Here is a collection of stories from the road, some of these are my experiences, some are stories told to me. One of the advantages of leading a life away from the mainstream is that there is never a dull moment and travellers are often full of stories of their experiences, some happy, some sad and some down right weird!
Stuck in an irrigation channel!
When we first hit the road and were still in the UK we met a woman traveller who told us about this town in Spain called Orgiva in the Alpujarras. She told us it was full of travellers and hippies. "All you really need to know is that Wednesday is market day" she said to us implying that if we go to the market we would meet other like minded folk. So a few months later and still new to Spain we hit the small mountain town of Orgiva. We went on Wednesday and went to the market hoping to find people we could park up with. The hippies and travellers were very thin on the ground and when we did see some and ask them they didn't speak much English and so we were none the wiser. When we got back to where we parked our van we saw a UK registered traveller vehicle with a guy in it so we asked him. He told us that we should head down to El Morreón, a valley that heads out of town following a stream. He gave us directions and we were on our way. Somehow we ended up taking a wrong turn or not turning when we should have but we started going deeper and deeper into the campo (the Spanish word for countryside). Eventually we realised we must turn back as the track was disappearing in front of us. We had to reverse and do a three point turn as there was a acequia (water channel) on one side of us and trees on the other. Somehow our front wheel fell into the water channel, disaster! We had no phone signal, not that we knew who to phone and no hope of anyone driving past any time soon. I decided to walk back to Orgiva to try and find some help. Luckily the guy who had given us directions was sat at the first bar I came to and said he would help. He got a jack and rope from his van and jumped in a friends car. By the time we got back someone had driven past who was going to try and tow the van out but had to go and get a rope first. We tried jacking up the wheel and driving it out but it just wouldn't work. Luckily the person in the car came back and managed to tow us out. Thankfully there was no damage to the van and we were able to drive on the right road to El Morreón and park up for a few days and chill out. Apparently everyone gets stuck in one at some point if they spend enough time driving in Spain!
After being evicted from the Pig Field near Tarifa in Spain we were lucky enough to be able to stay on some private land a few miles out of the same town. A few different friends came and went but for a few weeks we were there on our own. One night we were sound asleep tucked up in bed when an almighty crash shook the van. We thought a vehicle mush have crashed into us but couldn't actually believe that as not many people drive past where we were and no one ever did at 4am. We got out of the van to see a horse just freeing itself from some barbed wire and galloping away. There was a roll of barbed wire next to our van and the horse must have somehow got caught up in it and began struggling to get free. During the process it managed to smash our windscreen. The next day we saw the owner of the horse and tried to explain to him in our broken Spanish what had happened so as he could check his horse. We found out later that the horse was OK just some small cuts. We then started the lengthy process of getting a replacement windscreen. Luckily our insurance covered most of the cost although as we were abroad we had to pay the full price and then send the invoice to them. Thankfully we had enough money to cover it and they reimbursed us without too much fuss but getting the actual windscreen was a different story. Tarifa is a small town and there wasn't a windscreen company there which was a shame as we were hoping we could go there and with the help of gestures and pictures as well as our broken Spanish we could make ourselves understood. We then tried Gibraltar as that was fairly near and we would be able to phone them and speak English but couldn't find a company there. We found a company in Algeciras but due to the language difficulty we had to ring some Italian friends we had made while on the Pig Field and ask them to phone for us. They did and we were to wait a few days while they got a windscreen in. Well we waited and waited and after a week we had to get them to contact them again. They seemed to know nothing of the previous call and so they had no windscreen still. So we waited again and eventually after us having to call them a third time it was arranged for them to come and fit the windscreen. They did come when they said they would although rather later in the day than what was arranged but it didn't take them too long and after 2 weeks wait we had a new windscreen!
As good as new!
Born on the road.
I birthed my 3 kids 'on the road', in France and the UK. We lived in a double decker bus at the time, and spent time with various travelling shows and/or busking until the birth of my 3rd made this lifestyle more challenging. At that point we settled in East Anglia (still in the bus), later moving to Wales and subsequently ending up living in bricks and mortar. After many years living on (and sometimes below!) the breadline, I trained as a midwife and now work in a hospital. I was fortunate to have been good friends with the lovely Sarah, an NCT counsellor, and was also lent a copy of Spiritual Midwifery when pregnant with my first child. Many hours talking with Sarah about the natural process of birth, plus reading the stories of women birthing their children on the road and at the Farm, helped me believe in the possibility of birth as a primeval rite of passage and something that I would achieve on my own terms, rather than an unpleasant and dangerous task for which I would need medical help. This enabled me to opt out of conventional pregnancy and birth services (in the '80s entirely geared to delivering in hospital), and to trust in the great unknown. And so I planned to birth my first child without outside assistance (these days known as 'free-birthing').
