Saturday, 6 May 2017

Spain and Portugal -summary

6May 2017
We have left Spain and entered France. We still have great trouble finding anywhere to upload the blog, with pictures. This is compounded by the fact that we have been able to wild camp almost every night in these two countries. That is fabulous for us with 5star camping spots almost every night! But it means less opportunities for wifi.

We have found that the national parks have lots of 4WD tracks -perfect for us to find a place with a view and out of everyone's way. A couple of nights ago we were spotted by a park ranger who came along and wanted to take a photo of our vehicle. He initially said we couldn't camp, but when he heard that we had a toilet, rubbish bins and we wouldn't light a fire he was happy. No tents he said. OK - that was really fine with us.

But that night there was a very strong wind, rocking the vehicle and very noisy. In the end we pulled the top down and then we were fine.

Last night, our last night in Spain, we were discussing how pleasant the camping had been. We were in a parking area at a view point when a young guy (with his girlfriend) lined us up from the other side of the parking area,revved his car, and headed rapidly for us, swerving sharply at the last moment spraying our vehicle with gravel. That spoiled our memory of Spain.

Otherwise, we found fabulous mountain national parks in both Spain and Portugal. We really enjoyed these and spent much more time there than in the cities. The coastlines were also beautiful, rugged, and windy. Some beaches were quite stunning, with small private looking coves as well as wide long sweating sandy beaches.

We tried tapas (including vegan), paella vegetarians, Spanish pastries, and we saw flamenco dancing and guitar. We drank wine in the squares in the sun.

Well ow we are heading quite rapidly for the UK. The time has gone very quickly this time. We will spend a month in UK before heading home again.

Please go to the Facebook page for Photos:.
Waltzing Matilda - our Earthcruiser Journey around the world

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Malaga

14th April, We have left Grenada and headed for the mountains again. Yes there are more Sierras! This time we are headed for a National Park in Malaga known for it’s unusual rock formations. 
 
  
 
  
 
These formations are the result of differential hardness in the alternating layers of rock. These erode at different rates causing this marvellous layered appearance. 
 
  
 
  
 
We loved the views here, and I couldn’t stop taking photos!
 
  
 
The other National Park near here is in Ardales, Grazelema. It is famous for “the most dangerous walk in the world”! This is walkway susended along the edge of a cliff. It was built for workers to access a hydroplant years ago and fell into disrepair. There was even a section that you had to jump over. Consequently 6 people fell to their deaths in the 1960s, giving the walk its reputation However it has been improved, but still looks too dangerous for my liking. We were content to drive by and look at the walkers risking thier lives, from below. The walk is called Los Gaitenes.
 
          
 
  
 
 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Sierra Nevada

12th April. We are continuing our exploration of the mountain ranges in southern Spain. We have been seeing the Sierra Nevada (did you know that the original Sierra Nevada is in Spain and the American ones were named after the Spanish ones?) and enticed by the snow capped mountains we have been heading steadily towards them. 
 
Just before we started to rise into the mountains we spotted a solar/thermal plant. This is one of the alternative technologies to produce electricity from the sun other than by solar panels. It also provides a storage facility to provide power at night. The panels collect the heat from the sun, heat a liquid (could be liquid sodium). This is then used to heat water by a heat exchange system and steam is produced. This is used to produce electricity. The heated liquid sodium is able to continue to heat the water after the sun has gone down, effectively extending the period in which power can be produced. 
 
  
 
  
 
 
We reached the gap and highest point on the road in the Sierra Nevadas.  
 
 
 
The other side of the range bought more of the white villiages of Andalucia, but now they had flat rooves - another indication of moorish / muslim influence.
 
 
   
 
  
 
The Sierra Nevada, although higher than the other Sierras of southern Spain were not as spectactular. The southern side was more scenic though. But the Sierras in general (and there is a string of them between Madrid and the Sierra Nevada) have been the highlight of our trip in Spain thus far. 
 
We have had no trouble camping! Especially in the Sierras we have always been able to easily find a dirt track where we could be out of view and not causing anyone any trouble. These places have almost always been very quiet, and often with stunning views. Of course we are careful to leave no trace of our passing, never leaving any trash and often picking up trash that was left by people before us, thus leaving the place better than we found it. We have really appreciated these Sierra National Parks!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Granada and Easter

14th April - Good Friday - which, as it turned out, was very significant!
We stayed in a campground on the outskirts of Granada and took a bus into the city. Granada is well known for its Easter parades, and these occur throughout the week preceeding easter. 
 
Our first priority though was to find something to eat. We found a vegan restaurant (Hicuri Art resturaunt) quite easily (using Happy Cow App) and were pleasantly surprised to find it decorated with the grafitti of a famous grafitti artist called “El Nino de las Pinturas”.  We found other examples of his art in the same street too.
 
  
 
One of the gems of Grenada is the streets paved in stones, slightly differently to thst of other cities.  Some of them are actually tiled, a feature which bought me to my knees (literally) later in the day when I slipped on them and fell. 
 
 
Our second priority was to see the Alhambra palace, the last stronghold of the Moors who took over from the Visigoths in 711AD. The Catholic monarchs took over in 1491 after an 8 month seige. The muslims agreed to surrender provided freedom of religion continued. 
 
