Keeping our chins up

Trip Start May 02, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Just to prove to you that it's not all fun and games when you're traveling, I have the biggest sunburn/rash of my life. It's quite unpleasant actually, to say the (very) least. I've been suffering for the past few days with the itchiest arms, neck and ears and it looks pretty unsavory. Yvonne has done well to put up with me whining and complaining, especially at night, when I've not gotten much sleep and am tossing and turning a lot and keeping her awake. I feel like one gigantic mosquito bite. And my ears have swollen up to at least twice their size. If you wanted to make ear-shaped marshmallow bon bons, mine would be a good model for a mould. Yvonne has to strap me down to the bed at night for fear that I'll fly away (although I wish it were for other reasons).

Anyway, enough about me and my various skin maladies...we are currently still on the Costa Brava, lingering a little longer in the area. On Monday, we took the bikes out for a spin around the Bay of Roses area. On our way to Empúries, an ancient Greek and Roman site, we took a detour down a dirt path to get off the main road and out of the exhaust fumes of the passing cars and trucks. During one stop for water we saw something out of the corner of our eyes. We turned our heads and recoiled at the sight of the biggest snake either of us has ever seen in the wild, crossing our path just a few meters ahead. It was green, three or four feet long, and as thick as my arm (we are so looking forward to Australia and all it has to offer for slithering and crawling things).

Although it is always interesting to stand where a civilization lived over two thousand years ago, it's pretty hard to live up to the standards of Pompeii and the Forum and Colosseum in Rome. We didn't loiter long in the ruins at Empúries and slowly made our way back to our camp. On the way back the winds picked up pretty hard and doubled our efforts as we were riding right into them. It was a fierce struggle against the strong air currents and each of us was once tossed to the side and forced to jump off our bikes. We eventually did make it back, but the storm only grew stronger. We were scared our tent would blow away (a catamaran on the beach in front of us tipped over) so we bought more stakes and secured it to the ground. We hunkered down for the rest of the night, but were kept awake by the roaring sounds of the rushing gusts and the van getting rocked like it had just seen a Led Zeppelin concert.

Come Tuesday morning, when we woke from the few winks we were able to catch, the wind was still coming pretty good. It actually didn't die down completely until about noon that day. It was the craziest wind storm. The lesson we learned: Don't camp at a campsite that bills itself as a "windsurfer's paradise".

Wednesday we drove a short distance toward the lovely town of Cadaqués. The drive up the mountain was like a snakes 'n' ladders board game, hairpin turn after hairpin turn. We parked and took our bikes down to ride around the area. Much to our chagrin the road was almost all uphill so we abandoned our bikes once we found a trailhead to Cap de Creus, a lookout point. The two hour hike over loose-rock trail brought us to a lighthouse overlooking the several coves on the Iberian Peninsula and the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. Since we were tired from our hike we drove into the town of Cadaqués and walked around. It's a very pretty seaside village, full of white houses covered in red, pink, and orange flowers that climb up the walls like ivy.

Side note: When we returned to Freda after our hike and were loading the bicycles back up, the policia stopped by for a visit. "Hablas ingles?", I asked the officer. "No, hablas español?", he replied. I'm sure you can imagine the conversation the four of us (us two and Yvonne and his partner) had at this point. We managed to decipher that we were in an area where no campers are allowed. We actually saw the signs prohibiting campers earlier, but the picture is of big campers, like motor homes, and we didn't think that our van constituted that. They told us that it is a 150 € fine, but we played dumb and the growing frustration of the language barrier led them to let us off with a warning. Phew!

Back at the campsite, my rash was taking a new turn and had spread to almost everywhere the sun touched. I've never experienced anything like this and we figure it must be an allergic reaction to the sun in combination with something else, perhaps the sun block (SPF 30) we used. I got almost no sleep this night as I was up most of it constantly applying wet paper towels to cool off and bring some relief to the itching. Today we decided to stay put for a couple days longer, to make sure that I heal up properly because I am pretty miserable right now! We rode into a small town to visit a Farmacia and pick up some Cortisone cream. We also bought me a really cool-looking hat with a back-flap that covers my ears and the back of my neck (you're picturing how cool-looking the hat is right now, aren't you?), and a long sleeve white shirt to keep my sensitive limbs in the shade. I did have some total relief for about an hour as Yvonne made me a soothing yogurt mix she applied to my appendages to take some of the heat away. So, no worries Mom...I'm being well taken care of!

Despite the rough goings in the first month of our trip, from the problems with the van (oh, did I mention we had a coolant leak that we had to get taken care of too?) to our bike issues, and to me wanting to rip my arms and ears off, we are still having a great time and seeing some pretty amazing landscape. After all, no matter what, we aren't at work! 
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