Chasing sheep, wild swimming and going all funny for a moment

The view from “The Circle Garden” at Duruxa (Asturias, Spain)

For four months of traveling, my immune system had been perfectly behaved (despite many sudden changes in diet, temperature, altitude and physical activity), but with a week left to go at Duruxa, it finally broke down for a few days. Actually, as I was uploading my last blog post, my stomach was churning like crazy.

We were at the internet cafe in town (Cangas de Onis) while we were waiting for the arrival of some guests – two girls from California, called Lizzie and Lauren –  fairly recent friends of Jillie and Dane. My stomach and I were pleased when the time came to go and collect them from the bus station and we all headed home to a hungry Patchu and excited Sella (since the last blog post, I found out I was spelling the dog’s name wrong. It is pronounced like ‘Saya’, but as she is named after a Spanish river it is spelt ‘Sella’. Kind of like Paella.) As much as I wanted to be sociable with our new guests, I immediately crashed out in bed when we got back to Duruxa, slept through dinner and right through to the morning… only waking now and again because of stomach cramps and torchlit trips to the compost toilet.

It was a twenty-four hour bug. I writhed around in bed most of the morning, managed a little bread for lunch, headed back to bed for siesta and then managed to get up and do some cherry de-stoning in the afternoon. It turned out that Jillie had also started feeling funny and skipped dinner the night before, so we kept each other company in our weak states the next day.

Unfortunately, it was before I had eaten a little lunch and was at my weakest that Matthew shouted from the top of a cherry tree to say that the mother sheep had gotten tangled in her rope. I mentioned about the helping-the-lamb-to-get-milk-from-his-crazy-mother process in the last blog. We also bring the mother and lamb in to the barn at night, partly for going through the feeding process and partly to protect the little lamb from foxes, eagles and whatever else. During the day, we don’t leave mother and baby loose in the field with the rest of the sheep because it would take forever to catch the mother each evening (as I discovered that day), and also to help keep the lamb close to her thus giving him more chance of getting a drop of milk. So each day we tie the mother sheep to a tree, or a post – on a long rope so she can wander around – in the shade if it’s hot, and with a bucket of water in reach.

So, on this day in particular, Matthew hadn’t tied her in a great place. The tree the rope was attached to was on a slope and she’d managed to get herself tangled in the rope as well as the rope tangled around the tree. Matthew noticed this from the top of a big cherry tree, which takes quite a while to get down from… Dane was somewhere far away, probably up another tree… and Jillie was resting in the oreo, being in the midst of The Stomach Bug… so I went to sort it out. I approached the sheep, trying to calm her as I got closer, by talking in that silly sing-song voice we reserve for babies and animals. Any words can be said, as long as you use the voice…

“Helloooo, what have you gone and done? It’s okaaay crazy lady, I’m not trying to steal your child, no I’m not…”

The closer I got, the more tangled I realised she was and I couldn’t work out how to untangle her without untying the rope. I’d held and led her before and although she’s freakishly strong, I’d managed it and thought I could do so again. However, I didn’t take into account the fact that I hadn’t eaten for twenty-four hours. So, pretty much immediately after untying the rope, mother sheep was free and running off to join her friends at the other side of the field, the lamb in frantic pursuit.

So, off I went running after them, swearing a whole lot under my breath. Wow, is it hard to run on an empty stomach! I’d run a few steps and then have to stop and catch my breath, feeling dizzy. Like much of the land at Duruxa, the sheeps’ field had various steep slopes. The sheep can run across sloping, uneven ground easy-peasy…. A weak, clumsy human? Not so much. The long grass hid the steepness of the slopes and I repeatedly followed the route the sheep were taking with ease in front of me, and ended up sliding – on various limbs – down grassy slopes. Whilst I was still in earshot, Matthew must have heard me fall and swear and shouted down to see if I was okay. I told him the sheep had escaped and that I was struggling to catch her and, unknown to me as I went out of earshot, he immediately started rushing down from the tree to help me.

At one point I actually got my hand on the end of the rope, only for my weak body to be dragged along by what I had by this point decided was the craziest, strongest sheep on the planet. I was soon on my bum, being dragged down a slope and feeling the rope burning my hand. When I could take the rope-burn no longer, I let go, defeated. The sheep ran away. I swore some more.

Oh yes, I should probably mention that as well as there being several female sheep in the field who were also running away from me… there was also one big ol’ ram, horns and all. Although James had told us within the first few days what to do if the ram looked as if he was going to try and ram us, I wasn’t sure that my weak, panting, rope-burned body would be all that intimidating to a ram protecting his ladies, even if my arms were raised. Mostly, the ram stayed away from me with the other sheep, but sometimes he would stop and look at me, sizing me up. At these points I would retreat pathetically.

I heard a shout from the farm, it was Jillie.

“Josie! Don’t worry about the sheep!”

I was exhausted but I hate giving up. I reluctantly started heading in the direction of the gate, where it also so happened the sheep had just headed. Just as I was about to give up, the sheep seemed to almost hand herself to me and I managed to get her tied to a new tree. Lizzie, Lauren, Dane, Jillie and Matt were all just on the other side of the gate. Had I really been swearing and panting that loudly? What was going on?

