233 – Can we stay here forever?

Having driven so far, so fast, we are staying put a bit longer. This means I’ve less to report back so I might have to make the blogs every other day to not bore you with repetition.

Nothing seems to happen before 10 or sometimes 11am. We forget that the Spanish are more nocturnal than us and with it still being dark beyond 8am there is no reason to wake early- can someone please tell my internal alarm clock and Ernest as we are still waking at 6am, which means hours of lounging in bed waiting for the world to wake up….or dozing off again.

Once up it was another long beach walk, trip to the bread shop, a couple of games of bananagrams and I finished my course in Nutrition and Mood, before signing up for another on Exercise Prescription for the prevention of disease which starts in February. I love that these free courses are available, and this last course was especially well delivered. Does anyone know of any other free course providers?

My water is on track and I’m thinking less about coffee, exercise wise did day 4 of Holly and a tester 1 mile with Ernest on the beach but his leg still isn’t completely right. Got a Betty Rocker HIT workout to look forward to after dinner (bodged bubble and squeak…we have no masher).

We met our new camper neighbour on the beach with her whippet and it turns out she is a dog groomer from Thetford – it really is such a small world! It’s so nice to have a nice long natter and we have shared favourite spots along the Spanish coast. We are looking forward to checking out her next beach suggestion tomorrow.

This evening Mark is trying to hunt down a footy pub and I’m going to light my candle, have a pamper session and read my book. Bliss πŸ™

232 – Studies and yoga with a view

With a fast approaching deadline for my coursework we decided to stay put and enjoy the views. Having taken the pups for their morning walk along the beach our suspicions were confirmed, everyone was english, we have stumbled into an English enclave. Still we can totally understand why they choose to winter here, the view and quiet clean beach is lovely.

The pups had great fun making friends and chasing round. We also spotted a couple of divers and small fishing boats catching huge fish and octopus.

Once back at the van we decided to nip straight back out again to the local cafe. My first big test…sitting opposite Mark and his coffee while I cradled my water bottle. I had to do the same in the evening at a restaurant while he had a beer. It’s ok, I can do this, only 28 days left lol. An obvious benefit of all this water drinking are my kidneys are getting a good flush out…I’m forever dashing to the loo 🀣

Most of the day I was working on my Futurelearn course in Nutrition and Mood – improving mental health. It’s a fascinating and a really engaging course, certainly one of the better ones I’ve taken.

I interspersed coursework with dog walks and ending my day with some Betty Rocker yoga. Yes the fisherman looked at me oddly as I tried to hold the poses and flow but what a lovely spot to do it. Yoga always surprises me with its difficulty and each time I do it I tell myself I should do it more often. My extremely tight hips would certainly thank me!

This evening we were meant to have Bubble and Squeak for dinner but Mark spotted the local pizzeria and needs must. I can balance out the calories over the weekend. As a token gesture I attempted a mile run on a full belly up hill, not recommended!

And once home again I lured Mark out in the cold to do day 3 of the Holly 30 day challenge (he said it was fine, so will rope him in more often), I then did a bulletproof stretch workout and my aching hips feel pretty normal again.

I’m not sure how but last night we failed to spot that the rock of Gibraltar is all lit up at night. It’s hard to capture it from this distance but its very effective.

231 – Mural hunting

Whilst walking the pups on the beach, the clouds lifted and we got our first glimpse of Gibraltar. That settled it, we are heading west. Still if we visit we will no longer be able to state we haven’t been on British soil for almost 8 months!

But firstly van chores of laundry and food shopping. Parking in city centres is always tricky and our eventual spot in Estepona meant lugging our laundry through the streets but it was good weight lifting. Plus we spotted a couple of nice murals, so while the washing was on I went for a 3 mile jog around the streets to find as many as I could.

I found 8 murals, 1 sculpture, a funky xmas tree and a orchidarium. This form of jogging in random directions with no set distance in mind is great fun. Plus I get plenty of photo breaks, which is a bonus as my legs are sore from yesterday.

