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Living in the foothills of the Pyrenees means that the weather here can be very localised.

 

We can have nice weather here in Boltaña, which is protected bacause it nestles behind hills, while Ainsa, which is 6km east of us, can have wetter colder weather - because it sits at the bottom of the Bielsa valley that brings the colder weather straight down from the Alto Pyrenees. The campsite where I often work sits in the Bielsa valley and the temperatures there in wnter are some of the coldest locally.

 

The village of Guaso, where our Project is, sits about 4km south of both Boltaña & Ainsa and is on the sunny south-facing side of another protective hill. This gives us warmth from the south and protection from the north - giving Guaso its own little micro-climate. 

 

Of course sometimes the weather is the same everywhere. At the height of Summer we can top out at more than 40 degrees on occasion (thankfully not often) and in Winter in can be minus 5 in the middle of the night. The coldest its ever been at the campsite, some years ago now, was apparently -24 degrees....

 

These are photos I took throughout last year that show a little bit of our local geography :-)

 

Boltaña nestling in the hills ....

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are loads of little walks around here. One of our favs takes us along the Rio Ara to this little bridge next to a picnic spot just outside Boltaña. Today I read that the local council are going to refurbish the bridge and improve the picnic area for the summer.

 

I enjoy the walks, but invariably I see bike tracks...... and I wish we were riding!

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

We did a "Drive 'n' Hike" today up to the semi-abandonded village of Morillo de San Pietro.

 

The village sits at an altitude of 970m (we live at 600m) and is about 4km north of us in a straight line (9.5km by "mountain gravel road"). The climb from Boltaña up to the turn off to the village is part of route ZE-09 which I've ridden several times. It's a nice steady workout :-)

 

There's one couple who still live up in the village and two other "holiday" houses that are visited during the year. The remaining dozen or so properties are in varying states of repair - from "passable" to "only the external walls still standing". The local council refurbished the gravel road and installed solar electricity to all the properties a few years ago in an effort to encourage people to move back there.

 

The views are spectacular, but it's pretty rural. The 9km drive takes a good 25 mins to complete and the village becomes isolated when it snows heavily - so not entirely practicle for most people . . . .

 

   

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been meaning to write a little update on how things have generally been going here lately and finally I have 5 minutes . . . .

 

This time last year we were halfway through a strict six week lockdown. We didn't know it was going to be six weeks when it started - like so many people, we were told "15 days"! After those first 6 weeks, the owner of one of the local campsites that I often work at got me a letter saying that I was "essential to the pre-season preparation work necessary to open the campsite" and I was able to go to work. That was possible partly thanks to the fact that I had worked there "officially" under contract the two previous summers and partly due to the age of the owner - he is past retirement age and so (in theory anyway) can't do the work himself.  

 

Apart from the initial 6 "weeks off" (which kicked in a couple of weeks after we "started work" for the year!) I ended up with consistent work at the campsite from the beginning of May right through to the end of October and then, thanks the the owner having an accident and smashing his left shoulder, had part time work there during November and December. It takes a while to make up 6 weeks of "zero income", but by the end of the year we'd done ok. Guiding work was way down compared to normal, but campsite work was up. Compared to a lot of people we'd done very well indeed and we're grateful for that.

 

This year I'm happy to say that we've had the best "first quarter" since I started working here. Bearing in mind that our intention was never to have to find jobs here - we knew that would be virtually impossible because we moved to an area where there is very little non-tourist based work locally and we're not fully fluent in Spanish - but rather that we'd be running our own B&B and taking care of ourselves, that's quite an achievement and one that I'm proud of. I've had Winter maintenance work at the campsite (thanks to the owner having to go in for another operation just after Christmas) and several local British ex-pat's had me working for them in their houses during Jan & Feb. I seem to have built up a good reputation for turning up on time, working hard and doing a good job :-)

 

In my next post I'll talk about what it's like working in Spain, compared to other places I've worked . . . 

 

Onwards and upwards!

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Working in Spain . . . . 

 

My work here generally consists of three things. MTB guiding, Campsite maintenance and "helping local farmers". What I'm doing now is so far removed from what I've ever done before that it's hard to make any reasonable comparisons. I suspect that people doing similar jobs in the UK or SA to what I'm doing now will see a lot of similarities - but for me it's a world of difference.

 

"High Season" here is July, August & September. That's typically when I work 7 days a week at a local Campsite, usually 8am to 2pm and then I guide people in the evenings. Generally people I've met at the campsite of course. Last year I also did extra hours at the campsite in the evenings - they employed less staff but we did more hours. Thankfully they seem to like me, so any work going comes my way. 

 

Outside of High Season I still do a lot of work a lot at the campsite - typically 9am to 2pm then 4pm to 7pm after a 2 hr lunch (which allows for a little Siesta). This is not a work pattern I've ever had before! In Spring and Autumn I do a fair bit of MTB Guiding - of course last year that was way down thanks to Covid, but the Campsite kept me busy to compensate. Out of season I occasionally help out farmers with jobs too.

 

Almost all of the work I do here now is hard physical work. I joke that it's like going to gym for 7 hrs a day. In reality it really is a good 5 or 6 hour workout a day with a bit of driving thrown in where I get to sit down for 5 mins. I'm not complaining, I enjoy it - I enjoy being outside, I love the mountain views and the workout certainly keeps me in shape. The campsite is 5 hectares of grass, dirt/gravel roads, walls, hedges, paths and swimming pools - with 26 chalets thrown in. It all needs constant attention. If you turn your back on anything for a week you can lose control! MTB Guiding is tough too - ask any MTB guide, no matter how much you love riding your bike, start doing it everyday for a living and it wears you out! 

 

Earlier in the year I did 5 weeks "building site" work, working on the campsite owners apartment renovation project in the centre of Ainsa. That was tough going - the guys start at 8am, work until 7pm and only have an hour for lunch. We were manhandling building rubble from the third floor down to street level and into a truck for dumping, then manhandling bags of sand/cement and concrete blocks back up there to replace what we'd removed. It was an eye opener to see how long and hard these guys work. The atmosphere was amazing though, I learned some cool Spanish "phrases" to describe when things go wrong or are hard to do 🙂 and I made some good friends. I also recently did a week at the Campsite helping Jose-Marie, a local carpenter friend of the owners who was replacing wooden decking and Chalet panels - at the end of the week said I was a good "Carpentero"! He's actually a guy who's house I often work at in my spare time - pruning trees etc.

 

Working here can be hard, but it's very rewarding and I never drive for more than 10 minutes from home to get there!  I pass people I've worked with in town or on the road, and they give me a wave and a smile. Out riding we share jokes about "who messed this or that up" on site, or "who couldn't keep up with loading rubble" (ok that's always me - these guys are Strong!), but the camaraderie is warm and there is respect. Living in a smallish community, knowing lots of people and being prepared to muck in and do whatever needs doing goes a long way.

 

I wish I was putting this sort of effort and these sorts of hours into our own "Project", but until I can, I'm happy to do this. It "keeps us going" and allows us to live in and experience a very beautiful part of the world 🙂

 

 

 

Edited by Bonus
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I haven't read your posts in a while. Managed to ready your last few posts as a catchup.

A strong theme of humanity comes through these posts which I truly envy...You have managed to make it work there and more important, become accepted amongst the locals - huge respect!

Due to Covid, no visits to the Basque country the last 2 years, having to be content with virtual meetings.

Hoping to travel again in 2022!

Please keep writing about your experiences and local culture. I really enjoy your thoughts on the Hub.

Edited by Grey Hubs
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