Matthew had fallen out of the cherry tree. In his rush to come to my aid, he had stepped on a rotten branch and fallen… right in to a huge patch of stinging nettles. Apparently he’d let out a yelp when he fell, which is why everyone had gathered around, but I must have been out of earshot at the other side of the field and hadn’t heard a thing. I felt terrible! But Matthew was okay, and apart from being stung all over his arms and legs, wasn’t injured.

I can only imagine what we must have all looked like to poor Lizzie and Lauren. They hadn’t even been at Duruxa for twenty-four hours at this point – I’d been in bed for most of that time, Jillie had also been bed-bound for a large percentage, I’d been chasing a sheep around the field and Matthew had fallen out of a tree! Talk about drama.


There was more drama on its way the next day when I had one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

After a cloudy and grey few days, the sun started to make a break-through on Friday morning. Ever since Matthew and I had arrived at Duruxa, Dane had been telling us about a little swimming hole on the edge of Duruxa’s land that we simply had to visit, and finally Friday seemed like the perfect day.

We headed down after lunch. Jillie stayed at the farm, still feeling pretty weak from the stomach bug, she didn’t fancy swimming. Since my bug had started a little before, I figured I was ready. I’d eaten dinner the night before and breakfast and lunch that day, my stomach felt normal, I thought I’d be fine.

So, me, Matthew, Lizzie and Lauren followed Dane on an adventure through the jungle-like woodland. We stopped every now and again for Dane to point out ancient stone ruins, wild blue berries, a circle of tree-stumps the Druxians had made with a fire pit in the middle, wild mushrooms – showing us which were okay to eat and which ones he thought were of the magical variety.

The swimming hole was beautiful! It wasn’t as hot outside as it was when we left, but we were all pretty warm from the walk down and the waterfall and river looked enticing. One by one, we got in.

It was, er, freezing. Not as cold as the melted-snow-river in the Sierra (or maybe it just didn’t seem as cold because it wasn’t as hot outside) and probably not even as cold as Cornish sea, but it was pretty cold. This didn’t matter to me though because I was ridiculously excited at just being in water! I hadn’t had the chance to swim since ECOlonie, and that was just a quick jump in the lake after the sweat-lodge. I was like a child, splashing Matt, diving underwater, swimming from one side of the basin to the other, going under the waterfall and screaming…

It was too cold to stay in for long though and one by one, we clambered out over the rocks and wrapped ourselves up in towels. As soon as I got out, I got a sudden and intense headache. I didn’t think much of it as I thought it was probably just from the shock of the cold, and anyway I’m pretty prone to getting headaches. I was sat shivering in my towel on the rocks when I noticed a quick thumping sound in my ears. It was my heart.

“Matt, my heart’s beating really fast.”

Matt frowned. I wrapped myself tighter in my towel.

I’m not sure of the order that things happened, but I suddenly felt really weak. I had to lie down. I flopped down with my head on my bag. I had to sit up. Maybe I should stand. I began to get up, legs shaking. No, I can’t stand.

“Are you okay?”

I was suddenly lying down again and Matthew was at my head. I sat up.

“Why do you keep yawning?”

I hadn’t noticed until Matt asked, but I was yawning uncontrollably. I was shaking and my head felt light and dizzy.

“I’m okay.”

I could see Dane’s lips moving so I knew he was saying something to me, but I suddenly realised I was struggling to hear what it was. His lips seemed to be moving too slowly to be forming words…

From everything being too slow and quiet, suddenly it was if someone flipped a switch and everything was too fast and loud. Everything went blurry and it seemed like things were vibrating. I tried to focus on things – a rock, a tree, Matt’s face…

I felt like I was tripping. I think I actually asked Matt if he’d slipped me something.

I think the blurry vision only lasted for a couple of minutes. Slowly things started to come back in to focus. I lay down again.

“You don’t have to wait for me guys…”

Matthew pointed out that I didn’t know the way back and I didn’t look all that capable of getting anywhere by myself.

Everyone was changed and ready to go and I kept trying to stand and failing miserably. I’m not sure how long it took me, it seemed like hours but it must have only been around ten minutes… eventually I managed to get myself up, and get a top on over my swimming stuff. Matthew took my bag and I hobbled over the rocks to where the others were waiting, across the river.

When I eventually stood, it was as if my body had forgotten how to work. Everything felt sore and stiff, particularly my legs and hips. Luckily, Dane led us back a much easier way and the first part was on a flat road. I felt indescribably tired, mentally and physically exhausted. I barely spoke, putting all my energy in to walking, keeping focused on the image of bed. During the last part of the walk, through Duruxa’s woodland, we came across an abundance of wild blue berries. We stopped, I sat down and rested my legs and Dane and Matthew collected handfuls of blueberries for me, hoping the superfood would cure me of my weird state.

Somehow, I made it back and headed straight to bed. I slept straight through to morning, around twelve hours. In the morning, I felt fine, apart from being pretty freaked out by what had happened. There were many jokes made about me somehow accidentally eating a mushroom on the way to the river. Matt thinks I was just still weaker than I realised from The Stomach Bug and the sudden coldness of the water was too much for me to handle. I have no idea what happened, like I said – it was one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced.


The last week at Duruxa was particularly eventful, and I still have quite a few more stories that I simply must form at least one more blog post around… so the rest will be up before the end of the week.
I can also upload photographs now! So I’ll be putting up some posts with a selection of photos from each place… once I have all my photographs together, as currently some are on a memory card at a particularly unhelpful hotel in Spain…


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