Last week saw our crew of piratas hit a weir we could not cross, and our journey came to its end. Time on our visas was ticking away, our crew numbers were fewer, and physical and mental exhaustion began to take its toll – so we could feel that the end was near. In fact the end was weir..
Since Helena’s last update when she left us in Gelsa, we rowed on to La Zaida. This was a huge day, we traveled over 10km and crossed three weirs. For the first time, darkness fell while we were still on the river just as we were docking up.
The next pueblo (village) we hit was Cinco Olivas. We paddled to a spot just before the village, here a large weir beside an old water mill stopped us. We decided to sleep on it, move the rafts over the weir the next day and walk to the other side of town to set up camp.
Cinco Olivas is very small, there are only 2 businesses present, plus a van that visits some mornings to sell fresh bread. The old bar is now home to a doctors office and the local piscina (swimming pool), like other towns we’ve been to, is the place to be.
Here we found a freedom campers oasis, an embarcadero with running water, several picnic tables, and nice smooth cement. Some pirates had had enough camping on spikey ground and took the oppotunity to pitch their tents on the cement to enjoy a flat surface to sleep on, even if it’s a bit hard and cold! Cinco Olivas has an out of date information board that informs us that its population is 115 people, though the locals tell us these days the population is more like 70 or 80.
Camp was set up and our performance crew were straight on the road to nearby town, Alborge, where they performed a fire spectacular at the town’s fiesta – right before the fireworks.
We settled in to be in Cinco Olivas for a few days as we had a couple of performances to do – one in Alborge on our first night, and another at the local pool in Cinco Olivas a couple of nights later.
Well rested, we returned to where our rafts are tied up to shift them over the weir by the old water mill. We lowered the rafts down the only navigable spot on the weir; a fast flowing old sluice gate complete with three small waterfalls! Rolf took great enjoyment in getting to ride down the weir in one of the rafts.
On August 13th we performed our show at the Cinco Olivas swimming pool. We didn’t know that a weir would soon stand in our way and that this would in fact be our last show of the trip. It was a great show to go out on. In a town with a population of 70 or 80 people, a crowd of almost 60 people at out show was an impressive feat. The town seemed like a ghost town when we first arrived and when we left it had become a thriving town full of life – the locals had caught pirate fever. As we had seen in the other towns before Cinco Olivas, todos personas = muy amable. All the people were so very kind and we were showered with donations of food and money from the people of Alborge and Cinco. We never asked for this, expected or needed it; but we sure were grateful. Included in the donations were the biggest onions I have seen in my life. Our show in Cinco fell on my (Feather’s) birthday and the locals showered me in gifts of traditional food and drink. The plate of pigs intestines (surprisingly yummy!) and shots of traditional Basque cider brought tears to my eyes as much as the overwhelming kindness of the rest of the Junk Raft crew and the village people did. Little kids were crying too, screaming that they didn’t want to go home and that they wanted to come with the pirates.
There’s no main highway there, no people passing through and it isn’t a holiday destination for tourists. For many of the people in these towns they’ve never seen anything like this motley crew of pirates or the show we put on. It means a lot to be able to expose the kids to alternative lifestyles and new forms of entertainment; and it means so much more to be so warmly welcomed in to such tight knit communities.
We moved on from Cinco Olivas and over the course of a couple of days we rowed to Sastago, crossing our most extreme weir yet. To do this involved clearing a path at a section of the weir using just our pocket knives, a series of ropes, carabiners, anchors and strength! It was slightly hair raising at times but seriously fun and a memorable moment in our journey!
When we arrived in Sastago we were faced with yet another a weir, however this one was over 1km long with no point at which we could cross. And so our pirate journey came to an end. In the words of Capitana Mondo “Looks like wier 9 won the battle and is nigh impossible to pass. After navigating the Ebro for one month it appears our junk raft river travels are over….for now.
We have had a blast, met some amazing people, performed, loved, cried, fought, laughed, hugged, swam, banged, bruised, sang, danced, rode rapids, paddled, paddled, paddled, ate and hopefully changed some mindsets long the way.
Thank you so much for all your support and love. We will keep you posted on project strike and future endeavours under the Junk Raft Network. “
La Vida Pirata es La Vida Mejor.
It’s been an honour to be part of this crew, thanks for having me on board!