Nobody Expects The Chinese Inquisition!

Recently we met a descendant of the last Chinese emperor. He was camping. How strange it was to meet this ridiculously high born man in such a lowly place. It was an exceptional encounter which we thought would bear retelling, in view of this weeks announcement by the British Government to remove all Huawie products and services from all telecom businesses operating in the UK.

Our new best friend.

We were visiting Morocco, motorcycle touring with no plan, and had come to the lagoon town of Moulay Bousselham. On our first afternoon in the stunning campsite a fellow English man turned up in a tatty pickup truck, and we fell into comfortable conversation. In no time at all we had agreed to share an evening meal and the three of us took a sunset stroll to the little market to see what we could find to eat.

Moulay Bousselham market

Well provisioned, we headed back to the campsite to prepare a feast. Now this guy had it all, a tent on top of his pickup truck, and in the bed of the pickup, under the base of the tent, was stored all his ‘essentials’, accessed by dropping the tailgate. Where we had a simple trangia to cook on, a plate and a fork each and a couple of penknives for food prep, he had the works. Out came a home made, three part bar-b-q, plates and cutlery galore and cooking pans of all descriptions. What his vehicle lacked in style, it more than made up for in substance.

Three part, homemade BBQ

The three of us chatted as we ate a delicious and very simple meal. We agreed that what had caught our eye here on site, was another pick-up truck; pristine, bright, cherry red, with a tent on top, and sporting a blemish free, bright daffodil yellow, sea kayak. This was pure bling. It had Chinese number plates and everything looked brand new. Who on earth owned something like this? What were they doing here?

Camping in Moulay Bousselham, Morocco.

We went to bed that night full to bursting. The next morning our new friend was gone; we had said our goodbyes the night before, as he had planned a dawn getaway. The super-duper pick-up truck was still on site. We admired it before heading out to explore the lagoon. When we wandered back, there was the cherry red pickup truck, parked outside the campsite cafe. We decided it was time to have a drink and strike up yet another conversation. We stepped out of the sunshine and into the cool, dull gloom of the cafe.

This way to the interrogation centre

Sitting at a table, facing the door, was a robust Chinese man. As we entered, I said, in my very best, ‘help the foreigner understand’ simple English, “Hello. You have kayak?” Point at the boat on the pickup truck. “We have kayak. We kayak sea,” Point at myself then, wavy hand gesture. “You kayak sea?” We waited, as, saying nothing, he fixed us with a condescending stare. Then on I blundered, “Where you from? We from England.” He pointedly looked us up and down. I began to feel a bit of a Wally as I stood at his table with his contempt washing over me .

He drew a languorous breath, swished a regal hand and asked, “Would you care to join me? You’d be most welcome. Please, sit down.”

His English was flawless, well pronounced and more complex than my first few sentences to him. And so began a long conversation, or interrogation, lasting several hours.

We had stumbled into a trap which has left us pondering the Chinese State ever since. He told us his name; we forgot it, he said that he is a non teaching professor who is married to a professor, who teaches in a German university; we cannot remember which university and finally, he is a direct descendent of the last Chinese emperor; that much we remember about him. He was a drifter, who could come and go from China as he wished, sponsored by the Chinese government. It soon became clear that, what at first seemed to be a flattering degree of interest in us and our lives, was really a quest to garner the zeitgeist of us and the non-Chinese peoples and how we perceived China, it’s people and it’s politics.

It was interesting to hear how the Chinese people had to be governed by a totalitarian state, as they were happy with this and would find it impossible to cope with a full range of choices, should they ever be afforded the chance. The State oversaw all businesses, so no business was fully private. As all business exists for the good of the nation, it is only to be expected that the nation is involved in all businesses. He had difficulty understanding why we found that preposterous. He felt all peoples would be happier if controlled by a paternalistic state. Of course he was looking for a visceral, honest response, rather than a polite, British understatement. The conversation was wide ranging and frank. He was phenomenally well read and intelligent, able to call up any and all facts, figures, international historical details and dates as well as financial and political information, as needed to illustrate his arguments. Academically, he left us standing, and we have our foot on at least one rung of the clever ladder.

The Emperor’s descendant’s rig.

So we now knew who owned the red pickup truck and what he was doing here. The emperor’s descendent was wandering the world to find out how the people of other nations, any other nations, would respond to being ruled by a Chinese Government. How hard might it be to subjugate an entire nation? Would it be worth the trouble? Would we, the non Chinese, submit to totalitarianism and, if not, would we at least be happy to keep buying their goods?

