November is gone! Soon Christmas. The villages around us are starting to fill up with decorations and the gardeners are cutting trees, grass and plants to make nice for the big holidays.
It has been a rather warm month with lot of sunshine. Shorts and t-shirts until last week since when a pair of trousers and a sweater has been needed from time to time. The harbor has been tested for storm and we feel very safe. That’s good! We are checking our mountains the first thing every morning to look at the snow development. Now they are really beautiful, crisp white in the morning sun. Snow cover the mountains down to around 1800 meters.
We have been taking long walks in the “Saltinas”, the lakes close to the sea shore previously used for farming salt. Every time we go in that nature reserve area we see new birds (see under nature below). We got ourselves new bikes this week so now we can take slightly longer trips again.
Beginning of November we took the bus to Malaga to pick up a rental car. (We are paying about 300 euros for 2 months which is a really good deal). The bus ride took 4,5 hour but since we were in no hurry, we could enjoy the views. We booked a hotel for one night instead of driving back directly. As always we chose the hotel via Trivago and decided on a place easy to reach not far from Malaga – we thought….. The hotel was situated on an altitude of 800 meter above the town we had chosen, so it was a looooong journey to get there. It paid off though: nice rural 4 star hotel, Fuente del Sol, with a marvelous view both over the mountains and the Mediterranean sea. On the way back we took small roads, passing almond and olive fields. Looking forward to see them in full bloom this spring.
We have since then taken many small rides to different villages in the area. Some examples:
- Cabo de Gata: a nature reserve with a cape, lighthouse and salt-lakes. Flamingoes of course. There is a small village, San José, that we also looked at for possible anchoring in spring. Maybe…it is difficult with the swell.
- Enix & Felix: two small mountain villages on 800 meters. Felix was more authentic than Enix. Felix also had a well in the center where we collected perfect drinking water. Looks like that is the Sunday routine for Spanish people.
- November 17-19 celebrating 25th wedding anniversary and birthdays, was spent in Nerja, a nice village close to Malaga. We stayed in a very nice hotel overlooking the sea. The weather was warm so we had the possibility (and took it) to take a short swim. Nerja is famous for its caves, found by 2 boys in the 1950s. We made a visit and it was fantastic!! Very large stalactites and stalagmites, one claimed to be the biggest ever found. People have been living there for thousands of years. There are also to be paintings from 25000 years ago, but that area was closed for visitors due to damage risk.
Peter, with some help from me running up and down to fetch things, have been working on the Wi-Fi system, the deck and this last week the water based heating system. For the last part we are not finished yet and it is as always annoying to have the boat interior upside-down for days. (Completed first week in December to get it to work. Yippee). But ….we don’t have to spent our days doing power point presentations, going to meetings etc, so we shouldn’t complain.
We have also tried to extend our Spanish knowledge by shopping at the local butcher. It is difficult, but I found a “butchering picture” showing the different details of cows, pigs and lamb which I think will be useful in all countries. Nothing is better than pointing on a picture (or making sounds like one of our sailing friends did), for explaining when words are not found.
- Our Piri-Piri, Thyme and Oregano are still doing well, but the Rosemary is not happy (on the other hand, that one is growing free everywhere here)
- Still lots of flowers: pictures attached below
- Hoopoe (Sw. Härfågel). Pretty common in south Europe. Looks like it has a bunch of bananas on the head. Was in the old days foretelling of war
- Egyptian Vulture (Sw. Smutsgam). Having its winter berth in e.g. south Spain, thriving in the mountain slopes close to Almerimar.
- Black Wheatear (Sw. Svart Stenskvätta), also living in holes in the cliffs, among stones and the desert like landscape we experience here. Looks like our standard Black Bird with a white tail. Their cry is very special: a tone starting on a high note and ending on a low note
- Olive fields: Spain has the largest area of olive cultivation in the world. 260 different varieties. Gives an interesting pattern to the landscape, especially here in Andalucía. We have read about the flooding in France and Italy and some flies in Italy damaging the crops, but here it seems fine.
- We are still trying to figure out why the mountains have so many different colors and textures. I have included some pictures to show what it looks like. We have read that it has been many volcanos in this area and that might explain the dark purple colors and the many vertical traces we see in the landscape. Some areas are most likely old see floor with imbedded pebbles and sea shells. Dark grey areas are clay slate with flat shimmering pieces.
- Fried Calf liver: mmmm, was that good!
- Korean chicken: we are trying new recipes now when we have time and this one was fabulous!
- Water from high altitude well: perfect for a good coffee
- Fresh almonds and walnuts
We will explore more “slow cooking” now when we have a picture to help our communication with the butcher
Until next time – hasta luego
BR Eva, Peter
I suspect not using the boat systems regularly creates more problems than continuous use. One example is our electrical heating system that has been put to rest since Oct 2013, for obvious reasons. We have now spent 20 hours to get it working, and as all boat owner knows, maintenance work can be very frustrating and hard work. Our water based heating system consists of a heat element (3 x 1000 Watt), a regular boiler pump and 30 + meter hose and radiators. It seems the time with oxygen in the piping has created a lot of corrosion. So last couple of days, with the boat turned upside down, we have replaced all connections made of Alu, changed the boiler power supply (see pic, looks rather dangerous), changed boiler heating element (thank God we kept a spare part). Tomorrow we will check the Ferreteria (Hardware store). Wish us good luck, we will be armed with a Swe/Spain dictionary, our goal is to buy a new boiler pump. Some complementary info about heating on Tina Princess can be found here.
