Spring Has Sprung !!

Our last two days in our ‘Bolt Hole’ have seen us both a little glum. I know, I know, what are we complaining about, we have had twenty-three weeks Winter break, with very little in the way of wet weather, we could probably count the rainy periods in days, rather than weeks, so we should stop feeling miserable and just ‘get over ourselves’ !! We have had ‘Shazza Adventures’ and a new category, ‘Shazza Explorations’ and yes, even the rare ‘Eric Adventure’ this time around, plus we have had the pleasure of family members who came to visit us. Alas though, that does not help lift our moods, we really are quite saddened at having to leave our small piece of paradise, especially as it is beginning to liven up now with all the ‘Chiringuito’s’ re-opening, and just to add insult to injury, we have spent the last couple of days cleaning the apartment, although I must give credit to Shazza, she has done the Lions share, defrosting and cleaning the fridge freezer, cleaning the cooker and oven, doing all the washing, clothes, bedding, towels, seat cushion covers etc. as well as emptying all her kitchen cupboards and washing down all the shelves. I have not been idle myself as my jobs entail cleaning the two bathrooms from top to bottom and the balcony. Because we mainly wear uniforms at work, apart from our one day off a week, we tend to leave the bulk of our personal clothing and footwear here, but all our clothing gets taken out of the wardrobes and drawers and stored in plastic bags. The furniture is covered with dust sheets at the very last-minute, usually just before we retire to our beds on the last night.

Why do we go to all this bother you may well ask ? Basically because the apartment will be stood empty for a little over six months now and, although we have not as yet returned to discover damp or mould, our mindset is of the opinion that it will be the one occasion when we do not bother to do all this stuff that we will find clothes, bedding and furniture affected or, worse still, our neighbours above us will have some sort of disaster that will emanate down to us !! However, the upside of all this ‘outgoing’ activity is that there is very little to do once we do return, a light dusting and, for the windows that are not protected by our metal security shutters, a clean of the glass inside and out, which basically entails only the balcony one’s, it is amazing how much dust and sand gets carried on the wind and finds it way into all the nooks and crannies, so once we do return it doesn’t take long for our little piece of heaven to be quickly transformed back into ‘home’ mode.

We were rewarded on our final weekend with beautiful hot and sunny weather, temperatures reaching 28 degrees(c), this was weather that could not be wasted wandering around on ‘Adventures’ or ‘Explorations’. No indeedy, days like these were intended for lazing on a beach and that is exactly what we did, both Saturday and Sunday being spent on one of our local beaches, one that was away from the madding crowds of other sun worshippers. For me there is nothing more relaxing than to sit back in my reclining sun chair right on the water’s edge, listening to the lapping of the sea as it gently breaks on the shoreline, whilst I just sit and watch whatever it is that unfolds in front of my eyes and it is amazing just how much you can observe when you just sit, patiently waiting and watching, with one’s camera at hand of course.

A Strategically located watering hole in case of dehydration !!

Shazza enjoying a cooling dip. And cooling it was, the water was bloody freezing !! Although I was a little curious about the bubbles that were emanating to the top of the water just around the place where Shazza was located ? Perhaps she had discovered a thermal spring, or……… ??

I opted to do shark watch !!

I was curious when a family came and positioned themselves not too far away from us. Two young boys had a large ball, much bigger than a customary beach ball, I watched whilst they scooped out a hole in the sand with their hands and then proceeded to bury half the ball in the hole, packing sand around the base to make it sturdy. Then, taking turns, they proceeded to run, leap onto the top of the ball, spring up in the air and perform somersaults !!

I spent ages fascinated by these youngsters agility

When they got tired of that game they did what most young boys do, they started chasing each other and play fighting in the sand, that was until Mum had heard enough of their shouting !! They were not disturbing us, Shazza was well into her own little world, reading a book on her ‘Kindle’ device whilst listening to music on her iPod. I had just enjoyed watching boys being boys before having my attention distracted by some ‘Big Boys Toys’ out on the water.

No sooner had the boat show finished and my attention was drawn to other activities, first a couple of inflatable kayaks followed by a different couple of boys who decided it would be fun to re-float a large lump of wood that the tide had washed in.

