21. What to do in and around the Altiplano’s cave land area.

In my previous blogs I have talked about our journey from Cyprus to Spain and hopefully given you an idea of where we are now and why we are an 8 cave family!  But, what is there to do in and around our area?

Well, the choice is wide and varied which is great when the family come to visit – we all have something to look forward to.  Here are a just a few ideas for you.

1. Mini Lake District.

We live in what is commonly known as the Spanish mini lake district.  Within 20 – 45 minutes drive you have Lake Negratin, Lake San Clemente, Lake Bolera and a little further on there is Lake Portillo, Guadalquivir plus other beautiful waterways.

Lake Negratin in one of my personal favourites.  The lake offers waterfront restaurants, viewing points, picnic and beach areas.  In the summer you can hire canoes and other equipment for water based activities.  You can always find a spot to be alone giving you the sense that you are the only people about (and usually you are!)

One of the more popular restaurants can be found on the southern bank of the lake (head towards Zujar and turn left heading to Freila).  The beach restaurant is on this road to the right – look out for the lake and then recreation sign.  Another good bar/restaurant is on the north west side of the water just over the dam.  If you go to the north side of the lake please take a trip to the viewing point.  It is very hard to find due to the lack of signage but here is a map to help (the right hand turning is 4.1km from the end of the dam – take the right fork and keep going).  It really is worth a visit just for the views but take a picnic and enjoy the area even more.

My second favourite is Lake Bolera.   Yet another beautiful lake in stunning surroundings.  We have yet to explore this lake in great detail but the visits we have made have been peaceful and inspiring.

Please do not think that the lakes are the only places to visit because we have rivers with secret areas to find and enjoy.

A new find for us is Las Presas Recreation Area in near Castillejar (approx 12 km away). It is a lovely picnic area that is used by the locals during the weekend.  Weekdays are very quiet.  It has tables, bbq’s, the river edge with pools of water and, in the summer, a kiosk.

There are other areas to explore as you follow the many walking paths.  If you find a personal best, please get in touch.

2. Cortijo Buho – Benamaurel

If you are looking for a new experience, or something a little different, you need visit Cortijo Buho.  You can spend time with owls, kookaburras, meerkats and lots more.   Cortijo Buho is a beautiful 11th century cave house where Laurence and Matilda are happy to share their experience and vast knowledge as you handle the beautiful owls and watch them fly.

Each of the birds have their own personalities and characters which is quite unexpected for anyone that has no or little experience of owls and birds of prey.  It was for me.  My personal favourite is Darcy but don’t tell the others.

You can meet the feathered team, Molly (crossed between a princess and a diva), Matty (European Eagle owl with a huge character), Mystic (who enjoys eating with you at the table), Darcy (a rare Black Barn owl who is one of 100,000 to be born and one in a million to survive and my favourite), Pippin (who has a personality of a bouncer – feisty and will square up to anything no matter what size), Sasa (a Harris hawk who is a fearless hunter).

Once you have been introduced to the owl gang you may want to say ‘hi’ to the wonderful Meerkats and their babies, Sydney the kookaburra, the polecats and the guinea pigs and the many other animals they have rescued and rehomed.

Enjoy a few hours of fun whilst you learn all about the different animals for €35 per adult and €20 per child or why not add a wonderful 2 course home cooked meal for €50 per adult and €25 per child.  I can highly recommend at least one visit but I am certain you will want to return as we do.  Call  0034 958065191 or 0034 634379786 or email cortijo.buho@gmail.com.  More information can be found at http://www.theiasgems.com

3. Baza town and its history.

The town of Baza was founded by the Iberians in the 4th century BC and was then known as Basti.   The Moors took over the city during 313-1489 and the town became an important commercial centre with a population upward of 50,000 making it one of the three most important cities in the Kingdom of Granada.  During the Granada war, the city fell to Queen Isabella 1 of Castile.  You can still see the remains of the City walls dating back to Iberian times and other remains of buildings from the Roman occupation.  

The Arab baths are a gem of a find although you do need to know the exact location as they are well hidden.  They are free to view and well worth it.

There are so many different plazas and places full of history for you to explore but again, if you do not know what you are looking at, things do get overlooked and passed by quite easily.

My advice is to do a tour with an expert in the history of Baza.  Danny is passionate about the area and is a wealth of knowledge.  The duration of his tour is approx 2 1/2 hours which we recently experienced.   We were amazed at the historical areas and Plazas that Danny took us to, which we had no idea existed.  It was a tour well worth the €15 per person as we really did get to know our local town and have more of an appreciation of its history.

Call Danny on 0034 684 456 722 and have a walk with ‘One Foot In The Past’ (Danny’s Facebook page where you will find further information).  You will not regret it.

4. Cascamorras Festival in Baza traditionally held on 6 September. 

The Cascamorras festival, or locally known as the black hand, has an intriguing history.  It is estimated that 20,000  people now take part, running through the streets of Baza covered in black paint/olive oil.  This also happens in Gaudix where they use coloured paste instead of oil.  Why, I can hear you ask!

