Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Catching fish

Monday 30th August: Today was another new day. After breakfast I went to see what was on the other side of the river. As always, I was excited to see a bridge that would take me there. I sat for a while in the sun and gathered a few pine cones before going back and continuing with the day.

Today the wind was too stong for flying, so the Pilot and I decided that we could go fishing. We didnt have a fishing rod or a permit, but didnt think it would be too hard to get hold of one. My dad used to take my sister and I fishing in the sea when we were little. I dont remember catching anything, but the experience was great. Just spending time with my dad was a precious moment as he worked very hard when we were little to give us the life we hard. I am always grateful for that.

The fishing permits, we found out, were 15 euros per day, and not having a fishing rod yet, we thought we would wait a while. The nearby shops were selling them for 90 euros and so we got back at the campsite to see if anyone knew of where we could get cheaper. We found out that if we drove to Digne les Bains, an hour away, we could go to Decathlon and we could get them for 30 euros. It was music to our ears and so we drove there. It was nice to get to spend some time together after all the flying.

We arrived there and after much deliberation, we found what we needed. Even the maggots! We put them in the fridge on a shelf of their own, I didnt want them munching their way through the things we had bought at the Carrefour. Meanwhile, I had bought a portable three-legged stool to sit on whilst I was on my mini cycling adventures. I didnt want to get bitten again! Then we had a Mcdonalds. It's probably th 5th time in my whole life that Ive had Mcdonalds. I suppose Im not a burger kinda girl. I used to eat KFC on some Friday nights though! My two dear friends, Michele and Andrea would take me there during our Friday nights out when we were about 17. They were good days!

When we got back, we found some people who drove us to the lake to try out our new purchase. It was cold and we didnt catch anything, but sitting on the Pilot's lap whilst waiting for something to bite the line was very special. Between us, we shared the heat that we both needed to keep warm. It was a good moment.

After resigning ourselves to the fact, that no fish would be caught today, we went back to the warmth of the snail.

Flags waving in the Square

Sunday 29th August: Today I was woken up by sunshine and plenty of room. It was the first time that I havent slept in 'the loft'. It was glorious! Its a real effort to make up this bed, as usually there are two paragliders on the seats and it takes time to put the table down and make up the bed, whereas the bed is already made in 'the loft' and all you do it pull it down, and voila! It was great for the space, but things are definately colder here. It may be because we are up in the alps perhaps. It's a bit like the time I went to Peru in 1997. The days were so very hot, but the nights were so very cold. It was a wonder that both climates could exist with one another, but they do.

I heard the bells toll in the near distance, and cycle to Mass. It was better to understand this time because I know French. Its all locked inside my head, and I know all I need to do is to be exposed to it a while and then it gets unlocked. After speaking English and Spanish for most of my time, punctuated by Polish, my first few sentences were muddled with all the words I knew in all three languages, but after a bit of conversation and practise, it was much better. Its not just the speaking Im after, its the communicating and expressing that is very important for me. Away from my friends and family, Im finding that aspect of the adventure very hard indeed. Its being with people who know me, really know me, that I miss. I dont have to explain, we share a history. Thank goodness that I can talk to them over the phone, texts and email, or I would be well and truly lost. Its nice to get to know different people though, but its not reall the same.

The square is heaving with people and it is lovely to see. I watch couples hand in hand strolling along and it makes me smile. I sit in a cafe, after ordering a tea, they didnt have de-caf. I drank it whilst reading and English Paper I had found in a newagent and basked in the sun. The Boulangerie looked like it was going to close by 12.00, so I ventured in and asked for a 'pain-au-chocolat sil vous plait' and ate it eagerly. I would probably suffer later with a headache (I did) because of all that butter, but for those few moments, it was delicious.

I stayed in the square till about 14.30, reading my book intermittently and gathering my thoughts. I have a lot of them to gether! I need a bigger net! The large tree provided a shade for me in the midday sun and as I looked around, I was inspired to write a few lines (Linda and Laura, this is especially for you)

The triangular bunting flags wave with excitement in the wind. They tell me not of their reaons for doing so. I know not whetehr it is for something to come or an event already passed. They dont care and wave themselves regardlessly. Their secret intrigues me and I watch trying to decipher their innermost thoughts. I gaze at their excitement in the blue cobalt sky. They wave in unison whispering to me in a language I do not know. I listen with more care. They are pleading with me now as they flap eagerly. I then smile. For I have found out their secret. We sit in the square together, in the wind and under the afternoon sun. I smile because I now too have a secret. I share their secret. Its the secret of complete happiness.

I cycle home and make sense of what I have seen and thought about.

The drive from Slovenia to France

Saturday 28th August: After sleeping by the side of the road for a few hours, we were ready to continue with our journey.

The scenery is intensely breathtaking everywhere I see. Its so different from anything I have ever experienced and I shall always keep these moments in my memory. Its hard to take photos as we drive and I would love to stop every now and again and experience the places we are passing through.

As the snail took us through the winding road in Italy, I was able to stop at a little book and antique market. I would have loved to buy the books I flipped through. Books are a very big part of my life. It allows me to escape into a different world, yet still remain who I am. After reading them however I am never the same person. The characters are true to me and I feel their joys and pain. I hope that my story will be as powerful when it is written one day. Its still hatching, so watch this space.

The rest of the drive through to France was quite scary for me. I have a very real fear of falling down a cliff. I have had countless nightmares as a child and young adult, and sometimes nowadays, of falling. Fear of falling. Very apt! Anyway, we drove for an hour up a very large hill, in a very large snail twisting and turning at every curve. I dont want to relive this experience too much, going through it was bad enough. But I was terrified, that should tell you enough. To say I was glad when we reached the bottom is an understatement.

We arrived at St Andre les Alpes about 17.00 to lots of Pilots registering for the British Open. It was comforting to hear a language you can understand, but even more comforting to be able to communicate back. That has been a very hard part of the adventure. Not being able to express yourself to those around me has left me feeling a shadow of a person at times. When I am strong, I can be quite resiliant, but there are just times when it is just to much for me. Back to being inside the coconut.
Its interesting to watch people communicate with each other. Meeting people for the first time, I watch people divulge little parts of themselves and listen to the stories of others. Its interesting watching facial expressions and listening to the laughter. Its a very simple process is communication. It can make a difference.

