• Friday , 18 August 2017
Living the good life: east through Mediterranean Europe

Living the good life: east through Mediterranean Europe

As the song goes “summer time and the livin’ is easy”. After the challenges of traveling in Morocco, with Ramadan underway no less, being back in Europe was like slipping into a warm bath. Everything is easier, the roads are better, and we are back into a land where we can drink the water straight from the tap. Over the last six weeks we have arched eastward through Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, and finally Italy before closing the book on Mediterranean Europe and heading into the big, bad east, the east of iron curtain fame.

One glaring drawback to being back on the continent is the blistering cost of everything. We seem to be hemorrhaging money for fuel, food, and camping. If this were a normal vacation the $72 a day we are spending for our combined expenses would be a world-class bargain. But, for us folks trying to scrape their way around the world on savings it is time to make headway east and out of the EU, boo hoo.

We expected Mediterranean Europe to be sanitized and bland after seeing Latin America – we were flat-out wrong. The history, scenery, and wonderful people we have met could keep us pinned down here for years and still not be finished. It has been epic in diversity and beautiful beyond belief and it is all conveniently balled up into a compact size (says the Americans). And, yes, we were surprised with how much we loved our time here and we know we will be back many more times.

Mike and Mick hiking in Andalusia, Spain. Mick and his wife Chris have become family to us since leaving Seattle. We have camped with them in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, England, and now Spain (well, not camping in Spain but at their house). It is sad that our paths will no longer cross on this trip. Oh well, there is always the next trip.

Mike and Mick hiking in Andalusia, Spain. Mick and his wife Chris have become family to us since leaving Seattle. We have camped with them in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, England, and now Spain (well, not camping in Spain but at their house). It is sad that our paths will no longer cross on this trip. Oh well, there is always the next trip.

Spanish mountain roads are delicious. In places like this it is part of the journey to get a little lost. In the end you will find special places to discover and you always get where you need to go. Andalusia, Spain.

Spanish mountain roads are delicious. In places like this it is part of the journey to get a little lost. In the end you will find special places to discover and you always get where you need to go. Andalusia, Spain.

It was a very hot day when we visited the Cueva del Gato. The water coming out of the cave was pure and ice cold making the air around the pond much cooler than the surrounding countryside. Benaojan, Spain.

It was a very hot day when we visited the Cueva del Gato. The water coming out of the cave was pure and ice cold making the air around the pond much cooler than the surrounding countryside.
Benaojan, Spain.

A Moorish castle in Spain. The Alcazaba of Almería, is the second largest among the Muslim fortresses of Andalusia. Walking around the complex felt like we were back in Morocco. Almeria, Spain.

A Moorish castle in Spain. The Alcazaba of Almería, is the second largest among the Muslim fortresses of Andalusia. Walking around the complex felt like we were back in Morocco. Almeria, Spain.

A free campground in Europe??? Rare but true. We found a lovely little forest camp that was completely deserted. The local park ranger stopped by and told us we were welcome to set up our tent and that there was no charge for the night. He even snapped this picture of us. Valencia Provencial Park, Spain.

A free campground in Europe??? Rare but true. We found a lovely little forest camp that was completely deserted. The local park ranger stopped by and told us we were welcome to set up our tent and that there was no charge for the night. He even snapped this picture of us. Valencia Provencial Park, Spain.

Foothills of the Pyrenees, Spain.

Foothills of the Pyrenees, Spain.

History runs deep and strong in Catalonia. Sant Climent de Taüll is located in Taüll Valley of Boí. Pyrenees Mountains, Spain.

History runs deep and strong in Catalonia. Sant Climent de Taüll is located in Taüll Valley of Boí. Pyrenees Mountains, Spain.

Camping is expensive in the Pyrenees during the peak summer season. We went scouting unused dirt tracks in hopes of finding a free place to camp. After a mile or so of climbing through steep forest we came to the top of the mountain and found this field. We did not have permission to camp on the farmer's land so we moved off the grass and quickly found a good spot in the nearby tree-line.

Camping is expensive in the Pyrenees during the peak summer season. We went scouting unused dirt tracks in hopes of finding a free place to camp. After a mile or so of climbing through steep forest we came to the top of the mountain and found this field. We did not have permission to camp on the farmer’s land so we moved off the grass and quickly found a good spot in the nearby tree-line.

The eyes are going and the belts may feel a little tight but Mike and Austin are the youngest "old" guys on the block.