Apparently it all started when a workman from Guadix (nicknamed Cascamorras) was building a church on the site of a Mozarabe Temple when he heard a voice asking for Mercy.  As he continued to dig he found a sacred icon of Our Lady of Mercy.   The people of Gaudix claimed the find as their own which the people of Baza refuted strongly.   The conflict was so bad that King Felippe 11 sent a mediator to decide what was to be done.   It was decreed that the statue would stay in Baza but, for one day a year, it could be taken to Guadix.  This was not accepted by either side.

A last minute attempt was made to take the statue to Guadix but the people of Baza foiled the plot so the workmen returned home to Guadix empty handed.   Baza declared that on Saint’s day, if a nominated person from Guadix was able to reach the Virgin on foot and remained clean, he could take the statue to Guadix.    Each year an elected Cascamorras tries to fulfill this pledge, but to this day has never succeeded.

525 years later the festival has grown to one of the most impressive and yet least known festival in Andalucia.

Part one of the festival is held in Baza.  On the 6th September people of Baza head to a nearby hill where they cover themselves with a mixture of black paint and ecological oil prepared by the Town hall.  At 18.00 a rocket indicates that Cascamorras has arrived on the hill protected by his towns people of Gaudix.  He begins to run down the hill into the town towards the El Merced Church where the statue of the Our Lady of Mercy is held.

The local people of Baza are well prepared to dirty the Cascamorras but he has a rubber ball tied to a wooden stick to defend himself in addition to his own followers.  The event takes place along a 6km route and can take 90 mins to 2 hours to complete. As yet the Cascamorras has never reached the end of the route, clean.  That’s not quite the end for the Cascamorras.  He becomes guest of honour for the town’s  next two days of partying.  He then returns to Guadix empty handed and on the 9 September he receives a further barrage from his own people of Guadix.  This is the second part of the Cascamorras festival.

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After the event you will find signs of the black hand all around  Baza.  It’s become quite a sort after piece of art.  All good fun!

 

5. Local Village swimming pools.

Most local villages have their own swimming pools which are open to the public during the months of July and August.  However there are a few pools around that stay open all year as they are naturally fed from rivers or springs.

Our local pool is in Los Olivos/Castillejar and is the best pool around by far.  It is clean, has grass verges around the pool area and a good restaurant on its doorstep. There are life guards each day to ensure everyone has a great time.

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These pools can be a quiet and relaxing place to spend a couple of hours or a day, for as little as a couple of Euros.

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Another good pool is in the cave village of Galera.  It is a good size with the added bonus of being right next to the Galera Hotel.  This hotel is great for food and also sitting on the balcony whilst taking in the views of the caves dug out of the hillside opposite.

The two main natural spring pools which are open all year round can be found in Orce and Heuscar (that’s if you fancy swimming with the fishes).

6. Moors and Christians Weekend in Benamaurel.

Many towns in Andalucia hold a Moors and Christians Festival.  In 2020 the date for the festival in Benamaurel will be 25 – 28 April.

The Benamaurel festival has many paradas and has a great family/party atmosphere.  It begins with several procession of the Moors and Christians, tradition food, a theatrical enactment of verbal attacks and a battle enactment with cannons and swords (held on the Sunday) and even more parades to end the festivates.  The parade that follows the main battle  on the Sunday is a wonderful site.  People work hard and pay large amounts of money to wear the colourful costumes.  You can see the pride in their faces as the parades pass.  It really is a great weekend to enjoy the atmosphere and have family fun.

7. Views, long drinks and free tapas.

You don’t have to do anything.  You can relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery around you whilst you read a good book, hold a long drink and enjoy a lovely local tapas at the many bars we have in the area.

The above ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much to do and see from guided walks around our local hills, visits to the local towns, planned cycle routes (with bike hire) and ….  if you get in touch and tell me what you are interested in, I am sure we can find something just for you.

If you plan on staying in the area please take a look at our licenced cave rentals at www.caveholidays.com 

We hope to see you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20. Has it really been two years!

On the 16th October 2017 we began a brand new chapter in our lives.  We were moving lock stock and barrel from Cyprus to Spain.  We landed in Alicante with 4 large suitcases thinking we had a plan!  Well… you know what happens to plans don’t you!

We had already purchased our hole in the ground, our total restoration project, in the Cuevas de Luna area of Benamaurel.  I had fallen in love with this cave from the moment I saw it in the distance as we were driving down the very long track towards Hablacon (or privately known as ‘Sue’s Rock’).  The plans I had made in my head and on the computer were many, this lovely hole would become a home with a difference – something special.

We knew that it would be at least a 12 month project what with planning permissions, architects and building works etc. So, in the meantime, we were happy to look for somewhere else to live whilst the work was being done.  When it was time to move into our dream cave we could then turn this second property into a holiday rental  giving us a little income during our old age.