Note the ball in the sky, not a mark on the camera lens, this was the moon that was clearly visible even though it was mid-afternoon !!

Trying to relaunch a log back into the sea. They didn’t succeed, it was heavier than it looked but it had entertained me for five minutes or so !!

Exploring Deserted Islands off the beach !!

Fishing !!

Horse Riding !! Who put them there ?

Shazza Chasing Motor Yachts !!

Taking Selfies !!

Although there was plenty of activity, both on and off the water, this stretch of beach, in both directions, was not particularly busy.

Plenty of room to spread out on these beaches !!

Now I looked at the shape of this rock and saw a tortoise head poking out from its shell. Shazza on the other hand saw something quite different ? Mind like a sewer that girl !!

So, our final weekend here finished on a high note, Shazza braved the chilly waters and enjoyed swimming, managing to navigate around the icebergs !! As well as my people and boat watching I too managed several little ventures into the sea, but only up to my knees, well somebody had to conduct shark watch whilst she was out in the deeper depths !!

Soon we will both be back on the water, thankfully in a much bigger boat crossing the Bay of Biscay, and heading back to Blighty, by the time we return to Portsmouth on Friday afternoon, who knows, we may even have a different Prime Minister, or a forthcoming General Election and we may even have decided to remain as a member state of the EU ?

 

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Circus Of Life Performance

I had been reluctantly shaken out of a wonderful sleep at 7:00am on a Sunday morning by a neighbours dog continuously barking, I did not want to get out of bed so I tried to ignore the consistent ‘bark‘, ‘bark‘ bloody ‘bark‘ !! It was pointless going to the window, opening it and shouting at the bloody thing to shut up, firstly because it was a Spanish owned dog, so would not have understood me, believe me I have attempted this on several previous occasions to no avail, secondly because I have not learnt those type of swear words in Spanish, but primarily because, the owners of said dog, either go out to work at early O’clock, or just get up early and go out, but they leave the dog in their enclosed garden, barking constantly to be let back in. You would think that by now that this damn dog would have realised that, after quite a considerable length of time of barking, that it was a pointless exercise as its owners were not at home, it isn’t as if this is the first time this has happened, no !! this is a frequent event, but no !! bark, bark, bloody bark. By 8:00am I could stand it no longer. Shazza was awake, still with her head buried under the duvet but I could hear her equally irritated muffled words of, “Bloody Dog“, I have deliberately edited what she actually said as their may be young children who are permitted to read my ramblings !! So I got up, made the coffee’s and took Shazza’s through to her, she was still buried under the duvet but she acknowledged that I had made her a coffee and again repeated her cries of, “Bloody Dog”, or words to that effect !!

The ‘Works of Fiction’ had forecast a wonderful ten days of hot and sunny weather, and it had been correct so far and we had enjoyed our previous week of leisure either walking along our stretches of Promenade and beach between, Castellon, the Marina and the town or, in our neighboring larger town of Estepona. Shazza had been true to her word, so far at least, with no ‘Shazza Adventures’ further afield, the ‘walking routes’ books had not seen light of day since our last mammoth hike and with just ten days left of this seasons Winter sojourn, I am praying that they remain on the book shelf gathering dust until our next Winter visit in October, but I am not holding my breath on that one.

I was sat on the balcony, enjoying my usual morning ritual of drinking my coffee, catching up with the news headlines from all the UK newspapers on my iPad, whilst occasionally averting my eyes from said screen to view the wonderful blueness of the sky and the twinkling blue waters of the sea when my beloved appears, not looking too happy at being up at this god forsaken hour of a Sunday morning, “I have a suggestion‘ she said, meaningfully, “But I don’t think you are going to like it” she said, hesitantly. I was not alarmed, I am after all used to being provided with ‘Shazza sudden suggestions’. So, in my usual calm manner I looked up from my iPad and said to her, “What am I not going to like ?“. Unusually for her, she appeared a little apprehensive before she spoke, “Well, seeing as we are up a lot earlier than normal on a Sunday, and it is going to be a very warm and sunny day, I was going to suggest that we drive to Fuengirola” she paused, waiting for my response.