The palace is of course opulent,  but we were unable to see the best bits. You need to book your tour a month in advance, and this simply doesn’t suit our kind of travel. But we saw around the perimeters of the palace and some museum displays. But first a long climb up countless stairs (we later found we could have gotten a bus)...
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
Down we went into the city in the late afternoon to find it transformed. The streets were packed with people, waiting for the parade. 
 
  
 
We found a corner and waited. The crowds continued to pour in until there was standing room only and nowhere to move to. Then the parade started to come, ever so slowly. The first section was the people in pointy hats. We thought they looked like the Klu Klux Klan, and we wondered whether this costume had anything to do with the inquisition. 
 
 
 
The marchers were quite anonymous, and very serious indeed. There were at least hundreds of people in this costume. Some of them marched in bare feet, and at least one was unable to continue on the cobblestones in his bare feet. We don’t know the significance of this - something to do with suffering?
 
Then came a large float which received the adulation of the crowd, including shouting, reaching out to touch it, obvious emotion…..
 
 
This was followed by women in black lace...
 
 
The whole procession was very slow and stately.
 
Unfortunately I was unprepared for the length of time I would be unable to  move about, and my bladder was screaming! We were forced to crash through the parade and out into a side street to look for a toilet, and this was far from easy to do! Eventually we found my “saviour” - a young lady sitting in the doorway of her apartment watching the crowds. She very kindly let me use her toilet- I don’t know how to thank her enough!
 
We learned from this experience to keep away from the cities until after Easter weekend!
 
 
 
 

Andalusia

11 April.
We are continiung southwards in Andalusia. We tend to pick the green and lumpy areas from our maping program and we haven’t departed from that pattern, especially after a stint in the cities!
 
This is for Zef. 
 
  
 
This fox was on the road in a national park.  He was obviously begging, and he looks as though he does rather well at it!
 
The area is obviously an olive gowing area. We understand that this area grows about 10% of the world’s olives!  But look at the ground between the trees. It is completely denuded! We have seen from the groves we have passed that the ground is first sprayed with herbicide and then raked to clear it of all grass. I don’t know why they do this -perhaps to conserve water, or to protect against fire? But these olives are certainly not organic and they are certainly not environmentally friendly. And this picture goes on and on for hundreds of kilometres, all over southern Spain as far as we can see.
 
  
 
This area of Andalusia has a departure from the usual stone buildings. It has historically been influenced by muslim invasions in  the past. It has white houses, with a Morrocan style. These are the first such white villiages we have seen. 
 
 
As we came down out of the mountians we found ouselves in an area of completely different geology from the mountians. We felt almost at home with vistas of red soil and sparse vegetation, almost like spinifex on the slopes. 
 
    
 
This soil though seems to be very friable. There is severe erosion here. We speculate that this a product of both friable soils and sheep and goat grazing for hundreds (or more) of years. The olive growing with its unprotected soils must also contribute. We saw signs indicating efforts by EU funded projects to stabilise the soil with terracing and replanting.
 
  
 
An unexpected feature we stumbled accross was an archaeological site with evidence of human occupation here 5-6000 years ago. There were tombs (megaliths) and cave dwellings . We camped on the top of a deep gorge with these archaelogical structures all around us!
 
 
And next day we discovered the cave dwellings. These square holes in the cliff sides are the entrances to the ancient caves. And they are still used, with the modern addition  of chimneys for ventilation.
 
  
 
But equally interesting is the fact we learned from people we met, that 25,000 people still live underground in this area! And we soon saw signs of this and WOW - how interesting are these houses!  The best example we saw was this hotel! What an interesting place to stay!
 
  
 
I have moaned about the lack of fauna in Europe in past  blogs. We have been pleasantly surprised by the fauna in southern Spain, particularly in the Sierras (mountains). While we were camped at the archaeological site we saw a mountain  goat (or sheep) jumping almost vertically down the cliff face. It was extraordinary the agility it had. In addition to this we have seen a second species of mountain  goat or sheep, a squirrel (1 only!) 2 dead snakes on the road, rabbits and hares, wild boar, 1 dead mole (on the road), a beaver!, a fox, a couple of deer, a large skink. This is much more fauna than we have seen elsewhere in  Europe.
 
In addition there are many more  birds. There is actually a dawn chorus in  some places we have camped.
 
All of this makes us very happy!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Castille-La Mancha

8th April, 2017. Having left the cities we headed for the countryside. This is La Mancha home of Don Quixote. It is a land of scattered castles and windmills in fertile green farming lands. 
 
    
 
  
 This is an ancient stone house, quite common in this area. 
 
We spent the night and morning at a wetland area called Park Nacional De Las Tablas De Damiel. It is a large weyland area known for its birdlife. The area has a visitors centre which was very interesting, and lots of board walks and bird hides. Unfortunatey we did’t see as many birds as we expectd despite being up at dawn.
 
  
 
  
 
The spanish don’t have the same attitude to amphiians to the road as we do! I think they were suggesting we avoid running them over! (For my non-Australian friends, we have large toads in Australia and they are a pest species and are often run over on the roads. We are not too sad about it.).