If you have been following my blog you will know that we had a few twists and turns during the first few months of our new adventure in Spain.   Before we arrived in Spain we began the process of purchasing these caves in Rio de Baza however, the owners decided at the last minute, not to sell!  At the time we were devastated (and homeless) but, with hindsight, that was the best thing that could have happened!

To cut a long story short, (please read the previous blogs if you want to know more),  it was not long before we found another cave in Puente Arriba.  We moved in to our forever home on 29th November 2017.

Not that it started off as our forever home.  No, this was going to be our future holiday rental but, I fell in love, again.  I love the way the caves, (it was one and now divided into 2), went through the hill giving us two front doors, 2 back doors and lots of windows giving us light; we have lots of land around us which we are still trying to decide what to do with it all; I love the views we have of the river and valley looking across to Baza while we sit on our patios or roof terraces, I love the walks with our three dogs down by the river (I say dogs but I have a sneaky suspicion one is a polar bear), I love that we have neighbours but feel alone and private.   

In my next blog I will attempt to tell you about our favourite places to visit, to eat, to shop and those places where you can ‘just be’.   If anyone has any questions they would like to ask please get in contact and I will try and help – if not I hope I can direct you to someone who can.  It has been quite a learning curve for us both.  Well it would be wouldn’t it if you ended up becoming an 8 cave family!

Please take a look at our traditional holiday rental caves, (but with all mod cons), Cuevas de la Paz in Los Carriones at www.caveholidays.com and our second cave property Cueva Limon at Puente Arriba which has a more contemporary feel (with many hidden extras like secret gardens and private roof terraces) at www.caveholidaysspain.com. Both sites will  give you a taste of what cave holidays can be like.  I truly recommend you try cave holidays for yourselves but be warned – they can become addictive!

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Cuevas de la Paz is up and running and has proven highly successful in the 6 months we have been open.  We thought that now the main summer season was over bookings would slow down but they continue to come in.

 

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However, Cueva Lemon, although fully licenced, has not yet been advertised as we have to think about our three dogs.  We may need to advertise particularly to dog lovers until we can get our heads around the logistics of having someone on holiday here.  Plenty of time for that, it just means that family and friends can enjoy the open house a little longer.

Over these past two years we have had to jump over many hurdles especially when dealing with the authorities. Whether it’s your residency, driving licences, health, licences or permission to do certain works, we have certainly ‘been there and done that’.  Experience has taught us to go to the professionals in the area that you are working within.  There are too many ‘I can do thats’ here in Spain.  On two separate occasions we have travelled down the ‘I know a man’ route and both times it has caused more problems than it should have and both costing us more money because of it.  We truly believe in trusting your solicitor, accountant (qualified) and local Spanish builders to know what has to be done.   It makes life easier, less hectic, fewer worries, (although you cannot completely eradicate them no matter who you use), and we like to sleep easy at night knowing we have done our best to comply with all the different and varied rules and regulations there are around us.

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Another important factor for us here in Spain is friends.  We knew no one when we arrived.  I am proud to say that over the two years we have gained a good foundation of friends, both English and Spanish.  Over the last 18 months we have had family and personal problems that have been greatly eased by the support of good friends.  The kind of friends that drop everything to look after your dogs and home, who send messages of support, promise to bring gin (even if it isn’t quite up to scratch and I’m still waiting;-)) and those that you know you can pick up the phone to and shout for help without having to think twice.   We have been very lucky to have found you all.  You know who you are. 

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Would we change anything – categorically no!  I am a great believer in fate and this is where we were supposed to be.  However, if in the future fate decided that we have to move on to pastures new, then I am sorry but my heels are cemented well and truly in Puente Arriba.  We are here, end of!

19. Cuevas de la Paz are finally ready for guests.

 

What can I say…. it’s been hard work and it’s given me more grey hairs than I like to admit to but, we have achieved our goal and can now open the doors of Cuevas de la Paz to our guests.

When we purchased our own casa cueva we did not intend to buy anything else.  We had (and still have) lots to do to transform our large cave into a home and a separate holiday let.    However, whilst sitting with a cup of coffee, up pops the bargain of a lifetime on my Facebook timeline .   The selling price had been dropped dramatically and we had no hesitation in wanting to know more.  We quickly arranged a viewing for the next day knowing that others would be interested to.  We had been determined not to rush into anything but, once viewed, we soon realised that these caves were ‘too good to be true’ at the reduced price.  They were full of artifacts collected within the farming region and with a little TLC could be up and running quickly.  Once we had looked over each cave twice we both decided to take a risk.  We jumped in with two feet and the caves went off the market.

There are many quirky things in these caves but one ‘adornment’ in particular has people coming up with lots of ideas!  One cave has two iron rings above the bed!  We were told by the agent that these were used for the animals when the caves had been shelters for the local goats.  We will leave you to decide whether that is a true fact or an addition made by a previous owner for other uses!

