A wee bit of a retrospective post as I am now in Morocco, but considering I have only been out of Spain for about 3 weeks I think the old memory might hold out. And so how was living in Spain for 3 months?
Yeah it was good thanks. I liked it. Specifics? Sure why not.
I landed in Spain early March in preparation for my paragliding training. Y’all know that I already fly with a motor but I wanted to learn how to fly with just a wing so that it is easier to take this flying show on the road. Although my engine was small for a flying machine, it still does not lend itself well to backpacking across Europe.
My training was in a little town (Algodonales) in the south of Spain (Andalusia) and would last for 6 days. So I booked an apartment one town over in Olvera on Airbnb for a cool $550 for the month, and rented a car for an even cooler $120 for the month (this site, doyouspain, tends to find great deals, but don’t be tempted by the cheaper full/empty! Always go full/full you will save money in the end. And rather than get the full insurance just buy £30 excess coverage from a UK company) and began exploring the area.
The town of Olvera from the front
Olvera form the top
My little $120 a month rental car
This was my first time hitting the road proper as a single traveller and so not only the location was new, but also the whole experience of being a full time solo traveller, and I’m not gonna lie, it took some getting used to. But! Get used to it I did, and it definitely has its perks. The main one being doing whatever you want, when you want ! In Spain this meant lots of exercising, hiking, a bit of exploring, and endless Smallville marathons. Oh, and flying.
Olvera, where I lived for a month was cute and quaint, and also extremely quiet. It was good for the month but I was glad to move closer to the action in Algodonales once my rental was up. By this point I had made some friends in Algo (mainly the fellows at the paragliding school, who I ended up hanging around with a fair bit), and so even though Olvera was only a 20 minute drive away, it was good to be closer to more than the ageing populace of Spain and the grandchildren they all seem to look after while the kids bugger off to the big smoke.
One of the many little coffee / bars in Olvera.
A misty morning in Algodonales
HOW WAS THE FLYING?
My actual Paragliding training went well and I like to think I got the hang of it pretty quickly. A very different experience without a motor. Depending on conditions it can require a lot of fast thinking and quick reactions, and be a bit terrifying. But equally when you get a day where it is easy to just float around, it is quite meditative and zen like.
There is nothing in the world like floating a couple thousand feet up in the air with no sound but the wind whistling by, as vultures soar around you and the world stretches out forever in all directions. It helps put things into perspective.
And then you hit some bumpy air and soil yourself while screaming like a spider just crawled into your boxers…
The launch spot at El Bosque at sunset
During my training I met some really cool people, and this would become a trend as I hung out with the Flyspain guys and various groups which came through the school. Without exception I met cool people every time I joined a group. I met interesting people from all walks of life and most importantly for me, laughed like crazy.
So many funny people in the world, and amazing how you can mix a group of individuals together from very different walks of life and you can all end up laughing at the same things non-stop for a solid week.
The PILOTAGe / SIV group and me doing my Flash impersonation.
The Guided Week group
The CP training group
That they always left at the end of a week was a shame, and I can imagine it would get difficult when you have to say goodbye to new friends like that constantly. But fortunately I also made amigos with the Flyspain people and ended up hanging out with them a fair bit. They adopted me as one of their own and treated me like part of the team. Either that or I am terrible at taking hints and they didn’t want to offend me by asking me to please leave. I like to think it is the former though…
My second week with them, Rob (the owner of Flyspain) sent me on a Paramotoring guided week, during which I ended up flying more than almost my entire paramotoring career so far.
It was pretty incredible buzzing thousands of feet above the Spanish countryside for hours at a time. Then flying along the beach dragging my feet in the sand (first time I have managed this tricky feat of flying), and then back to the mountains to soar above Roman ruins and Villages perched on mountain sides.
Here is a video I made for them of that particular week:
SPAIN WAS A GREAT PERSONAL GROWTH EXPERIENCE.
In the end I did not explore anywhere near as much of it as I initially intended to. In fact I didn’t even get out of Andalusia! But I did explore my area a fair bit, and achieved two goals I was intent on achieving.
