Nico and I were on our way to Salamanca, Spain with our second ECYD Camp of the summer. We learned that we would be DRIVING down. A 17 hour drive. I'm not going to lie. I was nervous. That felt like an insanely long drive to drive through the night with a only a short break in between.
We stopped for a couple hours in Bordeaux for dinner and to pick up more kids. The drive was long. Our driver dosed off for a quick second and drove into the guard rail. Totally messing up the left side of the van and blowing out the trailer tire.
We had to move ALL of the kids luggage to inside the van. On very little sleep mind you. We were exhausted.
This was my view for the last hour of the trip.
We arrived just in time for breakfast and headed out into the city to explore! The old city was BEAUTIFUL!
My favorite spot to sit was in the square. Wonderful people watching.
We were so happy to be in Spain. Nico was thrilled to be able to communicate with the locals easily. Y'all French is a very hard language to learn.
We arrived on a Sunday and went to mass in the glorious old cathedral. It was the most stunningly, gorgeous cathedrals I have ever seen.
Pope John Paul sat in this chair!
When you looking up to the ceiling you felt like it just kept going on forever!
On the walk home we saw a a bull fighting arena...boo! Historically very cool, but I don't support it. 😒
The next day we decided to go back out into the city and find a good cup of coffee. I was needing it! The lack of sleep and constant traveling was finally taking it toll on me.
We were exploring part of the city with some of the counselors. We were in the hunt for some jamon! The Spaniards LOVE their ham. They have pig legs hanging everywhere.
It was only €3. It was delicious! A perfect afternoon snack.
The streets were so charming. You know I'm a sucker for pretty streets that are lined with flowers.
Some of the guys were on a hunt to find the cheapest pints. Let's just say, they were cheap for a reason. Yuck.
7/4 Happy Fourth!
After a long day at camp, Nico wanted to get out and celebrate July 4th! Cue first day of feeling absolutely homesick. We missed our families and our tradition of being at Emerald Isle. We couldn't just hang around the camp. We had to get out. I honestly won't get into the ugly part of this trip, but in the short the camp was not what we were expecting. Unfortunely we were not needed and barely had a role. We were definitely frustrated to be trapped within the camp for two weeks just waiting around and feeling anxious that we were doing much. I was also the only woman around and I had to deal with a lot of crap. I'll leave that for in-person stories. It doesn't need to be on the internet.
ANYWAYS we stopped for a drink on the way to dinner. We wanted to find wifi so we could look up a place that may be celebrating the 4th.
We couldn't find anything! So we walked through the old city to find some paella! I had been craving since we decided we were going to Spain.
It was everything I had hoped for. After a few days of tapas I WAS HUNGRY.
Walking back to camp we found this beauty! The Irish Theatre was celebrating the 4th of July!
Our hearts were happy.
7/5 Las Batuecas and Sierra de Francia
The day had come for our two day adventure in the mountains!
The ride up to start our hike was absolutely beautiful and terrifying.
The trail was lovely. It felt so good to be outdoors and taking in all the fresh air.
The first day was amazing! We followed the trail and found multiple natural swimming pool. (Even though, since being the only girl, I wasn't allowed to go swimming.)
We climbed up and down these gigantic rocks along the stream.
The plan was to hike for two hours. To find a nice spot to camp out and sleep. We lost the trail looking for a place to sleep. We realized we didn't know where we were going. We just kept circling around looking for somewhere flat. Once we finally settled it was after 11pm. We settled on the side of a mountain and a huge rock. SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE. Even though it was pitch black once we set up our tent, it was pretty incredible to be out in the wilderness.
The moon was so bright. She seemed so much closer in person. Surprisingly we didn't see many stars! That was a little disappointing.
Good morning! This is where we slept.
Although we were super sweaty, dirty, and gross. The view was unbelievable to wake up too. A little scary when we stumbled out of the tent because we realized we slipped down the rock a good bit, but the tree caught us.
Our wake up call was 7:30 am. We had a quick breakfast, no coffee, and we were on our way by 8. At this point in time we didn't think we'd be going for another 8 hours. We knew we were a little off the trail, but we did not expect our day to be what it was.