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Our next decision was whether we left the caves as they were, (already a going concern but being trueful, they were dark, cluttered with various items and not that appealing), or should we give the caves a makeover.  After several conversations with my loving accountant husband it was decided to start with plastering (yeso) the lot rather than patch the walls up!  We knew that this would give a cleaner and a more pleasing look to the interiors.  Once you start looking around you find other things to do don’t you? – well we did!

The large expanse of barren car park appeared to be a waste of land.  So we decided to make a smaller car park at the top end with its own gated entrance and the rest of the area into a walled garden and seating area.

Then there was the bedding, toasters, towels, patio area and how about making the store room into a new gym.  To cut a long story short we have spent more than we intended to but, isn’t that always the way?

DSCF1040Gym? Well why not. Some people do like to ensure their fitness does not deteriorate during their holidays!  We have tried to cater for most tastes with 5 different machines – treadmill, rowing machine, bike etc and a small set of hand weights.

The immediate outside area has been stripped of its tangled ivy and replaced with seats.   We have added a budha or three to give a calming and relaxing feel to this outside area.  It is now an ideal place to sit with a morning cup of coffee.

We are now happy with the new revamped look of the caves and the area they sit in and any further work can be completed when and if.  I need to get my hair coloured and my back mended before we do anything else!

The area we live in is varied  and beautiful with great walking paths, magnificent lakes that we have around us and old abandoned caves to explore.  It is truly beautiful and so vast – you will have to return again and again to see it all!

To see the other transformations, especially of the interior of the caves, please take a look at the Cuevas de la Paz website.     www.caveholidays.com   Any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Thank you to all our friends and family who have given us encouragement and offered help during this time.  It has been much appreciated and we will never forget you.

 

 

18. What Are We Upto Now!

For those of you following our adventures in cave land we have, not one, but two pieces of exciting news to tell you. 

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If you recall we originally purchased a wonderful, awesome and peaceful cave that needed a total reform within the area known as Cuevas de Luna (Caves of the Moon).  The plans I had for that cave were endless.  However, as life sometimes does, we went off at a tangent.  We purchased a second huge cave which had already been fully reformed nearby in Puente Arriba.  We soon fell in love with this cave and the land that surrounds it (or should I say them!).  We have almost completed the transformation of turning our one cave into two caves – One side for us and one side to rent as a holiday let.  All we needed to do to this rental side was yaso (plaster), fit a kitchen and do the final touches to the large lounge and bedrooms.  It already has two fitted bathrooms (one ensuite) and a lovely log burner within the lounge.  

Now we are at the stage where the whole cave has been yesoed and the kitchen has been built so we are close to having the cave ready for guests.  We must wait for our rental licence before we can advertise and that is somewhere in the process within a Granada government office as we speak so we should be up and running for next year.   The rental cave will be known as Cueva Limon (Lemon Cave).  Here is a taster to what the kitchen will look like. Once the painting is complete, we have bright material at the shelves and the washing machine is in place I will quickly update with better pictures.

For those who would like to experience a different kind of holiday, cave living is certainly a great idea and if you are one of the 98% of the human race that has not had this experience I urge you to consider this as a holiday choice.  You may very well get hooked like John and I.

The cave will have access to 2 large and private roof patios and a front patio (shown above) for guests to sit and watch the sun rise from behind the hills and over the river.  There will be sun beds, hammocks and tables and chairs for those that enjoy the outdoor living as we do.   We would also be happy to share our own gardens with our guests where you can enjoy table tennis and boules.

To take advantage of the many wonderful sights and interesting places to visit in the area we can organise 1/2 or full day tours to suit your needs.   If you are considering buying a property we do urge you to tour around with someone that has a little knowledge of the different areas and we are always happy to pass on our own experiences to help you make the right choices for you.

As soon as the interior for the rental cave is ‘dressed’ I will update with more detailed pictures.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

info@caveholidays.com

NEWS FLASH

For those of you that thought we were mad to buy a cave in the first place…… we’ve gone and done it again!  Well, to be precise – we have just purchased 6 caves in all.  We are now an 8 cave family!

These caves are 5 minutes from our home and already have a licence in place for holiday lets. The caves are very different to our own and have a Spanish feel to them due to design and decoration.  We have a little work to do with yeso, lights and accessories but again, we should be up and running by early next year.  As we speak I am preparing a website for these caves so watch this space. They will be known as Cuevas de la Paz (Peace Caves).

I will be happy to provide pictures of the interiors and  any other information as soon as we are at the stage when I feel that we are ready to show the world.  

If anyone would like the experience of staying in a cave please get in touch.  You will have a holiday to remember – promise.  There is so much to see in the area from abandoned caves, fresh water swimming pools, beautiful cave villages and not forgetting the many mountains that surround us.  Whether you walk, bike or travel by car there is something for everyone. But… don’t forget to stop and say ‘hi’ to the local shepherds whilst they attend their goats.  I am always amazed at how the goats are herded by the shepherd and especially the dogs – usually by a nod of the head!  I am thinking of recruiting one of our local shepherds to train our 3 rescue dogs. We need it! 