One was pushing my fitness to a level it has never been at, not even as a younger me. The other was becoming competent in the air so that I could fly in different locations fairly autonomously. Both of these things happened, and happened in what seemed like a natural progressive way.
The pinnacle of my fitness came from a 15km jog up and down a mountain, as well as various hikes up to different launches with a pack on my back to then fly back down.
Hiking up to launch with Marcus and Andrew
The pinnacle of my flying came from a day which I will always remember with extreme fondness.
On a sunny day in Algodonales, I hiked up a mountain with Andrew. We hiked for about an hour up to the launch spot in the blazing sun where it was just the two of us and a Flyspain group.
We launched, and I flew around for awhile fighting to stay in the air. Soaring along the ridge catching bits of lift by chasing the vultures using them as markers for thermals. When I was struggling to stay up a bit too much, I decided to head to the edge of the mountainside and then flew over the back. I then glided a few miles around my adopted town of Algo, directly to the backyard of my house, where I landed perfectly in a space I actually aimed for!
I picked up my wing, slung it over my shoulder and walked into my house for a celebratory fruit salad. Good times! And for me the first time I made a confident decision to fly off on my own.
Flying home over Algodonales
Cruising hands free at the beach
DOING SOME SCARY SHIT. PILOTAGE!
Another tenuous goal I had was to do an SIV, or in this case a Pilotage course. This is basically getting towed a couple thousand feet up above a lake, and then creating problems with the intention of learning how to solve them with the help of someone who actually knows what they are doing over the radio. The Pilotage is like a slightly watered down version of a full SIV, and takes out some of the more dangerous moves. At first I was disappointed by this, but after pulling some of the “less dangerous” moves I quickly changed my mind.
Trying to recover from an asymmetric stall
Doing an asymmetric collapse
I can’t emphasise enough how much I enjoyed this course, and how valuable it was to me as a paraglider. I in equal measure had some of the most terrifying and most exhilarating moments of my life during this course. I was also in a group with some of the funniest people I have ever met, and so aside from the thrill of the course, also laughed like crazy for an entire week.
Andrew, Paul and Mwah
Here is a little clip of one particular move, basically just slowing down one side of the glider until it stops moving forward, or “stalls”. It shows you how quickly things can go wrong if you do stupid shit, and if you aren’t prepared to deal with it. If you fly, I can’t recommend enough that you go do one of these Pilotage courses with Flyspain.
SO HOW WAS SPAIN?
Well Spain was exactly what I want from my travels. It was unique, it was interesting, it was fun, and it was at times challenging. The food was amazing, the people were friendly except for when they weren’t, and then they were amusing. Andalusia has beautiful mountain scenery, great hikes and drives, beautiful little and large villages and towns spread across the countryside, fields which stretch to forever, beaches with cute little seafood restaurants and places like Ronda and Malaga, with their old towns which are great to explore.
The town of Ronda
Hiking above the town of Zahara
Sunset in Zahara
Landing spot near the town of Ronda
Zahara lake 5 minutes from Algodonales
Beach Restaurants just outside of Malaga
Spain was amazing. Spain was another step towards whatever my life will end up being. I made friends as a single solo travelling dude. I figured out some things about myself and was given a whole raft of new questions to answer. I met people whom I hope to see again in the not too distant future. I met people who live their own versions of alternative lifestyles, and it gave me more insight into the variety of ways in which human beings choose to live out their time on this Earth.
Food and friends after some flying, what else do you need?!
WILL I GO BACK?
I am pretty sure I will. I don’t know when as there are already other plans in the works and more incredible things to see and do, but Spain was exactly what I didn’t know I needed or wanted. It was something beyond my ability to accurately predict, which is a great thing.
Currently I am in Morocco, and actually soon to leave for Italy and then Romania, just down the road from draculas house (randomly). Morocco has been an altogether different beast. One which I will talk about the next time I pick up this blog.
My ride to Morocco
For now suffice it to say, things are moving forward in ever unexpected and unique ways. Life continues to throw me curve balls. Some great, some not so much. But without a doubt I am living a life which very seldom if ever feels wasted. An achievement unto itself.