Our journey thus far has been quite the adventure, and its only been a week. We are finally settled in with our first HelpX Host in Tarbena, Spain. His name is Jaime Owen and even though we have only been here 2 nights, we already feel quite at home and at peace on top of this beautiful mountain where he resides. We have learned so much about ourselves and have already faced many challenging obstacles that have already made this experience worth all the effort.
Casey left you guys with a brief update on our arrival in Madrid. Although we were only there for 2 nights, I think we both agree that was enough. Madrid is a young city filled with fun and excitement around every corner. You can just feel the pulsing energy there, especially in the late night and early morning hours. The center of the city is called Sol – Spanish for sun – and it lives up to its name. The streets glisten with the country´s rich history and the Spanish people radiate a certain genuine kindness and selflessness that I find completely charming. We had a grand time exploring, but we were quite excited to leave the big city. Casey and I feel that this journey is about learning and growth and well, we honestly felt we had learned what we could from Madrid. It was time to move towards the mountains and toward our passion to help others, and get a taste of the rural Spanish culture.
Now, a European bicycle adventure wouldn’t be nearly as thrilling if there weren’t any figurative and literal speed bumps along the way. Saturday morning we were to leave Madrid from the Chamartín Train and arrive in Alicante, Spain. When we got there, we would meet with Jaime who would collect us and then we’d all spend the night partying in Alicante together. On Sunday morning our plan was to drive up the mountains, through Tarbena to his house. However, we found ourselves in a bit of a predicament at Chamartín (Understatement of the Year, by the way). Casey and I waited patiently at the station with all of our gear for the train’s platform to be announced. Casey bounced around a bit, meeting interesting folk who were also in transit. He also was smart to go to the information desk and quadruple check to see if it was alright that we carry our 4 large boxes of bikes and gear with us on the train. For the 4th time, they said it would be just fine. At last the platform was announced and we made our way down. When we got down there the train station staff immediately approached us and started explaining in Spanish that we could not take our boxes on the train, they were simply too big. Casey’s Spanish is better than mine, but I could tell by their tone exactly what was being said. We started to get frantic, pleading with them in our broken Spanglish to let us on. After all, we were told several times it was acceptable. Tears started to stream down my face as I watched our train to Alicante, slowly chug away from the station. Just then, an angel came to us. A woman by the name of Mia (I think…) was also on the platform saying her farewells to her husband who was going on business. When she saw that we were having troubles, she came to us offering to be our English-Spanish interpreter. This woman stayed with us for 1.5 hours helping us get refunds on our non-refundable train tickets AND find an alternative way to get us and our gear to the south-east of Spain. She was so wonderful. I wish we could have gotten her contact info because I would love to send this woman a Christmas card or something, I just couldn’t say thank you enough.
SO, the new plan was this: Train to Atocha, the neighboring train station in Madrid. From there we would have to get on a local train that would take us to a neighboring village and from there, transfer to another local train that would take us to Valencia which is about 180 km north of Alicante. Thankfully, we called Jaime and he was alright with picking us up in Valencia. Finally…we were on our way. By 10 pm we arrived in Valencia. We got all our stuff off the platform and waited on the side walk outside of the train station for Jaime. About 30 minutes went by and he was no where in sight. We found a pay phone and called him several times and finally around 11pm we got ahold of him. Apparently he was at a different train station in Valencia, finally he found a taxi driver to direct him to the other station and at 11.30 pm, he arrived in his car! We gave him huge hugs, I have never been so relived to see anyone in my life, and he is pretty much a complete stranger none the less.
So we all decided it would be best just to drive the hour and 15 minutes it takes to get to his home in Tarbena from Valencia. BUT…about 30 minutes into the drive we realize we are going the wrong way!!!!! By that time we were onlu about 30 minutes from Alicante (our original destination) so we decided to drive there and stay in the hotel we had originally booked! I guess forces of nature REALLY wanted us to go to Alicante. It also worked out for the best because we weren’t able to cancel the hotel in the midst of all the chaos so I guess its good we got rerouted to Alicante.
On Sunday morning we all drove to his house in Tarbena. It is absolutely breath taking here. Jaime is an artist and has an amazinbg life story. We all get along very well and we both feel very at peace here. He already has offered us to stay longer than originally intended so we will have to see how everything pans out. So far we have gotten a taste of local Tarbena night life and some amazingly delicious Tapas. We have started work on his land, clearing out brush and doing some household chores. More importantly, we all have spent a lot of quality time together talking philosophy, books, art, life and technology.
Our bikes are built up, our tummies are full of good food, the air is clean and this post has gone on too long. Stay tuned for pictures, the internet is quite slow here in rural, Spain but they are coming soon.
Peace be the Journey,
Kristen and Casey