Earlier in the week, whilst sat at one of our local Cafe/Bars, enjoying a glass or three of chilled falling over juice, we had kind of made a tentative itinerary for our final few days here. It included a couple of Beach days, sunloungers, iPods, flask of coffee, picnic, paddles in the sea sort of days and one of those was scheduled for today, Sunday, as their was no wind to speak of and a temperature of around 23 degrees(c) and with several lovely sandy beaches to choose from, all within a five or ten-minute drive away, we would be in no rush to get out. We had also agreed that Tuesday would be our trip to Fuengirola, to view the Castle, something that we had been meaning to do for ages, but never quite got around to doing, then a walk along the riverside path before enjoying lunch at one of the numerous restaurants in the town, not on the seafront promenade amongst the numerous British ‘Eggo and Bacono’ Greasy Spoon type affairs, but a proper more refined sort of establishment in one of the Plaza’s perhaps or one of the many little back streets.

I looked across at her and said “Okay“. She still looked a little hesitant, “But we will really need to go quite soon, it is a forty-minute drive and I am worried about getting a parking space at our usual spot“. So, she wasn’t just concerned that my OCD would go into overdrive, with my carefully scheduled itinerary being interfered with, but that she was going to rush my morning constitutional !! The damn dog was still bloody well barking, two hours, almost non-stop, so actually I was quite happy to get myself washed, shaved and dressed and to get the hell out of the apartment for some respite.

The A7 Coast road was fairly quiet, but it was Sunday and not everyone had an inconsiderate dog as a neighbour, so some may have still been enjoying their weekend lay in. When we go to Fuengirola we always manage to find a parking space in the car park by the river, at the bottom of the castle and near to the bridge that crosses the river into town. When we arrived, there were already quite a few vehicles parked up but there were still plenty of available spaces. It was only 10:00am, but it was already a very pleasant 18 degrees(c) with the merest hint of a breeze and cloudless blue sky. Although we were dressed in our usual, smart but casual summer attire, short-sleeved shirts and three-quarter length shorts, Shazza in her normal flip-flops whilst, for walking, I preferred casual shoes. However, we had both brought our hoodies, we know that once inside the Castle exploring internal rooms, with their thick stone walls and small windows, that it can get a little chilly, so we had come prepared. I had failed to remember that Castles were generally built on hills and for very good reasons of course, so the climb up to the top left us both a bit breathless !!

At this point we were only one-third of the way up to the Castle !!

Finding our way to the actual castle entrance was a bit of a hunt, but it did provide us with the opportunity to get a good look at it from the outside and it looked fairly impressive but not as tall as I had anticipated ?

The Castle looked quite impressive from the outside

No doorbell, and the door was open, so we went inside for a look around, it would have been rude not to !!

It looks as if the builders haven’t quite completed the internal build yet !!

At least we could climb up to the ramparts which provided lovely 360 degree views

Note (Top Right) the large number of Motorhomes parked up. Not an official Aire but not bad location for the beach and a short walk into the town.

We thought that we may have been able to explore the interior areas of the castle, which may have been dark and a bit chilly, hence why I was wearing the hoodie !! Fortunately the car was parked close by so we soon discarded them again.

Good views along the river and across the rooftops to the mountains beyond

The bridge that leads into the town, looked pretty quiet, but it was still early

The view across the ‘concrete jungle’ of Fuengirola which is a similar landscape to many of the other ‘Costa Del Sol’ holiday resorts that line this Coast.

Perhaps we had been spoilt after our visit to the Citadel in Antequera, and although there had been no charge for entry into this Castle at Fuengirola, we were both left feeling rather disappointed. Apart from the panoramic views our efforts to climb up to the Castle were certainly not worth it, but never mind, another one of those things to cross off the ‘To Do’ list.

We returned to the car at the foot of the hill and dumped our hoodies in the boot, it was beginning to get really warm now and there was nothing of a breeze to cool it down, but we were not complaining. It was time to head into the metropolis, we had no real urge to walk along the full length of the promenade, we had done that on several occasions, our intention was to explore the inner sanctum of the town to see what the ‘real’ Fuengirola had to offer. However, this was not just another Sunday morning, the weather had brought everyone out to play, from the Sunday promenaders, the pavement Cafe ‘people watchers’ and the ‘I like to play in the water’ brigade. We found a suitable beachfront establishment and just sat, soaking up all of the ambience that was around us, I could have spent hours here quite happily, although I already knew that that was not going to be permitted !!