The wind here is cold and for the first time in weeks I have contemplated wearing long socks. My tan has developed nicely following my 'plan' of not getting burnt. Its working well. SF10 is all I have and its nearly finished. I must buy more!

I end the day wondering what this week will bring, I hope it will continue to make me stronger. There are times I wonder if it will? But, I put one foot forward everyday and hope that it will bring me closer to what my heart desires. Only time will tell.

The end of the Slovenian Chapter

Friday 27th August 2010: I wake in the early hours to a cough that is drier than the desert. I can’t seem to shift it and after drinking some water to quiet it down, I end up falling asleep cuddling the bottle like a teddy comforting me.

Its cloudy today and the grey clouds hug the mountains around me. I want to go down to the river, and wonder if the builders have done anything else. I wonder whether this will become a place of beauty for me again. Sometimes the irony is too much for me to think about.

I think today is the last day here. There is another completion starting in St Andre in the French Alps on Sunday. Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. I tidy the Snail as I have just chucked things into cupboards so that there is not so much clutter. I find a book which I forgot I packed and wonder if there are any solutions inside them.

There is fish tonight and I order it with the campsite owner. I get on with my tidying before going down to the river. I read my book and know that our time here in Slovenia is coming to a close. The waters have comforted me in more ways than one. Did I thank them? I did. The landscape is indeed stunning. I have got used to the food and the climate and Im a bit sad to go in a way, but it's time.
I arrived back to the campsite and realise that the fish that was ordered was eaten by other people. Not happy, but they offered us those yummy lamb sausages instead. I took up the offer. The Pilot did not. Case closed. After closing and prize giving ceremony, the snail started its engine and started the long 10 hour drive to France. The Slovenian 2 week chapter had come to a close.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Somethings can be a real pain in the ass!

Thursday 26th August 2010: Exploration day today. I wake up trying to clear the fog from my head. The red wine we are drinking is doing nothing for my early mornings. After some thought, I decide that I would try and go back to the place I went to on Sunday.

I take my bike and reach the back of the campsite. There is a way in from this side and I don't have to go through the road way. It’s probably easier, but then when did I ever go for easier? (I shake my own head). I nod a ‘good-morning’ to the builders, recognising that we both have things to do today.

I look in front of me; there are two paths, one wide and gravelly, one next to the river and overgrown. I take the road less travelled. This path is designed only for walkers, yet I hold onto my travelling companion with strength. I want him to see what I see. His pedals catch the back of my legs every now and then and I feel a ‘sorry’ whisper from his frame. I am sorry too, for wheeling him through the overgrown plants, he’s sorry and I’m sorry. We both continue as friends once more.

As I plunge deeper into the path, I know that it too late to turn back, even though I know the journey will take longer. We continue along the path, both supporting each other. I reach the bridge, but this time I am underneath it. Luckily, I turn a corner and the bridge is inviting me once more to walk on its planks, the invitation to another world. As before I gladly accept and tread the boards once again.

There is nobody here. On Sunday there was a myriad of people who were laughing and strolling. Now there is only an echo of some distant past. Ghosts do now even walk today. I find the place where I sat for so many hours and find another disappointment. My hammock-swing is gone. It has been detached from the carrabeena and is nowhere to be seen. There is no one to ask, as the bar-shack that was so gloriously open on Sunday, is closed. I feel I shouldn’t have come back to this place; it is a shadow of what I remember it to be.
I sit on a wooden swing to try and get the same feelings back. I don't. I leave the watery place and follow the path. I see a tree, almost horizontal and after laying my red sarong on the bark, accept that this is the place I will rest and read my book today.

I stay here for hours reading my book, only stopping from time to time to gaze at the sparkling aquamarine water which to me is Slovenia. I eat my sandwiches eagerly. It's the first time I have brought something on my adventures. I am glad for it. It's funny how you can be hungry and not even know it. I continue to lay and daydream on my tree, and would have for many more hours, but something was to interrupt my day.

A pain shot down my leg. I felt I had been bitten by a snake (I hadnt). Impossible, as I had my combats on, rolled up to the knee and I would have noticed. Maybe it was a spider, or maybe an ant. Whatever it was, the ‘thing’ that had bitten me had obviously enjoyed it’s meal and left me in the worst pain imaginable. Mosquito bites would always be a sweet as cake in comparison. I reluctantly packed up my things and tried to ride my bike. As the bite was quite close to by bottom cheeks, it was hard to cycle. I was hot and bothered and cross that something small had ruined my solace. It's always in the small things!!

I arrived back to the snail without energy to go to the Pharmacy to get something to sooth me. I was annoyed at myself for not bringing something for ‘after bites’. I also couldn’t find the first aid kit, so I lay with my bikini clad cheeks exposed to the window for some cool air to brush against them. With all the fuss and exhaustion, I feel asleep. I must have provided a wonderful view for everyone who passed my window!

After my sleep, and getting some cream from town, I felt better. The Pilot and I decided to take a walk to the Tolmin Gorges. It was amazing. We weaved through paths and steps, up and down, across bridges and then up the hillside to arrive at a wonderful sight. In-between two huge rocks was a rock which looked like a bear’s head. No one knows how it got stuck there, but stuck it is. It was a quiet place and quite stunning. I had some sticks to help me on my journey, although as we got nearer to the water’s edge the rocks were slippery and my trainers would not grip the floor. I became frustrated that I couldn’t go on. There was a sheer drop to the right of me and as I slipped I broke one of my sticks. It was enough to break my spirit. I took all my energy not to cry.