As soon as the interior is ‘dressed’ I will update with pictures and share the new website for these beautiful caves.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

info@caveholidays.com

17. The Builders have left the cave!

DSCF4865.jpgThe builders have left the cave…. for a short while anyway! We do have other jobs on the list for them to finish but, for now, we have a respite. And, so do they!

I must say that I am extremely happy with the results so far. If you recall we have 8 separate areas around our cave.  So far we have concentrated the work on areas 3 and 5.  The rest of the land is work in progress!   The builders have worked from my computerised designs which have been tweaked here and there by me and/or Miguel (our Spanish builder).  Sometimes dare I say it, the tweaking has improved the overall look and/or enhanced the areas uses.

For now, within these two areas, all that is required is for me to add the finishing touches.  I’m not going to rush this final stage as we plan to use the areas and see what it is that is needed or desired.  Shade is one of the main finishing touches, especially in area 3 at the rear of the cave.  There simply is none but, you may have guessed already, I have a few ideas in my idea box located in my head!  The patio at the front has wonderful shade from the original trees and again early evening as the sun drops behind the cave and down from the sky.

Secret Garden (area 3)

The first picture was taken of area 3 (now named Secret Garden) when we purchased the cave and the second photo shows the rear of the cave.

Many changes have been made and the landscape has change considerably. The following pictures show how it is now.  We need to add extra grey gravel, there will be a few extra plants and trees scattered around over the next few months and, as I have said above, some shaded areas, but I want to live with it for a while and decide what type of plants and shade, where to put them and how many I want.   Then it’s shopping time again. Sorry John but…..

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Front Patio (area 5)

This photo was taken of the front area of the cave in its original state.  It was used as a large car park with a couple of trees overlooking the views.

Here I pictured three built up areas – one being the main area to be concreted and used as a seating platform and the other two for ‘show’. I was looking at putting cacti in one and pots and art in the other. The main patio was to be higher than the other two, but once I had marked the areas out with my trusted paint aerosol can, I realised that this main area would be too high.  We are already in an elevated position so any higher and we would be sitting with the Gods.  So after a little tweaking we came to the end results.

I am so pleased with the finished patio design.  It is the perfect place to sit and watch the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening, watch the bee eaters and the woodpeckers go about their daily duties and sip a long cool drink in the shade of the trees.

From here we have a beautiful, peaceful view where your eyes and imagination can wander, for hours, around the hills with their secret empty caves.  It is a great spot for our three dogs Charlie, Barney and Alfie to sit and look out for intruders (i.e. the farmer with his tractor or the shepherd with his goats).  Alfie is our new pup.  I say pup but he is growing at a good rate of knots.  At 10 weeks he was 17 kgs.  More about him later!

Whats next?

If you recall, our cave is in two halves.  The second half of the cave needs to be repaired and made good so that we can turn it into a holiday let giving us a little income.  This will be the next main project and will begin on Monday.  The builders need to yeso (plaster) all through and repair some of the walls that have saltpetre in them.  Once that is complete I need to design a ‘Spanish’ kitchen, shelves for the bedrooms and built in seats for the lounge and dining room areas.  The rental cave will have two roof patios which are now complete and will be used by our guests. They give wonderful views and privacy, I just need to furnish them to a high standard and add a few plants!

In the rental cave I am thinking along the lines of the designs below. The finished look will be different but it gives you an idea of what’s going on in my head!

When the yeso man has finished this side of the cave he will complete the work outside by coating all of the exterior walls of the cave in capa fina (exterior plaster) giving the outside a cleaner finish and new look.   Then…. we have other areas of land that we need to work out what to do with.  Do we have turkeys (2 were advertised recently and John was very keen!), do we have a veg patch (only if Chris is here to water daily!) or….. The list goes on.

But for now, I am happy to sit and consider how to advertise our soon to be holiday cave next door.  I need to look at why people would want to stay in the area, what they would be looking for and what their needs may be.  Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.  So far, I believe that people come to this wonderful area for one of four reasons.

  1. To experience living in a cave.
  2. Explore the wonderful area around and its many nature reserves, lakes and interesting villages.
  3. To enjoy tapas (well, that’s me anyway).
  4. To relax in an area of beauty and tranquility with a good book and a glass of wine.

Our cave is in just the right location to do all four and much more so hopefully we can provide something for everyone.  We are so lucky to have found this spot.

Once the next phase of the work has begun I will be happy to share the progress but for now it’s back to plans and measuring tapes.

Please, please, please follow my blog by adding your email on the top right hand side of this page.  You will then be alerted when any updates are made.    It only takes a moment – promise.  Thank you for reading and taking part in our cave adventure.

Love, peace and happiness to you all.

x

 

16. The builders have landed.

The builders have well and truly landed in Puente Arriba!

