Day 26, 29th Jan – Idle conversations; idling batteries

We woke to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks and Stan whimpering to go out.  

It’s M’s turn. 

I lie there, immobile, wondering if I’ll be permanently disabled or if, in fact, the use of my limbs will return. Instead, M returns and offers me tea and biscuits in bed.  

This has a remarkable effect on my paralysis.  I am suddenly able to sit up, rearrange my pillows and stretch out my arm to receive nourishment.  Modern miracles…!

Yesterday, when M had suggested going to the supermarket for bread, eggs, potatoes, more biscuits, I had shot down the idea.  After a long day, I couldn’t face retail.  Which meant that this morning, we literally had three Gallette biscuits between us and nothing else that would substitute for the first meal of the day.  

Giving M some space for his ablutions, I wandered along the beach and saw a cafe, open, people sitting outside and at least one black-clad waitress busily weaving her way between tables.  Hurrah – breakfast!

Twenty minutes later and we leap to the only free table at this oasis of food, me, M and Stan.  The adjacent customers also have a dog, a chihuahua who is utterly resistant to Stan’s charms.  Nothing doing.  No matter the wags, sniffs and licks offered by our puppy, theirs isn’t playing ball; six inches off the ground and it is ferocious.  Which is ok, it offers a conversation point and I pull Stan back to a position of safety.

Anya and Francis are regulars in Spain, this is their first ‘long’ trip (a month) in a campervan, but they look like they were born to do nothing else.  Over our cafes-con-leche and toasties, we exchange stories, favourite sites, long-term ambitions.  The conversation lasts an hour or so, it’s good-natured, easy going, happy and idle chit chat.  

They’ve just come from an area that I’d hoped to visit before we’d detoured back to the coast: Sierra Espuna.  So, after settling the bill, we wander back to the camper, set the co-ordinates and ready for off.

Before we fire up the engine, M checks the batteries, again.  M installed the solar power system, a fact of which I’m terrifically proud.  There are as many ways to do this, as there are instructional YouTube videos on the subject.  It took weeks of investigation, questioning of experts and seeking advice.  In the end, I came home one afternoon to find M, mobile phone in hand, monitoring by Bluetooth the performance of our very own, magical, solar powered system.

Since then, we’ve had a few hiccups.   The batteries seem to charge quickly either from solar power or the split power relay from the engine.  But at night, their charge dwindles alarmingly fast.  Is it the wiring, the inverter, the fridge or that our expectations are too high?  There’s been low-level anxiety all trip; are they ok (the batteries)?  Will they last?  Should we find different ones?

We don’t have answers, but we do have a destination.  And, we still don’t have groceries…

Driving off into a new unknown, the route takes us past various towns and cities, but avoids all retail opportunities or open cafes.  By 3pm, the toasties are wearing thin, we could do with more to eat. Our general view of the world is that you’re never more than 20 seconds away from a food opportunity.  In Spain, at Siesta time, the theory doesn’t hold true. I’m hungry, but kind-of pleased the Spanish haven’t relinquished their culture in favour of western slavery to retail opportunities.

Eventually, we find our way into the national park of Sierra de Espuna.  It’s stunning, not dissimilar to El Vall De Jalon; lush landscapes from which towering banks of rock fight their way up into the cobalt skies.  We wend our way upwards, the widths of roads decreasing in proportion to our altitude. Café after café is closed, looking like it will be many months until they open again.  

Eventually we happen upon the village of El Berro.  It boasts two (closed) panderia, one (closed) supermarket and two (closed) cafes.  Losing hope of eating more than raw onions and red cabbage for our supper, we finally spy an open café opposite a car park.  Parking and food in close proximity is a rare and wonderful combination, we’re truly grateful.

El Menu del Dia (meal of the day) is a generous offering: drink, salad, bread, starter, main, pudding and coffee for €10 each.  We can’t make it past the main course.  The lovely food is plentiful.  Our waiter takes my attempts at Spanish on face value and fires off incomprehensible menu choices.  Seeing my confusion, he quickly reverts to English and indulges my mispronunciation of his mother tongue.  An hour later, sated with food, we walk Stan up to explore a campsite that’s got great reviews.

We’ve eschewed campsites so far.  But M is bothered by the batteries and I’m bothered by his concern.  So, we find a slot in the clean and militarily managed site and I exercise Stan whilst M is face down in the bowels of the van, wiring, rewiring and wrestling with our power source.  

I return an hour later to find him deep in thought.  He’s problem solved, researched, contacted the suppliers (who are keen to both baffle and avoid any liability that might make them uphold their 1-year guarantee). M’s worked out what to do whilst we take advantage of the electric hook up that’s included in the undefined price of staying here.  

We settle and get ready for bed.  One battery appears well and chirpy; the other is unwell and unhappy at taking charge. We’ll leave the poorly battery on hook-up and see what power it’ll absorb overnight.  I’m hoping M will sleep…

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