After about 2 hours of striving to get to this place, I wasn’t disappointed. It is a place of stunning natural beauty. It goes to show that to get to something worthwhile, you have to travel a long way, be hot and sweaty, maybe break a stick or two, and climb up and down, before you can get there. In my mind I’m still on the path. I haven’t got there yet and I have no map. I don't know how long it will take, or what I will find at the end. The only option I have is to keep moving. Sometimes I take slow steps and sometimes they are bigger. There are times I have to rest, sometimes I have to rest for longer, but I continue in the hope. For there is always hope - a light at the end of the tunnel. There always is in one way or another.

I am tired on the way back and it is getting dark. I cannot see the steps in front of me, and am glad for someone to make the steps in front of me first. Methodically I step in the same places, for I know that they are safe ones. I have travelled far today and have seen moments of beauty. I drift off to sleep and dream of waters crashing around rocks relentlessly.

The start of many lessons to be learnt!

Monday 23rd August 2010: Lesson #1. Don't buy shopping in the first place you see at 9.15am then spend 5 hours carrying it in your rucksack around town looking for a salon to wax your legs! On my morning travels I found a shop which sold flip-flops and a wide variety of shoes for every occasion. I knew after trying to walk in the river that the stones were too hard for my feet to walk on. I knew I needed something to help me again when the need arose. I also know after having many very painful treatments to remove a verrucca, not to mention quite expensive, I didn’t want to catch another one, so showering in campsites with a muddy tray to walk through was not an option for me. Compose
Ordinarily, I would have bought a few to suit every need, but now, because money is tight, it is a good experience for me to sacrifice my options. After being in the shop for nearly 20 minutes and after picking up and replacing flip flops very many times, I opted for some plastic imitation ‘crocs’. Now I must say, never in my life did I think to ever buy ‘crocs’. I think they are ugly at the best of times, but my opinion seems to have changed. I saw the daintiest yellow ones with orange flowers all around them. I was beginning to develop a fondness for them. I tried them on, and they looked cute. I wondered whether these could do the jobs I had intended them for. I thought they would, and so I bought them.
I then went to the supermarket. Being in a different country I haven’t been able to find soya milk that would help me survive breakfast and coffee. I have been doing without, but I was glad to find some eventually in this shop. I probably shouldn’t have bought 2 though. When I got home it tasted disgusting. More water than soya, and its brown. Lesson #2. Only buy one until you know what it’s like. I then filled my basket with 6 cans of lager for the Pilot whose last set of cans have apparently ‘disappeared’ I think we all know where they actually went. I bought juice and bread and a variety of other heavy items. After paying for them, I placed them all in my rucksack and thought about cycling home.
I then bought a clothes airer for outside and immediately regretted not having more space in my rucksack. I would have to put it on my handlebars which would annoy me all the way home. It reminded me of living at university. The Tesco’s I used to go to was the other side of town. I would cycle there with ease, and then have copious amounts of shopping bags on the handlebars which would pull me from side to side in order to kill me. I used to travel with my red bike then. It was a faithful travelling companion that went with me to many places. It wanted to take it with me again this time, but the brakes have long worn and its needs a complete makeover. I don't think people realise its more than a bike to me, it’s my memories that I hold dear. I would like to restore it when I get back.
I left the shops and thought about whether I could try and find a place to wax my legs. I call it ‘getting organised’. Slightly annoyed at my decision to shave parts of my legs yesterday, I berated myself at not waiting. I would in the future. I have been to a great lady who organises me for about 8 years now. It's flipping painful, as much as the adverts show it, like you’re being licked by kittens. Having the works done is a painful process, but worth it. I know that with my bikini I will want to appear smooth and not like some woolly mammoth from the prehistoric era!! I decided to enter a ‘Superdrug’ like place and ask if they spoke English. They said ‘a little’. They told me I could find the stuff I needed there, but I tried to explain that I wanted someone to do it for me. There are places I just can reach you know! She gave me some directions in her best English and I wandered down the road with my heavy rucksack and clothes airer. I crossed the road and came to the end of the hill, and so I turned back. I entered another shop which gave me directions for the opposite direction. Annoyed that I had obviously missed the place, I turned back. I showed many shop keepers my note which was writer in Slovenian, yet to no avail. I decided to go back to the ‘Superdrug’ shop and ask the lady where this place was. She said I was standing in it. FLIPPING HECK!! I had crossed the street backwards and forwards about 5 times by now and my rucksack wasn’t getting any lighter! She gave me more directions and said I needed to go down the hill. It was nearly 12 noon by now and I was hot under the weight of my shopping. She said they probably closed at 12pm, but I thought I would go at least to find it, and then come back tomorrow without my burden.
I crossed the street again and stopped in a church for some solace and to get away from the heat. It was what I needed and spiritually I was able to go on a little further. The bells tolled and I knew that midday had arrived without me realising it. I got back on my bike, which was unstable because of the flipping airer, and I continued on my journey.
Going down the winding hill was wonderful. The crisp coolness counteracted with my hot body and I cycled down without a care. I arrived at the bottom of the hill in the knowledge that I would have to cycle up again to the top and hoped that my tired body would take it. All good exercise I thought. The past few weeks have done wonders for my figure. Months of trying to lose weight were in vain. All I needed was to eat less and exercise more, something I was certainly doing on this trip. I am down to notch ‘4’ on my belt now. Good times!
As I was looking around, I saw many shops, but not the ‘Medista’ I was looking for. Shops here have no rhyme or reasons. It isn’t like, here is a high street, you have everything within walking distance. No, its like. This is here and that is there. You need to go to it.
I locked my bike and went in search for the Holy Grail. I went down alleyways and no-go roads, and just when I thought about giving up, there it was, sandwiched in between a flower shop and a vending machine that sold chunks of cheese and empty plastic bottles. I saw from the sign on the door it was closed for lunch till 13.00. I decided to stop under the shade of a tree and make light of the burden on my back and had lunch. The bread and pate filled my dry mouth with a wonderful satisfaction, and the orange juice replenished all the water I had sweated just to arrive to this point. It was a lovely lunch, only hindered by the fact that a wasp wanted to join me, and the thought that my bike was miles away and I would have to retrieve it. I was looking around and realised that I was back at the bottom of the hill. Never mind I thought. At least I was closer to going up the hill. I retried my bike and sat looking at the people walking by.
At 13.00, the sliding doors to the salon opened. Inside I wandered around and saw a man inside one of the treatment rooms. Typical, I thought, I finally find a place to get my bikini done and it’s going to be removed by a man! I was disheartened. Again I asked the lady behind the counter if she spoke English and she replied as they all had that day: ‘A little.’ I managed to get an appointment for 16.00 on Wednesday and was relieved that she would be doing it for €5. Mission accomplished. All done and dusted I left. Cycling up the hill would be easier than I thought, as there was a cycle/pedestrian walk way to lead me to the top. I passed a young man who looked at me and smiled as I struggled up the steep gradient, still with my heavy rucksack and clothes airer. I wondered if he would offer to help, or whether he would help me, but he didn’t, so I struggled on. Reaching the top was an achievement. More exercise I thought!
 When I arrived back at the campsite, it was announced that there would be a BBQ tonight. Brilliant I thought! I had brought some chicken legs and small typical Slovenian sausages (which tasted of lamb). Although upon closer inspection, we found out that the BBQ would cost €5 per person. We took out our own blue BBQ bucket and had ours for €0.
After tiding the Snail, I decided that I would walk down to the ‘bin area’ and deposit our rubbish there. When I got there I saw some friends I had been playing cards with the previous night and they invited me to sit down with them. Interestingly enough I had already brought my wine glass with me, it turned out to be a good decision. That’s the second time that I have done that - wandered off with a wine glass in my hand. I think I may have a ‘wine magnet’ impeded within my fingers!!
I sat down and was introduced to more Polish Pilots and their wives and girlfriends. It was a good opportunity to practise the language I had hoped to learn by now. I met someone whose birthday it was, of course we had to toast their health. More red wine consumed. Then I met a woman who was here with her husband and son who both fly. She said she didn’t fly, someone had to be the normal one. Besides, who would retrieve them otherwise! I know that feeling.
Much more took place and the free wine came out in the shape of a wine-box. Pilots hovered around with their plastic glasses hoping that it wouldn’t run out by the time they had got there. I was passed a glass of white wine. I accepted of course, my red had long disappeared. The time flew by with laughter and song. I hasdnt realised how long I had been away until the Pilot arrived, also holding a glass of wine. We started to play cards, eat crisps and biscuits. Then the vodka came out. I always feel bad about rejecting the vodka that’s been given to me, especially if its a toast for someone. I remember last New Years Eve in Poland not taking part in a toast and realising afterwards it was a toast for the married couple’s unborn baby. I felt ashamed. And so with this knowledge, I accepted and the vodka joined the red and white wine in my tummy. My head by now was well and truly sizzled. I was hungry for the BBQ meat and we said our goodbye’s in order to fill our tummies with solids. Now my legs seemed to have abandoned me at this point. Walking back to the BBQ seemed quite hard, but the meal was delicious. Lamb-like sausages- yummy.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

