Well, I had to miss yesterday’s blog because the motel wifi wasn’t working and the wifi is mega slow and keeps dropping out at our accommodation today. In fact, I’m sitting outside in the car to try and get a better signal in order to be able to post this. We’ve had a doozy of a time with wifi lately.
Yesterday we left our less than salubrious cabin at the campsite in Los Llanos and drove fairly uneventfully to Valencia. Winter had well and truly found us because the day was cold, windy and pouring with rain. We’d booked a motel out of the city to make it easier to get to and because it had a lock up garage, which would make us feel better about leaving the bikes overnight in the car. What an interesting place that motel turned out to be! It was out in an industrial estate, so there surrounded by trucking firms, industrial refrigeration complexes and warehouses was our little motel and it was…Egyptian themed! The room had a large glass case behind the bed with a 3D silhouetted model of the pyramids inside it with a red lamp glowing through the desert scene. There was a large Egyptian cat statue staring at us from across the room and Egyptian prints all around the walls. So we stayed the night in our Egyptian themed motel beside the trucking warehouses!
After arriving, we drove into the city of Valencia. That in itself was an adventure and Steve again did a supreme job at the wheel, with me navigating him though the thick city traffic. There were five lane roundabouts and even though there were line markings, you wouldn’t know it because cars just seemed to get to the roundabout and bunch up. It was quite stressful for Steve to try and find the lane that was going in the direction we needed, while driving a big car with opposite controls while other cars kept nudging around us. We obviously made a few wrong turns, due to getting in the wrong lane or getting stuck in a turn left lane when we wanted to go straight ahead and things like that, but we did it in the end.
It was pouring rain and cold and since we’d been out in that weather before without much choice, now that we had a choice, we opted not to get soggy and cold if we could avoid it. So we headed to the Arts and Science Centre, which we’d read about and had been recommended. The modern buildings were an interesting contrast from the historic and traditional buildings we’d seen so far.
We explored some of the exhibits and found some bikes that we considered adding to the stable.
One of the things I found most interesting were all the leaks in the building. Here was this relatively new, modern glass museum and walking around inside, it was just a patchwork of puddles! Rain leaked in everywhere, there were buckets and cloths sitting around the floors, there were water marks all over the walls and ceilings where this leaking business had obviously happened before. One poor lady had the unenviable job of sucking up all the water, so there she was, doing laps with a big motorised wet vacuum and squeegee machine, pushing that contraption up and down…up the length of the huge building…turn…back down the length of the huge building…suck…mop…squeegee…up…turn…down…Poor thing. I reckon she watches the weather forecast in preparation for having to fire that machine up and push her laps over and over again. We were going to explore the area around the centre a little more but decided to get out of the lousy weather, so headed back to “little Egypt” for some warmth and respite.
Back at our Egyptian palace, we had a couple of interesting language barrier episodes. When we had gone out, I’d put our iPads and laptop in the room safe and when I went to get them out on our return, the safe wouldn’t open and it just kept flashing error messages at me. Off I trotted downstairs to reception, which was just a girl on her own, in a booth beside the boom gate, with a tray in her window that she pulled out to leave a gap for people like me to talk through.
“Hola,” I said, “the safe in our room won’t open and is giving an error message.”
“No English,” she replied.
“Oh, sorry,” says I.
“Please repeat,” says she.
“The safe…box [rectangular hand gesture here] won’t open [waving hands gesture to show a “not” signal] and is giving an error message [flashing and blinking hands gesture here]”
“Error. What number?” she says and I am super impressed that she was able to somehow interpret my less than perfect game of charades so well.
“3, error 3,” I said, holding up three fingers and flashing and blinking my hands again.
“One momento,” and she went to her phone and rang someone. Then went to another phone. Then looked at something on the wall. “One momento,” she said again.
“No problem,” I said and grinned as politely and broadly as I could to try and show I was appreciating the help, even though standing in the cold and the rain beside the boom gate and talking through a little hole in the booth was quite chilly and wet and uncomfortable.
She went to another phone and then came out of the booth and said, “A person will [walking fingers gesture] and reset.”
“Right,” I said, “someone will come up [walking fingers gesture] to the room [pointing to myself] and fix it [thumbs up gesture]?”
“Si,” came the reply. Wasn’t she brilliant! She understood all of my ridiculous pantomime!
Goodo, I hightailed it out of the rain and the cold and back inside and up to the room where I met the cleaner along the way who was on the phone to the girl in the booth and was obviously getting instructions on the task she was now charged with.
“Are you for me?” I asked as I walked past [pointing to her and pointing to me].
“Si,” she said and she was smiling and laughing a lot so I can only imagine what the girl in the booth was relaying to her about the strange game of charades she had just played with some non-verbal foreigner.
Anyway, the nice cleaner came to the room and followed instructions given to her by the girl over the phone and after a couple of failed attempts, she got the safe open.
“Gracias, gracias,” I said with as big a grin as I could manage and clapping my hands.
The cleaner lady grinned broadly and handed me the phone.
“Gracias,” I said to the girl on the other end.
“In English,” said the cleaning lady.
“Thank you so much,” I said again. Then said to the cleaning lady, “Thank you, thank you,” while clapping my hands, giving several double thumbs up and much grinning. I must say she looked pretty chuffed at having been able to solve the problem for us and smiled and laughed and said “Gracias” to us too.
