Looks like we’ve made it! Dog in tow!

Orgiva
Orgiva

So we have finally arrived! We are in Spain, in Orgiva, and it feels soooo good to be back. We have driven through four countries to get here (Wales, England, France and Spain) and in my humble opinion, was well worth the drive rather than flying or getting the ferry.

Bryn all cosy in the van
Bryn all cosy in the van

We had quite a long drive UK side to even get to the Eurotunnel but tootling along in our van with the dog in the back was a great option. We had time to enjoy the countryside the whole way down, stop when we wanted to, and when Bryn needed to stretch his legs every hour or so, we could stop when it suited us!

I was a little apprehensive about the drive as I was doing all of the driving. This is why we decided to take five days over the journey. But as it turns out it has been absolutely fine (dare I say, enjoyable?!) We travelled about 4/5 hours a day (apart from the initial push on the first day which was 7 hours) and we stayed in some beautiful places along the way.

Here’s our route.

Day 1 – South Wales to Eurotunnel, Folkestone. Onwards to Rouen.

A two hour drive (through heavy rain) to Rouen where we booked the cheapest hotel we could stay with the dog. We stayed at Ibis budget hotel in Rouen and it was perfectly fine (clean and basic) for somewhere to rest our weary heads after a long day before getting up the following morning to go again.

Day 2 – Rouen to Dirac (about 8km from Angouleme).

The drive took about five hours, not including any stops. We arrived in our stunning hotel about 7pm. We stayed at Relais de Silence Domaine du Chatelard near Dirac, and what a bloody treat!

Relais du Silence - quite the treat!
Relais du Silence – quite the treat!

For the price of a basic B&B in the UK we had pure luxury! We couldnt quite believe they would allow the dog in but they were really excited to see us (well, mainly Bryn to be honest). As it turns out, the restaurant was absolutely fantastic and we had the most beautiful meal (and lovely bottle of red) with fantastic service. It wasnt what we are used to, but as a treat, was amazing!

Oh dear god!
Oh dear god!

The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful lake which we walked around the following morning (and where Bryn got to display his epic swamp monkey skills) before setting off again in our trusty van.

Day 3 – Dirac to Salinas de Ananas (Basque)

Another five hour drive to a wonderful Casa Rural near the salt plains in Basque country in the north of Spain. We stayed in Madera y Sal which is a recently renovated casa rural. I can highly recommend staying in this beautiful town and fantastic casa. Zuri and her husband have lovingly restored this old building over the last 14 years and it shows that its all been done with such care and love. We had the whole casa to ourselves and had a superb breakfast to set us up for our journey ahead (Spanish omelette, bread, fruit, fresh juice, salsa and of course some of the local salt). Again, we went for a walk in the morning around the salt plains which has much charm in its ugliness.

Only photo we have - shame!
Only photo we have – shame!

The beauty of the landscape is a huge contrast to the salt works, but the village is stunning and the mountains, breathtaking.

Day 4 – Salinas de Ananas to Toledo.

Up until now the drive had seemed a doddle, but today, although the drive was four instead of five hours, it seemed longer.

View from roof terrace in Toledo
View from roof terrace in Toledo

We arrived in Toledo while it was still light and the sun shone the whole way down. We checked into Apartamentos Alarife which was five minutes walk from the cathedral, smack bang centre of Toledo. We had fantastic views over the city which was great as we didnt actually have time to explore the city. Matt had a terrible nights sleep so we got up early and set off again on our final stretch.

Day 5 – Toledo to Orgiva.

Again, the drive seemed long today. It was four and a half hours long but seemed much much longer. Saying that, we were so excited to cross into Andalucia and drive through the snow peaked Sierra Nevada that we forgot how tired we were when we realised we were on the home stretch. After Granada, I knew the way, and took great pleasure on turning off the sat nav to enjoy the drive. Before arriving in Orgiva we stopped off at our new house to walk Bryn along the riverbed at the bottom of our land. He seems to approve (which is always good). We then drove into Orgiva and stopped for tea in our favourite cafe (Baraka) before getting our keys for the house we will be staying in for the next few weeks.

And that’s about it. I can highly recommend the route we took. If we had the time and the money we would have preferred to stay in each place for more than one night, just to be able to experience each area fully (or at least more fully than we had the chance to). The Eurotunnel was easy, although a bit weird driving onto a train.

