Cirque des Fees Episode 4: Desert Rose

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, but the wind, the wind will follow you everywhere. Or so we discovered after chasing autumn over the Pyrenees.
Our first night in the land of flamenco was rather turbulent. We parked up in a cozy little aire, nesting alongside a rather flash collection of Beastie’s campervan brothers, but a storm was brewing. Gusts rocked us from side to side and howling and hissing poured in through every crack and crevice. Still it seemed OK until I woke up at 1am remembering my friend Kevin’s advice about parking under trees on windy nights. Something about it being a bad idea? It was at this point a hail of giant pinecones smashed against the windscreen. Bleary-eyed, Oli & I jumped into the cab in our PJ’s and drove on outta there.

The next evening’s sleeping was equally successful. At about 7 o clock the wind and torrential rain was so crazy we had to pull over or face certain death, and all we could find was a sort of parking lot near the motorway to stop in. Four hours later some friendly policemen stood outside our door in the bucketing rain to inform us that roundabouts (or whatever we had stopped on) weren’t good destinations for holiday camping. OK, yes my blue uniformed darlings, but better that than being swept into the path of a 12-ton truck!
Anyway, the next night we had run out of water and wanted to avoid the local fuzz so the thing to do was take a quick squizz at the WildCamping.co.uk, curtsey of Mac D’s and their free WiFi. Online the closest suggestion was inland. WC yes, Agua yes Parking yes …and… a mini cathedral in the middle of the desert! What more does one need! Perhaps a wind shelter? So we ended up high in the red hills, surrounded by a 360 view of the stars.

The thing that makes me a little sad about France and Spain is that the land is so, so utterly used. The vast expanses of planes and rolling hills are ploughed and walled and chewed and planted with complete precision. We drove from one side of France to the other and only saw two woods. The less farmable parts of Spain are covered with miles and miles of greenhouse tents taking whatever they can from an already low water table leaving fertile areas even more dry and desert like. There were no insects splattered against our windscreen after days and days of driving. These countries have a low population per capita in comparison to the UK and so really no excuse.
Anyway… back to this amazing desert with the 360 view of the night sky.

Here we were, parked in the garden of the Virgin Mary, outside a little church in the middle of a dusty desert of red earth and sleeping vineyards. It was cold but gloriously clear so we stayed overnight, planning to use our ‘WonderWash’ in the morning. Little did we know we were being stalked! In the dark of night a shadow patiently, longingly, keep watch over our van. At sunrise I opened the door to find her crouched alert across the road. ‘Dog’, the desert’s only other inhabitant. After being surveyed by her for half the day we realised she wasn’t a farmers dog, but must be a stray. The wee Alsatian was a clever beastie and had discovered this place, occasionally visited by tourists, was the best spot to find food. Heaven knows how long she had been living here but in the dead of winter there were surely no rabbits around now, or many kind wanderers. Of course we were willing to share though all we had was rice, lentils and blinking leeks… the cheapest vege in France! (50 Euros a week doesn’t go far for two… especially not with, oh woe, all the van repairs we needed, but Oli will regale you with that later). Mr Hubby started boiling grain and I brought ‘Dog’ out some water in a wooden bowl.

The poor girl was skinny, skittish, but frisky as a puppy. After a lot of coaxing she hopped up to sniff the water, then in a trice she tipped over the drink, picked up the bowl and carried it off into the blackened vineyard! Arggggggh! I love those bowls, dammit!!!! ‘Dog’ hung out, rolled on the road and played tag with us for the rest of the day. We feed her four portions of rice and eventually she let me give her a hug. When we finally got our bowl back (involving a very complicated manouver) there were only a few chunks missing! We had to depart but by this time Dog was following me everywhere and it really broke my heart to have to leave her. She was a beautiful girl and I can’t help but worry about her alone out there, but we just can’t afford her. I’m gutted. Though that girl was a real surviver. I Somewhere out there in the dust of dying vinyards my new friend ‘Dog’ is the Desert Rose of Spain .

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