The Jump Off

I believe there are a select few of early childhood memories that'll last with you for your entire lifetime. Like that one snowy day in winter when my dad pushed me down a hill on a wooden sled, before first teaching me how to steer the damn thing around the upcoming trees.

Thanks, dad.

This week, I was reminded of another one.

I was about four or five years old. It was a cloudy, cold Saturday morning and me, my sisters and my parents were walking towards the city. Crossing a bridge over the city's main river (because ever city has a river) I put both my hands in my pockets, mainly because I'd seen some older boys do that and I figured that was what the cool kids did.

"Don't put your hands in your pockets," my mom warned me repeatedly. 

Near the top, I vividly remember looking sideways over the railing of the bridge and thinking, "I could so easily jump off this thing right now" while simultaneously being frightened of the height. 

That was right before I stumbled over a loose paving stone and face-planted my forehead onto the pavement, prompting a profuse crying fit and a trip to the local fish shop for some ice. 

I've never lost that fear of heights. It's especially prevalent when staring down high bridges with midget-sized railings, as was the case recently in Portugal.

Diagonality.

Diagonality.

Any cult leaders scouting for a location for their doomsday headquarters? Go visit the Portuguese countryside. Plenty of large, abandoned buildings available. Make sure to bring a lockpick set though. 

Any cult leaders scouting for a location for their doomsday headquarters? Go visit the Portuguese countryside. Plenty of large, abandoned buildings available. Make sure to bring a lockpick set though. 

Free Mileage

"Holy shit, this is so awesome" I said out loud to myself as I shifted to neutral and released the clutch. I'd just passed a sign that said '10% decline. 5km'. Starting the descent down a mountaintop in the Serrania de Cuanca national park I stretched my multi-tasking abilities, trying to simultaneously calmly overlook the valley below whilst keeping my eye on the narrow, winding road unfolding before me. 

Both were worthy of my full attention.

My ears popped from the change in air pressure, a sensation I'd previously only associated with air travel and freediving.

Good things up ahead.

Good things up ahead.

Pee break.

Pee break.

Gradient.

Gradient.

After stopping the night in Albarracin, a bouldering hotspot in Europe, I'd moved on early this morning. I had originally planned to spend some time there to go bouldering, but I started to miss the sea pretty bad already. 

Long may my impatience rule over me.

After breakfast was followed by an unsuccessful coffee & WIFI hunt in town, I decided to slowly start making my way back west again. But with everything being extremely busy or closed because of Easter weekend, a proposed 50km detour quickly turned into an epic 500km road trip.
 

Pine

Pine

Boulders in Albarracin.

Boulders in Albarracin.

Risk of Aerobics?

Risk of Aerobics?

Making my way down the mountain pass, I kept my car in neutral, much to the chagrin of some impatient locals behind me, but my only real worry was to avoid overheating my brakes. 

"Free mileage, that's something you just can't buy," I jovially murmured out loud to myself.

Coffee break.

Coffee break.

Having made my way down the valley, something big suddenly fell out of the skies and swooped in front of my van. With a snap of its large, Pterodactyl-like wings it was gone again, it's brief appearance in my windshield evoking in me a sense of nostalgia to my pre-adolescent love affair with dinosaurs. 

As my inner 12-year old briefly fantasized about having reached some unknown, real-life Jurassic Park I looked up out the window. There were a few of them roaming the skies above me.

"Wow ...eagles."

"Fucking eagles, man!"

Just Passing Through Spain

I passed through tiny villages, where time had stood still for decades.

Where 'new residents' are a thing of the past.

Where the internet is still an incomprehensible future proposition.

Where old men sit in the shade on roadside benches, just observing the world. Sedentary flaneurs they are. Nowhere to be, nothing to do. 

Just passing the time.

Los Chopos!

Los Chopos!

Where the local twenty-somethings rear their heads when they see an unknown goofy 6"3 guy saunter through their streets, anxious about any new threats to their local alpha male status. 

'Hey man, I'm just trying to find the grocery store.'

Where rat tails still are a thing.

Where siestas turn villages into ghost towns during the heat of the afternoon sun.

Where the local butcher is genuinely friendly and helpful regardless of your botched attempts at Spanish, patiently co-engaging in a simultaneous monologue of different languages, until we've sort of gathered what I came in for.

Manchego cheese wasn't on the list, but I'm not complaining.
 

TMNT.

TMNT.

I drove through the heart of agricultural Spain. 

I saw the land turn from green to grey, from grey to yellow to white to orange and back to green again, only to make way for hyena-like mountains, rocks, and pine.

Fifty shades of organics.

A farm house, left to decay a long time ago.

A farm house, left to decay a long time ago.

Fire up on the mountain

Fire up on the mountain

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I saw old factories in the middle of nowhere, some still operational, others having been left to decay decennia ago.

Where forlorn houses have been 'se vende' for decades, and the elements and father time have rendered the walls to ruins, but the for sale signs are still up nonetheless. 

I chased the full moon in the dark, driving through a long valley of steep and winding roads.

I passed through mountain passes unfit for big vans, where corkscrew turns are so steep my inside rear wheel was lifted off the ground.

With hand-carved tunnels so narrow that any incoming traffic would be a problem.

And I saw bulls, real Spanish bulls, after having seen 200 road signs warning me for them.

In short, I saw the other side of Spain. The one rarely advertised, rarely talked about, but no less interesting.

Rockets, brah.

Rockets, brah.

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Frisbee Dogs

"Arriba, arriba!" 

[ more illegible, frustrated Spanish hollering ]

I reluctantly rose from my intended Siesta, somewhere in a deep valley in the heart of Spain, and as I looked out of the side door I saw a woman trying to teach her two dogs the unified, yet non-codified, rules of human-canine frisbee.

It goes like this: the human throws, the dog happily chases and proceeds to retrieve the frisbee to the aforementioned owner, in order for the next cycle to commence. The dog does the work, the owner intends to put in as little effort as possible.

Much to my amusement, these dogs made up their own rules, enthusiastically thwarting any of their owner's attempt of letting them do all the hard work.

As the women threw, the dogs would go off and chase some imaginary cat, the (at this point visibly frustrated) women would walk over to pick up the frisbee, at which point one of the dogs would grab it out of her hands and deposit it at random spots on the ground.

Before I was able to get the popcorn, she gave up and moved on. 

Propping up my pillow for ultimate comfort, I laid back down again.

Berch (?) trees. Seconds after shooting this, I spotted a pretty large snake, long after it had spotted me of course. Luckily it was just as surprised as I was and swiftly moved away.

Berch (?) trees. Seconds after shooting this, I spotted a pretty large snake, long after it had spotted me of course. Luckily it was just as surprised as I was and swiftly moved away.

Water break. 

Water break. 

50? Sounds optimistic.

50? Sounds optimistic.