We enjoyed the conversation that evening. It is not that often that we have to work hard to answer deep and searching questions whilst parrying with our inquisitor. He was leaving early the next day and he asked that we meet him before he left as he wanted to exchange details. He hoped that we might get together again in the future. He offered to drive with us across Europe and into China. Sadly, by the time we crawled out of our tent, he was gone.

We were relieved. I think we got off lightly.

Weird as it may seem, this is a true tale. If you’ve an unusual encounters tale to tell, please share it with us; we love hearing from you. Simply use any of the options below. The Wallys xx

Denia home from home

The following video explains some of the reasons we love our Spanish winter home in Denia.

You may have read some of our postings about the town and the video illustrates the essence of it’s charm.

The Mediterranean coast of Spain is a perfect place to spend time and I hope this video will encourage you to explore it. Spain isn’t only about beer and sunburn, travel a few miles away from the coast and discover much, much more.

Thanks for watching, if you enjoyed our efforts please comment, share or subscribe xxx

Surfing the Wave

Waves come in sets and if you catch a good one, you can ride it all the way to heaven.


This medieval image from Carcassonne sums up our feelings as we were waved through Spain and then France. They wanted all foreigners gone.

Today we travelled up through Spain to Ampolla. It was clear that our plans of a slow journey, taking in some of the country’s best wildlife areas, was in jeopardy because of the CoronaVirus. 

All packed up and ready to roll.


Our first morning, and we knew we would have to make a decision whether to dash for home, or hang on and hope for the best. The Spanish President was to make a speech at 4pm and the rumour was that the country would be going into lockdown. He had issued a warning the day before. A great idea as it caused the mass exodus of people who rushed off to their second homes, or out shopping for all the things they might need for month of house arrest, or both. I cannot imagine what they were stocking up on, as shelves had been empty for days. Not a single loo roll could be found throughout the land. Sadly that was not the case for the virus which had undoubtably been spread further by the 24 hour forewarning.

The loos at our Ampolla campsite. Can you see any shop? NO? Hand sanitiser? NO? Not very encouraging in a pandemic?

We decided that we would spend the day riding our mountain bikes around the salt marshes and paddy fields of the area, taking in the wildlife and the stunning scenery. Why not? Then we would see what the great man had to say.

Sand cycling. Great fun!


This morning the campsite asked everyone to leave. They had to close down as they were not a ‘long term’ site. Spain is now in Lockdown.

So, what to do?

Italy locked down seven days ago and France was also teetering. France would lockdown within the week, with the UK within two weeks. That was our guess. We needed to get a squirt on.

We decided to head up through France and switch our ferry from Bilbao, Spain, to Caen, France. We had no guarantee that our Spanish ferry would be sailing in a weeks time. We did not want to get there and find we were stranded, with no ferry and the borders to France shut. As wonderful as the north Spanish coast is, we didn’t want to be wild camping, in winter there. Barri does not enjoy the cold.

Roughly translated, this sign says, ‘restrict movement, stay home’.

Then we started to hear reports from our friends and the BBC that France was closing their borders at some point between midnight and 8am. I do not want to be too pedantic here, but schengen has meant the removal of all border paraphernalia throughout inland Europe. France has no ‘borders’ to close, apart from it’s coastal ports, but it can put up road blocks, and the police have guns. I wont argue. 

The ever shifting news was that all hospitality in Spain was closed. France was enforcing the lockdown the following day, although both countries had made their pronouncements on the 17th of March. We had a tiny window of opportunity to get over the border, after which there were no guarantees. Ampolla’s local Spar had everything we might need to eat for four or five days. There was no hint of a panic buying here. It was surreal; no shortages, no empty shelves, no queues.

Everything normal here, Ampolla Spar

We set off on a steady drive along the stunning Mediterranean Sea. We had to shun Barcelona and it’s environs as it was a CoronaVirus hotspot. Garages had no loos open and we did not want to handle pumps without good hand washing facilities. Yes, we do carry sanitiser, always, but there is no substitute for good hand washing. We were reminded, trapped as we were, between the sea on one side and a wall of death on the other, of a journey we made up through California. Somehow we managed to get trapped in a forest fire and had to outrun it. As it thundered north west, the fire finally caught us, forcing us along the 101 coast road. We had the fire behind us and alongside us, with the sea as a potential escape route. At least with the fire, we could see, feel and taste how close it was. Worryingly, none of that applies to this invisible killer.

California forest fire, we only just managed to outrun it, it took us 8 hours!


It was just after midnight when we crossed the Spanish French border. We had ridden the Spanish wave and come skimming down it’s gorgeous green face plummeting into France, jubilant that we had not dropped off once.

The French customs officials massed at the motorway services. We counted at least 50 of them. We guessed they were being deployed to the borders.