I didn't take any pictures of the brutal climb...that lasted 6 hours. I was too afraid of falling down the mountain. Nico is a thick, strong man. He was not made for rock climbing. I was not made for rock climbing, but I'm at least somewhat flexible. The scariest part for me was definitely seeing Nico struggle every step when we were going up. Now, they weren't normal steps. They were more like leaps. Stretching your hips and legs as high as possible to climb the next rock. With no proper training or a cord we were free scaling mountain after mountain. Every time we thought we conquered one and survived there was another one waiting for us. Up and down, up and down. We reached peaks of mountains and walked the range.
These smiles held temporary joy as we successfully didn't fall down to our deaths. We were always the last of the group.
Our leader finally gave us a break so he could find the trail. He came back moments later saying he found the way to the trail, but we had to keep climbing up. The steepest slope of them all. Try to picture it. We're running on very little sleep, food, water, we had already scaled multiple mountains and we're about to climb a 90 degree angle. We were also surrounded by people who spoke French, and barely any English so we were always the last ones to find out what was going on. Out of frustration of the situation, I cried a little bit, but didn't let anyone see me so I wouldn't be perceived as weak. You have to be extra strong and tough when your the only woman in the group. That was also very tiring, having to constantly prove I wasn't tired.
It finally happened. I fell. I slid down a bit and banged up my legs. I grabbed on to a tree branch that saved me from falling further. I was cut, bruised up, dirt everywhere, and it started to get cold and rain. I re-injured my left ankle. I have severely sprained this ankle twice in my life and it's always problem. I'm bleeding, everyone is way ahead of us, and there was nothing we could do but continue on. Thankfully the group stopped and we caught up with them and I was able to get wrapped up. Luckily one of the guys had an ankle brace for me to wear the rest of the hike. We were in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't just quit and go home. Even though that's exactly what we wanted to do.
They found the trail. It was all rocks. Perfect trail for my battered body and injured ankle. HA! Every step I prayed that my ankle would be strong enough to support me and not give out again.
We were on this trail for an hour before it turned to dirt and leaves.
Looking at this picture makes me hot in the face, remembering how I felt at that moment.
Welp, I managed to snap a quick picture of us up high on the rocky trail. Why are we smiling?
We were alone again. My walking stick broke and with my bum ankle it made us even slower. The clouds started to come straight towards us. We stopped for a moment because we couldn't see but a foot ahead of us. It was pretty cool.
We climbed to the peaks of those mountains and along the range to get where we were standing for the picture below.
Do you see that thin trail on the mountain? It almost looks like it's cutting it in half? Well we were lead down that path for about 30 minutes until we realized to was the wrong way. Again.
The whole time, the picture above, was the end goal. We were trying to reach a monestary that sits above the Sierra de Francia. You can kind of see it within the clouds. Imagine our feeling of defeat when we thought we were just about to turn the corner and be there. Nope. Another mountain to climb. I secretly cried again.
Not to get cheesy or weird, but this was a true test of our relationship. Nico never stopped being supportive, proud, and calming. We cheered each other on the whole way. I was being competitive and running myself into the ground just to prove I could do it. He reassured me it was okay to stop and rest. I couldn't have mentally (or physically) survived that trip without him.
We made it y'all.
We made it to the top!
That's a long way down...
Because of the language barrier we still didn't know how we were getting back to the car. 16 hours of hiking later, we did NOT want to do that again. Our leader actually went to get the bus and picked us up. Yup. There was a road you could drive up to reach the monestary.
It was pretty satisfying to know we free scaled a few mountains! It's an exciting story now. A crazy adventure that I wouldn't willingly sign up for again.
But I am proud of us!
I debated on whether or not to put these up, but hey, why not?! They're my battle wounds.
I was bruised up pretty bad during the fall! Weeks later I still have sore yellow spots all over my legs.
The bigger cut took a while to stop bleeding. It was pretty deep and will most definitely be a scar.
In the end this is an experience I'm happy we both had. Again, it is something I would never willingly sign up for, but it proved a lot of strength and determination I didn't know was within me.
WE DID IT!