Driving onto the Eurotunnel
Driving onto the Eurotunnel

Also, by by taking our time I didn’t feel completely exhausted after our trip.

Bryn dealt with everything so well. He was comfortable in the back of the van (we took the window from the bulkhead so he could poke his head through) but we did worry about him as he didn’t eat for the first three days. He usually goes on hunger strike when we are away and we made sure he was drinking plenty of water but after three days, we weren’t happy. He was refusing his food so we bought him some meat and of course, he gobbled that straight up. This must’ve got his appetite going because he ate from that point on. We didnt take his bed into any of the hotels (Relais du Silence and Madera y Sal supplied a dog bed for Bryn) so that when we arrived at our final destination he would know, because we brought his bed in. This sounds so silly, but it did seem to work. He settled straight away in the house in Orgiva, whereas it took him a little while all of the way down.

So now all there is to do is enjoy Dia del Andalucia on Sunday/Monday and get stuck into our new community by enjoying shared paella and flamenco dancing before getting stuck in end of next week to clearing the land and visiting the local seed bank, starting off our summer veg and welcoming our first volunteers.

Let the adventure commence!

After much to-ing and fro-ing we finally own our home in Spain!

We are so excited that the adventure is moving forward after many a set back. The Spanish law of ‘one more document’ couldnt hold us back! No sir-ee!

It’s now all systems go with getting the builders in….although the mañana mañana relaxed attitude (which I love) is probably going to drive me crazy when dealing with builders as we are kind of against the clock.

The basic building work needs to be completed by the end of February at the latest so that we have a month to get a bathroom and kitchen in, as well as receiving our (not yet) packed up stuff from Wales, before I start work in April.

I have been really lucky in getting four weeks work not far from where we will be living. It’s a good start, and a definite step forward from where we thought we would be work-wise!

So now all that’s left to do is pack up our home in Wales!
No easy task!
It’s not just a case of throwing everything in boxes because we don’t want to take most things with us! We have muchos crap! So we need to declutter our large three bed semi into 250 cubic feet (about the size of a quarter of a single garage) hmmm!!! This task is made even more difficult in that I cannot throw anything away…we will have piles for donation for refugees (SHARP in Swansea), piles for the local charity shop, things that don’t belong to us that have ended up in our house that need to be returned, and I’m sure I have friends who need my old crap…yes? There will also be a (hopefully) small pile for the tip. And we will need to sell some furniture and sellable crap.
I am not looking forward to this mammoth task. The problem is starting. I have spent hours looking on Pinterest on ‘how to declutter your home’ and ‘reorganisation hacks’. I am queen procrastinator. I know exactly how to declutter my home, I dont need pinterest to tell me. But the pictures are so pretty and its much easier to visualise the house being packed up rather than actually packing up the house. Hmff!

Well, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to get going on the ol’ packing!
Wish me luck!

Volunteer on our eco project in Orgiva, Spain!

We will be accepting volunteers from about April 2015 to help in whatever aspects of the project you fancy or have specific skills in (or whatever we need help with at the time).

Upper terrace of our land
Upper terrace of our land

Initially, there will be clearing the land of long dry grass and experimenting with the asequia system and creating irrigation trenches. We will (hopefully) have set up a makeshift green house by then and started off seeds for the coming summer. We will also need help with emptying the ruins as well, also help in the house!

We will be creating a permaculture garden as well as a rocket stove for outdoor cooking. Building humanure toilets and redoing the outside shower room. There are also plans to build a community room from cob on the lower terrace. There really is so much to do that if you have a specific interest or ability in something, I’m sure we can accommodate. There are too many planned projects to list at the moment, but as we progress I’ll update what we will be looking for on a month by month basis! Just get in touch and let us know what you fancy doing and when.

You can get in touch via our workaway page, link below, or by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page:

Come and help us be self sufficient in Orgiva, Spain!

Church on main street through town
Church on main street through town

In exchange for your help we will offer you somewhere to stay and breakfast and dinner each day. As well as a fun and relaxed atmosphere. We like music and dancing and like to dance while we work.

To begin with we will only be able to offer a tent in the land, or, if you have a camper, there is space to park up on our land. But once we get a little more sorted, there will be a yurt on the land as well as a room in the house with us, and eventually, the ruins too.

