Growing food and friendships

Even though there’s been zero progress on finding ourselves a property over the last few weeks, I’m starting to feel like we’re getting on well here.

Last week we went to the bank to open an account.  We met a nice cashier who told us lots of useful things. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand most of them, and since we didn’t come out with a bank account, I can only assume that we’re not allowed one. The internet tells me that’s because we’re foreign. A follow-up trip to the town hall is required!

The week was spent in the usual fashion – weeding and watering for Richard and Suzanne in the apartment gardens, weeding and watering for ourselves in the vegetable garden, doing a bit of Spanish practice and making plans for our hypothetical future. This week we collected fig suckers and hazel cuttings and put them in a dark box to promote root growth in the hope that next year we will have our own trees, although I’m painfully aware that we might not have anywhere to put them!

The bad news of the week is that our car broke down. The old Subaru just refused to start one morning. All the men in the village (all 3 of them) gathered around and looked at the engine whilst it made pathetic noises. It wasn’t the battery so the diagnosis was an electrical fault. Bummer. Richard booked us a tow tractor and Dave went into town with it the next morning. A jimmy-rigged replacement fuse was installed and we’re driving around with it like that until either it breaks down again or we can be bothered to drive 2 hours to Santander to go to the Subaru garage.

The good news of the week is that we made friends with the neighbour Pila. She was born in the next village and moved here when her mother passed away. Pila has always been friendly with us in passing then started inviting us into her house for coffee and giving us food, so we decided some payback was required. I cooked dinner and we took it over one evening. It didn’t really go according to plan though! She didn’t want to eat anything because it was too late (I forgot old people only eat at lunchtime) so we sat and scoffed our food and she kept feeding us more food until we could barely move, let alone eat any more. But we enjoyed each other’s company and I know to do lunch next time.

Then finally, at the weekend, a day I’d been waiting over a month for… we went on a hike with a Santander hiking club! Dave and I drove 45 minutes to the town of Panes to meet them on their bus which would take us another hour to the start of the walk. A bus-full of tanned smiling faces greeted us and we were surrounded by Spanish chatter and hearty laughter on the way up the winding roads.

It was a fabulous walk – a sweltering but beautiful day, fabulous views, wonderful people and the most fantastic hiking lunch break I’ve ever witnessed. After we’d summited the highest point on the hike, we headed for a cluster of trees to sit in the shade. Dave and I got out our usual lunch boxes, but all around us, out came knives and forks, wheels of cheese, loaves of bread, chorizo sausages, boxes of pastries, bottles of wine, flasks of liqueur, home made cakes, jars of jam…! And much of it got passed around for everyone to share. Oh joyous Spanish siesta, long may you live on.

0-12 Hike siesta

At the end of lunch, some people napped off the liqueur for a few minutes then we packed up to set off. The lady next to me produced a tiny mirror, lipstick and a comb and spent a moment making herself presentable for the descent! Then we picked our way down a steep hillside in the heat of the afternoon, a few of us starting to hope that the end was near.

It was a very long descent. We’d done 800m on the way up, which was bearable, but then we had to do 1400m down, which was fairly brutal. The trails were rocky and sometimes slippery and generally pretty challenging. Dave and I, in spite of being the youngest there by a fair margin, were shown up by almost everyone. They skipped down the trail like mountain goats, even the most rotund of the men taking the punishing descent in their stride. Finally we emerged at a village and stopped for a beer in the shade.

But this was no usual village. This village was not accessible by road, and we still had another hour of descent to go post-beer! We completed the hike with José Luis, who thankfully was feeling as tired as me. Between his smattering of English and our horrible Spanish, we kept each other company all the way to the bus, where we arrived sweaty and dishevelled and we greeted by the rest of the gang, who looked the same as they did at the beginning of the day. Outrageous.

The bus took us back to Panes and we departed with a thank-you that José Luis had taught us to say in perfect Spanish, which was met with hearty appreciation from the gang. They gifted us a beautiful hand-crafted walking cane made by an old member of the club, which was very lovely. We couldn’t have felt more welcome and we’ll definitely be joining them again. We’d better start training for it now!

The weather has just continued to get hotter and hotter over the last ten days, with the temperature today reaching 40 degrees. I haven’t seen a cloud for over a week! Hopefully the wind is whipping some up now…

-Anna

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