The sun may have been shining and the temperature, on land, extremely warm but believe me when I tell you that there was a very good reason that this swimmer was wearing a wet suit !!

At first I thought this swimmer had a flotation aid attached to them, however, after seeing how busy the coastline was, I decided that this was to prevent him, or her, from getting run over by other craft !!

When you feel like a bit of solitude and ‘Me’ time !!

Although I knew that the Summer holiday crowds had not yet arrived, only because there were still plenty of empty sunbeds on the beach and because we could still find an empty table on most of the numerous front line Cafe/Bars, but as we watched the minutes pass, we could see the swell in the number of people who had now risen from their Sunday slumbers, eaten their breakfasts and were now beginning to settle themselves on the soft white sand and making themselves ready for soaking up the days glorious sunshine, spreading out their towels, peeling off layers of top clothing, organising their reading materials, inserting ear plugs that were connected to electronic devices and then applying lashings of sun screen ready for their bouts of solar basting. The more modest, or those with skin tones that easily frazzled, elected to sit under the shade of umbrellas. The Promenade had its fair share of walkers, joggers, cyclists, street traders with their wares spread out before them, dog walkers, pushchair pushers and people who would suddenly stop walking without any warning, in the middle of this chaotic maelstrom of activity, whilst they talked to someone on the other end of their mobile devices, most of which must have been several thousand of miles away as the people on this end of the mobile device had to shout to be heard and who were quite oblivious to the fact that their sudden stop had nearly created a multi-person pile up on this busy people highway. As a self-confessed people watching addict I was in my element, Shazza could have easily have left me sat at my perfectly positioned table for hours, whilst she went off to do whatever it was that she wanted to do, but alas that was not to be and I had to drag myself away from this ‘Circus Of Life Performance‘ that was being played out in front of my very eyes.

For Shazza, things were getting just a little too busy for her liking and so it was time to disappear into the narrower and cooler back streets to seek out a pace that was just that little bit slower.

The main Seafront Promenade was getting pretty busy but, once in the back streets, it was peaceful once again.

Pretty little Plazas with ornamental fountains and of course, the pavement Cafe to drink one’s coffee, read the Sunday papers or just enjoy the sunshine with a spot of people watching, as you do !!

A slightly larger Plaza with a church, the customary ornamental statue and of course the odd Bar/Cafe or two.

If you are a Motorhomer with a spot of laundry that needs doing, places like these are handy to find !!

Although neither of us had eaten breakfast, and lunchtime was upon us, that being the British lunchtime and not the Mediterranean lunchtime, we did not feel hungry enough to sit and devour a full lunch and besides, the numerous restaurants we passed were still empty. A major part of the dining experience for us, is to be sat amongst other diners, quaffing beers or sipping wines, engaged in conversations and people watching whilst patiently awaiting the arrival of our carefully selected tasty morsels. Although we had enjoyed spending our time leisurely wandering the back streets of Fuengirola, but there are just so many streets you can wander without it getting monotonous and there are just so many coffees you can drink, although there can never be too much people watching !! We decided to make our way back to the car, we stopped briefly at a seafront Cafe and had a sandwich and coffee to keep the wolves from the door, but we had our own South facing balcony with a sea view and enough food to enjoy a home-cooked meal and save our day’s budget for another day.

The bridge crossing bridge was much busier on the way back to the car with people now heading into the town !!

The nice river walk with footpaths on both sides, we decided to leave that for a future visit.

Fortunately, for the dog, it had stopped barking by the time we had returned, otherwise I could not have been held responsible for Shazza’s actions, her knife throwing skills are really quite impressive and I think she is now more than ready to move on to ‘live’ targets !!

