Day 20: Noja. Rest day.

Day 20: Noja. Rest day.

Photograph of a plastic flower in the reception area of the Hotel Pelayo, Noja, Spain.

We’re staying in the one star Hotel Pelayo where even the plastic flowers are dying (sellotape). The WiFi only works on Reception when sat in a chair which smells of dog. Other than that, it’s clean, friendly, helpful and near the fabulous beach.

Breakfast on a bench in the middle of town followed by coffee in a cafe where I managed to order three cups of coffee for the two of us. Spanish not really improving.

Photograph of Keith sitting on a bench with orange juice, yogurts and cakes next to him.


We mutually confessed that when cycling we have each had a particular song that comes into our heads. Mine is ‘Love is a Battlefield’ by Pat Benatar (mostly for the ‘we are strong’ affirmation as I pile up yet another hill). Keith’s is ‘On the Road Again’ by Whitesnake. These choices age us perfectly but are no reflection on our general musical taste. Keith also owned up to Queen’s ‘I Want to Ride my Bicycle’ but as long as that doesn’t get lodged in my head for our final ride tomorrow, I’ll forgive him.

We walked along the coast for a few km up to another fabulous beach. Today the weather was unusually stable and hot all day.

Photograph of Northern Spanish coastline with rocks and crystal clear blue sea.

Photograph of sea and distant rocky headlands at Cantabria, Spain.


This Cantabrian coast has been a revelation for its stunning scenery and crystal clear sea. It rivals anywhere in the Mediterranean, but don’t come here expecting anyone to speak English, because they don’t. This is a Spanish resort full of Spanish families.

Photograph of a crowded beach and blue sea beyond at Noja, Spain.

Photograph of rocky bay, sandy beach and blue sea at Noja, Spain.

Photograph of Keith and Sarah on the beach at Noja with the sea and coastline behind them.

The tide goes out to reveal lots of shallow pools full of fish which nibble your legs, crabs and safe water for kids.

Photograph of wide sandy beach, turquoise sea and green covered cliffs in the distance at Noja, Cantabria.


Following in from our Best Ice Cream in the World experience in Biarritz, we came across Michelin star frozen yogurt in Noja. Not sure entirely about the credentials of this, but it tasted alright.

Photograph of two tubs of frozen yogurt on some grass, Noja, Spain.

Mostly today we have been thinking we should spend Keith’s redundancy money on a camper, wondering how the hell we are going to cope with going home and not have double nap days on beaches. We have spent this money several times over.

We had yet another chicken picnic overlooking the beach with wine so bad it needed diluting with orange juice. The orange juice cost more than the wine.

Last day of cycling tomorrow which makes us both sad. The pace of life without a car, job or home is so slow, stress-free and frankly joyful. Not entirely sustainable perhaps, but if we accept that it’s not, then we have no hope of striving to live differently. The challenge is how to keep hold of pieces of these experiences when we return home to a world where people would rather write emails than have a double nap day. A life on the fringes of the norm is not a surprising, or unusual, concept for us autistics, who find the physical and social elements of typical existence both overwhelming and partly pointless.

This is happening

This is happening

It’s strange how big changes in life come about.

There you are dreaming, planning, wishing for years and years about how things might be different, but never really able to fully comprehend what it would feel like when they actually were different because it always felt so far away; like for most people, it was  always ‘one day’, always ‘not today’. A bit more off the mortgage, a bit more in the bank (we’ve only owned our own house together for a year). For us, it was always about the money; the perceived security, rarely about the quality. We were apart from weeks on end, often miserable.

Within the past 3 months, its all changed. I have a genetic kidney disease that I didn’t know I had and which might not allow me to be riding my bike and eating KFC until I’m 103 like I had planned, my youngest child turns 18 years of age, Keith has taken voluntary redundancy and is, as from this week, unemployed for the first time in 30 years.

It’s fair to say that Keith and I are quite different people (despite sharing an autism diagnosis). Keith is what you might call ‘risk averse’. ‘I’m an engineer’, he says, ‘ I have to look for the reasons that something might not work’. And he does, frequently. I, on the other hand, am a kind of low attention span Dill the Dog, always diving with 100% enthusiasm into some new, short-lived and often ill-conceived passion. Keith has mainly led a solitary life, doing the same job. I have had over 30 jobs, 2 kids, 2 marriages and a whole string of ‘life events’ (polite phrase for ‘poor choices’). We believe that somewhere in between the pair of us is a perfectly functioning human being.

So, we find ourselves in this new position. Overnight our income has halved, our time together has multiplied from sometimes zero hours a week to 24/7 and our sense of security has vanished.

And today we’re off on an 800 mile bike trip which we planned way before we knew that any of this was going to happen.

We have two choices here. Panic. Or just shut up and get on with it. We’ll start with the latter and reserve the right to shift to the former if we feel like it.