IMAG3275The town itself has about 6000 residents and over 67 nationalities. Orgiva is the capital of the Alpujarra region in the south of Spain. About an hours drive from Malaga airport or an hour and a half bus journey from Granada. We live about a ten minute walk from the centre of Orgiva. Even though its so close, we live in rural heaven.

Baraka
Baraka

There are lots of bars and restaurants in town that cater for a range of diets. Our favourite is Baraka, serving a range of middle eastern food and a huge range of teas. The staff are awesome and there is free internet. What more could a girl want?  Oh…a glass of wine! For this we like Albertos. He has excellent red wine by the glass (or bottle).

IMAG2428On a Thursday, it’s market day! And the town comes alive and you really get to experience the alternative vibe of the town. Many people who live in the area (Beneficio) come down from the mountain and sell their various lovely things in the market. I have seen, jewellery, soaps, oils, perfumes, and scarves. I have also tried some homemade sushi (which was delish). IMAG2438The market also has a lot of vegetable and fruit stalls, people selling nuts, olives and sweets, as well as a large amount of stalls selling really big knickers!!!!

Local advertisments
Local advertisments

IMAG2432

Orgiva is a pretty alternative place. If you need a massage, reiki, soul healing, reflexology…I could go on. You won’t have to look far. There’s all sorts advertised on little pin boards around the town, offering horse healing, or silent retreats in the mountain. There are even a group of parents opening an alternative school for their children. With all of these things being offered, you can imagine it gives the town a special ‘feel’. Its a pretty lovely place, you should come and experience it for yourselves. Oh, and the sun shines a LOT. Need I say more?

We hope to hear from you soon.

Fire!!!

So, we received news that no first time buyer wants to hear! “There’s been a bit of an accident” – Oh God!

The sorry tale goes like this…

We’d had an offer accepted on the house after completely falling in love with it in the summer. It had lots of work to be done, but we were OK with it. We figured we could take our time with it while living in the upstairs flat while doing downstairs; the house is split into two flats but had been left half done.

Inside; before fire
Inside; before fire

But then we get an e-mail from our agent saying there’s been a fire!

A what now? A FIRE!

I won’t go into the ins and outs of how it happened, just know, that it definitely happened! After much inner (and outer) turmoil over what the bloody hell is going on we decide to go back to the negotiation table. New price settled, we book our flights back to Spain to asses the damage.

upstairs burnt main room

Yep, there was definitely a fire, but do you know what? We still loved the place, so we decided to carry on with sale. We must be bloody mad. Matt asked if I thought he was actually going crazy, but we concluded that if he’s crazy, then I’m crazy, so let’s go and be crazies together in Spain!

The damage is actually cosmetic. There was bare polystyrene on the ceiling and fabric on the walls so when the fire started it literally just went up. It didnt burn for long so the damage is cosmetic; even though it looks horrific! There are four rooms upstairs, they all look like this. But downstairs was untouched (as the flats are still separate) so that’s still as it was. Phew!

upstairs burnt view from bedroom into main room

So this is our new home. Isn’t she a beauty? It’s a shame about the fire, and I have been a little bit concerned about bad juju, but we’re going to make such happy memories here that any bad juju won’t stand a chance!

Just need to start the MAJOR cleaning operation now! That should be a few days of epic fun times!

Garden

Hmmm…it’s difficult to know where to start with the garden as there’s so much we want to do with it. And so much that has to be done before even starting.  I’ll start by describing what is there now.

Upper terrace
Upper terrace

The land we have with the house is about 1250 square meters, split into 2 roughly equally sized terraces. There is a big differnce in height between the two terraces and there is a pathway down one side to link the two.

Alberca
Alberca

On the upper terrace there is an alberca (water storage) and an outdoor bathroom. I use the term bathroom lightly. It’s a bit of a shack with a shower cubicle and a black hole toilet. I am having nothing to do with lifting the lid on the toilet, I am petrified of what I might find. So Matt has kindly offered to do that one. Phew! We dont know if there’s water connected to the shower but its definitely do uppable!

Outdoor 'bathroom'
Outdoor ‘bathroom’

The land itself has asequia rights (ancient Moorish irrigation system that uses the snow melt from the Sierra Nevada) for water to irrigate the land, but the land hasn’t been watered for about 4 years. This makes us sad, but our neighbours have reassured us that as soon as we start watering, most things will come back! Huzzah! We are really lucky in that we have organic farming neighbours who seem really happy that we’ve come to tend the land, and have offered their help with anything we need; if only our Spanish was good enough to understand them (sigh) but gesticulating seems to be working for now.