There are some liquids you shouldnt mix!

Tuesday 24th August: RATS!!! I knew I should have done some writing over the weekend. No WIFI at the campsite means I have been a little lazy at keeping up with my writing. I am wandering around in my thoughts at the moment. Now, we are at a WIFI spot and I have nothing already written. RATS AGAIN

Anyway in response to Linda's request, living in the Snail is great. We are sleeping in 'The Loft'. Its the pull down bed that is already made, its not 100% comfortable and Im squished at the winscreen side, which not much room at the top. I have about 30cm from the top, so its a bit squashy. We cant sleep on the other bed because the paragliders are on it. :(

With regards to the washing, we have an inverter and a solar panel that changes the solar energy into volts we can use. Every now and then we put it on. Its a cool thing with a washing machine one end and a spin dryer the other side. I have been washing mostly by hand. Smalls and such like. Must be love! No ironing Im afraid. Just shake it out and hang it up.

Anyway, here is today's entree:

Tuesday 24th August 2010: Lesson #3. Don't mix white wine, red wine and vodka. No matter how it seems a good idea at a time. My head was banging today. I wished I hadn’t made arrangements to go out shopping today. I spent the morning sleeping and reading hoping that I would sail away into my hangover with relative ease. At 10.30, I heard a knock and I knew I had to surface. One of the wives of a Polish pilot here had offered to take me to a shopping centre. I told her the night before I needed a cool dress in which to absorb the heat in. In her kindness she offered to take me with her. When I got in the car, I realised that we would be going on a detour before shopping. One guy last night, after the drinks we had, decided to play basketball and fell over. This morning he though he may have broken his arm and so we were going to the hospital to check him out. Once I got into the back of her car I knew it was going to be a long journey and was already feeling nauseous. I put on my travel sick-bands around my wrists and waited for them to kick in. They didn’t. I looked at her sat nav. 36km. I wondered what that was in time. I was feeling more sick as time went on. I prayed for my tummy to settle. Then we were pulled over! A policeman had caught us speeding with his raider and now we were pulled over. My friends looked horrified, and the guy with his arm in a sling got out. The Policeman understood that we were on our way to the hospital and was generous enough to let us off. How lucky!

We arrived in Gorica soon after and went to a shopping centre to wait for him to get checked out. Not having a lot of money to waste, I looked fervently with no avail for a dress. Maybe I would find one in France or Spain I hoped. We wandered around looking at the wonderful things on offer and had a coffee. By this time I had lost the feelings of nausea. By this time we found out that the guy needed an operation and would be in hospital for most of the week. Caution: don’t drink and play basketball! All in all it was a lovely day out with a lovely lady and her son. She took me out and helped me pass the day in a different way. We both chatted and laughed in the car on the and I felt happy to be in female company again. I think this is what I am missing the most. I miss being about to pick up the phone and chat to my friends. I miss listening to their days and finding up what they are doing. I miss seeing my friends and laughing and sharing memories. My friends know me at my best and at my worst. I don't have to pretend with them. Sigh. Yes, it’s hard without them.

When we arrived back, I decided to read my ‘Long way round’ book and really got into it in a big way. I found myself thinking about their journey and relating it to my journey. I couldn’t put it down.

