One month on the road now and it’s been quite an adventure already! Time to let you guys know what we’ve been up to…
It all started with a day-long ferry ride from Portsmouth, England to Santander, northern Spain. As winter was rolling in and we wanted to get south a bit quicker and also save some energy and money for fuel, we figured it would be the best choice for us. Cutting down on travel costs right from the start, we chose to spend the night on our yoga mats in the separated lounge area instead of paying for an expensive cabin and actually ended up having quite a fun time. Walking around the fancy ship with swimming pool, cinema and live shows, we got a first taste of what it would feel like to travel around Europe the way we were planning to, cheap, simple and somewhat alternative, feeling slightly out of place but also amused by the glances we would sometimes get from people that seemed to have identified us as the stinky hippie couple that is just kind of sneaking through. 26 hours and countless snacks later we arrived in Spain and parked up in a random car park at the coast to sort out stuff in the van after the somewhat hectic days before leaving London and to figure out our next steps.
It took us a moment to get used to the situation, knowing we would be without our friends and family for a while, together in this very limited space and unsure how things would go. But as the first day passed and we had our first little yoga session on the beach, a walk around the Santander communal park at the coast where we even came across some penguins and seals (that were unfortunately held in rather smallish pools just next to the sea) and our first dip in the (ice cold!) Atlantic sea as well as our first (equally freezing) outdoor shower, we slowly started to arrive. And as we then took off to our first destination, a small bouldering are in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains about an hour from Santander and spend our first few days and nights in the van, things quickly started to make more sense. After arriving in the middle of the night, we were amazed by the landscape that awaited us in the morning when we opened the van door and stumbled outside. Snowy mountains and green misty hills, rocks all over the place and aside from that, nothing and no one, except a couple of sheep grazing in the distance. We got into the swing of things and enjoyed our days bouldering in the sun, our first dinners in the van and the newfound freedom and time to do whatever we felt like at that moment.
After a couple of days of exploring the boulder area and climbing what we felt made sense (as we didn’t have a guide and no other climbers were around), we made our way back to the coast and made friends with Ïab and Sebastian, who were traveling in a camper van from the 70s that Ïab had inherited from his family and ended up spending a couple of days with them. It was a nice change to have some visitors in the van and our first opportunity to play the hosts for a while and share our dinners as the two of them didn’t have a kitchen in their van and were apparently living on bread and canned fish most days. For the first time we actually felt quite fancy with our little home, which with the sofa chill area, closet, kitchen with tap and gas hobs and even a heater, really is quite a comfortable van to travel and live in. Exchanging food and warmth for some tasty french Pastis liquor, we spent some fun tipsy evenings and days together exploring the beautiful rocky northern Spanish coast before we said good bye to the two adventurers who were heading to a woofing destination.
For us it was time to finally make our way up the snow capped mountains we had admired from the distance for a while already, which are part of the Picos de Europa National Park. To avoid the tourist crowds and have all day in the park, we went up early in the morning and hiked and scrambled around all day, ignoring the recommended hiking trails – Reices initiative of course as soon as he saw a cave somewhere high up in the mountains. Through snow and ice, semi free soloing at times, we ventured around in one of the most amazing landscapes we have seen so far, with snow peaks all around, beautiful mountain lakes and the Atlantic sea below.
Luckily the brakes survived the way back down the steep, windy roads and so we made it to our next destination, our first sport climbing crag. In what the locals called “freak weather” for the time of the year, we spent a week climbing in the sun in yet another amazing landscape in Quirós, Asturia, challenging ourselves on scary slabs and steep limestone climbs and also had our first little multi pitch adventures. It is a massive crag with an impressive amount of sectors and routes, which most days we had almost to ourselves, because people don’t seem to come here very often in December.
As the weather slowly changed and we made plans as to where to spend our Christmas days, we left Quirós and went south to Ourense, near the Portuguese border, which is primarily known for its natural hot springs along the river Miño. After meeting some people who took us to their hidden local boulder spot, we spent a couple of days bouldering and then had our big veggie Christmas dinner on the 24th, which is when we celebrate in Germany, followed by an equally excessive Christmas lunch on the 25th, English Christmas celebration time, as a compromise for both of us and also to give us a reason to eat unnecessarily big amounts of food for two days in a row 😀 After filling our stomachs we strolled along the river and spent the rest of the day in the hot springs. All in all – not a bad Christmas at all!
There were two more climbing areas in Galicia that we visited before leaving Spain, one of them for bouldering and the other sport climbing, which both were really fun for us cause we hadn’t been climbing on granite very much in the past and enjoyed the new style quite a lot after a while. In one of them we spent our New Year’s Eve, on a hill at the coast overlooking the little villages around, watching some fireworks in the distance. It wasn’t the most spectacular spot to spend New Year’s, but then again it was kind of nice to just have a quiet evening out in nature for a change (with some Acid tunes Reice put on on his speakers).
All in all our time in northern Spain has been really amazing, especially after not expecting and knowing anything at all before arriving. We’ve seen and experienced so much already, we really count ourselves lucky. Living in the van has been challenging at times, but considering how much we gain from this way of traveling we don’t mind the small inconveniences at all, such as having to put up the bed every evening, having to look for water and gas every now and then and doing your business in nature rather than in a cozy bathroom. When our tap as well as Reice’s phone broke after just a couple of days, the coolant seemed to be leaking and we realised it’s almost impossible to find the gas we need in northern Spain we thought we were doomed for a while, but then got it all fixed and since then things have been running quite smoothly, so fingers crossed it was just a bit of an unlucky starting period. We are really happy to be able to spend our days out in nature doing what we love and also enjoy the little, more peculiar moments of happiness when living in a van; such as buying a new amazing poop shovel, finally finding the gas you need and using the (freezing cold) public showers at the beach. Of course it’s not easy either to be together in such a limited space 24/7, but we’re adapting to the situation more and more and learned to sense when it’s just time to leave each other alone for a while. We feel as if we’ve been using our time wisely so far, climbing lots, hiking, making music, drawing, eating well, reading, doing yoga every day. As Reice brought a second skateboard along for me I also started working on my (already pretty gnarly looking 😉 ) skate skills every now and then when we skate around the cities we pass by.
Now we’re in Portugal in the Peneda-Gerês National Park and are looking forward to new adventures to come, more rock to climb and maybe this time also some surfing! We will try to keep you posted and are always happy to hear from you!
With love, Reice and Ann-Britt ❤
One of Reice’s creations on our first rainy day:
And some photos!