Monday, 13 November 2017

A day in the life of the High Plains Drifters

Well here we are in the Mizala Valley, in Andalusia, in Southern Spain for our five month housesit. It was a bit of a surprise when we turned off the motorway to discover that the little village of Mizala was so …. little. More of a hamlet really, actually more of a little hamlet. It has no shop, no restaurant, no bar and only about 10 people. Although we have only seen three. So there goes the opportunity to sit around chatting, eating tapas and drinking with the locals.

To get to our lonely finca we have to leave the heaving streets of Mizala and continue on a progressively deteriorating road that goes from loose tarmac to dirt track with potholes over the 3 kilometre drive. It’s pretty remote. There are some nice ex-pat neighbour's about a mile back up the track but that’s it. The track stops at our house and, as far as I can tell, our address at this housesit is:

The last house in Mizala Valley, 
A few kilometres down the dirt track from Mizala,

So, picture any spaghetti western and that is pretty much where we live. There’s scrub, tangleweed, cactus, dirt, cracked earth, loads of old ruined fincas, limestone karsts, fissures and dried rambla (river beds). We live in a valley with 200/300 metre sides It has a few old terraces (no longer farmed) that are dotted with olive trees. The silence is ridiculous. No traffic, people, crashing waves, industry or anything apart from your own echoing voices and twittering birds.

The sun breaks over the mountains and light the valley at about 7.30am at the moment and the mountains turn from silhouettes, to gold, to orange and as the sun strengthens. It is beautiful and rugged and since nearly every day is sunny the first few hours of any day are glorious. Nights draw in pretty quickly and by 7.00 the huge night skies show themselves. No light pollution – just hundreds of stars and eerie silence and occasional bat.

Its not an easy place to live. It has solar but the input and storage is not quite enough. There is no mains electric so we have to be a little careful once the sun goes. Anything that drains power needs the help of the new generator. Water is mains but intermittent, so we have 30,000 litres of storage tanks to keep us hydrated when city hall is trying to save money. The finca itself is run down or being done up. Depending on your view point. There is a lot of land and its full of lots of things that are stabby and want to hurt you. But that’s why its remained looking like this since forever.

It’s a grower, this place. It’s so different from many places we have been in. Sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s frustrating or boring. But then other times it makes you feel fantastic and free.

Rachel had to leave a little time after we arrived to fly back for a wedding of her dear friend Pam (Pammington) to Eric. So whilst she jetted about and enjoyed a party, a wedding and the company of old friends. I had to spend a few evenings getting drunk with Helen (the host) and her daughter and son in Law - Anna and Johnny. Good fun.

We have to go shopping once a week for provisions and get rid of rubbish which involves a 30 kilometre driver to Garrucha or Vera. The first couple of times we also took the opportunity to spend a little time on the nudist beach tanning our bits. But lately there’s been a bit of a chilly wind down at the beach so we have had to stop that shenanigans.

We are trying to build an online teaching presence and have signed up to several sites and are slowly getting clients. If this works out we can theoretically take them with us wherever we go and never have to make the decision of where we will actually put down roots again. It’s a very different feel to teaching in person but allows us to be masters of our own hours etc. So that’s us tied up for 3 or 4 hours a week. Workshy? No. Actually NO!

Given an opportunity to do stuff we want to do then we are both really hard working. We have been doing stuff around the place both for our own physical/mental wellbeing and as a nice surprise for Helen who, I think, gets a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff to do. Do date we have been repairing the track and filling in potholes and ruts. Hard graft made easier only by singing of slave tunes and supping of cool refreshments. We have cleared the cactus garden of weeds and I got covered in little spines that left me sitting in a bath shaving my body hair like a drag queen to get them out and scratching for days. We have weeded the drive, cleared the palms and tidied the debris. Rachel has started a herb garden and is now overrun with tomato plants. We have both re stone walled a patio area and are removing old olive trees and seriously pruning those we leave in attempt to rescue the dying orchard. And we have created a love shrine to have our wedding renew ceremony in (more on that in a later blog). So we are keeping busy, losing fat, getting fit and starting to enjoy this latest adventure.

Oh I forgot, not sure how, to mention the dogs we are looking after. Rosa (aka Edna Snippypants – a canine librarian type who is smalled than the others but feisty as fuck forever making Phil yelp). Phil. Big lumbering, lovable dolt who looks like he is made of straw and seems to constantly get in the way of us wherever we walk because he likes some kind of human contact. Finally, Pod, Walks on tip toes the who time. There is a something of Steve McQueen (the Cooler King o the Great Escape) about him. There's a big enclosed area that he is always escaping from. Hes very friendly and patient and stubborn as heck. These three very different personalities are both amusing and worrying. They have hundreds of acres of unrestricted playground to run around in and chase rabbits through and that’s exactly what they do. Sometimes going missing for 8 or 9 hours at a time then turning up gasping for water and exhausted. I am sure we will be reporting more on them in the future.

As for people - Angela (my sis) and Howard came out to see us for a few days which was amazing. Finally able to play host to them for a while instead of taking their hospitality. Gary and Mel (old pals) are joining us for a wedding thingy along with the neighbours so stay tuned for that one and Rachel's parents are even coming out to see us and hopefully they will provide some fun and games for us to report

That’s it for now though. Dogs have just arrived after being out for 10 hours!!!!

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