We headed over to Spain in mid December 2012 to finish off the cleaning and also to sign paperwork with our solicitor so he could go ahead with court proceedings against the electric company.
This trip included 4 gallons of white wine vinegar in the hold and a change of clothes. I remember there was snow on the mountains but the weather was bright and sunny (I was the only person in a t-shirt). We headed for Baza to do the paperwork with the hope that the electric company would back down on the €2300 bill they expected us to pay.
I spent a whole day throwing vinegar around, so much so in fact the place smelt like a Chippy which was still preferable to a cattery. It felt a little like things might be coming together, the floors were so clean you could eat your dinner off them (albeit that’s a weird thing to do, give me a plate any day) but the best part was that Clive had come along in leaps and bounds changing square angular things into more organic and cavelike curves and arches.
We were only over for a couple of days so we gave Clive a list of things that we would like doing and started thinking about organising the next trip which would be to move stuff in from the UK.
The decision was made that we would look towards March or April of 2013 (something to look forward to after the fast approaching Christmas).
We had been working at Tiverton Recycling Centre for about 7 years and had taken over the day to day running of Crediton Recycling Centre in Devon for about a year at this point so we were already piled high with furniture, crockery, pictures and all manner of other bits and bobs, all the furniture in we had seen Spain was very overpriced so we decided to collect our own…… the stuff that arrives at recycling centres would very often be far better than stuff I might buy myself (especially for a second home on a now very tight budget).
After leaving the town hall in Baza armed with a set of keys, a couple of tape measures and some paper we headed for a supermarket to buy a bottle of bubbly to crack open at the cave.
On arrival I noticed some lumps of wood and chicken mesh laying around the entrance, I put this down to the previous owners having gathered their animals together and presumably having to cage them in their van. Onward to the front door….. I fumbled around with the keys until I found the correct one and quickly opened the door to be greeted by a horrific smell of animals which I can only think would be similar to forcing your nose into a fully fouled cat litter tray (not that I’ve tried this). I was then reminded of the previous owner saying “we’ve had a bit of a tidy up because we have had the animals in the cave while we were waiting to collect them”…..
The lounge had been used for the ferrets, the rest of the cave had been used for cats, No Litter Trays or Newspaper in sight! If this was their idea of cleaning up I’d certainly certainly refuse a dinner invite. The whole place not only stunk of urine and faeces but was covered in it. It took two dustbin bags, a sea of industrial strength cleaning products (plus two solid days of scrubbing) to make it feel like you could even walk around safely. At some point I went outside for a break from scrubbing and sat down under the tree. It was at this point I noticed that the whole of the blue tiled area surrounding it was full of dry cat food and faeces, this required a shovel and another two dustbin bags. What was supposed to be a couple of days being excited and measuring things turned into a miserable cleaning chore.
While being overly involved with cleaning I had almost forgotten about the fact the electric wasn’t working, It turned out that the previous owners hadn’t paid their bill and had promised to pay up on sale of the cave (evidently that hadn’t happened). The electric company said they would reconnect if we paid the outstanding €2300. I spoke to Sean my estate agent who said “not a chance, there was no debts on the house and we will sue the electric company if need be”, this was my first foray into debts and legalities. Feeling pretty disheartened with the whole affair I took some happiness from the fact I was introduced to Clive (who is now my favourite builder in the world) I said to him that the electric company had us over a barrel knowing we were stuck in a house with no electric, Clive said something along the lines of “If it was me, I would just light a candle and read a book”……
Although the place was now clean it still smelt vile so we arranged to go out for a couple of days in the December armed with 4 gallons of white wine vinegar to counter the urine smell (It’s easier to get large quantities in the UK) but also to get our solicitor to start on the case with the electric company. This trip was far more enjoyable as our wonderful builder Clive had taken some steps to losing some of the squared off features that we hadn’t liked. Clive has been a key part of this project and I would have probably given up ages ago if it wasn’t for his help and his laid back calming attitude 🙂
In mid September 2012 we put in an offer on the Yellow Cave in Cortes de Baza which was rejected so we went a little higher and the offer was accepted
Oh My God…… what have we done? excitement, anxiousness, fear, excitement and more fear were the main feelings that day.