We once again forgot that everything closes down in the afternoon and had to wait until 5pm for the pet shop to reopen (active dogs eat sooo much food!). Mabel got in trouble on the afternoon walk for trying to eat a sundried turd…she lock jaws horrendously and didn’t want to give it up…minger!

This evening we drove further along the coast to La Alcaidesa, which is a stunning spot with clear views of Gibraltar and even Africa. I’m already sowing seeds that we should take the van to Morroco but appear to have a lot of wrangling to with Mark.

I’m really happy living in the van and we have so much of Europe yet to explore, I’m trying to eek out our travels for as long as possible. Mark is less sure, but still wants to visit Glastonbury, Glasgow, Italy and Denmark again so that’s certainly a few more months 🀞

I am really looking forward to driving around the UK visiting friends. Drop me a message and I will tag you on the route – nowhere is too far lol (Colchester, Norwich, Ely, Great Yarmouth, Newcastle, Buckley, Sandbach and the Isle of Man so far 😊)

Resolutions wise. Day 2 of no water involved headaches and I’m in bed imagining my hot water is a scrumptious hot chocolate. Huge thanks to Ella for the donation!

Exercise wise I’ve done a Betty Rocker barre workout that resulted in Ernest trying to hump my leg repeatedly (remind me not to introduce him to any ballerinas πŸ™ˆ), day 2 of Holly workout on a pavement where a cute 13 year old staffie waddled over to say hello (his mum recommended Pointer Clinic if we ever need a good vet near here), my 15,000 steps and mural hunt 3 mile run (I was meant to do further but can’t face the steep hills near where we have parked).

With Mabel aiding my sleep I got 9 hours last night, I usually struggle to get more than 6! I also did another lesson on my overcoming self sabotage course and am feeling good. Only another 363 days to go πŸ˜„πŸ’ͺ oh wait it’s a forever thing…only a lifetime to go! Early victories and consistency…I even turned down cake!

N.B. apologies no photos, I seem to have maxed out wordpress photo allowance so will have to find a way around it. This may take me a while as I’m not tech savvy. Tips welcome lol

230 – New Years on the beach!

N.B. for some reason it won’t let me attach photos so I will add them separately to FB.

Waking in the mountains we soon discovered to our horror that we had run out of LPG and couldn’t make a cuppa! The nearest gas station was 35mins away at the coast so certainly not the end of the world and it lured us in to somewhat zombie action.

As with every January 1st, I was one of the many committing to new years resolutions, keen to start this year and indeed decade with gusto and a positive direction.

While travelling I have realised how self critical I am, how valuable I find a sense of daily structure, and how important my feeling of good health and fitness are to me both physically and mentally.

So stock take – weigh in and progress photo. I’ve gained 12 pounds and look flabulous having overindulged. I use the term flabulous as I’m trying to speak more positively towards myself. Usually I’d go into crying meltdown and emotional eat over weight gain so this is progress.

Still with my trusty team around me, I know I can get fitter and healthier again. Ernest is my running and resistance trainer, Jasper is vegetable and peanut butter tester and Mabel is sleep advisor to ensure I get 7+ hours.

My resolutions are:

  1. Be kinder to myself
  2. Drink at least 2 litres of water each day
  3. Exercise 5 times a week with focus on improving fitness and health rather than weight loss
  4. Follow my habit tracker to create daily structure

To this aim, I’m continuing my daily meditation in the morning and adding a second love and kindness meditation after exercise or at bedtime. I use the brilliant 10% happier app and they are doing a free meditation challenge starting on January 6th, so if you would like to join me just pop a comment and I will send you the link so we can motivate each other.

For Water, I went all gungho and signed up for WaterAids Just Water challenge. Bye bye coffee, yogi tea, hot chocolate, juice…anything except water. Knowing how huge a challenge this would be I’ve officially done it as part of a team (Mia, Paul and Rachel) so we each have a minimum of a week, but Mia and I are going to attempt the full month! I’ve survived day 1 but was a right grumbleweed from no coffee…proof I’m addicted πŸ™ˆ

So fitness, well again I’ve gone full in and signed up for RedJanuary which raises money for Mind. The running element consists of 20 runs of any length over the month, but you have to be active every day. Be it run, walk, swim, skip, box, yoga…literally anything that moves your body 😊 Beyond January its #Gymshark66 which takes the commitment to 66 days which is scientifically how long it takes to establish a new habit.