We headed to the first town over the border, Le Boulou, with campervan parking, an aire, and found it completely packed. Road after road of vans of all descriptions, parked in every possible location. Hundreds of them had washed up here on the crest of that wave. It was one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen. We found a small space with a scrubby woodland just outside the door, need I go into detail?

Nice, simple brekky to set us up for the day.

In the morning we headed off. The little town was awash with motorhomes travelling in every direction and seemingly, coming and going up and down every street. It was probably the world’s most valuable ever gridlock. 

We managed to get away and drove north towards Bordeaux, hoping our chosen campsite would take us in. The news, as it came in was dire. France was locking down, we were on that wave again and running coast to coast, rolling up and down the hilly landscape and carving around sweeping rivers. What a delight this route is.

Carcassone came and went and our destination was soon hoving into view. And there it was, our campsite. We booked in and found a perfect lakeside pitch.


We have transferred our ferry ticket and will be leaving from Caen tomorrow morning, unless they can fit us in tonight. Off we went, determined to get to the port before tonight’s sailing, just in case they can squeeze us onto the boat and take us to the UK. France is locking down tightly. In the services vending machine drinks and loos are available for the weary traveller. 

At last the sea appeared in front of us, along with migrants, dashing along the roads looking for a lift to a new life. All of them, young, fit men, some little more than boys, living their groundhog days in this unforgiving climate. There was no boat out of town for us, so we headed for the aire a short walk from the ferry terminal and it’s loos and hot water.

Caen aire.

This evening as we sat in our van twiddling our thumbs, the van shook noticeably. And again. And again. We investigated and found a lovely young guy, thin, kindly and gentle, hiding behind our trailer. I asked him to leave. No. I told him to leave. No. He kept pointing at something and trying to walk between our van and our neighbours. Our side door was open and he could have popped in and locked the door behind him. I held him back, telling him that he must leave by the other route, but no, he would not do that. Wally caught a glimpse of something dark, on the tarmac, under the neighbours van. It was the lads winter jacket. We helped him put it on and wished him good luck as he left. I felt so sorry for him and his predicament.


We are on the ferry bright and early. Happy day. We have made it.

All Aboard! The majority of vehicles aboard the ferry were motorhomes, which we have never experienced before.

On the ferry, our neighbour from the night before stopped me for a chat. He was a rather curmudgeonly chap, but pleasant enough, so I stayed on my feet as he talked away. He had a shock this morning because his motorhome had been checked by the immigration team at the ferry port and they had found the lad from the night before hiding in his spare wheel hanger, under the chassis. The sweet kid had almost made it. 

The view from the ferry.


Today the UK went into lockdown. We had ridden that wave all the way home and it is heaven.

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Nobody Expects the Spanish Inoculation!

Friday 13.3.20

Today we head back towards the UK in the midst of a Coronavirus storm. Back to the mythical land of rainstorms and tea. From royalty down to the average citizen, a land of disunity. But fear not, the pandemic has brought us something to unite against. Expect the good old British wartime spirit to emerge, minus the mortal combat, of course.

As we drifted northwards I was staring out Barri’s passenger window, aimlessly counting magpies.

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl and
Four for a boy,
Five for silver and
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss and
Ten for a bird you must not miss.

Ah, ten, surely a good omen, I mused, the bird of good fortune. With Covid 19 closing in with zombie like persistence we might need some folkloric protection. Having seen ten magpies, and avoiding the sorrowful number one position this leaves me trying to evade further encounters. Luckily no more magpies. Phew! Coincidently it’s Friday the thirteenth, it’s a good job I’m not superstitious.

Who knew that the whole of Europe and us, the UK, it’s stiff, upright, tiny neighbour, would begin to close down all fun? Our drive back has to take into account that whole areas of Spain are closed to itinerants passing through: actually it is two areas of the country and four villages relatively close to our Friday 13th campsite. Both of the locked down areas are on our route to the north. Like the entire human race, we have spent our lives navigating a path through this life; so, how hard can it be to do it now?

I glance out of Barri’s window and catch a glimpse of an ancient fort, high atop a rocky hill. Over the centuries, terrified communities have retreated up into these bastions until all danger has either passed, or been fought off, or they all die. Which ever comes first.

With Coronavirus closing in from every quarter, we are in the same situation. No castle to huddle in, to share our meagre resources, or our weapons. We have our homes, some have freezers and our weapons are soap and water. Vats of boiling oil wont cut it this time, but strategic thinking always comes in handy, I am reliably informed by Radio 4 and it’s never ending stream of experts. Well, we all need to be experts now. It really is do or die.

