previously given me some discomfort were now simply beautiful.  There was no fear.  There was no apprehension of the “what ifs” of this mountain road.  There was just beauty and acceptance.   I wondered if this might be what I learned on this adventure.

A couple hours later I was in Granada.  I secured my bag in a locker and went out to spend my half day in town.  I walked to the grocery store across the street and got some bread and cheese.  I figured that I didn’t have much time in Granada but it would be nice to have a little picnic somewhere nice.  I wandered the sidewalks of Granada for an hour or so before realizing that I would not be able to see most of the town in a few hours.  I resigned myself to be content with my picnic.  I found a public square with a fountain and some benches.  I posted up in the shade and got out my lunch.  The bread and cheese tasted as it always did.  As usual I spent lunch doing some people-watching.  I watched the runners, the walkers, the business people on lunch break, and the bicyclists (some of whom were listening to music and doing little dance moves as they passed).  It was nearing two in the afternoon at that point so most of the city would be closed for a few hours.  I packed away my things and laid down on a bench that was in the sun to partake in the afternoon siesta.  I awoke from my siesta and continued walking around Granada, trying to see as much as I could before leaving.  I saw enough to make me want to come back for a proper visit on a future adventure.  The plain white buildings with orange latticed roofs sprawled out from the city into the nearby snow-capped  mountains.

I went back to the bus station and soon departed for the first leg of my trip to Santiago de Compostela, which would take me as far as Madrid.  We left mountains that were covered with soil resembling a mixture of clay and cement and packed tightly with rows of olive trees and headed for the reputed greenery of the Galician mountains.  I tried, with great futility, to get comfortable.  The guy behind me was coughing and blowing his nose raw so I tried breathing through my blanket in order to avoid getting whatever close relative of the bubonic plague he was afflicted with.  Every hour I woke up to change position due to my legs alternately falling asleep.

After a short wait at the Madrid bus station I was on the final leg of the journey to Santiago.  It was much the same as the first half of the trip, only longer.  At 6 AM I woke up and saw signs that signaled my arrival in Galicia.  The rumors were true, partially.  The mountains were much greener and the trees much bigger.  One thing that was not true, however, was what I had heard about the weather.  Whenever I told someone in Andalucia that I was going to Galicia they would say “Oh, it’s going to be cold up there.”  That turned out not to be the case.  The weather was sunny and comfortable even at 6 in the morning.  The sun was rising to the east but the moon had not yet set.  I watched the moon disappear an then watched the end of an old Buster Keaton film on the on-bus entertainment system.  I was looking forward to stretching out taking in some sites and some sun.

Well, I definitely did that and more on my first day in Santiago de Compostela.  I planned to write the rest of the day’s adventure here but I noticed that this post is getting a bit long already.  I also have some photos and video to work on before I put up Day 1 in Galicia (which, just for fun, is Day 59 of this trip).  It is now getting late here and I am already in for the night.  I will probably put up my next post in a few hours because there is not much to do in the middle of the night when you are living in a bus station.  Until next time here are a few fun pics from my time in Andalucia…

  These are the rocks we jumped across when we toured the other side of the river.

  A dilapidated dwelling deep in the valley near the Guadalafea River.

 A sheep that I took a picture of from the other side of a gate.  He was very upset that I was passing through.  Later, I was trying to get back down the mountain and I was on the same side of the gate as him.  I took the long way home.