My final resolution also helps keep me accountable as each day I can tick off the habits I’ve done on my Habit tracker app, and hopefully not forget anything.

This has the makings of a great plan so let’s wait for the results!

Our actual day

Fueled on water, we had a lovely walk along the beach. Mabel rolled in the sand, Jasper went in the sea, Ernest played with a 4 month goldie puppy (no I’m not allowed one, even though they are adorable). It was a huge change to our usual wrapped in several layers speed walk around whitlingham.

I then went for a 5k run inspired by all my friends who got up early in the UK to do parkrun and then a Betty Rocker workout on the beach. Side note burpees and stars are even harder on soft sand 😱 Conscious I had negative thoughts reminding me of the strength I’d lost, I decided to follow it with a loving:kindness meditation which is especially nice as you can send good thoughts to others you know might also be struggling.

It did the trick and I celebrated with more water and a yummy peanut butter energy ball I’d made. They are going to be my tasty healthy treats post workout to satisfy my sweet tooth. Another tip is to have a favourite podcast or playlist you listen to only when exercising.

After lunch we ventured out onto the beach again for walks. Ernest dug holes and buried Jaspers tail and I ultimately decided not to brave a dunk in the sea…nobody else did either lol.

This evening I’ve caught up with the blog while Mark feeds his Duolingo addiction. I’ve still half a bottle of water to drink…I really wish I didn’t hate plain water so much. Then bedtime routine and a sneaky game of backgammon.

Starting the year as we mean to go on lol.

I hope you are feeling positive for the year ahead. Remember nobody is perfect, if you slip up on the resolution just get straight back on. Habits can be a bugger to change but light consistency over the whole year will do you much better than perfection for a few weeks. I’d love to know what you are working towards this year, whatever it is – you got it! πŸ’ͺ

229 – End of a decade – what a year!

It was around this time last year that we were just beginning to get serious about the possibility of living in a van and travelling Europe.

4 months later, and my business is sold, van bought as well as an accidental puppy purchase, and we were on our way. Whatever caused Mark’s midlife crisis, or big life questioning, I’m so glad he threw this curve ball.

We have had an amazing year, got closer as a family, shared many adventures in 23 countries, learnt you need very little to be happy. We have too many photos, and so many happy memories.

I’m so looking forward to visiting my small band of friends back home, and seeing where 2020 takes us. Life certainly has a way of keeping you on your toes.

The highlight of our day was the relaunching of 52 Weeks for Earth. We had been collaborating with a lovely Canadian lady called Hannah to create a weekly challenge that promotes positive change and helps protect the environment. You can join at any time and it all helps 😊

https://www.facebook.com/52WeeksforEarth/

And so for our final day of the year I suggest a local villages fancy dress party or vulture watching in a remote town of Casares. Mark opted for the latter and so we spent much of the day sat in the van watching the Griffin vultures ride the thermals (he went outside but it was too cold for me and Ernest so we sat up front).

As the night drew in, we followed our typical tradition of knowing we wouldn’t last the night. Played boggle, attacked the nut box and drank toffee vodka). Sure enough we were zoned by 11pm, but Happy New Year!

228 – The simple life

I really love this spot and being in no hurry to move on we had another day enjoying the scenery.

After completing the van chores, I had a pamper with face mask, pedicure and washed my hair in the cold stream.

We walked the pups and then later fashioned a double bungy lead to attempt a run with Mabel and Jasper…we managed just under a mile with me seemingly pulling them up the hill 🀣 I dropped them back at the van tired and continued for another 4 miles.

I’ve been binge listening to Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, it’s so inspiring and peppered with interesting running tips. Completing the whole book in the day, I feel energised to run for the fun of it not worrying about speed or distance. The pups really help with this.