That was Language Barrier Episode Number 1. Number two came when we realised that breakfast was included with the room, but there was nothing to tell us how to order it or what the choices were. So Steve rang down to reception (he was avoiding going down and standing outside the booth I think) and tried to ask about breakfast. It soon became clear that things weren’t being understood over the phone and the poor girl obviously had no clue what this man in room 106 was asking. So Steve opted for the technological solution. He fed his question into Google Translate, then went down to the booth and showed her his question in Spanish. The girl spoke her response into it and gave Steve the answer. I think she liked that, because she asked Steve what the App was. Now, I know that may have been a quick solution, but I think it was somewhat lacking in creativity! Hand gestures, surely, get more marks for entertainment value than just talking into an iPad! Anyway, Language Barrier Episode #2 was solved. This morning Steve rang down to order his breakfast and that all went OK with a different person in the booth who could understand the voice in room 106 OK. Steve waited and waited and it didn’t arrive. Waited… “I don’t think I’m getting my breakfast,” he said with a forlorn tone. But then…! We discovered the other little gem in the room…the secret hatch! There at the end of the room was a big button. Well, see a button and push it obviously! A buzzer sounded and there behind a Pharaoh print was a little door and there behind the little door was a serving hatch and there in the hatch was a tray with two cups of coffee and two toasted rolls! That priceless little motel just had one little treasure after another to give us!
We were all set and we packed the car free of the rain in our integral garage and then headed off to navigate our way out of the industrial zone and onto the motorway. We took a couple of wrong turns, mostly due to really confusing road signs. When you’re looking for the A7 and you come to a part of the motorway that splits in two lanes that are going in different directions and they both say A7, it’s a bit tricky to decide which way to go and we invariably choose the wrong way, which means a bit more time going in the wrong direction and finding a new route to get back to where we were before we took the wrong road. Eventually we were on our way and headed off into the pouring rain again. It bucketed down the whole way and we passed some flooding along the way and drove into thick fog too. So I have to admit that today was a day I was happy to be in the car and not on the bike. It would not have been a bike riding day at all!
We paused along the way to get some supplies and found a supermarket that was like the enormous huge aircraft hangar ones we’d explored in Portugal, so that was a bit of fun. Then we went to a Decathlon store to try and find me a pair of waterproof trousers that were actually waterproof, in preparation for our next wet and wild ride. We found a pair, that of course are hugely too long and hugely too baggy, but they’re super dooper and from the adults’ rack and not children’s, so hopefully will be better quality and keep me toasty and dry on our next ride in wild weather! I may have to wrap gaffer tape around the legs to hold them up and out of the bike chain, but my travel fashion can’t really get much lower on the humiliation scale already, so if getting along with gaffer tape around my long and baggy strides is necessary, then so be it!
We continued on our way and as we drove along, we flicked on the car radio and surfed some channels and who should we hear?? Midnight Oil!! Yep, they came blasting through the speakers, so there we were driving a Spanish car on a Spanish motorway in, of all places, Spain and I began tunelessly belting out, “How can we sleep while our beds are BURNIN’ at the top of my lungs, while doing a passenger seat, waist up, Peter Garrett hand dance! Then, after that little musical accompaniment, we channel surfed again and who should we hear??? INXS!!! So now I had to switch from Peter Garrett hand dancing to Michael Hutchence hair dancing! Who’d have thought! Driving along belting out some Oz Rock classics in Spain!
The other little bit of Australia we saw was a sign for an animal park / zoo sort of place with a sign for kangaroos! Those ‘roos sure wouldn’t have a natural habitat!
The road we were on was incredibly truck heavy. Steve commented on the number of trucks, which were just everywhere the length of the motorway in every lane. As we were nearing our destination, we slowed down in a line of traffic and I saw flashing lights up ahead and I could see a truck on the side of the road near a ditch. “This doesn’t look good,” I said, and it wasn’t. There had obviously been a nasty truck collision because one truck was on its side and another had the front of it badly smashed and torn. I didn’t look anymore because it looked like it was a nasty one. I really hope the drivers were OK.
We finally arrived at our campsite in Ampolla and have our little cabin out of the rain for the night. Shame about the wifi again though. We’ve had a doozy of a time the last few days, hence not being able to blog or respond to emails and all of those things I really like to do to stay in touch with everyone. We’ve been relying on an iPhone hotspot, which has limitations and we haven’t wanted to drain what little capacity we have in it, so I really hope our next stop has first class wifi and I can open attachments in emails and reply to people and catch up on everything.
So we didn’t do much today and we couldn’t even really explore Valencia because the weather has been so utterly awful. I hope it begins to behave itself over the next few days because we’ll be back on the bike at the end of the week. It’s supposed to get warmer and sunny by then, so my fingers, toes, earlobes and eyelashes are crossed once again for that! Tomorrow we head for Barcelona, where we’re giving ourselves a couple of days to explore the city and we’ll return the car and reacquaint ourselves with the bike seat. Then it will be north a bit further until we reach the French border.
So I will finish simply by suggesting these things… stay warm…stay dry…seize the day…do something new or exciting or creative today…try some new hand gestures during a conversation…sing loudly and tunelessly to a classic song and whatever you do…always remember to…give way to cows!