This leap of faith served me well until one scary moment on the South coast of Spain while 7 months pregnant. Another woman we were travelling with suffered a miscarriage and was refused entry to the local hospital as Spain at that time was not yet in the EU and she therefore was not insured. The angels must have been smiling on her that day because a Buddhist passer-by volunteered to pay her medical costs and she got the care that she needed. This incident was a wake up call for me, and I decided that I wanted to birth my child where we at least had the option to access emergency care should it be needed. So we drove up to France, and enlisted the help of Fabienne, a homeopathic 'sage femme' in the Ariege who was already seeing a friend of ours. 2 weeks later my firstborn arrived in the middle of a 'fete', and the rest as they say is her-story ;) We travelled back to the Ariege to birth my second child, again with Fabienne, while my third arrived in East Anglia, unaided by a midwife due to the speed of her arrival. The first 2 delivered upstairs, the 3rd downstairs (no time to get up the stairs!)
Had a nasty experience in '95 in Wales. We were plodding down the (busy) road, managing OK, but tossers still endangering us, when the traffic started to back up and ground to a crawl. "Suits us" we think, "Fine!" Then the police turn up, tell us the main road's been closed ahead & traffic's been redirected via a single-track road. They tell us we have to go down the closed road though, to avoid causing more problems. Big, long, dead-straight road, tall trees all around, we can finally hear the birds singing and taste air rather than burning hydrocarbons. Nice, if a little eerie, too quiet like. We round a corner and there are the blue flashing lights. Feds, ambulances, fire engines the lot, surrounding two smoking, wrecked cars. As we pass by, clip-clop, clip-clop, the ambulance men are removing twisted burnt figures from one of the cars. A bloody mess is smeared across the road we're walking on, that leads to a large, unidentifiable lump of flesh smashed against a tree. Absolute silence, except the sound of the horse’s hooves, the muffled grunts of the rescue crew, the quiet sobbing of one of the policewomen and the indifferent birds. My friend Iris is 7 years old, she sits on the trolley watching silently with huge eyes. It seemed like an eternity before we finally moved out of sight. A fed had walked beside us for a bit, told us a Porsche with 2 people in it had overtaken a car on the bend, and ploughed head-on into another car carrying a lady & her 3 kids coming the other way. All had died at the scene. We carry on, down this quiet Welsh road in a daze until we re-join the diverted traffic. Absolute fucking chaos! We were nearly taken out several times in the first few moments, wankers that had had their pointless schedules delayed by the accident, trying to get past the other wankers that were slower! The thing is I reckon, when they get into that state, they don't even know what they're seeing when they come across a wagon until it's too late. We had cars sliding sideways at us with their brakes locked-on, then screaming abuse at us cos they'd scared themselves that badly. To cut a long story short, less than an hour down the road, we had one car full of dickheads too many overtaking on a blind bend in order to cut 0.2 minutes off their journey. We put 2 axes into the side of it & a brick through the rear window, they stopped to make something of it, only to find 3 of us screaming flat out down the road at them, armed with the metal bars we used for tethering the horses! They changed their minds, and beat a hasty retreat. Now I'm just TOTALLY a non-violent person, I've never started a fight in my life (police excepted, but that's several other tales and they always started it anyway!) Episodes like that left me drained and sickened, NOT the idea I had of a quiet, nomadic lifestyle!
After 8 months on the road we were seasoned travellers, heading up the coastline of Portugal we came across an area of pine forest in sandy soil. The track was solid and we were careful to look for a place to stop for the night that was also solid underfoot. We came across a small clearing and we got out to check it out. It was solid and we reversed the van in. Stupidly we reversed further than the bit we had tested and wham the back wheel sunk in the sand. We tried for a while to dig out the wheel, we tried putting bits of wood around the tyre to get some grip, we tried letting some air out of the tyre all to no avail. We were on a track to nowhere with no likelihood of any passing cars. I walked up the track to the crossroads of more tracks and left an SOS message on a piece of board but even there was really quiet as it was still far from a proper road. As the evening drew in we resigned ourselves to having a night in bed on a slope! In the morning Simon cycled to the nearest village, Praia da Tocha and tried to find someone to help. After asking a couple of people with 4x4s in very bad Portuguese with no response except a frightened look whilst walking away from him he found an English woman who spoke Portuguese. She rang the fire department who would charge 200 euros to get us out and then the police who said they would do it for free! Simon had to climb into the back of the police land rover and direct the police, who seemed to be loving this little drive out along the tracks and were going as fast as they could, to where the van was. Simon got bumped around in the back and he was sure they were doing it deliberately! The two policeman got out of their land rover in their long shiny boots and looked suspiciously at the anarchy A sprayed on our bonnet! Still they got to work and tied a rope on to the front of the van and in no time they had us out of the sand. We couldn't thank them enough and they went on their way probably laughing at the stupid English tourists who parked in the sand!
Do you have a travelling story? I am always looking for more stories to add to this page. Please email me your story by clicking on the mail icon below and include pictures if you have any. I reserve the right to edit the piece if necessary. Many thanks.
The above images are all from a Google image search of Travelling pictures.