We have them everywhere. Front, back and sides.  Our land has been occupied by thousands of bricks, tons of sand and diggers galore not to mention concrete wagons.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, just the opposite.  Miguel, our Spanish builder, lives a stones throw from us in the village.  He knows more about our cave, and land around us, then we do.  He has been absolutely fantastic and we cannot recommend him highly enough.  My basic Spanish is growing slowly but I can now tell you the Spanish names for doors, windows, concrete, seats, etc etc.  It is amazing how much you pick up when trying to communicate what it is that you want.   Miguel has been sooooo patient. 

How does all this building work make me feel?  It’s a mixture of excitement, trepidation and all out fear.  Excitement as we see our plans taking shape and can now visualise the different areas and the uses of each plot.  Trepidation as we may have missed something out or should have changed/tweaked an idea, which for now, to late.  Fear of getting it completely wrong and that is something only time will tell.

I have experienced all these emotions several times a day over the past 4 weeks.  However, I do believe the fear has reduced and moved into trepidation.  Hopefully trepidation will soon begin to reduce and move more towards excitement.

The secret garden is looking great as I see my computerised drawings being formed.  My only trepidation here is whether we have enough concrete areas planned out but…..  my confidence is growing a little each day that we have.

The front area is in full flow with block work being laid, concrete being poured and garages being built, not to mention the patio areas above the garages.  My trepidation for this area of our land has, as of yesterday, been worked out.  It was not about the layout as I am very pleased with the shape and size but whether the seating area would have been too high.  The cave is already in an elevated position so raising the seating area by 3-4 blocks would take us up into the trees and nearer to God.  Luckily I relayed my concerns, with the use of a translator app, to Miguel and the seating platform has been reduced in height.   Concrete is now being poured as we speak and it’s looking great.

The garages for John’s bike and our car are both huge and will be wonderful spaces for us both to utilise.  John has been known to complain that I take over any past garage space with my ‘stuff’ (garden tools, power tools, items needing storage) so this is perfect. We both have our own garage space to do with as we please.  The roof patios are taking shape but I cannot take a look as yet as the concrete wagon is still pouring.  I’ll have to wait until they have all gone home and take a peek.  I do feel a little trepidation as to how they are going to look but……   I continue to enjoy our surroundings and especially the beautiful walks down by the river with Charlie and Barney.  I’ve just returned from the river walk, and as usual, have come back refreshed and smiling.  The poppies are out at the moment and are everywhere.  Just amazing.  We love Spain.

As you can see we are close to the end of our work outside.  I believe I have just seen Miguel punch the air with glee:-)  It will then be ideas time.  How do we fill the spaces we have created?  We already have a tennis net, a table tennis table, petanque set, sun beds, hammock, barbecue and a variety of seats to place in the areas not to mention the 3 mirrored silver display balls, 3 wicker cacti and a penny farthing!

Exciting times ahead.

15. The Land.

I know what I want but, as usual, I don’t know quite how to get it – yet. I do have lots of ideas for our outdoor spaces which we have around the cave but sourcing materials, (without breaking the bank), finding good workmen with space in their diaries and working around the restrictions of the local council is enough to keep me awake most nights.Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 12.08.26.png

Saying that, I do enjoy the planning and designing although some of my ideas have received funny looks and worried expressions from my better half.  As John and I have been married for over 22 years I am quite used to John’s reactions and I know he will enjoy the end results just as much as I will.  I hope!

Our land around the cave is an odd shape but this is not at all bad.  To help me plan how to use each area I have broken the land down into 8 sections.  Each section will have a different use and unique look.  Some will need money spending and others very little so as to allow nature to continue her work.

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The Plan……..

Area 1 is a strip of land full of grape vines that runs along the side of a small church called Ermita del Salto and stretches to a neighbours olive grove. I have absolutely no idea what to do with area 1.  It’s a work in progress for my brain.

 

 

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The same applies to area 2.  It also has grape vines and scrub.  The only immediate plan is to re open the driveway, (on the right hand side of area 2 just out of the picture), that runs from the church along the back of our property so that we can gain access to the rear for log delivery etc.

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Area 3 has a definite plan and has already been named ‘the secret garden’.  This space will be where we will chill, devour barbecues and enjoy company.  The hillside to the left and top edge of the area will be enclosed by a white wall giving it a walled garden feel.  I would like a large stone table under a covered construction to give shade during the heat of the summer, comfortable lounges and swing seats. Perhaps a couple of hammocks to laze away the afternoons. Well, we are in Spain and the afternoons are for siestas!

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Area 4, which is thin and curved and stretches to the track, will be left for nature to continue to live and grow.  It’s in a dip and not very user friendly so I am happy to let nature carry on her work and give the birds and local wildlife somewhere to rummage and shelter in. The right hand edge of this area (next to the cave) will have a roped fence to help mark the edge of the cliff face and give the edge a distinctive look.

