- January 2017
Distant Water, Winter
A Journey Along an Atlantic Coast.
The arrival of winter brings change to our surroundings. The long evenings of summer and slow fall into winter eventually delivers the first frost, everything begins to cool down.
The atlantic ocean too, it feels stronger, maybe even thicker, and of course colder; its a beautiful place to be. Being immersed in something as vast and remorseless as an ocean only makes the physicality of winter more real. I decided to follow the arrival of winter south, curious as to what I would find. The van is my home, and for the next few months im not sure where thats going to be, but with a couple of surfboards, my walking boots, a new wooly hat, along with a severe lack of plans and my cameras, this journey nowhere in-particular has me excited.
Travelling through unfamiliar surroundings is like always being at sea, natural cycles become a thread through which you face unexpected circumstances and chance encounters. Its like becoming a stranger, whilst also being completely at home wherever you are. The freedom of travel, and the lack of any destination lends itself to going slow and allows the journey to play out loosely.
Mornings in the van start at first light, drawing the curtains before figuring out what to do next. Maybe a walk, maybe a surf, maybe just a coffee. The colder mornings of early winter produce a light that makes a journey like this seem different. It changes from day to day and close to the sea its often slightly hazy and weighty. Its subtle and muted, perfect with or without a lens.
Meeting new waves is like meeting new people and being on the road opens you up to endless possibilities of both. The first time I got in the water on the trip was without my surfboard, and instead with my camera. I swam out to where a point was breaking and waited. A wave soon rolled in, and the two guys out let it go. It rolled past me completely uninterrupted. Everything felt familiar even though I was in distant water. The air was cold and fresh, the water was heavy and bit soupy, and a slight chill setting in beneath my wetsuit.
I had not known what to expect as I left the uk on this journey along the Atlantic. But I had been told of a place where you can see mountains from the sea. As I travelled west along the northern coast of Spain from the Basque country into the region of Asturias I was astounded by its ever changing state. When I saw the mountains I had been told of in the distance, I couldn’t resist, I had to head south to the peaks.
To be in the mountains so soon after being in the water felt surreal and new. “The clouds are beginning to darken”, a local man said as we stood watching, “black clouds above the sea means rain is coming quickly”, the clouds passing overhead on a strengthening wind. I watched clouds until the sun fell behind a black line of rock along a mountain ridge before I settled in the van.
I often enjoy it when it rains, especially at night. Gentle rain slowly turning into all night storms. Time spent confined to the van can be amongst the most rewarding, especially if im not moving. Instead of the views in-front of me changing as a travel, i can just look out of the window, read something, or just sit as rain patters on the roof and the storm plays out.
As winter persisted in the way of more frequent high winds and rain, the calm days in-between where like melancholic scenes from summer, bringing opportunities to find empty waves along incredibly sparse stretches of coastline in Galicia. At times the tarmac would stop and dirt roads would meander along remote stretches riddled with peaks here and there.
Evenings became longer as the sun set earlier each day. Camp fires soon found themselves in my evening routine, a comforting heat to help deal with dropping temperatures. It was when the fire began to die that I most enjoy it. As the flames burn out and the embers still smoulder the stars would begin to become clearer. After time it felt like I had my own stars at night, they rolled over me framed by a different horizon each time. Stars become familiar, and im sure i recognise patterns from nights spent looking up in the UK.