This evening we may risk waking the pups up with a noisy game of boggle, while I wait for 9pm hot chocolate…only 1 day left then my Water Aid – just water challenge starts πŸ˜±πŸ’¦

227 – Life near a smallholding

Oh I do love a lazy Sunday. We had peaches in porridge for breakfast and lots of coffee before hitting the trails for a 3 miler. Ernests leg was still a little sensitive so it was Jaspers turn to join me.

It was a lovely slow amble with plenty of sniff stops but so nice to have some mummy:son time with my old boy.

Meanwhile Mabel and Ernest were walking with their dad and met a pony! Ernest loves donkeys and after a little hesitation decided he likes ponies to.

We spent the day reading, researching trail shoes (so many options!), doing coursework and while Mark read science books, I collected acorns and fed the pigs.

It’s like being on a little small holding without any of the work 🀣 Tomorrow Mark wants to try city life again in Malaga, so we will likely be back in a carpark. Each has its benefits though as there seems plenty to see and do.

225 – 226 Thrillseeking walks, cave houses and gorges

Todays walk could be dangerous…you even have to wear a hard hat! According to reviews if the Caminito del Rey is sold out online you can still go early in the morning in the hope of getting one of the 50 spare day tickets. I’d asked the guide the day before and he suggested arriving at 9am, but I’d read reviews that said there were already long queues by 8:30am.

Its a 2.7km walk to the start of the Caminito so we left in the dark and arrived at 8:20 to find 8 people already queuing. I knew it was popular but by 9am there were over 100 there, and although I was freezing from standing in the wind I was glad I’d come early. It was 9:30 when they finally let us in and I secured my place. Top tips: go early, wear layers and take a flask of coffee.

Following several deaths on the original trail the path has been fully modernised with safety rails along all the gorge passes. You can still see the crumbling original path which offers no protection and indeed falls away completely in sections.

The walk itself is a gentle 5k, the only real challenge comes if you suffer from vertigo. Even with the barrier Mark would not have wanted to look down.

The scenery is stunning and you are let through in sets of 30 but I walk quite quickly so was on my own the majority of the way.

The highlight is the gorge bridge which when its windy feels a bit hairy. You can see the original bridge and be thankful you aren’t crossing that…it would take nerves of steel! Also their are vultures or eagles nesting above and riding the thermals which encourages you to look up rather than down lol.

Overall it’s well worth the €10 and long wait. The scenery is beautiful but to my mind the hike is not as thrilling as the Slovakian one I did.

Once completed you can get a shuttle bus back to the start for €1.50 and happily share your adventure. Turns out Ernest hadn’t wanted to leave me and walked slowly back with Mark rather than his usual steam ahead self…aw Mr Independent does love me.

Having completed it earlier than expected we decided to drive on to Campillos which has a free camper service park and tasty bakery.

Then onwards for a stunning drive through the Baetic System. Basically lots of ‘up’ and hairpins to the small town of Setinal which is built into the rock side. It’s got lots of nice looking restaurants so with hindsight we should have maybe stopped here for lunch. Still it was nice to wander and the camper that parked behind us was funky to.

Our final camp spot for the evening was the famous Ronda with its iconic Puente Nuevo gorge bridge. This is definitely best viewed from afar but the pathway to the bottom is currently closed, so I angled my phone over the edge as best I could to capture the immense scale.

226 – Hanging around Ronda

Having done so much yesterday we fancied an easy day today and so ventured out late for coffee and vagan pancakes at Coffee Time – they were huge and delicious.

We then walked around the Mirador de los viajeros romΓ‘nticos observation deck with its overhanging balconies and xmas fair before heading back to the pups.

This afternoon we stocked up at Aldi and found a lovely walking spot Pilar De Coca with picnic benches where we relaxed reading. We have since discovered the shepherd has moved the sheep into the picnic meadow opposite so we can hear their bells jingleing as the potter around. We are proving useless at staying in one place more than a couple of days but while we ponder whether to go east or west we may stay a while.