We went for a while to a WIFI spot, but because I hadn’t written anything, I had nothing to publish. I only had enough time to check a few emails and then the time had passed.

On the way back, we went to an ‘Aldi’ type shop. . Lesson #4: Buy stuff at this shop, it’s cheaper. We have been eating mostly pate and bread. I say ‘pate’, more like whatever was left over goes in here I suppose, but it tastes good and with lettuce and tomato it’s a good meal. I need to start thinking of more food options. As one of my leaving presents, I was given a camping recipe book. I think it’s for weekend campers, not for ones on long trips. You need things like basil and vanilla pods, all of which we don't have obviously! We tried to make our own - tomato and stale bread soup, but after a few hours we were both rushing for somewhere in particular. Yes, that soup ‘cleared us out’ so to speak!!

When we arrived back at the campsite, it started to rain. Real rain! Thunder and lightning rain! Then we noticed the leak. First it dripped, then it dropped, then it almost poured. The Pilot decided to gaffa-tape the window from the outside. We placed bowl by the leak and watched it plop as we read our books. All was well for a while, but then, something moved, the bike rack probably, and the dripping started again. Again he went out into the storm to fix more bin bags to the outside. All was well again...for a while...then more leaking. By this time, the rain had started to fall harder than I could ever imagine. It rained so hard that I thought the force of it would push us over. Then the Pilot took his tent cover, some cans of coke and a 2 litre washing up bottle outside with him, torch attached to his head. I knew better than to ask what he was going to do, or to stop him.

The leaking had stopped for now, and so to bed I went.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A day of backing-up

Thursday 19th August:Waking up by the river was wonderful. The spooky fog from last night laid over the river and nowhere else. The colour of the water was so intense this morning. It almost looks like emerald. An emerald river leading to the Emerald City! I went along the edge of the river collecting stones and bits of bark. I’m feeling creative today, but don't know what will come of it. I’m also contemplating making some dough figures. My brilliant friend Michele gave me a cool book on how to make clay figures, and although I didn’t bring the clay, I have a bag of flour and salt. Just add water and it will be enough to keep me busy all afternoon probably! 

After breakfast, we left to go and listen to a few meetings by the bar. The weather hasn’t been at all good, and the Pilot is starting to get ‘itchy-wings’ because of the lack of flying. They meet at 9am for a morning update on the weather and if it may change, they meet two hours later. I think they’re all hopeful, but the clouds tell a different story. They are the experts not me, as they have meteorological websites that they rely on.

After much deliberation, and many briefings, the Pilots decide to fly. The Pilot with his buddies leave on a minibus, leaving me to the solace of writing and backing up all the files on my phone.

Later on, after getting a crick neck with all the back ups, I have a backup and a backup-backup. Sorted.
We go back to the river to sleep. Week 3nearly coming to an end.

Nap Time Day

Wedsneday 18th August: Today I am feeling the effects of the red wine and the blowing of bubbles. I seem to have this strange condition where the morning after the night before, I wake up fine, and then gradually throughout the day I get worse. It's like a ‘backwards-hangover’ syndrome.

Today has been mainly consisted of taking small naps here and there. I think I am a cat. I find somewhere comfortable, and I’m sleeping. The rain has continued today and we moved from the campsite after doing some washing and drying for €5. I know we have our own portable one at the moment, but there’s something wrong with it that we can’t figure out. Anyway, bed sheets and most of our clothes are now clean and dry. It's a shame that our washing machine found out and ‘peed’ on my handbag in protest! Passports, cards, money, etc all wet with washing machine water from the pipe that is supposed to be upright at all times. Tsk!

Back at the bar with WIFI access, I decided to try another drink. Orangina used to be a favourite of mine. It always reminds me of my uncle. He used to drink it when I was little and I always love the shape of the bottle. I don't know what this variety is called, as the letters on the bottle are all in Slovenian, but the taste was just yummy.

I also managed to post a blog finally! I’m writing them in The Snail and then posting them when I get a chance. I suppose that’s one of the things that I have found hard. Not being able to write directly on the blog. This way it seems a little less personal and not so direct, but I do what I can with the things that I have. It's a good experience for me!

In the early evening, Pizza was ordered and then we drove to a secret river for the night. The Pilot decided to make a campfire, which after many valiant attempts; we resigned ourselves that after a few days of perpetual rain, the wood was just too wet! The firelighters produced a lovely flame though.

It was hard to look out over by the water. There was a spooky mist that seemed to cover everywhere. We imagined a small boat being sailed across past us without a captain or crew. It was spooky enough to send us to bed. Bedtime seems to come so soon after a day packed with events. No two days are ever the same, regardless of the weather.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Tuesday Campsite

Honesty is always the best policy. Otherwise, Karma has a way of knocking on your door at 6.15am in the shape of the Slovenian Police. Receiving them in my pyjamas was not a sight I wanted them to see, nevertheless, they saw it and I was quite ashamed. The weather has been quite shocking and so it’s been difficult for The Pilot to fly. We’ve been staying in the car park designated for day parking only. Apparently you are required to stay at a registered place between the hours of 23.00and 07.00. I think we had been pushing our luck a bit after staying there for 3 nights. So we decided to move to a campsite 5 minutes down the road.

We drove over Napoleon’s Bridge which towers over a beautiful greeny-blue river called the Soča. Camping Koren is a wonderful campsite www.kamp-koren.si. It was just what we needed. And what I needed was a shower!

One of the many privileges of this adventure is that you really start to appreciate the little things. Now, we’re lucky because our Snail has a toilet, shower, cooker, fridge and beds. It’s not the top of the range model, or even the middle or lower by today’s standards, but it has what we need and it is enough. But having a shower in this place was just heavenly! As I turned the hot water on, the power of the water seemed to wash my worries away. Yes, it was just what I needed.

By the time I emerged from my steamy waterfall, the evening BBQ had already started. The Pilot and two of his paragliding friends had already started the Slovenian red wine and the food was well on its way to being cooked. The BBQ bucket donated by my sister was able to feed four people a variety of burgers, sausages, chicken legs and drumsticks. As the size of the bucket only permitted a few items to be cooked at the same time, we spent the time in between drinking the wine and sharing stories and jokes. It was a great evening.