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Wake Up And Prepare For Summer

The two days that followed, after our mammoth 20km mountain trail hike, we suffered, as we knew we would from the second we returned to the car and took our walking boots off. The morning after, our legs just refused to function normally, it felt as though concrete weights had been attached from our waists down, every movement was slow and painful, walking, sitting down, and standing up again, it was a major effort for both of us and it had also proven to be too much for my poor old knees, they just continually ached. Fortunately though, on day two, I had virtually fully recovered, my legs no longer ached and apart from a minor nagging ache in just my right knee, I felt okay again, Shazza too had almost recovered, just a minor ache here and there but nothing serious, so we decided to have another easy day and just ventured out to do the shopping.

It has got to that point now, the time where we are beginning to count how many days we have left of this years mammoth Winter break, just another couple of weeks, my goodness where has the last twenty-one weeks gone to ? Are we ready to return is the question ? The truthful answer is of course not and, it is not that we are not looking forward to going back to our Campsite and working for the forthcoming six month season, but let’s face it, we have just spent virtually five months of doing just what we wanted, no set routines, getting up when we wanted, going to bed when we wanted, in the morning sitting on the balcony in our dressing gowns with no rush to actually be anywhere in particular, other than on ‘Shazza Adventure’ days that is !! So from that perspective, no we are not ready to return to days that will have set routines.

Shazza and I differ slightly on our outlooks. I have a sort of physiological switch in my brain, once I am on the ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth that is it, holiday over and my mind is pre-occupied with thinking about what I need to do. We will have seven days before returning to our Site, the van needs its annual service etc., that has all been pre-booked, and then it will need a good clean, inside and out after being stood for so long. Then once that has been done it needs to be made ready for our travel back to the site. Once back on site, we need to get ourselves sorted in our compound before getting on with a  lot of stuff preparing the site itself, in readiness for the arrival of our first guests. So for me, once the switch has been flicked from holiday mode to work mode, that is it. It takes Shazza a little longer to settle back in, she thinks of our apartment here in Spain more as ‘our home’, indeed, whenever any of our guests ask her, “What are you doing when you finish work at the end of the season ?” She always answers, “We are going back to our home in Spain”.  Which technically is correct, as it is the only bricks ‘n’ mortar that we actually own, however, we have not taken up official ‘Permanent Residency’ in Spain, so to me, unless we do take that step in the future, it is still just a ‘bolt hole’ to me, somewhere to be used, at present, between our periods of work and our Winter breaks, but in the future, as a ‘bolt hole’ between our nomadic adventures back ‘On the road’ in the van.

This weekend, Saturday March 1st, marked the start of the new holiday Season, well this part of the Costa Del Sol at least. We had arrived last October, just a couple of weeks before the Chiringuitos (Beach Bars) started to close down for their Winter breaks, but normally, at the end of February, we depart our ‘Bolt Hole’ and return to the UK before they start to open up again, so it is nice now to have the opportunity to see the place ‘Wake Up And Prepare For Summer’.

The weather behaved itself and could not have been better for this opening weekend of the season, the sky was cloudless and such a wonderful shade of blue, as was the sea, the wind, which has been quite strong over the last week or so, dissolved into nothingness and the temperature ranged between 23-25 degrees(c).

We have sort of agreed that ‘Shazza’s Mountain Hike Expeditions‘ will be put on hold for our remaining time here, although what she agrees to today and what happens tomorrow can be totally different beasts ? so I will not be letting my guard down just yet !! However, for this weekend at least we decided to just enjoy sticking to our own local territory. We enjoyed our more usual five-mile ‘saunter’ on the Saturday, parking at the bottom of the hill and walking through the fishing village of Castillon, through the Marina and on to the town of Sabinillas. Any benefits of the walk, calorie loss wise, were quickly negated as the lure of the beachfront tables at ‘Bloody Mary’s’ Cafe/Bar were too much to resist and the chilled glasses of ‘Vino Rosada’ are just soooooo nice and in the afternoon heat, one was never going to be enough !!

