Expedition III: report from the frontier

How can you make a trip to a normal, developed country more exciting? By taking an old car, load it up with two babies plus mamita, and drive for three days to get there. All in all I can say that part went very well. However…

Une promenade sur l’autoroute

After a few days of exploring, we had a not entirely unexpected breakdown. After all, it is an old Citroen BX. Unfortunately, the head gasket blew and with that the prospects for the car are grim. Only a change of engine block can get the car back on the road again.

Nevertheless little accidents like that seem to happen for a reason. It is inevitable that we have to stay longer, and it happens to be that the we were contacted by one of the homeowners from an abandoned village. He has contacted four other owners who are all willing to sell. In summertime, many Spaniards who have migrated to other parts of Europe return for the holidays to meet family and friends. And we should strike iron when it is hot!


The villages remain as abandoned as ever. The village in question (for insiders, the one with the swines) the weeds have gotten so high I was glad to have brought a machete this time. Another favorite on our list got slightly toasted by forest fires. All the pine plantations around it burned to the ground.

Forest fires have been pretty bad this year, but it should be noted I have only seen it happen in mono-culture pine plantations. Mixed, real forest does not burn as easily.

The valley around our most promising village is mixed with ancient chestnut plantations. With five owners willing to sell, I had good hopes that at least some of them will offer their property for a reasonable price.

One thing I learned, is that people here do not decide quickly. Even to rent a place they might wanna go for a drink + tapas twice before making a decision. On the other hand, when a decision is made, the proposal is usually fair.

In the same way, I like to tell a little bit more about all the cool things that happened here before giving you the best news. Don’t worry about any pink glasses I might have. I am well aware of the ‘honeymoon period’ when experiencing a different country and am certainly not blind to the negatives. Crazy bureaucracy and folks who are afraid of covid and breaking any little rule, for example.

However those same folks overload us with vegetables, homemade wine, and are always willing to help. People we barely know buy gifts for our boy’s second birthday. The neighbours love to babysit and even ask us if they can! Having young children in a region where a quarter of the population is over 65, and locally much higher, means there is an abundance of grandmothers. No wonder that the nearest bigger town of Monforte has so many stores selling baby clothes!

Baptizing Catalina

From a cursory glance or online search it would appear that there are no jobs in this part of Spain. It’s true there are no jobs, but there is certainly paid work. Plenty of buildings and land need to be maintained, but most is done informally. A handyman or farmhand can earn anything from 12 to 20 euro an hour. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but when you can have dinner for two with drinks for only 25 euros, or a haircut for 8, a euro stretches a lot more than in most of Europe.

Back to the village, I’m in contact with owners and groups of heirs who own basically the whole of Swine village. Eight out of ten houses and many hectares of land. All are willing to sell. The owner of the Swine house furthermore owns a smaller house, some chestnut drying houses and approximately 4 hectares of land. He wants to sell all, so I gave him what I consider a fair price and he accepted. Now I will present it to the group, let’s see if we can move this thing forward!

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