And then the evening took a wonderful random turn. Another of the exciting aspect of this adventure is the people you meet along the way. I had left my three dinner companions to go and ‘check the bikes’ (code for going to the toilet). I was trying to manoeuvre my way along a cobbled path without my glasses and my new flip-flops. Why I decided to bring my wine glass I can’t remember, especially when I had already drunk my fair share.

Through the darkness I saw a little sign and a voice called over to me. Now, remember I don't have my glasses on and so I proceeded to answer their call, whilst squinting my eyes and slowly approaching the sign like a moth to a flame in order to read the letters. I thanked them for their offer and sat down. I then realised that what I actually needed was a little female company. The evening was great, but sitting in male company can get a little tough when you’re the only female. It kinda gets a bit ‘boy’ orientated, so I welcomed the fact that I had met some new people to share stories with. They were both from Slovenia and spoke English very well, to my relief. We shared our stories and what our days had been like leading up to this evening. After a while, we were joined by the Pilot. The BBQ had come to an end and because I had been gone for ages to check the bikes, he came looking for me. Always the gentleman!

And so we sat altogether on the grass. The intricate bottle in front of us contained a beautiful smelling scent of peaches. I don't think I will ever forget that smell. I watched how they would both apply the pipe to their lips in turn and glorious bubbles would appear at the bottom of the bottle and then smoke out of them. Now at this point, I must confess something. I have never smoked in this way before. I suppose because he had joined us, I thought I would have a go too. Now, as a child, when you make bubbles in your milk, what do you do? You blow. What did I do? I blew. Are you supposed to blow? No. Did I know that? No. Do I know now that you're supposed to suck? Yes. Confession concluded. I felt a bit silly really, and it had to be restarted again. New experience gained and new knowledge acquired! It was lovely and weird at the same time. You suck through the pipe and somehow the delicious smoke comes to you and bubbles happen in the water. I don't know the complexities of how it works, but it was a great experience. So I say a very big thank you to the two lovely ladies who welcomed me last night!

Week 2

Monday 9th August 2010: We were slowly coming to an end to the preparation stages. Although we left the UK last week, it doesn’t really seem that we are on the adventure. Planning this trip has taken many months. After I decided at the end of April, there have been so many things that had to be sorted out before we could go.
Today was the day to have the alarm fitted. It means we can sleep inside and if anyone tries to break in, the alarm will go off, or when we’re not in it too. It's a relief to have more safety aspects included.
Whilst this was going on in the morning, I decided to have a little ‘me’ time and went to the town centre to write some letters in the sunshine. It was good to be out.
In the late afternoon, we went to the summer house and his mum have us some fruit and vegetables for our journey. She had also been busy making jars of yummy things so that we wouldn’t starve. She’s a star! I would like to be able to talk to her more and develop a proper relationship. Everything I say to her seems very simple in comparison to what I want to say. She has been very good to me this week, especially as my head has been all over the place with many different silent thoughts. I hope she knows how appreciate I am to all the good things she has done. It makes me miss my mum even more.
I didn’t get a chance to say a proper goodbye to my family at home. Lots of things happened during the end of the month and it all seemed very frantic. It wasn’t made easier by my grandmother passing away in Spain. My mum left for the funeral before I left the UK. Although I was able to spend a little time with my Dad before I left, it wasn’t the same. I saw my sister as we were travelling back from the wedding, and she bought us the most amazing fish ’n’ chips. Yes, I miss them.
Tuesday 10th August 2010: We woke up early so that we could continue with our travelling. We said our goodbyes and set off for the Castle Mozne in the South. We wanted to get there by 14.00, which meant we could get to the Wieliczka Salt Mines by 19.00. We haven’t really had a chance to do some sightseeing, and so we thought we’d visit a few places on our way to Żywiec. The Pilot is meeting up with a few friends to fly a few sites in Poland before arriving in Slovenia for the Dutch Open Paragliding Competition for Saturday.

We stopped in a really cool place that I don't remember the name of. It was a yellow house that was open for viewing. We didn’t go in, but decided to stretch our legs around the garden instead.
When we got to Mozne, it was like looking at a fairy-tale castle. The turrets were truly amazing and the gargoyles around the tops were really great. We had a little time to explore the gardens before our guided tour.

After that, we had a little light lunch and continued on our way to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Although the tour was in Polish, I had my own personal translator as always. We descended the 50 or more floors down to the first level. Over the next three hours, we walked along caves and passages ways. It almost seems impossible that this world is completely underground. 

Everything underground was made of salt. Even the statues. I was told by the Pilot to 'lick it' at various times, which was an offer I politely declined!  At one point we were laughing because we wanted to ask our tour guide'Excuse me, what's that statue made from?' 'And that one?' We thought it was funny!

At one of the levels was the most amazing Church. It was lit by candelabras and was just eye-popping!
The lift bringing us to the surface was like travelling in a time machine. I don't know how many metres we were down by the third level, but it was really, really far! I don't know if it was being below the ground, all the stress, or the copious amounts of cheese, chocolate and all the things that I’m not supposed to drink/eat, but all in all, it contributed to a migraine. My migraines start off with a little warning sign. It’s like when someone takes a photo of and you’re left with a little ‘flash’ image in your eye. Well, mine starts off like that, but the ‘flash’ starts getting bigger and bigger until this ‘aura’ covers most of my eyesight and then I cannot see. Then the most awful headache you can image follows. I have to have complete darkness or my eyes throb.
The first time it happened I was really scared, as you can imagine. I know what happens now, but I’m a bit annoyed as I haven’t had one for nearly ten years. The doctors said that it would be good to find out what the trigger was. I didn’t find out, I just cut out all the cheese/milk/chocolate/caffeine in my diet and I never had one since. Seeing as I have been having all of these again recently, its a safe bet its either one of them, or a combination. However, I don't want to have another one, and so I have ditched them all again for a quiet, migraine free life.
Wednesday 11th August 2010: We drove to Żywiec in the morning to meet up with two of the Pilot’s paragliding buddies. It was great to see them, especially as one of them I haven’t seen for two years. I remember the first time I came to Poland. The only person who could speak to me in English was my boyfriend. After a week here, we went to a club and I was introduced to him. Having someone else I could communicate with was great. The other buddy is doing a similar thing to us, only he started it first. He bought a van and converted it into a campervan. It looks really cool inside!