We had a fair bit of the money ready to use but we also had a fair bit more tied up in tat, gold and silver that would need to be cashed in on, then it dawned on us that we would have no money for any of the work that needed doing so we set about borrowing some extra from family. We would need NIE Numbers, a Spanish Bank Account, a Solicitor and the owners were very keen to sell quickly as they had already moved out.
I spent a few days searching the net for info on the complications of getting NIE numbers and read some awful stories on EX-Pat forums about people waiting at Alicante Police Station all day just to be told their paperwork wasn’t correct then having to go back the following day for another long wait. I got in touch with Sean to express concerns and he just said “Don’t be silly, stop reading forums, I’ll sort that out for you and a Bank Account, just get the money in place”. So it turned out I may as well have been self diagnosing an illness on google.
So we booked flights to arrive on the 11th November a Sunday when everywhere is closed (there is a theme here), we rented a Cave in Cortes called Cueva Peralta (link at the bottom it out if you fancy a Cave Holiday) from a guy whom I now consider a very good friend. We had arranged to meet with Sean on the Tuesday to arrange NIE numbers and sort out the bank account. This couldn’t have been simpler, Sean drove us to Baza armed with paperwork, we popped into the police station to drop it off, went and had a coffee and returned to find newly printed NIE Certificates waiting for us. We then headed to the bank in Galera and must have had to wait for all of 13 minutes to get that sorted out.
Finally we arranged to meet Sean and Mat KT the following day to sign contracts at Baza Town Hall….. Totally Painless (so Far).
Wednesday 14th November, The Big Day !
we all arrived at Baza Town Hall and we met the owners who seemed ok and then we handed around passports, signed things and dutifully listened to the notary (we also nodded a lot)….. Then it was done, we were handed the keys ! The one thing I didn’t pay too much attention to at the time was the now previous owner saying “we’ve had a bit of a tidy up because we have had the animals in the cave while we were waiting to collect them”…….. I was far too wrapped up in being the proud owner of a Spanish Cave.
On the 3rd of September 2012 we arrived in Galera to meet our estate agent Sean, he said he had 5 caves for us to look at….we headed off on the A-330 but had to stop for some petrol at a little garage where the lady who greeted us must have been at least 90 years old, her Guard Dog (who was also getting on in years) barely lifted an eyebrow and certainly wasn’t coming out from under his bush to investigate us further.
First stop was a cave that was owned by a couple of artists (somewhere along the road from Galera to Cullar), it was a great place and finished beautifully the only problem was that it was smaller than we were hoping and there was no amenities nearby.
Next we headed for Benamaurel (a rural village with about 300 bars). Here we met Mat KT who has since helped me immensely in my seemingly endless path of mistakes (Thanks Mat). The cave here was really nice It had amazing views up the rambla (riverbed) and it had a reasonable amount of space indoors and outside. The main thing that put us off this property was it had shared access with a neighbour and had other caves in every direction including one that was directly below and it’s chimney was in the garden of the property we were looking at. It was however great to get an idea of the contrasts between how remote and how on top of each other these caves can be.
The next trip took us to Cortes de Baza (a sleepy place that reminded my of the Comic Strip Presents A Fistful of Travellers Cheques) to see a large “YELLOW” cave (that I had previously seen on the website) This place was really big, originally two houses that had been knocked through into one, It had a big secure courtyard with a lovely big Ash Tree in the middle. This cave was our favourite so far as it had plenty of space and was about a five minute walk to the village, the only thing it was lacking was a view….. but it did need some work doing, nothing serious just things to make it more like a home and less like a cattery, there was a big area of purpose built kennels for dogs and cats that would have to go.