At our first overnight stop on the way north, we are greeted by a young man in reception, who wears a hygiene glove and tells us that we can stay for tonight. We had pre-booked for two, with an option for a third. He has no idea if we can stay more than one night, or if we will need to stay for two weeks. The Spanish president had just made a speech on national TV saying that he will announce his intended measures tomorrow. He is considering locking down the whole country for two weeks meaning that we may have to stay here, in Ampolla, on a decent campsite, whether we like it or not. We like it. It has FLAMINGOS!

On the flip side? The campsite might be closed down for the two weeks and then …… what?

It is Friday the thirteenth

It is Friday the thirteenth
I have now seen eleven Magpies – Sorrow!
And a whole host of Castles on hilltops

We are in a little red van.
We have no freezer
We need our oil for food – not for warding off the enemy.

How hard can this be?

The original version, as published 1846:

One for sorrow
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the Devil, his own self.

Yep, it could be pretty hard.

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Kayak Round Trip From Las Rotas to Xabia, Costa Blanca, Spain.

At the end of these jottings there is a 4 minute video of this trip. It might be a perfect antidote to a grey winters day. Please watch it and enjoy this journey with us.

Here was one of those days. You know the sort of thing; mid twenties Celsius, still, blue, breathless.

The air stroked us warmly as we moved through it, easing our minds and muscles. What winter bliss; so rare. In such balmy conditions, us Northern Europeans actually let our goose bumps relax and smoothen, and dare to hope for the perfect, even, tan.

Our launch site, rocky and warm.

For us Wallys, this was a day to get away from all that beach side flesh. At least two people had taken up positions on their deck chairs, heads back, mouths lolling open, feet in the cooling water. That was our queue to go.

Meanwhile, back at our base, our poor kayaks had the look of abandoned dogs, lounging about the place, positioned so we were made to feel guilty every time we left our pitch. No matter how many times we told them that they would not enjoy cycling to the shops, or walking up to the Gerro Tower, they still hounded us with those doggy looks. Today was to be their day. Lucky boats and lucky us.

Xabiaa/Javea, our destination .

We had decided to head into the neighbouring town of Xavia, or Javea, pronounced Have-ee-a, a town in two parts. One area is set up hill from the sea and the other is a coastal strand of eateries, bars and apartments set along a Palm dotted, sweeping cove. Our plan was to get there; we would be happy with that, eat our snack, grab a cafe cuppa and come back. This would be a three hour, sweaty slog, on foot. Today it would be a gentle two hour glide, sitting down all the way.

As ever, once on the water, we spent the day scanning for wildlife. One of us sported shiny new binoculars. The old ones having fogged in one eyepiece, on the stroke of midnight, on new years eve. The moment was reminiscent of the tales of grandfather’s clock. You know, the one that stops ticking the moment it’s master dies. Never to tock again. We are pleased to say, that so far, both of us still have pulses, although none of us knows what little bomb is ticking away inside us, waiting to make the mist roll down. On that cheery note, we paddled on.

Tallada Caves, the biggest and best known in the area, but one of many caves along our route today.

The sea was oily smooth as we paddled. The shattered coast was strewn with gigantic boulders, and pockmarked with small coves and deep caves. Everywhere we looked, reefs lurked just on and under the surface. Very few places offered an easy landing. This is definitely no place to be shipwrecked.

After two hours and twenty minutes of bimbling about, cave mooching, bird watching, and very slow, lazy paddling, we arrived in Xavia. An hour later, we left, having eaten our sarnies and enjoyed cold drinks in the nearest bar.

Homeward bound. A part of Las Rotas from the sea.

You may wonder what we got up to on the return journey, you know, to liven it up and ring the changes. And our answer is, absolutely nothing. It was a hot day and what we did heading home, was exactly the same as we did coming out. It took us the same length of time to get back, which was a surprise, as we did not try for this result. For us the day was perfection. Why gild the lilly?

NB. In weather and sea conditions similar to the video, this is a very easy trip, which is perfectly suitable for beginners. Like any new activity, it can feel exposed and intimidating at times. If you fancy doing a trip of this kind, it is wise to go with at least two friends, one of whom should be an experienced kayaker. If planning a solo, or two person trip; those concerned need to be proficient paddlers. As a minimum, should you fall into the water, you should be able to hang onto your paddle, return your boats/sit-ons, to upright them and get yourselves going again. Apart from that little warning, jump on or into your craft and go. You will not be disappointed.

If you have enjoyed our day trip and have something you would like to say to us, please leave a comment in the ‘Reply’ box below. We enjoy hearing from our readers and always respond to communications from you. All the best The Wallys.