The three of them went to Żar, and flew off the top with some other Polish Pilots. We arrived at the top via cable car. You could walk up, but after yesterday’s migraine, I decided to play it safe for the day. It was unusual for my headache not to linger, but so far, it hadn’t shown up.
After they took off, I decided to continue my tanning process. For me it’s a very gradual process. I try very hard not to get burnt, and when I think enough is enough then I’m out of the sun for sure. 5 minutes one day, 10 the next, 15 the next and so on. It’s always guaranteed me a golden tan, rather than the compulsory redness following by the skin shedding to leave no effort of tan. Nope, not for me.
I remember when the summers were long. I would come back from London as take up residence in my mum and dad’s back garden with a few books. I would be out there developing my tan all summer. When I wasn’t in the sun, I was sitting on the Garden Swing. Happy days!
After some flying, we went to have a swim in the river. It was really cold, and although it stopped me, it didn’t stop the Pilot and his buddy from having a dip. I sat by the side under my sarong after a bit of tanning. No getting burnt for me thank you!

Thursday 12th August 2010: This morning we drove to Zar to Szczyrk. It is a small town with a huge cable lift. Off they went again for their flights, whilst I went exploring in the town.
After they had landed, we went to a BBQ with some other pilots who had flown that day and then went back to the comforts of our Snail.
Friday 13th August 2010: Left Poland early today and drove through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria until we arrived to Slovenia at 20.00. It began to rain, something that would continue for a few days more.
Saturday 14th August 2010: Today was registration day. The Dutch Open starts today and finishes next Saturday. Depending on the weather, we may stay here for the next competition. The Pilot flew for a bit of practise as the tasks start tomorrow, and then we went to Kobarid on our bikes to explore.
Moving from one country when I can’t speak to another was a bit daunting. In the Slovenian shop we managed to buy some essentials, but no soya milk as yet. I have two from Poland. Should have bought more!
We stayed the night in the car park behind the bar. It was lovely and secluded, although the thunder and lightning storms woke us up at 03.00 and continued for about an hour. KABOOM!
Sunday 15th August 2010: Woke up today and decided to go to Mass. Today is a special day in my faith, its the Feast of the Assumption. It’s a day when Catholics celebrate Mary ascending into heaven. Also for most people in Spain called ‘Maria’ it’s a special day. I know lots of people with this name, so I spent the day calling to wish them a ‘Happy Saints Day’.
Another day of no flying tasks and so we went off to explore more of Kobarid. We went to an Italian War Cemetery which is built as memorial. It's up a really steep hill, but changing the gears on the bikes enabled us to cycle up with relative ease. Of course there were photos to take on the way, so it took me a bit of time to get the momentum going each time, but we managed it.
We came back to the bar to have a drink and to teach his buddies how to play ‘escoba’.

Week 1

By the time I started writing this blog in Week 3, my daily thoughts and feelings of the first two weeks were a faint memory. So instead of trawling the chasms of my memory, I decided to give my head a break, and record briefly what went on.

Sunday 1st August 2010:
Yesterday, after arriving back from the wonderful wedding we went to, we cleaned the flat and left it empty for someone to rent. It was a traumatic experience for me. It was my first home, my London haven, and now after 8 years, I was going on an adventure with my boyfriend, ‘The Pilot’. We drove to his house to put final things in the loft and be ready to drive off late Sunday evening.

During the day, we moved into the Snail and continued to prepare for our journey. There were lots of things that couldn’t be done in England. We are driving to Poland to get most of the ‘mechanical’ side of it done. So far we have a solar panel and an inverter that converts the solar energy to the voltage we need for the night. We also have some speakers, which I feel may be banging my head at various occasions! After an amazing BBQ, we left at 11pm to drive towards Dover.

Monday 2nd August 2010: At 02.00 we caught the ferry that would deliver us to Dover. I climbed up the steps from the parking area to upstairs wrapped in my favourite brown blanket and slept the whole of the sea journey. I must have been tired; because I didn’t go to the onboard shop! We got to France at 04.55, and Belgium at 05.50. We decided to have a little sleep at this point and breakfast to prepare us for the 20 hour journey we had in front of us. We set off again at 08.52 after visiting the restrooms. We had to pay €1 to use them and the lady attendant was filling some balloons with helium at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking!

We arrived in Holland at 10.21. To keep us sane, we (and you know I mean me) invented a game to pass the time. To avoid arguments (which with us is quite a difficult task I assure you), we decided upon rules and wrote them down. The game is called ‘Camper or Not’. The aim of the game is to be the first one to spot a campervan driving the same way as you or in the opposite direction. It must be either a motor home (MH) or a campervan (CV), not a caravan. If you spot one, you shout out the number spotted for that day, eg 1...2. The person with the most points at the end of the day wins...simple!

1. All MH or CV must be on the road. They must not be in parked areas, although they can be stopped on the hard shoulder on the same road.
2. Points are deducted from your final score if you call a false vehicle.
3. No points for calling vehicle at the same time as your opponent. Although the vehicle must be tallied on the daily record.
4. All vehicles must be spotted with own eyesight. No enhancements may be used, eg binoculars (which I hasten to add we didn’t bring) or a camera zooming in.
5. If a player spots an exact match of ‘The Snail’, the game is over and that player wins the day automatically. (Quite a rare occasion, as out CV is 20 years old)
6. The start and end of the game must be agreed by all players.
7. At the beginning of the day, each player chooses a target number for the daily total. If you reach the total=5pts. Closest=2pts.
8. No points to be carried over to the next day.
9. Points are not tradable or transferable.
10. The game finishes at 18.00 or when daily total reaches 200, whichever is nearest.
By the end of this day we would have recorded 200 and had argued over the rules many, many times!