224 – Boxing day Baby

My youngest turned one! Happy birthday Ernest πŸΎπŸŽ‚

We woke early and we had two presents for him…a beef wellington flavoured nyla bone and chameleon toy. His siblings stole both so I unearthed Mabels buried ox horn and he happily chewed on that. I was so relieved he was back to his normal bouncy happy self.

Mark and I went for a walk hoping to spot the black vultures but it was too cold and early for the thermals, so instead I went boldering trying to get on the high plateaus. Mark sat watching me, thinking I’m a fruit loop as I clambered about in an awkward fashion. I’m no agile rock climber, but it’s worth it for the views!

We then drove over to the famous Caminito del Rey. I’d read about the infamous Kings Way walk which is listed as one of the most dangerous walks. After a few people died, the authorities had to completely renovate the walk with safety rails so it’s no way near as bad now. Still with sheer drops and a gorge bridge, when we glimpsed it Mark declined…its not one for vertigo sufferers.

It was sold out so we walked a couple of trail paths with the pups, looked over the dam and then I took Ernest for a 2 mile hill training run…not fun!

Arriving back at the van, I realised my Fitbit had celebrated reaching my 2 mile goal early and it had logged as 1.99mile…which thus didn’t record for the 12 days running challenge πŸ™ˆ So off I went back out again!

Instead of hill training I thought I’d do a trail run along the start of the caminito trail. I’ve lost so much fitness but stopping and starting to walk on trees and take photos makes the run so much more enjoyable. Andalucia is so beautiful.

223 – Christmas in the Mountains

Of all the days to sleep in the pups hadn’t stirred by 7am, and I’d been awake since 5:30. My sister who I always wake at silly o clock had put her phone on silent and I had no internet so couldn’t call my niece or parents – I just had to wait. When they finally woke, they loved their antlers (Mabel stashed hers down the sofa) and ignored their toys choosing to eat everything instead.

As the sun began to rise, we spotted an Ibex on the mountain side and black vultures flying overhead. I was also partaking in the 12 days of running challenge so had a 1 mile run to do.

I opted to do the longer yellow trail run and duly got lost. I went the wrong way round, missed a key signpost and ended up clambering up boulders, jumping and dangling. It’s rare I scare myself but hey what’s a shot of fear and adrenaline to kick start a xmas morning!

Having told Mark I’d be out for 10mins, I came home over an hour later. I’d had no signal so when I found the campervan unlocked and Mark and Ernest missing I guessed he must have gone looking for me. I took Jasper and Mabel out and then spotted Mark walking Ernest back up the carpark by a rope followed by a shepherd. My heart sank…what had happened. Mark was shaken but said Ernest had escaped and chased the sheep.

I dashed over to the shepherd and was joined by the ranger. Neither spoke English so I’m not sure what happened but I fear Ernest hurt one of his sheep as he held a sheep bell in his hands. I apologised profusely in tears fully aware that this was the shepherds livelihood and he was understandably upset. I offered any compensation I could but the ranger just shrugged and said no.

Mark was still shaking as we tried to take stock. Ernest had hurt his paw and was downcast all day declining walks, toys or affection. I was worried he may have been beaten when caught. There was no blood and he was evidently very tired from running (as was Mark after trying to catch him). Mark was dreading having to explain the incident to me as he was so concerned Ernest would be shot or one of them would be injured running over the rough terrain. He didn’t see any hurt sheep and didn’t initially spot the shepherd had caught him.

So yes a very eventful morning. After a bodged attempt at carrot cake pancakes we decided to walk the yellow trail without the dogs. We saw a whole family of Ibex, got lost again but in a different place…I couldn’t find where I had got lost the first time.

After the incident I thought it best to drive on to a new spot, but Mark felt it ok to stay. The site was really busy with visitors and lots of dogs, and the sheep were no longer near the carpark so we braved walking the pups on the green trail and much to our relief all went well.

For xmas dinner we had falafel bolognese and then panatonne followed by games. Mabel hogged all the toys and the pups slept well. It really is a magical place.

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