When we were over in September we feasted on the fruit from the garden (despite nothing being watered in years). There were pomegranates growing like weeds laden with fruit. There were red and green grapes and loads of ripe figs. We were mega happy and running round like kids in a sweetshop!

Fresh pomegranates anyone?
Fresh pomegranates anyone?

As well as these trees and vines we also have 11 olives. They are ancient, and they’re all split at the base having been copiced years ago. We’ve been told this is because way-back-when, olive farmers used to be paid by the number of olive trees they had, and if a tree was copiced they would be paid per new offshoot. We love our old wonky olive trees and cant wait until next November to do our first harvest (and then probably lose them all due to not really understanding brining or storing, but its all a learning curve).

Oh, and we also have the saddest looking citrus tree. Its so sad we can’t tell if its an orange, lime or lemon, and we’re not holding our breath for it to come back to be honest. We can all but hope and give it love.

Prickly pears
Prickly pears

On the lower terrace there is a row of really healthy looking old cacti. Prickly pears. They bear edible fruit, but their prickles are really prickly so we need to work a way around that one!

I think that’s it in terms of where the land lays. I think it’ll all have to begin by tackling the long dry grass that covers the land. That’ll be fun IMAG3338I’m sure!

The project

So…we’ve bought a house! And its a do-er up-per! In fact its a bit of a mess. The kind of house your parents see and have huge question marks appear over their heads as their faces look on blankly! Yep, that’s the kind of house we’ve bought… and its lush!IMAG3381

The house isnt connected to mains elecricity and neither does it have any sewerage so that’s high up on our list of priorities. It does however have a delightful ‘black hole’ toilet outside which I have nightmares about just lifting the lid let alone sitting on. So a flushable toilet is a need of mine. We had many a discussion over whether we should have a humanure toilet or not, but I have managed to convince Matt that if we recycle our grey water a flushable toilet is definitely my preferred option. He agrees, as long as we can have a compost humanure toilet in the garden…deal!
We are opting for an uber solar system. It’s going to be a fairly large financial outlay initially but will mean no bills, which is definitely the way to go for us. We will have a battery storage system and it will run our lights, fridge, computer and washing machine! This, I am excited about. We visited the guys that will be building our solar panels and they run their warehouse completely off grid, build the panels themselves and its generally an awesome set up they have there! They are confident that they can build us an expandable system that will eventually be able to run the electricity in the ruins too (we are planning to renovate the adjoining ruins into holiday accommodation for children with Autism, but more of that another time).

We have opted for a septic tank to dispose of our waste. Again, we also discussed a reed bed to filter our waste water but logistics and the way the land is set out means this isnt really possible. We do want to minimise how often the tank needs emptying by not flushing toilet paper, and there is also some kind of eco-ball (I havent done very much research on this) that you put in every month or so to help break down the solid waste.

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Inside

The house at the moment is split into two flats, with no connecting stairway. The flat upstairs (where the fire was) needs to be completely ripped out; including the render on the walls and walls being knocked down. We need to cut a pretty big hole in the ceiling to accommodate the stairs, rip up the floor downstairs and level it.

Upstairs before the fire
Upstairs before the fire

Downstairs also needs the stairs to be built, and plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom. The whole place needs new windows and doors too. This is the work the builders will be doing for us and we will be finishing the rest; building a kitchen, putting in a bathroom, tiling, crafting internal doors, painting and finsihing off.
*As a side note. Anyone got any cost effective alternatives for levelling a floor apart from using concrete? Suggestions will be muchly appreciated (virtual hugs will be given!)

Once finshined, the house will have two bedrooms upstairs with a toilet, and downstairs will have one big room to include the kitchen and living areas and a seperate bathroom and storage area.

But these are all theoretical plans at the moment. I can see us turning up after the builders have left to sit in our empty shell in Spain and laugh…or cry and think ‘what have we got ourselves in to?’ but im also sure we will soon get over that and get stuck in to our dream project. Fingers crossed.

I’ll be updating this section as and when we do different projects on the house. Can’t bloody wait!