In the spring, 4 friends and I spent 3 weeks climbing and exploring the Greek island of Kalymnos. After Greece, my friend, Cody, and I went to spend 3 more weeks in Spain. The most expensive part of traveling to Europe would probably be the plane tickets so I tried to convince the 4 of my friends to stay longer on that side of the world with me. Cody ended up being the only one who could join.
For a while, we weren’t really sure which country we wanted to go to. All we knew is we wanted to go somewhere else with rock climbing. We looked into Italy, Croatia, Austria, Turkey, and a few more places, but eventually decided on Spain.
Cody met Jorge at our climbing gym near Vail. Jorge and his family lived in the Valley at the time, but grew up in Spain. He knew we were trying to plan our Europe trip, and invited us to meet up in Spain with him, his wife, and daughter. We were sold and our decision was made.
Last Evening in Greece
Fast forward to the ferry ride we took from Kalymnos back to Kos. We rode across the sea with our friends, ate lunch, and they left for the airport. Cody and I stayed one night in Kos and caught a flight to Madrid the next morning.
I’d booked an AirBnB for us to stay at for 3 nights in Madrid. Jorge wouldn’t be picking us up for a few days so Cody and I had some time to explore and see the city. Our AirBnB turned out being further away from the airport than I’d anticipated. Thankfully the Metro is pretty straight forward. The AirBnB ended up being in the China Town of Madrid. I thought it was funny being 2 Americans in the China Town of Spain. A little confusing for my brain at times.
In the spring I’d messed up my back snowboarding on one particular day. I’d been dealing with the pain throughout the months hoping it would go away or somehow heal. My body usually does a good job at healing, but this pain was/is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At this point it had already been 3 months, and all the traveling, carrying luggage, and sitting on planes really irritated my back. I literally couldn’t walk around Madrid for 10 minutes without needing to sit down. It really sucked! I was excited to be in this foreign country exploring a city I’d never been to, and I was sitting on a park bench watching pigeons drink water from a fountain. I felt defeated. I would try to push the pain aside and enjoy where I was, but it really stole a lot of my energy and attention.
3 days went by before we met up with Jorge at the airport. We all chipped in for a rental vehicle and drove to Buendia. The drive took about an hour and a half. Once in Buendia, we met up with Mercedes and Montana, Jorge’s wife and daughter. Jorge’s family had a place in Buendia so we stayed there several days climbing at the local crag as well as making the hour drive to climb in Cuenca. Cuenca climbing was so different from all the climbing we’d just done in Kalymnos. Cuenca’s routes were very technical and full of pockets. By this time my toes were in so much pain from wearing climbing shoes almost every day since the end of ski season. Edging on really small holds didn’t feel good at all, but the climbing was really cool and obviously fun so I just kind of had to suck it up.
Something about being in Spain made me so tired. I’m not known for taking naps, but I probably took a nap most days during that first week in Spain. I don’t know if it was the nonstop activity we’d done in Kalymnos or what, but I couldn’t climb some of that first week out of pure exhaustion. I’d be napping at the crag while Cody and Jorge climbed. Looking back on it, it was probably a mixture of getting terrible nights’ sleep in Kalymnos, and then my back being in constant pain. My body probably just needed to take a break.
Being in Buendia was really cool. We got to learn about Jorge’s childhood and what it was like to grow up in that part of the world. We also got to meet his parents, as they drove over from Madrid and cooked us a traditional, home cooked meal one of the evenings.
Cuenca Round 1
After staying in Buendia for a few days, our next plan was to drive 5 hours up to Asturias in Northern Spain to spend a week and a half climbing there. We arrived at our AirBnB which was atop a hilly, rural road overlooking the vast mountainous landscape. This house was like a dream: large windows opened up to the beautiful scenery from every direction. Even the bathroom. Sounds of roosters, stray dogs, and church bells filled the outside air.
Spain was an emotional roller coaster for me. On top of my back pain and tender toes, my allergies were at an all-time high. My allergies started picking up around the time we arrived in Madrid, but I couldn’t handle it anymore in Asturias. It got so bad. Cody was dealing with severe allergies too. There must have been some sort of plant our bodies didn’t agree with there. At times I would get stuck in a sneezing fit for minutes, then be left over with itchy eyes, ears, and throat all whilst fluids spilled out of every part of my face. One thing I did notice, though, was my allergies would take a back seat while I climbed. The entire way up a climb my mind and body must have been so focused on the task of not falling that there was no time for my body to attack itself from whatever it didn’t like in the air. The second I’d get back down on the ground my eyes and nose would start running, and I’d be sent into another sneezing fit. Not exactly the friendliest of welcomings back to the earth.
One of the following mornings, Jorge brought us to a farmacia in town so we could get allergy meds. The pills must had been made from some miracle dust. Once I started taking them, I was back to normal. I could breathe and function like a somewhat normal person again.
During the days to follow, we quickly found out how humbling the climbing in Asturias is. It’s hard, it’s different, it’s scary, and most of the routes were run out. The climbing style here wasn’t close to being my strong suit, so it wasn’t necessarily the most fun for me….. Or the rest of the group. We had a couple days with good weather windows and then the forecast showed rain for the remainder of the week. We had to make a decision, stay with the possibility of not climbing at all, or get out of our Airbnb and head somewhere with dryer weather. It was a hard decision as Asturias is beautiful and full of so much culture. I would have loved to spend the rest of my time in Spain there, but going somewhere we could be outside sounded way more ideal.
One of our last days in Asturias we’d attempted to climb but quickly got shut down by the rain. Once getting back into town (pretty soaked) we decided to spend the rest of the day drinking Sidra. Asturias is known for their Cider. It’s not like any cider I’d had in the past. This cider had to be poured from a certain height or with a certain amount of pressure. A bottle is to be shared and serves as a tool for social settings. The traditional way to serve the sidra is to hold the bottle above your head and get the liquid to land in a glass held near knee height. You only pour a little amount because it needs to be drank quickly after it’s poured because it will quickly go flat and loose some of its flavor. Pouring sidra can be very messy if you don’t do it correctly. Let’s say I’ll be sticking to the drinking part and leave the pouring to the better equipped.
Since the weather in all of Northern Spain had rain in the forecast for the remainder of the time we’d be there, we planned to just go back to Cuenca. It was supposed to be sunny and we already knew we liked the climbing there. We packed up and drove the 5 hours back down to Cuenca. This time we got an apartment to split in the city. We were blessed with warm, dry weather for that entire week.
The day before we drove back to Cuenca something happened in my personal life that left me very sad. As much as I tried to keep my stoke, sadness crept up on me. I’d be out at the crag and have to leave the group for hours at a time just so I could cry and deal with my emotions without affecting the rest of the group too much. I was sad, upset, and mad at my current situation. I couldn’t help but pout and I know I wasn’t somebody anyone would want to be around during that time. I don’t feel very proud of my mood during that last week, but I can’t take it back. All I can do is learn and move on from it.
After finishing out the last week in Cuenca, Jorge drove Cody and me to our last Airbnb next to the airport in Madrid. That next morning we caught an Uber and began our long airport filled journey back home. It’s funny, the things you miss when you’re away from the usual. During the month and a half in Europe, I’d missed the little bit of routine I had back home.I missed having my own car and being able to go anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted. I missed being in the same bed each night. I missed my gym, and I missed the mountains. No matter how much I might have missed the comforts of home, nothing trumps my need to travel more. I got home excited to catch up with friends and make some changes to my life. Not much time went by until I was already starting to plan where and when my next trip would be…