First off, this post is out of sync as I haven’t yet managed to get my thoughts about Camino del Rey down in words. Also the WiFi here is pretty bad and I’m having trouble uploading photos. I’ve managed a couple so I’ll put these on, but will add more to the gallery at a later date.
After El Camino del Rey we didn’t think we’d have many more ‘wow’ moments on this trip. But we were wrong…
Some other travellers told us about El Rocio weeks ago and we were quite keen to visit, so were very happy to find there was a site right at the entrance to the village, Camping La Aldea.
The day after we visited El Camino del Rey we relaxed at the van for much of the day, did a wash, started packing up, I made a chicken and bacon pie for tea (well I made 2 actually, 1 ready for another day – today, Friday, as it happens!) We also spent an hour or so at the beach and in the evening met Chris and Elaine halfway between us and them at Luna Beach, which turned out to be a very nice little bar with nice views. On the walk there, along the beach, we could clearly see Africa (as we had been able to all day). We also said goodbye to Roger (aka ‘Good Looking’) as we knew he wouldn’t be up by the time we left in the morning.
For once we were ready to leave quite early, and so were saying goodbye to Jill (Good Looking’s wife) before 9am and then on our way by 9.
We had to head back towards Malaga before going north and then west towards Seville. From what we could see of Seville as we bypassed it (we went the wrong way onto the ring road, but it didn’t matter as going north or south was much of a muchness), it looked like rather a lovely city. As we drove through the outskirts we saw a temperature gauge reading 32degrees! We had a good run and no toll roads were needed!
We finally made it to our new campsite at about 3.15pm (we had stopped on the way for breakfast and then lunch and a spot of grocery shopping). There was plenty of space and we could see that we were indeed right on the edge of the village. Unfortunately the swimming pool doesn’t open until Easter, otherwise we would have been straight in there!
After a dirty burger for tea we decided to go and have a quick look, via the site bar, before it got too dark. It was still warm enough to be out walking in a vest top (and we had eaten outside as well). In the bar we met the young couple who were pitched next to us – they have a 5 month old baby and are taking their parental leave as 5 months travelling in their motorhome. How wonderful is that?!
We walked around the village for a while. It’s all sand roads and you can see that all the houses have ‘bars’ outside to tie the horses up to (sorry, I don’t know what they’re called). We also saw many, many lodgings for particular ‘Hermandads’ – these are the brotherhoods from different provinces who come here on a pilgrimage at Pentecost (50 days after Easter) – apparently up to 1million people descend on this tiny village for the weekend of festivities.
On the way back to the van we walked along to a serenade of crickets and frogs. In the mornings we are waking up to cockerels crowing, donkeys braying and beautiful birdsong.
Friday morning, once we’d properly woken up, we set off to explore the village properly and this time we found the main square containing the Ermitas and where no cars are supposed to enter… We saw many horses and horses and carts (we’ll take a trip tomorrow) and also found out that the nature reserve starts immediately in front of the main area.
This is a horse village, many of the bars have high counters outside so that people can stay on their horses to have a drink! We were told this morning, by a British man, that apparently Americans still come over here to buy horses that have a gene going all the way back to the original wild horses, and that the breed, Mustang, originated here.
The high point of the pilgrimage is on the Monday when the statue of the Virgin Mary is taken out of the church and paraded through the village to visit every 1 of the Hermandads (brotherhoods) – there were 106 of them shown on a sign we saw in the village. Apparently the campsite charges 50Euros a night during the week of the pilgrimage (we’re paying 17…) We saw the statue in the Ermitas and it’s huge. We have no photos as individuals make pilgrimages here throughout the year and there were several people in there who were clearly on their own personal pilgrimage.
At lunchtime we sat in 1 of the bars at the top of the main square and had some tapas. We tried patata Ali Oli (garlic potato) – which I would have liked if it had been hot, but it was straight out of the fridge and I’m not keen on cold potato – and Pimiento asados con atun (peppers with tuna), also cold, but I really liked it (sometimes I surprise myself!)
While we ate we watched the swallows flying around the Ermitas and into the eaves. There were hundreds of them!
There was also a fenced off grove of Olive trees nearby. These were fenced off as they’re all over 100 years old and 1 of them is over 600 years old. It seems that those attending the pilgrimage used to touch them (maybe hug them??) and they needed to be protected. It would be interesting to see if fencing them off actually had the desired effect!
By 2pm we were beginning to flag as it was so hot so we headed back to the campsite to relax for a while.
But by about 4.30 Calv was getting bored! So we got the bikes out and headed for the lakes to see what birds we could spot.
This gave us another view of the main square and we also saw horses grazing in the shallows. Calv made a friend of a stray dog that seemed to want to play, but I was a bit concerned that he was going to bite him – he just wouldn’t leave him alone…! He got some good photos of the birds (including flamingos, spoonbills and black kites), but nowhere near as good as our Swedish neighbour next door, who visits us regularly and brought over some of his photos to show us this evening – truly amazing (mind you he has rather an impressive lens!)
Tomorrow we will go back into the village and hopefully take a trip in a horse and cart, and perhaps visit the ornithological centre to find out what some of the birds that we’ve seen are. We might even get closer to the flamingos and get a better picture of them 🙂
It’s now tomorrow and we’ve had a lazy morning before walking back into the village. It was hot again today and we were hoping to get some got pictures of the various wildlife. I think Calv did get some pretty got shots, but we’re having trouble uploading at the moment so I can’t put them on here.
It’s Saturday today and there were, as expected, more horses around. Naively we thought that perhaps there would be fewer cars in the village, but there were many more + many coaches… Before we came here I had a daft idea that there would be no cars in the village. In fact they’re only barred from the area around the Ermitas – however, being in Spain, this rule is regularly flouted…
We took a 25 minute trip, just the 2 of us, in a horse and cart, at a cost of 20 Euros, which we were happy with. The driver spoke to us in Spanish, and we managed to communicate in some small way. We now know there’s a famous singer living in El Rocio and he knows we also visited the village yesterday! Also that El Rocio is pronounced El RoSio – I thought it was either El RoKio or El RoTHio. (they also say GraSiaS here, rather than grathia…)
The Spanish love to come out to play at the weekend which is great to see. We saw them having picnics, family gatherings, a wedding party in full swing, ladies practising playing their castanets and their flamenco moves by the water. It was all very uplifting! (Actually that’s another thing that’s big here, flamenco. There are several shops dedicated to selling flamenco outfits – and they’re not cheap….. There was also a show in 1 of the bars, but we missed it!
We also now have a party of scouts, or equivalent, here on the campsite – we could hear them this morning before they set out for the day, playing games and singing.
We saw horses at the bar – raised counters so that riders don’t have to dismount in order to have a drink. People sitting in their carts outside bars drinking.
We saw several different species of birds plus frogs and a couple of lizards. All in all we were pleased that we stayed an extra day.
Hasta manana 🙂