Score-Pilot 100: False vehicles called=13 Total 87. The Adventurer 92: False vehicles called 72. Total 72

We arrived in Germany 12.02 and Poland when I was asleep. We finally arrived to Poznan at 23.00. Wired, tired, but glad to be there safe and well.

Tuesday 3rd August 2010: Today I spent the day with the Pilot’s mum, as he has some things he needed to sort out. We went to her summer house and it gave me an opportunity to practise my Polish. We played ‘Escoba’, a Spanish Card Game, which we had taught them on out last visit. It's a game that crosses all language barriers, so I was glad for that.

Wednesday 4th August 2010: Started to sort out the service for the Snail and ordered new tyres. At the end of the day, I gave an English lesson with some of the Pilot’s friends and family. I based it on food and drink as its two of my favourite things!

Thursday 5th August 2010: I went to Lichen. See post on ‘Lichen’s Angels’

Friday 6th August 2010: Although it was threatening to rain, we decided to have a BBQ at the summer house. By this time, my Polish was developing, but it still isn’t the level I would hope it would be. I hope that during this trip, I will be able to learn much more so that I can sit in a group and understand and contribute. It's hard all of the time waiting for some translation. As we had driven to the Summerhouse in the Snail, we decided to sleep there.

Saturday 7th August 2010: Raspberry syrup is lovely. With rose wine its even sweeter. But apparently because of the high sugar content, it messes with the alcohol. By the time I woke up the next morning, I was feeling like there was concrete in my head. Today was mostly spent eating and sleeping to recover!

Sunday 8th August 2010: Today we were taken to Gniezno Cathedral by two of the Pilot’s friends. It was an amazing place, very historical and very dark.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Angels at Lichen

On Thursday, I went to the Basilica at Lichen. It was about an hour or so drive from Poznan. Of course, I slept in the car for most of the way!

The Basilica at Lichen is relatively new. Many people like old churches because of the history behind them. I just like the way they feel. Old or new it doesn't matter. I am looking for the peace inside that I cannot find anywhere else. I can get lost in the beauty and the music.

Inside you cannot fail to drink in it's beauty. The inside is protected by golden windows with sepia coloured glass. It gives the impression that the inside is very important. And it is.

Once inside my eyes search frantically, trying to take it in all at once. My eyes cannot scan quick enough, and so I resign myself to taking my time, in the knowledge that I will be able to see it all. Or perhaps, all that wants to be seen.

There are so many things that I want to ask about the place, but not having the relevant language skills to ask, I soak up the visual instead. This place is truly beautiful, and very expensive. It is about 10 years old, and it exquisite. Cathedral's usually take many decades to build and rely on donations before they can accomplish the almost divine. Westminster Cathedral in London for example has a dark ceiling because of the lack of golden mosaics. Time and money will provide them, but at the moment it looks bare. Unloved perhaps. Waiting for the time when someone will say, the time is now.

Some people may feel it shows a lack of love, and of respect to leave it like this. Other's feel that religion should give money where it is most needed, to the people. I'm not sure of the answer as yet, but I do know that when you love something or someone, you would want to languish the very best onto the bare skeleton to show your intense love for it. I believe that it is written on my heart to both torture me and enlighten me.

From within the basilica you can see all manner or paintings which are brought to life by the haunting music being played. The music is like water and runs everywhere. Even people who are sitting in prayer do not fail to be moved by the choreographed notes , and they breathe in the delicate musical fragrance.

It is then that I notice the angels. The angels which protect, and yet seem to follow me unrelentlessly through life. They are, ironically, playing music.

One by one, they call to me.
Each one as alluring as the next.

They play silent music that can only be heard in the silence. They play, I listen and my heart is stirred for a brief moment.

All I can do is watch, and for a brief moment, I am nowhere and I am everywhere.
My heart rests in their beauty.
It is what I need.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Day 3

Its taking some time to realise that the adventure is actually happening. I think its because we are Poland visiting friends and family and we feel like we are on holiday. I think after many weeks of continually packing and being stressed, its taking time to realise that the here is now.

Today we have continued with our preparation stages. We have bought new tyres today for the snail and are planning to install an alarm and get it serviced over the next few days. Slovenia is our next country and we have a long list of things to do here before we go.

Its nice though to spend time with people we care about. It's especially nice for me because my polish is being challenged. Thank goodness I have a visual dictionary. It's not perfect, but at least I can communicate as some level. Michal has been great though. Its because of him I feel so comfortable around his friends and family.

At the weekend we are hoping to go to the sea-side, which is quite exciting as Poland only has one coast to the North of the country.

The adventure continues...

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The beginning!

Well, after months of planning, packing, crying, drinking, smoking (on my part), arguing and more planning, we are here. The adventure of a lifetime! The Superb Snail Adventure!

We left London at 11pm on Sunday evening. The drive to Dover was interesting. I have a problem with trying to stay awake on any journey, so knowing we were going to drive for 24 hours was a huge problem, but I had a plan! You see, I dont have any caffeine. Not in tea, or coffee and definately no pepsi. So drinking Pepsi is like drinking Red Bull for me. And it did the job perfectly!

After drinking a 500ml bottle I was ready for the drive.

We arrived on the ferry and slept for the who-knows-how many hours it took. We arrived in France and by day break we arrived in Belgium. We decided to have a sleep and it was just like heaven. By this time I had only slept a few hours and I do love my sleep! After a few hours sleep and a lovely breakfast of toast and honey, we decided to go. Belgium first, then holland, then germany and finally poland. It would have taken 20 hours, but in the slooooow snail, it has taken 24. OMG! We played a brilliant game to pass the time called 'spot the camper van'. We took it very seriously and even had rules!!

Got to Poland last night about 11.30pm, had dinner and went to bed. Woke up this morning and after having a well deserved shower had the most amazing breakfast of sweet breads and salami and cheese...blisss.

We sorted out the service and alarm today and we have a list to sort out, but all will be well.

Day 1 and 2 went well!