Onward, this time to Cortijo del Cura to see an “ECO Cave” as we were running recycling centres in Devon at the time this cave sounded the most interesting as it featured Hemp Brick for Insulation and some new fangled heating system. This was another nice cave and had some lovely rustic wooden features but again it was very small and was nowhere near a shop or more importantly a Bar….. The would be next door neighbour here had a Jacuzzi that was set in it’s own cave looking across the valley which would have done nothing more than make me envious every time I went past.
Our final destination was Huescar.
Huescar was the only village on this trip that we had visited previously and not particularly liked (for no reason that I can think of). The Cave here was Massive, It had a few really big rooms with really high ceilings, It also had a big outdoor area that had stunning views across the Rambla and onward to the Sierra de Castril Mountains. This property also had another separate cave that was in need of full refurbishment. Overall loads of space and loads of scope for the future but all these things cost money and we weren’t really taken with Huescar anyway.
So we headed back to Sean’s office in Galera, said our farewells and promised that we would be in touch………..
We were both thinking about the “YELLOW” Cave in Cortes de Baza…. and then the questions started: how many people could comfortably stay in it? could you put a pool in the yard? could the kennels be removed? would the two “craft rooms” be better converted back into bedrooms? would it need an extra toilet? how many cars could you park at the front? etc etc………
So this is a blog about my Dream of Living in a Cave House in Rural Spain.
In August 2011 my (ex)wife and I rented a villa in Albox, (Almeria Province) for a holiday and were so taken by the area, the landscape, the people, the food and of course the sun that we thought it would be a lovely place to try and buy a property. At this point we were just toying with the idea of being able to getaway on family holidays as and when we fancied it and eventually have the scope to retire to this beautiful part of the world.
The whole idea of a more laid back pace of life (not that I mind working) combined with extra sunshine and nice cold lager had us sold on this
idea from the off…
When we returned to England I got on the case figuring out what we wanted from a property, where ideally we would have liked it to be situated and of course how we could possibly afford to purchase one.
Initially we looked at villas and townhouses but villas (British owned ones in particular) seem to mostly be like miniature mansions with delusions of grandeur which didn’t and still doesn’t interest me. We also wanted to get away from the larger towns but be able to pop to a shop or a bar if we fancied it. So we started looking into village properties with at least 3 bedrooms and a little outside space for the possibility of having a splash pool installed in the future. Having rented a villa that had air conditioning we had also decided we would definitely need that on the list. After a few weeks of Googling and trawling Estate Agents websites I found a couple of companies that specialised in Cave Houses and after my initial shock they started looking pretty interesting because although they all have similarities (they are underground etc) no two are identical.
Some of the selling points for me were:
Cave Houses generally maintain a temperature of around 16ºC thus eliminating the need for air conditioning although they do want heating in the winter. In the past as families grew they would just dig out another room, I must add that I haven’t tried this. Although they are dug out of the ground caves have electric and running water (well some do as I found out later).
Refurbished caves will often have a fascia at the front that makes them look more like a house than a cave. They vary in style and state from totally refurbished with swimming pools, extensions and more than one floor to a basic “Hole in The Hill”.
A holiday in March 2012 to the Costa Tropical convinced us that although it was lovely we’d rather be in a quieter more rural location.
So in August 2012 we rented a Cave House in Feunte Nueva (Granada Province) with the idea of having a look around Cave Country.
The cave we rented was lovely but it was a bit of an eye opener sleeping in complete darkness and missing a thunderstorm because we hadn’t heard it.
One day we had a look around in Galera and purely by accident found the office of one of the Estate Agents whose site I had been trawling on and off for the past year Spanish Inland Properties, we popped in, introduced ourselves and arranged to be shown a few caves that were within our budget the following day………….
I intend to slowly update this blog with some of my own stories of how my (not very well thought out) plan went……this will include purchasing the cave, my divorce, loss of job and home in the UK, problems with water companies, electric companies, previous owners and the lounge collapsing…….. It’s been a test but it’s also been totally worth it 🙂