I first heard about HelpX from some friends in Edinburgh and I knew straight away it was something I wanted to do. It is like Woofing and Workaway, where you can work in exchange for board and food. Before I decided to come back to Edinburgh after my trip it was my main plan for Spain and beyond, however that changed when I decided to just be in Spain for 2 weeks so I could make it back to work. Luckily I still managed to find a HelpX that would take me for a week, and what a week it was.
|My home for the week|
I spent a lot of time trying to find a place that sounded like it would fit with me and I was luckily enough to be accepted by Amanda and Paul to stay at their house near Alora, which is just under an hour by train from Malaga. I chose it partly based on location, partly because they accept more than on Helper at a time and I wanted a social experience, and partly because it just looked awesome. I couldn't have picked better!
Typically I stuffed up and missed the train I was meant to get from Malaga to Alora, or more correctly, got on another train going the wrong direction, so I was a little late getting out to Alora to be picked up. I have learned I make awesome first impressions.
Because Amanda and Paul's house is not even actually in Alora, but about a 20 minute drive down a gravel road/riverbed they had to wait around for me. Whoops. Also staying with Amanda and Paul, besides their teenage daughter Shannon, was Arlind from Albania, Kaitlen from Canada (I never noticed this alliteration before...) and Laurence (also known as Philip) from Kent, plus Laina, a guest renting their separate apartment.
|The old stable, my room for the week|
|Sunset the first night|
I had let Amanda know it was my birthday the day after I arrived, not wanting it to be a big deal or anything but also not wanting the awkward wanting to say it was my birthday but it not coming up and then feeling really lonely with no one knowing! Without my knowing they decided to have a party for me the night I arrived and we played pictionary, had some drinks and I got given an impromtu bread cake at midnight along with being sung happy birthday.
|Happy bread birthday to me!|
The following day we had a roast dinner and I got given perfume, which was a lovely surprise and actually what I needed! Arlind and I also took a walk up to some ruins nearby. It was surreal being in the middle of the Spanish countryside, eating fresh almonds with an amazing view for my birthday. This was followed up with a delicious roast lunch and proper birthday cake!
|Birthday morning coffee|
|Arlind and JD at the ruins|
|Birthday duckface selfie|
|The nearby ruins|
|Smashing and eating fresh almonds|
|The surrounding countryside|
|27 year old me!|
|JD - There were 3 rescue dogs at the campo which I loved!|
|I could definitely live here|
|Delicious birthday cake and perfume I got given!|
|The little house with epic sky|
|I couldn't even capture how amazing it actually was|
|Headed to Paco's in the orange light|
Since we planned to go into Malaga for a day later in the week and possibly to the lakes nearby we spent my second full day there mostly working. Even then Amanda and Paul didn't expect too much of us other than some cleaning, gardening and planting vegetables. That evening we walked up the biggest hill we could see from the house and took in the views of the surrounding valleys. The countryside is so different to what I am used to and have seen before.
|The HelpX house|
|Pruning the pretty pink flowers|
|At the top!|
|JD and Kaitlen in the background|
|Eating more almonds|
|The Alora campo|
|Relaxing with our feet in the pool afterwards|
The four of us ventured into Malaga for a day, waking up early to hitch a ride in when Shannon got taken to school. It was already staying dark late and it was awesome to see the sun rising over Alora as we came in. Malaga involved more tapas and a trip to the beach, although it was freezing so I just dipped my toes and got out when my legs were numb! This evening is a hard one to forget since we had a pictionary rematch in which the girls beat the boys (again), which they definitely weren't happy about! I can never think of the word potato in the same way again...
|Delicious breakfast. Toasted bread with olive oil and salt|
|Outside the old castle|
|Kaitlen and Laurie|
|View from the top of the old fortress|
|Arlind and Kaitlen|
|Arlind, Kaitlen and I in front of the fountain|
|Tapas with the crew|
The week was going at a perfect pace. I felt really comfortable in the campo as it became more familiar but also like I had plenty of time left. We worked hard again the next day stacking wood and cleaning before we took a picnic over to the ruins. The wasps were super annoying as usual since they love to come and try to eat your food every time you get it out but I sort of got used to them by this point and I'm not more irritated than scared of them! We had an awesome picnic until the rain started, and although there had been a couple of tiny showers in the past days this time it really settled in, which was good for the environment since there had been no real rain in 18 months! It was crazy how much green the countryside looked immediately.
|Picnic at the old ruins|
|Cracking almonds, again|
|The old ruins we went in for a second before a bat started flying around!|
|Most ransom weird picture ever|
Sadly the next morning our group was split up as we dropped the boys off at the train as they continued on their journeys. Kaitlen and I took the chance to walk around Alora. There isn't a whole lot to see but it's a cute town and we managed to find somewhere open for a drink even during siesta.
|From the top of the hill where the old palace is|
|Me and Muffin|
For my last full day Amanda took Kaitlen and I to nearby El Chorro. We saw the famous walkway, el Caminito del Rey, or the Camino del Rey, that the workers used to use to get through the gorge everyday, one of the most precarious pathways in the world! It was built from 1901-1905 and is basically pins driven into the rock with concrete poured on top to make the path which is over 100m higher than the river and only 1 metre wide. No one died making it but people have since trying to walk it. It is being reopened shortly for tourism which will be interesting...I'm not sure I could do it!
The nearby lakes are a stunning blue and we took a dip, which was much warmer than the sea at Malaga!
|One end of the camino del rey|
|The old walkway with the new one built over|
|The stunning colour of the lakes|
We finished off my last night at one of the bars in Alora and I actually sang kareoke by myself. Alone. In front of real people. In a bar. With a microphone. How embarrassment.
|At the pub!|
|Amanda and I|
Unfortunately the next day my time in the Spanish countryside came to an end and I had to get the train to Malaga and fly back to Edinburgh. I was so sad to leave a place that had become home over the last week and I definitely could have spent so much longer there...I'll just have to try and make it back one day! I owe the biggest thanks ever to Amanda, Paul and Shannon for letting me stay with them and the other HelpX guys, Arlind, Kaitlen and Laurence for making it extra awesome. I had the most amazing time on my month away and this was the perfect ending.
|Heading back to the 'burgh|