To keep us company in this trauma we have our “Local Hero(n)”, see pic above. Can be used to set the watch, 8 am sharp, departure to some unknown place from harbour breakwater, 4 pm return.
Many of our boat neighbors but also local Spanish people regularly drive up the mountain roads to get mountain spring water. Today we took our car along the narrow road to the small mountain village of Felix. At 800 meters above sea level, this tiny village with about 500 year round inhabitants has one public well. We had to wait a few minutes in queue, but it was worth it! We usually don’t have any problem with drinking local tap water. Water in mainland Europe usually contains more chlorine than we are used to in Scandinavia, but after a couple of days in our large, 1400 liter water tank the chlorine is almost gone and with a high performance carbon filter we have never been sick by bad water quality. Next year we are going to re-start our water maker system, probably needing a few new parts. Up to now, with a few exceptions, water has been free of charge, but we have been told that further east in the Med, fresh water is charged for and more importantly in some places very restricted in availability.
Nevertheless, the mountain spring water tasted very good!
We are now feeling the first signs of winter in southern Spain. Our heater has been used a couple of mornings, the snow cap of the highest peaks of Sierra Nevada are now permanent and we’ve also had a couple of gales. But everything is relative – with a few exceptions we are still wearing the “cruiser uniform”, i.e. shorts, t-shirt and sandals. It is kind of funny to meet the local Spanish population dressed as for a cross country ski trip. So what have we been up to lately? Firstly we have got a rental car for a really good price for two months. A car makes a big difference to quality of life as Almerimar is slightly isolated, especially as we have no bicycles, yet. We have also done further maintenance, installation work on the boat. We plan to have a section on this blog about “the boat” including technical stuff. Not so funny was my stupid mistake when installing “The Wirie”, a Wifi complete antenna and access point solution only requiring power. Part of the background was the painful bureaucracy having to wait about 4 weeks on customs processing in Madrid. My mistake was to connect the Wirie to 24V so it crashed, especially stupid since I very well knew I had to use the 12 V voltage splitter I ordered together with the kit. So maybe by Xmas we have this gear installed and working. What it does – it is a “WiFi sniffer”, looking up available networks, claiming a 3 km reach, which I doubt. We have also been social – we try to meet up with the “Scandinavian community” once a week, a mixed group of sailors, golfers and retired expats. Last week we were invited to our neighbors in the marina, Ulrike and Peter from Munich, Germany. We had a very nice evening enjoying good food and sharing experience from past sailing; especially valuable was the information about Croatia which we hope to see next year. This week we spent two days in the lovely town Nerja to celebrate a couple of anniversaries. More on Nerja in a later blog post.
Close to 30 years ago, sailing with our first sailboat, a B24 “Skärgårdskryssare” built 1924, we had a scary accident. Sailing downwind we made an unplanned gybe, with my head hitting the boom. An accident that can easily kill you but fortunately I missed some nasty brackets and cleats on the boom – so it was wood against wood :-). Anyway, a lot of blood and an expensive taxi to hospital for stitches. This summer cruise has been mostly downwind, and even if all gybes have been planned, there is a lot of power that takes it toll on the boat, sail and equipment. At least three blocks have been damaged.
Therefore we decided to buy a “boom break”, a device that uses the friction of a line wound around a metal cylinder to slow down the gybe. Simple design, the fewer moving parts the better. We plan to have a sea trial tomorrow. Here is a youtube clip from the manufacturer.
We have met many long time expats here in Spain who have a hard time get a menu translated. We decided to make an effort to at least get the basics right – so Eva decides a daily menu of 5-10 spanish words to get used to. To make it more meaningful, there is usually a theme. Monday we returned a rental car so we needed to learn how to pronounce “when does the bus x go to y”, “where is th the bus station”, “when does it leave” etc. This weeks training was about dehumidifiers, power consumption, performance (liter per hour), external output of water etc. Most important was the spanish word “Los Deshumidificadores”. Trying this word in real life today at “Corte de Ingles” was the ultimate, scary test if we are getting beyond the basics. And we passed. After carrying a bulky load on my bike for 10k we have now a dehumidifier that we have longed for the last 4 weeks.
Sunday was spent with our good friends Jörgen and Soffen who visited us from Alicante. Great to be able to reconnect after almost a year. The day after they gave us a lift to Almeria where we picked up a rental car for a week. Our “mini vacation” was loosely planned but we wanted to see Guadix, a small town amongst other things famous for its many caves, used as living quarters. It seems these “houses” have many benefits, eg mediating temperatures and, of course, extending your house with an extra room only requiring a shovel and a bucket. We couldn’t resist trying out a cave apartment so we checked in for a night at the cave hotel Tio Tobas. We both had a good night sleep, even though it felt a bit strange to think about having maybe 5 meters of soft mud/gravel/sandstone above your head.
Next day we followed another tip from long time resident Swedes – Trevelez, a small village south of Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada. Besides being one of the highest town/villages on the Iberian peninsula, this is also the “heaven of cured ham” or Jamon Iberico. The altitude (~1500m) seems to be perfect to produce the best quality air dried ham in Spain. Fantastic place this time of year with the valley facing south, day tems reached 25C. Fresh walnuts, citrus trees, etc. Only scary thing with this place are the roads, narrow, steep, crazy hair needle curves and amazingly large trucks passing by with F1 speed. This place will definitely be worth visiting again. For Jamon Iberico lovers, here is a great link to do a deep dive into ham stuff.