Antequera and El Torcal

A little further east through the mountains (on very good roads it has to be said) we arrived in Humilladero for visiting Antequera and El Torcal, both situated a little way south of our chosen site (La Sierracilla – which was lovely despite some reviews almost putting us off..)

Humilladero itself appears to be a fairly new town, laid out largely in grids, with lots of plots that have not yet been built upon – great for a run!  However, click on the link above to discover a little more about the town (something we failed to do during our visit 😦 )

What we did discover a little of was the recreation area located behind the campsite.  We walked a little way in but if we had carried on we would, apparently, have scaled the mountain behind and had a good view of the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.  This was somewhere that we did manage to find 🙂

A couple pitched up next to us had cycled there the previous day but we chose to take the little car for the short (about 4 miles) trip to the lake which is famed for it’s flamingos.

There are miles of walks around the lakes, and we set off to our right, walking about a mile before we got frustrated at our inability to get close to any flamingos… We could certainly hear them.  And we could see them in the distance, but there was no way of getting closer to the water.  In frustration we turned around and headed back to the visitor centre, at which point Calv refused to walk anymore, so I headed off in the other direction by myself and phoning him 5 mins later to tell him I had found flamingos 🙂

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Definitely worth a visit 🙂  On leaving the visitor centre we drove some way further around the lake stopping off at various viewing points along the way (there are lots of these areas).  Unfortunately we didn’t come across anywhere where we could see the flamingos any better than we already had.  Overall we were a little disappointed if I’m honest.

This area is big on olives and olive harvesting (with lots of factories presumably producing olive oil).  We saw a lot of harvesting going on which was fascinating – we watched the process of laying a massive sheet around the trees (using a tractor, you wouldn’t have been able to do it by hand), and the ‘shaking’ machines that clamp the tree and, well, shake it!

On the way home we were in search of a supermarket and google maps was telling us that we would find one in the village of La Fuente de Piedra (The Stone Fountain).  This proved to be incorrect, but we did find a lovely little village centre where we sat for lunch in the sun.  Again bordered by another olive processing factory (there are so many in the area).

We also visited Antequera and it’s Dolmens.  Antequera itself is far bigger than I imagined but, apart from finding a Mercadona (there was more than 1, + Lidls etc.) we  only visited the old town.  We actually approached from the south having tried to visit El Torcal on our 2nd day.  Being a Sunday there was no parking in the visitor centre car park, and we were directed to park at the bottom of the hill and take a bus up (there was, of course, a fee for this).  We smelled a scam (it turns out we were wrong, but there are several parking scams operating in Spain) so decided to return another day.

On the way back to Antequera we stopped in a recreation area and headed off for a walk to take in the scenery.  Calv was a little reserved and eventually, after about 10 mins, said to me ‘have you left things in the car’?  Which I had.  He was a bit concerned for some reason so we headed back.  All was okay though.  We carried on to Antequera, making our way through the old town (I think you could probably say we were lost) and eventually finding somewhere to park on Calle Fresca.

We wandered around finding the minimal remains of the old castle and then eventually finding the main plaza, Mirador Plaza de Santa Maria, on which stands the Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor and Alcazaba.  After a bit of indecision we decided to visit the alcazaba (we have visited a fair number of alcazabas…) but it was worth it, with lots to see 🙂  The majority of the complex has been pretty much rebuilt, although there is a photo below that includes a small section of wall that appears to be original.

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Once again tired and ready for a relaxing evening in the van we headed back to the car.  Where we were both surprised to find that we hadn’t locked our doors….  Very strange.  When we arrived back at the van and went in the boot for something we found that the parcel shelf had been pulled out.  Now we knew that someone had broken into the car (we then realised that they’d used a screwdriver on the passenger door, as we had a little trouble using the key in this side).

However, all’s well that ends well, as we had taken absolutely everything with us when we parked up (after Calv’s ‘feeling’ earlier when we were out for our walk), so the rotten b*****s got nothing 🙂  Small victories and all that!

On our way to El Torcal the next day we went via the Dolmens of Antequera, which are ancient burial mounds which are free to visit (although you must get a ticket first..!)  There are 3 to visit – Menga, Viera and El Romeral.  These monuments are UNESCO world heritage sites, and will take up maybe 45 minutes of your day (including the drive between them).  Still, worth a look 🙂

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Finally though we made it the best visit (one of the best of our whole trip to Spain), El Torcal – a landscape of limestone rock formations through which there are several trails to walk.  We had done the right thing in wearing our walking boots; the walk, of course, takes you through the formations and there are many areas never touched by the sun and so the mud never dries out!  We did see a lady walking barefoot – she’d obviously worn completely inappropriate footwear and was with a much younger man; I thought maybe her son, Calv disagreed…!!  Either way seeing here walking through this terrain barefoot made me cringe – it wasn’t always an easy walk and the mud itself (I don’t like mud) would have given me nightmares (yes, I have nightmares about mud 😦 )

We also spotted an ibex on top of one of the formations – it waited patiently whilst we scrabbled for cameras, but moved the minute we had them!  Of course 🙂

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There were many other trails to walk and we will almost definitely return next time we’re in Spain 🙂

Next stop back to the coast at Cala de Mijas to meet up with Steve and Denise for a couple of days (they were still at Cabopino).  I promise to be better at getting this blog up-to-date – please bear with me!!

 

We stayed: Camping la Sierracilla

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El Rocio – another WOW!

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 🙂