Posted by: Team McSlade | February 24, 2010

Three words: drove down stairs

Ryan might know what the Spanish is for that simple phrase, but I’d imagine it’s something along the lines of “loco”. In my defence, driving down said stairs came at the end of a precarious crawl through a tiny Spanish street which, before our eyes, not only got narrower but also transformed into stairs. Not stairs like you climb in a house or up a monument. But the road became slightly terraced at regular intervals. Which is why our hire car – Ryan, Jo, the kids and myself were in – became perched on the top step. Front wheels over the edge, back wheels up top.

Not cool.

Before this cliffhanger (see what I did there?), my visitation to the McSlade Spanish vacation was going muiy bein. Got into Valencia on Thursday at 2pm, following a massive 12 hour (or so) flying adventure which involved being at Heathrow at 3.40am and catching a flight to Zurich, and a connecting flight to Valencia. Getting about three hours sleep, catching two night buses to Heathrow and sitting around Zurich airport for a few hours wasn’t enough to fatigue my interest in Spain or seeing the family. Wandering a bullfighting ring, cool ceramics/palatial museum thingy and eating local paella on the first day also helped. Not to mention Valencia being a picturesque city and, well, go back to the bit about my being in Spain to visit my brother and his family. Bueno.

Friday was a top joy ride to Cuenca, the UNESCO listed mountain village which Ryan has mentioned elsewhere. For a description better than any plain words I can muster, check out the relevant photos. Seriously, the place looked and felt like that. Well, it didn’t feel like a static photo, but it did feel spectacular and grand and impressive and jaw-dropping and unforgettable and uber-constructed.

The epic journey home from Cuenca (seriously, it turned into something of a mission) was soon stamped out by the ace Saturday we spent at Gandia markets and mooching about the city’s environs. Getting a go at driving in Spain proved better than anticipated, what with people over here driving on the wrong side of the road (what’s that about?) and treating road rules as an optional extra you don’t need to tick. Besides being pulled over by the police at a random traffic stop and having to rely on being a fair dinkum bonzer Aussie tourist to make up for the fact I didn’t have my license on my person, the driving situation was going fine. Indeed, the challenge of thinking on the other side of the car, changing gears with the right hand, was a pleasurable part of getting about Southern Spain….

….Until, that is, one street turned into stairs. While the insurance company isn’t going to go easier on me and the scratches I added to its brand-new Peugeot, any judge in any courtroom would consider the extenuating circumstances. Chiefly – every street in Spain looks like a narrow alley unfit for a skateboard, let alone a car. Yes, smartie, not EVERY street is tinier than a supermodel’s waist but, in relation to the lanes of doom we had been negotiating earlier in the ill-fated day, this particular road just seemed a little bit more challenging than all the other goat tracks which defied logic and nerves by allowing oncoming traffic and persistent blindspots.

So, you know, the uphill car chute got narrower and, well, none of us saw the drop-off into stairs territory. We were too busy trying to dodge the scooter parked near the thinnest point of transit passage. Once we thunked off the top step, and freaked out, we spent the next five to ten minutes trying to reverse the car up the step. No dice. Not even with the whole family pushing, with the help of some Spanish dude who came out of a nearby house, and me revving the bejeepers out of the not-offroad hatchback.

With quiet panic setting in and being unable to stomach how much it would cost to have the Peugeot to be helicoptered out of this grand canyon, the Spanish guy said something about going forward, down the stairs. We think he mentioned something else about other people doing it (see, it’s not just Australian tourists in Goonies t-shirts) or the police having done it or the police and other people. Anyway, the instruction was for one driver, no passengers, and head forward. Doing what we should have done previously, I checked the rest of the downhill run. Forward was the only option when, after the stairs, a normal road could be spied, right down to the promised land of an open square further down.

So, with a growing crowd of onlookers (tourists and amused/bemused locals), I took to the stairs. To say it wasn’t cool to creep down stairs would be a lie. Apart from scraping up the side mirror and back panel of the trusty automobile – and reportedly getting the Peugeot up on three wheels around the hairy righthanded corner which greeted me after the stair session – the whole driving experience was all a bit Top Gear. Except my employer wasn’t footing the bill for any ker-razy damage I did in the process of proving rental cars could survive being taken down stair-roads in Spain.

Keep an eye out for the short film on YouTube: Loco Tourist In Car On Stairs In Spain.

Oh, and thanks for your concern. I’m fine and my ability to drive a car has not been crushed by difficult Spanish streets. I refuse to let the stairs beat me.

P.S. The picture is in response to Grace’s request for a Spanish ‘stobie pole’ – this one was positioned nicely in the middle of the road.  



  1. 100% Gold!

  2. Remind Me never to ride my motorbike in Spain… ouch.

    • Hey Fieldmouse, never ride your motorbike in Spain… Just thought I’d help you out. Razz

  3. Talented I say o’l chap.

  4. […] done a flight of stairs?’ To remind you of this comedic event, head either to Ryan’s version or Ben’s version to again feel the pain of not seeing a flight of stairs in the back blocks of Moixent as the car is […]

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