After finishing BlueBelle and starting to take her out on some test drives I started to realise how hot it was becoming. Not too much of a problem when you're parked up somewhere and can open doors and windows wide but it was getting too hot for comfort. So what was next? I wasn't planning to leave for Africa until the fall when the worst of the heat had passed ... not certain I wanted to face Morocco or Mauritania and the edge of the Sahara in the midst of Northern Hemisphere summer. So finding a place to hide out from the sun seemed like a good idea.
I'm going to digress for a moment and address the issue of how hot Africa is vs the Mediterranean summer and I'm purposefully excluding the Sahara desert! However, when you look at the area that lies within the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer you are looking at the bulk of Africa and yes the closer you get to the equator it is hot but it also rains a lot. People around the world, who haven't been to Africa think it is like the hottest summer days all year round. So here is a, brief, weather lesson about Africa.
In Africa, the closer you get to the equator, the more equal the days are, that means the sun is up for 12 hours and it is night for 12 hours ... stands to reason it is the equator. The closer you get to the equator there is also no long dawn or dusk ... the sun comes up it is light, the sun goes down it is dark. Now most of Europe is much further North than Africa and your winter days are short and your summer days are long with daylight breaking anywhere from 4am in the morning and only becoming night around 11pm ... that's a LONG day and a LOT of sun! So to me the Mediterranean summers (basically the further North still gets lots of cooler days and rain) are intense. Instead of the hottest part of the day being around noon (12-2pm - remember only 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun'), in the Med countries the hottest part of the day is somewhere between 5-7pm!
So even to this heat loving African that is really just to darn hot!
Back to the story ... Mediterranean summer ... too hot to be in van ... I figured I've been missing dogs so why not find someone who needed some housesitting and perhaps some pets too. I joined one of the pet sitting sites and set up a great pet sit for June/July/August down in Alicante and then looked for something to fill the time before. So I came across one in the North of Spain that was very rural and looked lovely. Lo and behold, the woman was born in Zambia and so we immediately had something in common and upon meeting her even more synchonicity she had met my nephew in Barcelona some years before ... that small world feeling. It was great to find myself in the rural setting but winter was lingering and there was still a lot of rain for May. I had parked up in a grass spot next to the house and after a couple of days of solid rain ... I was soundly stuck in mud ... mud, mud, mud and slippery grass. It took me 3 days and a dry day to finally get BlueBelle out of the muck and I can scratch that off my learning skills list.
My dear friend in Australia sent me this check list ... which made me laugh because step 3 certainly will prevent you hurting your foot kicking the tyres!
1. Keep a pair of wellington boots in the cab to help prevent injuries.
2. Before entering water, get out & walk it. Use a stick to measure depth.
3. If stuck, make a cup of tea before deciding on the next step.
Sometimes I think making plans is entirely futile as my 3 month stay in Alicante in Spain was cancelled by me as the owners of the property kept changing their minds about my arrival date and then they would be there and then it was later and then I needed to do extra things ... at some stage I just realised that this was not going to work for me and I cancelled the booking. In my despair my then host, who had returned and allowed me a couple of extra days there, hooked me up with a lovely lady called Anita about 20kms away and she offered me a room for as long as I needed if I could just help her out with walking the dogs and some odd things around the house. I accepted as most of the housesits available in the near future were taken and I couldn't face the heat in the van during the busy summer months when stopping and parking up were going to be more difficult.
Well I fell in love with the dogs, they kept me fit with twice daily walks and my new host is the kindest woman who cooks the BEST Spanish omelette ever! So literally things came to pass in the very best way. My time here in Solsona has been amazing. Solsona is placed close to the pre-Pyrannes as they call it and it is hard to believe in the intense summer heat that it snows here in winter and there are several great snow spots nearby. I've been toured around the area and learnt a lot about Catalan culture - I now have dog level language ability! I've also met incredibly nice and kind people, and despite the fact that my Catalan language skills are 'nada' and their English skills better than my Catalan they have been amazing. They have encouraged me, helped me set up events to launch and fund raise for my Girl's education project and been all round fun. I've even become a 'famous' local celebrity by being published in the local magazine ... Sometimes the plans we make are meant to be replaced by better plans and for that I'm immensely grateful and Solsona and my new friends here will always have a place in my heart and memory.
My kindest thanks go to Anita Triay, Jane Willox, Anna Herms, Anna Pujol, Sandra, Danny, Emma, Sergi, Ignaci