It took a friend to lure me out of my comfort zone. That was before a cold slap from winter finished the job. And it had been so very agreeable there, sitting at the edge of the Atlantic, watching the world go by. But the rhythmic curl and splash of the ocean had lured me into a passive stupor.
“Come on, let’s find you some land.” Kieran, an old friend from Turkey, pushed his many rucksacks into the van, then hauled himself into the passenger seat. There was something terrifyingly focused about him that morning. I don’t think I’d ever even seen his face in the forenoon light before, and this decisive burst of action on both our parts indicated the seriousness of the mission at hand.
My old friend yanked the heavy door shut, and I turned the ignition. Thus I was dragged out of the warm, wet arms of la Costa Verde, and into Operation Land Hunt.
“I’ve talked to the dude on Whatsapp. We’re meeting him tomorrow. Got more leads too. Whatsapping ‘em is the way. I just tell ‘em I’m using Google translate, and it’s all sorted. They send a map of where to meet...well they should...Come on dude send me the map! Don’t tell me the land is next to a white house! I mean, how am I supposed to find it like that?”
Kieran is a New Zealander, and he had arrived in northern Spain armed with an impressive artillery of maps, apps, inmobilariar websites, and land hunting strategy. Back in the day on Mud Mountain, he’d helped me many times; chiselling, rock shifting and dog-sitting. But his most useful asset has always been to spur me into action. I won’t deny, I needed a little spurring.
“Oof! I can’t believe a real estate agent doesn’t know how to send a location on Whatsapp! I mean that is freaking crazy. How can you not know that?” Kieran’s brows jerked together like two tousled soldiers in a trench.
I hugged the steering wheel, and remained silent. Because hey, I wasn’t quite sure if I knew how either.Until then, my approach to land hunting had been rather different. I had spent a month drifting about the north west coast of Spain somehow expecting the perfect plot to waft out of the Atlantic mist and in front of my windscreen. Or for a tree to extend a serendipitous branch and point to my new Eden. Or to simply stumble into it, upon which the sun would shine alluringly onto its verdant slopes. The upshot was nothing had happened. Nada. So now here I was with the land hunters’ answer to James Clark Ross. Naturally I was bewildered.
A few hours later we were striding through our first plot of land. The excitement was palpable despite the dripping sky. There was a tiny stone bothy, and acres of lush, peaceful space. Something was happening. At last!
“Ah lovely land. Lovely! I mean you could use that hut to live in. No one is going to find you up here. Eucalyptus. Eco-nightmare of course. Not good for the area, but useful. Burn it. Build with it. Good strong wood. Fuck it, you could sell it! South facing. That’s what we want. You wanna download this app Kerry, got a compass and an altimetre on it. 420 metres high. Perfect! Not too high, not too low. Agh so annoying! The freaking compass doesn’t work on my phone. Which way is North?”
I blinked like a deer in Bear Grylls' headlights. “Erm, if the sun came out we could tell...”
But the sun didn’t come out.
The land owner moved in and tapped Kieran on the arm. He was a white haired fellow used to walking. This had been his mother’s property, and presumably his grandmother's too.
“Muy soleado! Muy soleado!” He said.
“It’s sunny. He reckons the land is sunny.” Kieran pulled his hood up and began hiking off into the Eucalyptus trees.
“Donde esta el mar?” I asked the Asturian. He, like pretty much everyone I met in northern Spain patiently unravelled my pitiful Spanish. Then he pointed and babbled yet another string of syllables I didn't understand. The sea was north. That meant the land was south facing.
There was only one problem with this wonderful piece of Gaia; no water. And that for me of course, suffering as I have for two years without a tap or a stream, is a deal breaker. I turned and sighed.
But it was at that moment I caught sight of something beautiful. The land seller had rolled up his trousers, taken a scythe out of the bothy, and was now pulling it in sweeping strokes through the ever-burgeoning grass. The fresh damp air made his hair gleam and his cheeks glow. It was an evocative picture. The man had a relationship with this space, and wanted to tend it even though he was about to sell it.
As I watched him, my mind cast its nets back to Mud Mountain. My heart began to ache. I cannot tell you how much I missed my old space at that moment. There is nothing like being the guardian of one of Gaia’s gardens. My muscles yearned to dig and build. My soul pined for the silence.
Suddenly, quite unpredictably, the sun deigned to push briefly through the rain clouds. A shimmering yellow light coated the length of the land. The grass fell in glistening waves. And yes, the land owner was right, it was indeed muy soleado.
To be continued...
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5/1/2018 01:23:53 am
Just a recommendation to anyone following this blog: The Dutch woman Miriam Lancewood has written a very inspiring and entertaining book on her and her husband's ecperience living in the New Zeeland wilderness. The title is «Woman in the Wilderness».
5/1/2018 08:30:24 pm
Thank you Soren! I always love a new book recommendation.
5/1/2018 11:32:28 am
I hope you find your ideal land. Have a good and fulfilling 2018 xx
5/1/2018 08:30:56 pm
And you Hazel! I'll find it:)
6/1/2018 06:24:37 am
Kieran helped you find land! Fantastic Kieran! I still wish y'all were in Turkey, though, maybe greater adventures are in story for you...
6/1/2018 01:54:43 pm
Ha ha hello Nabil! Yes Kieran is as helpful (and patient) as ever. And of course, there are adventures everywhere:))
6/1/2018 09:08:07 am
I see you are off to the races again with a great companion who will keep you directed. One thought however, is the directional bent -- they have these great "new" inventions that are really worth having and anyone traveling by any means absolutely must have one -- they are quite nifty and you can hold it in your hand very useable, hardly ever break unless you drop it and stomp on it -- it is called a compass -- imagine that LOL and you do not need to have any gadget that relies on batteries etc. to use. You should always have one with you! Just never know. ROFL.
6/1/2018 01:53:37 pm
Sandi! Yes sadly you are right, eucalyptus are a hazard. I didn't know about their limb-dropping tendencies though. Having said that, on this piece of land the tree area was nowhere near the living area (which had been cleared). Shame really, it's an attractive tree, nice to build with, but a water-sucking, fire-breeding parasite as well.
8/1/2018 02:11:06 am
Good for Kieran! Yes, sometimes it takes someone not quite so emotionally invested in what you will own to make you a better searcher. You are emotionally invested in finding land and he's pragmatically invested in what kind of things you need. Both skills don't as often reside in one person. I would tend to fall in love with some place and overlook (or believe I can cope with) some drawback. Good luck!
8/1/2018 02:07:14 pm
Hello Suze! Yes, it is good to have another pair of eyes on the process. And I'm coming round to the whole precipitation as water source idea, now it's dawned on me how often it rains here. I tried this in Turkey but it was a NIGHTMARE because it didn't rain at all for 5 months in the summer. But here? Different ball game. And I've seen a New Zealand off-gridder who is living entirely from rainwater. And of course, I'm not going to have to water the plants much at all in this climate.
25/1/2018 02:55:22 am
What does "no water" in this land situation mean? I'm from a Northern European country that is mostly flat (nothing about ~320 meters), and with lots of beautiful swamps and forests, there is no such thing as "no water" here. Dig down a few meters (8-10 will usually do) and you can set yourself up with a well with fine drinking water.
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Atulya K Bingham
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