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Area 5 is immediate in front of the property from where we have wonderful views of the Bad Lands and river below.  The amount of wildlife you can see whilst sitting here is just amazing and one that we are both going to enjoy looking at during a quiet afternoon or summers evening.  A few minutes ago, I went to take the picture you can now see and two herons came swopping down towards the river.  Fantastic.   In this area I plan to have 3 raised sections.  2 lower levels for pots, a bench and perhaps the odd bit of art and the third raised area which will be a step higher, for comfortable seats where we can sit and enjoy the scenery and especially the sky at night.  Because we have no artificial lights around our area the stars are simply amazing.

Area 6 and 7 are lower down towards the track and are separated by a second driveway, (shown in black).  Again, these areas are work in progress for my brain.

Area 8, which begins at the church, continues over the cave to become our roof.  There is not a lot we can do with this land as the natural grasses that grow here are protected plus we would not want to change it anyway.  It looks natural and is in keeping with the cave.  The only change that will appear here are two garages to the side of the cave (on the right hand side of area 8) which will have patio areas on the roof for our privacy and sun.

We do have two further parcels of land (shown in green) that we own but they are not exactly user friendly as they are both on the other side of the road/track.  We may find a use one day but….

On top of all this we have to grade and make good 3 drives, make two Cave rooms, one for the car and one for John’s bike, build a shelter over the kitchen door area, fence the whole perimitor to keep Barney and Charlie safe, replace 4 front/back doors and 7 windows and ………I think that is enough for now.  My plans change on a regular basis so I will keep you updated, I promise.

 

 

14. The decision has been made.

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The decision has been made.  We have both agreed to sell our original dream cave.  It has been a hard decision in many ways but after weighing up all the pros and cons it was not complicated or difficult after all.  We should sell and put our energy into the new cave home (Casa Cueva) in Puente Arriba.

At the beginning, some of our friends and family thought we had gone potty buying such a project as the original cave, never mind at our time of life.  In some ways they were right but nothing ventured……  As life has a habit of doing to us all, it took us down a different path.

Yes, we are of a certain age and I for one am not as active or as proactive as I used to be.
I would be a fool to pretend otherwise.  The meticulous planning that I have completed so far has been extensive and I will admit, exciting, but it has been mentally tiring too.   The other issues are with the usual stress we all go through with the red tape, local authorities and fighting with work men to achieve my own ideas for our home.  These issues  are just the tip of the stress mountain.  I really don’t want that in my life.  The dream – yes it was a great dream and I will never regret it but I am being realistic and want to enjoy the rest of my life, no matter how long or short, enjoying the Spanish life style and weather.  As I say that we are having snow storms and cold weather, but we know it will not last.  Cross fingers.

Our latest purchase in Puente Arriba is going to be our home.  All our efforts are going into making it as comfortable and homely as we can.  If you have been following our saga you will know that the cave is in two parts. The first half is in a fair to good state and is certainly livable in but the second half needs lots of tlc.  It is going to take time and a great deal of thought to get to the stage were two become one.  But, that is our aim.

Then we have the land around our cave – 10,000 sqm. in total.  I need to look at each area and every aspect of the different and varied layers to ensure that the land around us is used to its best advantage – that is to say for our best advantage.  Seating areas with views, to a secret garden, they all need to be carefully planned and thought about and then thought about some more.

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That is where I am at the moment.  I have ideas. Some will need to be tweaked and others discarded but that’s half the fun. The first priority is to fence our land, (shown here in red), so that our two  rescue boys do not wander off to say hello to the local shepherd and his flock or find food in the neighbours kitchens.  The fence will also curtail the numerous local doggie visits we get each day – leaving presents behind is fine but I must confess to not wanting those kind of doggie presents outside our cave door.

Saying all that the dog population are friendly and they all welcome each other and play which is kind of nice but I just don’t trust our two boys not wander off so….fence it is.

In my next blog I will take you through some of my ideas for the outdoor spaces and walk you around the land.  Hope that you are enjoying our adventure, our ups and downs and our new challenges as we continue or journey with life in Spain.  Thank you for reading.

13. Something to cross off my bucket list.

If you are thinking of buying a shelf or a type of unit to house a DVD or Apple TV, you may think of visiting B&Q or Ikea.  I certainly have on many occasions.

fullsizeoutput_33c0However, when you live in a cave, as we   do, there are other options.  You could attack the cave wall with a hammer and chisel and carve yourself a shelf in the rock wall.  I debated long and hard about this option; the thought of how deep the recess would need to be to house all the electrical devices was not that appealing to me.  Chiselling out a hole in the wall is not an easy task especially as the rock can be very solid, a hammer may not crack the nut!  I have also been reliably informed that a small hole creates masses of debris by our lovely neighbour Steve.  He should know as he has a few recess shelves in his own cave.  So, what other option do I have?

The second option is to build out into the room.  It could be a shelf or a unit but no…..when you live in a cave the obvious thing to do is to build a rock to house your gadgets.

So, how to build a rock?  This is something I can honestly say I have never thought of before.  I have built steps, arches and fireplaces but never a rock!  I came up with a plan  to use breeze blocks and chicken wire.

