Tales of an adventurer: John Brough, owner of travel company Authentic Adventures.
Up mountains, across oceans, deep in rural Andalucia….stories of rescue and escape!
This year we are celebrating fifteen years of specialist holidays! Over the course of working together, John often tells us stories of his travels, and we thought you might like to hear them too! We hope you find them entertaining...
Subbetica, Southern Spain... We were there on one of our first ever walking trips back in 1997, walking in a really rural part of Subbetica. Clive Jarman and I were in our element, and came across an extremely rural dwelling, no running water, no electricity, just a goat herder and his goats. Back then, my Spanish was good and we got talking. Turned out he had studied at University in England, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Bristol. He had been born into an aristocratic family from Northern Spain and had left his old life behind to live simply on the land. His English was very good, and myself and the group stood in awe as this muddy figure in an old, torn tweed suit stood before us chatting in near perfect English. He mused for a moment and explained, “I lived at No.133 Redland Park Road, Bristol in 1964…” and before he could go on, one of our guests piped up, “Well I own that property!” Wow, what an amazing co-incidence. We chatted for a while longer, and he told us about an early love affair with a young lady who he had dreamed of for years since. He gave us her details, her name, age and where she used to live, and on our return I posted an advert in the Bristol Advertiser to try and find her. Low and behold, she replied and told us she now lived in the Isle of Wight. The pair were re-united there, and still remain friends!
Southern Spain 2000... The year we rescued two goats. The first goat, lets call him Billy, had got stuck trying to jump through a fork in a tree. His fat belly was somehow wedged, and he couldn’t seem to pick up the gravity to push himself forward or back. Lucky for him, we Adventurers happened to be walking along on our journey from Subbetica to Lucena, and I had a bivvy bag with me (part of my outward bound teaching equipment). It doubled up as a stretcher, and with the full backing and pleads of the group, we set off over the hills to the nearest village. We came across the second goat in Lucena who was dying of thirst, lain on the dirt track. He was rescued too. Later the farmer told us that all our efforts would probably be in vain……but that was the year we rescued two lucky goats.
Chris Stewart. Author, raconteur, bon vivant, Alpujarras dweller. He has guided for Authentic Adventures in the past, and was a very popular guy. If you’ve read his ‘Driving over Lemons’ books, you’ll know he’s got a great sense of humour. He is famed for his local knowledge of flowers, butterflies etc. and has stacks of books and encyclopedias piled high in his home. Guests are often caught out when exploring his bookshelves to find the “Penguin book of Erotic Verse”. It has been known to be a popular dinner party piece for each guest to recite a verse from it’s pages! No better ice-breaker.
Singing in Zuheros... We took a singing group here, and along with a Spanish choir, ended up performing for in old peoples home in this tiny village of only 650 people. There were a lot of tears from both performers and guests, such was the emotion of all involved. So memorable.
In 2002, I invited my accountant Chris, out on a trip to Spain. Man walks into a bar, woman serves man, and woman and man move to Wells, Somerset! He fell in love with Carmen, the local waitress and I enjoyed attending a wonderful wedding ceremony and feast in Spanish tradition two years later!
Howling at the Wolves! One of our most memorable trips in the Abruzzo National Park, in the central mountainous region of Italy. Brown bear, lynx, chamois and eagle are just a few of the exciting animals to be found here. Our guide, Stefano Spinetti will take you into the mountains, where you literally sing to the wolves, in the darkness with only the light from the stars, and the wolves howl back to you! We’re thinking of bringing this holiday back – what do you think?
My friend Raoul Gamiz and I go way back. I first met him on a trip to Spain in 1998. His dream was to become an air traffic controller…but it seemed an impossible dream, with a great deal of training and a requirement of fluent English. So I decided to offer him a job in my company in England, and he came and worked for me for a year of so. He lived in a flat in Tetbury, and inevitably learnt English very well. We sent him out to Mallorca as an assistant on a painting trip with Roger Jones, and he ended up living there and getting a job as an air traffic controller many years later! I like to think I had a hand in helping Raol realise his life-long dream.
When we first travelled to Andalucia in the 90’s the Spanish had a strange idea that the tourists wanted Americanised food and all we could find was burger and chips, chips and more chips! We had a hand in revising the menus in the hotels we stayed at, re-introducing the chefs to traditional Spanish recipes. It sounds strange, but using fresh produce from the local area was, at that time, unheard of!
Romania 2012: 40 degrees. I’d been walking for four to five hours and had already drunk two litres of water. I reached an abandoned village, deep in rural Transylvania. Knocking on a seemingly empty house, a Hungarian man appeared…neither speaking the same language as the other, we eventually communicated in bad Spanish. Turned out he had worked there, having left when the Soviets occupied Hungary during the War. He disappeared and returned with a large bottle of home-made lemonade. It was fizzy, and deeply thirst quenching, and like elderflower champagne, it had elderflower heads in it. I don’t know what he had put in it……..but it was the best drink I have ever had!
Zuheros: 2000. We were in a hire car on a research trip to Zuheros. The sun was going down, and we were on a dirt track, not entirely sure where we were going. Having already driven over a large drop in the road, we hit the cliffs. We tried turning the car around and in the process got it stuck. We had to abandon it, at this stage the sky was black with only the moon lighting up the road. We walked for miles to Zuheros, and as we approached, heard the eery sound of barking dogs: not very inviting. We holed up in a bar, asking locals if they could help us. Finally we were rescued by a man called ‘Angel’ who took us back to the car in his Land Rover and pulled us out. We still see Angel most years, and he’s a great friend, and guardian angel.
Italy: 2001. As usual, I find myself in the middle of nowhere (just how I like it) and hot and tired. I’m in rural Tuscany, and there’s not much around when I come across a well….there must be water in the bottom, although it’s not immediately obvious, only from a huge fig tree who’s roots reach deep into the ground. Looking up into its branches I discover enormous dark black figs idly hanging, as if waiting for me. Biting into them through soft purple skin, releases a delicious honey taste and smell: unforgettable.
Subbetica... We are on a painting trip in Southern Spain, sheltering from the sun, sitting against a hot brick wall in the ruins of old farm buildings. Looking around, one of our guests spots a trellis with vines growing up it, and from it grapes that had been sun ripened into raisins. Manna from heaven! We sit and gorge, laughing and telling stories.