The eyes are going and the belts may feel a little tight but Mike and Austin are the youngest “old” guys on the block.

Austin Vince of "Mondo Enduro" fame runs some fantastic trail riding events in the Spanish Pyrenees during the summer. We were fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood so we popped by for a visit. We didn't participate in the daily activities but we had a great few days hanging out with the riders. A fantastic group indeed and and something we desperately want to do with Austin someday. Oliana, Spain.

Austin Vince of “Mondo Enduro” fame runs some fantastic trail riding events in the Spanish Pyrenees during the summer. We were fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood so we popped by for a visit. We didn’t participate in the daily activities but we had a great few days hanging out with the riders. A fantastic group indeed and and something we desperately want to do with Austin someday. Oliana, Spain.

Lakeside picnic with the girls. As the only male among 6 women I was treated to unfiltered 'girl' talk and now know who really runs the world.

Lakeside picnic with the girls. As the only male among 6 women I was treated to unfiltered ‘girl’ talk and now know who really runs the world.

This Catholic church, located inside the walled hilltop fortress of Cite de Carcassonne, sure gives a person a warm invite. Carcassonne, France.

This Catholic church, located inside the walled hilltop fortress of Cite de Carcassonne, sure gives a person a warm invite. Carcassonne, France.

Yeah, yeah, the French countryside is idyllic, blah, blah, blah. Guess what? it really is and we loved it. Vassieux en Vercors, France.

Yeah, yeah, the French countryside is idyllic, blah, blah, blah. Guess what? it really is and we loved it. Vassieux en Vercors, France.

French roads through the Alps can be hair raising rides. La Combe Laval dans le massif du Vercors, France.

French roads through the Alps can be hair raising rides. La Combe Laval dans le massif du Vercors, France.

Rider and gear both looking a little worn after two years on the road. Somewhere in the Alps.

Rider and gear both looking a little worn after two years on the road. Somewhere in the Alps.

Serenity and peace are hard to come by in the modern world. Rare moments to hold tightly to your soul. Road to Gorges de Bourne, France.

Serenity and peace are hard to come by in the modern world. Rare moments to hold tightly to your soul. Road to Gorges de Bourne, France.

Welcome to Switzerland!

Welcome to Switzerland!

Sometimes the seemingly mundane can surprise you with its beauty. As the sun was setting the median strip in this rural farm road magically glowed for a couple of minutes. Lustenau, Austria.

Sometimes the seemingly mundane can surprise you with its beauty. As the sun was setting the median strip in this rural farm road magically glowed for a couple of minutes. Lustenau, Austria.

Arrived in Austria to the waiting embrace of friends. Erdem and Sarah are home from the road (we last saw them in Chile) and are expecting their first child. We were overjoyed to spend many days with them and Sarah's parents eating, swimming, and basically enjoying the family summer vacation. Lustenau, Austria.

Arrived in Austria to the waiting embrace of friends. Erdem and Sarah are home from the road (we last saw them in Chile) and are expecting their first child. We were overjoyed to spend many days with them and Sarah’s parents eating, swimming, and basically enjoying the family summer vacation. Lustenau, Austria.

The Stelvio Pass is in northern Italy, at an elevation of 2,757 m (9,045 ft) above sea level. It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps. The ride was epic with only one downside, we had to share the VERY narrow road with quite a bit of traffic on the Italian side. Many of the automobiles were driving like this was a closed course racetrack. This road won't kill you but some of the douche-bag car drivers might.

The Stelvio Pass is in northern Italy, at an elevation of 2,757 m (9,045 ft) above sea level. It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps. The ride was epic with only one downside, we had to share the VERY narrow road with quite a bit of traffic on the Italian side. Many of the automobiles were driving like this was a closed course racetrack. This road won’t kill you but some of the douche-bag car drivers might.

The Italian Dolomite mountains.

The Italian Dolomite mountains.

By the time we reached the Italian Dolomites we had lost count of the mountain passes we have crossed since entering the Alps. Here is a parting shot, a classic example of what riding in the Alps is all about.

By the time we reached the Italian Dolomites we had lost count of the mountain passes we have crossed since entering the Alps. Here is a parting shot, a classic example of what riding in the Alps is all about.

View from camp. Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy.

View from camp. Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.

Yes, Venice is one giant tourist attraction but oh what a lovely trap to find yourself in. Venice, Italy.

Yes, Venice is one giant tourist attraction but oh what a lovely trap to find yourself in. Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

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