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A visit to the local builders yard and a walk around the cave grounds gave me all the material I needed.  I haphazardly arranged my building material in the corner as near to the design that was in my head. Then I rearranged them and then rearranged them again. This went on for a few days.  Eventually I was content with the overall shape and set to work joining the full and half bricks together with a great deal of Yeso.  I wanted to leave two flat areas on the top so that I could place tiles to form a platform for the gadgets.  This was to be my cave shelves.

At this point I realised I did not have a tile cutter which was to be an important piece of equipment but a trip to our local town Baza sorted that.  Tiles cut and sited and the job was done.  It may not be perfect but I really don’t care because……I did it!

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Was it easy…no it wasn’t.  It was time consuming, thought provoking and a little back breaking but I would certainly take a few short cuts next time and I have learnt a lot about building a rock.  All I need to do is to finish the paint job on the wall.  Job done.

Something to cross off my bucket list.

 

12. Can I see a light at the end of the packing boxes?

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Front of the cave house

Can I see a light at the end of the packing boxes?  All I can say is that it’s a good job we have so many rooms in our new cave house.

The cave property has been excavated all the way through the hillside to give a front and back to the cave house.  Two long corridors take you down from one side to the other.

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Rear of the property

 

You may also recall that it has an added bonus of being easily separated into two private dwellings or kept as one, albeit one big one.  We live in the first half as there is work needed in the second half to make it fully habitable.   This second half is still quite full of packing boxes which all need sorting. Some items will be used, others repacked for future use and some for a local dogs charity to be used as they see fit.

The whole cave structure looks like this;-  bano = bathroom, Cocina = kitchen,  domitorio = bedroom, comedor = dining room, sala = room, salon= living room, recibidor = reception room, bodega = winery!!

Back of the cave house.

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Front of the cave house.

As you can see it is quite a network of rooms.  To make this property into two indepentant units you would need to lock/block off the middle bathroom,  (third room at the front of the cave as seen on the bottom row of the diagram).  Each half would have a front entrance and a rear entrance all of its own.

The number of rooms is fantastic but what we will use each one for is, and will be for a while yet, working progress. It does initially depend on whether we use this cave property as our main home or separate the cave giving us two rentals. We said we would give ourselves a couple of months to live and relax here but I can see after only a few weeks that we are here to stay. We love it. Not only do we feel relaxed and at home but the potential here is endless. The cave has so many connotations and the outside space is mind boggling. Secret gardens that lead to a quant church, the path leading down to the river and the three driveways all need careful consideration to what we do next and how we use these quite different spaces. Imaginations can run wild.

We have started work in the cave within the living room space.  This room is the first room on the bottom row of the above diagram.  We have so far had the walls ‘re-plastered’.  It was not actually plastered but Yeso’ed but you get my drift.  There was not much wrong with the old walls but they did not have a great finish to them and as Yeso is only a couple of euros a bag we thought ‘why not have the room as we would like it’.

The old large wood burner that sits majestically within the fireplace works brilliantly and throws out so much heat but it is showing its age and the door mechansism is faulty.  So, in a couple of weeks we will have a lovely new estufa (fire) and the old estufa will be placed in one of our secret gardens to be used as a barbecue (your idea Chris so get your thinking cap on please).

As I write this update I am working on ideas for the lighting in the lounge. I am leaning towards replacing the old wall lights with roof tiles.  Roof tiles that have been doctored. By doctored I mean drilled by yours truly.  Here are a couple of ideas I would like to use.

I may get more adventurous as the time goes by but at present I am happy with drill holes that appear haphazardly to allow some light to get through. I have seen tiles with such intricate patterns in them but it may take some planning and a few trials before I can begin to get to that standard. But, if you know me, you know that I will keep trying and one day……

The ceiling light is a challenge for me.  You may recall me saying that I do not like such lights and rarely use them.  I think I am going to have to leave it be for a while and see how the lighting works during the winter and spring and which type of lighting I do actually use in this room.  I have seen a lovely candle holder made of iron used as a ceiling light in our lovely neighbour’s cave which took my eye.  Steve and Sandra, watch out, it may just go missing, you have been warned.

The tv is now fixed on the wall and the leads and plugs just need to be hidden behind tiles and rock.  The only other idea we had for the lounge area was a charging station which Chris will be finishing off as soon as he returns to Spain.  I wanted one place where we could recharge our electronic gadgets, iPhones, iPads, computers, kindles, apple watches etc etc etc. All the leads and plugs would be in one place and not spread around so you have to hunt for a lead or try to remember where you left you iPhone on charge.  We have the ideal spot in the lounge.  An area that you cannot do much else with.

The last job to do in this room will be to paint the fresh Yeso in brilliant white.  We will then have one room in which we can sit back and be proud of.  Onto the next room which will be ……. I am truly not sure yet as I have so many ideas I have no idea where to start next!

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Some wise person (and not me!) said, ‘The way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away’.  I have made a start and have so many ideas I could fill a cave – our cave!