We waved goodbye to Jacquie and Neal and hit the road north. It was a 14 hour drive, so we broke it up and spent two nights in the middle at a glamping site in eastern Portugal. My sister had told me about Senses Camping last year but we couldn’t make it there on the cycle tour. This time we weren’t going to miss it! As well as looking forward to pitching up without being surrounded by motor homes, I was keen to talk to the owners about how it went setting up something that’s so unusual in Spain and Portugal.
Michel and Natasha welcomed us on Friday evening and we pitched up as the sun went down. On Saturday we enjoyed exploring the area – a beautifully lush green valley scattered with pretty villages – before finding some time to chat to them in the afternoon. They gave us loads of great advice and couldn’t have been nicer! Then we helped Michel in the vegetable garden in return for joining their BBQ dinner with their friends from up the lane. We had a wonderful evening chatting and eating veggie burgers and salad freshly prepared from their garden produce. Senses camping is a beautiful venue and a shining example of what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. I hope we will be able to do something like that with our own vision.
Just before we departed on Sunday, the neighbour Olle showed us around his communal garden. A group of 10 people live there and it’s his job to make sure they are all fed from the land – a task which he appears to have risen to! We enjoyed a tour of the garden and interesting discussions about gardening techniques, then we had to get back on the road.
We drove some of the route we’d taken on our bikes last year, crossing the border into Spain, going past Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca, covering the distance of a two day ride in a few hours. Then we headed north through endless boring, flat fields, trying not to fall asleep after last night’s party. Just when we thought the monotony would never end, all of a sudden we were in the mountains! Wide open valleys of lush forest gave way to steeper valleys, and we climbed over a pass through the clouds then descended towards our destination – the beautiful village of Basieda. Red roofs nestled into the mountain side in a never ending forest. We were back at Olmares.
This is where we were a month or so ago. The owners of the Olmares holiday apartments are Richard and Suzanne, who offered us an apartment in return for some work over the summer. It’s working out well so far – we work a little most days to cover our accommodation but still have plenty of time for planning, investigating, integrating, exploring and planting the veg garden!
Things are good, but it’s a strange existence at the moment – not quite on holiday but not quite working, trying to make stuff happen for the future when everything is pretty nebulous, including our plans. Some days I feel all enthusiastic and productive, other days I don’t see the point in dragging myself out of my cosy bed, but Dave is always there to greet me with a smile and a hug regardless of my mood.
The language is still a barrier of course and I find it my most frustrating barrier. Not only do I not know how stuff works here, it’s also hard to find out how stuff works when you can’t talk to people properly. We are learning a little but it’s slower than I expected. An immersion course may be required later in the year!
Happily we are getting stuff done, little by little. Dave has prepared the vegetable garden with help from gardener Jose Pedro and a rotovator Jose borrowed from a friend. I have planted loads of seeds and watched at least some of them sprout. We have signed up to a hiking club and are going walking with them next month. We went up a mountain on Friday (not even all the way to the top, but we still would have been towering above Ben Nevis). It’s beautiful here and we are starting to feel a little settled.
We have a whole stash of lists to work our way through over the coming weeks and months. I know that this whole thing is going to take time and there will be plenty of frustrations along the way, but at least we have a fixed base for the next few months – a place to call home for the time being.