I think any Country that you go to in Southern Europe has the same tradition, moreso when the sun is shining, that tradition being the opportunity of doing a spot of ‘Promenading’. The more Senior age groups dress for the occasion, the ladies in their Sunday frocks and the men in their formal jacket and trousers, some even in suits, it is so lovely to see them walking arm in arm, the gentleman lowering their heads and touching their Trilby style hats or flat caps, at similar aged couples, passing them in the opposite direction as a silent acknowledgement and polite greeting. The youngsters do not dress up for such occasions and wear the more usual modern-day attire, jeans and tee shirts. As for us, we like to dress smart but casual, Shazza in a blouse, three-quarter length trousers and Sunday best flip-flops, I wear a collared casual shirt and formal smart three-quarter length shorts, not the beach variety, and my very own Sunday best, colour coordinated, flip-flops. It is also a family occasion and so there are plenty of people out and about and the unobtrusive sounds of conversations and general joviality just give the place that holiday buzz.

We also knew that parking on a Sunday would be at a premium, especially at our usual place in Castillon, so we set off early with the intention of once again walking into Sabinillas. Thankfully, our parking area was fairly quiet and we saw only two Motorhomes parked up and a handful of cars, it would not stay that way for long. As we commenced walking along the Promenade alongside the Sandy stretch of beach leading to the Marina, it was so tranquil, nobody had arrived and set up their chairs or umbrella’s but I observed a small inflatable dinghy a few yards off the shore, it looked empty and I could see nobody at all on the beach. I stood and scanned the water line for a while, perhaps, because the water was calm, the occupant(s) had abandoned ship and gone for a swim or snorkel, I thought to myself, but I could see no evidence of any living souls. Perhaps the occupant was laying prostrate inside and sunbathing, although normally you would see a head resting on the inner sidewall, using it as a pillow, or would have their legs dangling over the edge, their was neither. My final thought was that it may have been discarded by some unofficial visitors from the neighbouring continent just a few miles away, but usually there would be discarded life jackets left laying on the beach, which their wasn’t. Shazza had walked ahead of me, she often did so when I stopped to take photographs, so I caught her up and told her about the mysterious uninhabited dinghy, the obvious lack of dis-interest on her face, and no effort of a verbal response, told me all that I needed to know.

Tranquility in the sunshine. But wait a minute ! Is that an empty inflatable dinghy I see ?

Even the Marina was a little quieter than I had anticipated, this ex-pat enclave would normally have been busy with those seeking their typical Full English Breakfasts, or their morning coffee and croissants, or mid-morning aperitif, well it can never be too early when you are on holiday can it ?

Once we had exited the inner sanctum of the Marina, and its rows of Restaurants and Cafe/Bars, we rejoined the long Promenade and headed into the town and were pleased to see that finally we were not alone.

Getting a little busier on the town promenade

They are beginning to settle on the Beach as well

We sauntered rather than walked at pace, this may have been another four mile walk but it was not an exercise day. It seemed strange having to now have to weave in and out of people, children, dogs, pushchairs, where, for most of our time here, it was usually a casual straight as a dye sort of affair, but we were not perturbed. We walked hand in hand, which is not unusual for us, but on this particular day it appeared to meet the approval of the more ‘senior brigade of promenaders’ who acknowledged us with a smile and a doff of the hat, although we did question, as we smiled back at them, whether the real reason for this polite acknowledgement was that we were actually considered to now be in that certain age group !! Heavens forbid, you mean that the daily application of rehydrating skin and facial gel, that I have spent a small fortune on, is not working ?

We made our way along the, getting busier by the minute, Promenade to the opposite end of the town to another regular favourite Chiringuito of ours, the ‘El Pasio’. Hose’ the owner is a youngish chap, probably late thirties, but we have got to know him over the four years we have been coming here and he is always a very cheerful and welcoming host. There were no tables left on his external sea facing wood decked terrace and only one left on the promenade side, it was still in the sunshine though, so Shazza did her ten yard dash to claim it. Normally Hose’ would come out to the table and shake your hand and pass pleasantries whilst taking your order, however, I could see that he was pretty busy and frantically moving around inside from table to table taking lunch orders, so I went inside to the bar myself. The young barmaid recognised me and very cheerfully wished me ‘Buenos Dias’ and I responded accordingly. I was willing to wait for our drinks order but she beckoned me to go and sit down and our drinks would be brought out to us. I settled in my seat, my usual pastime of people watching would be in over-drive, there were so many to watch !! I felt his hand on my back before I saw or heard his cheery tones, Hose’ was his usual cheery self and we of course had a few words about the sunshine and how busy it was before he dashed off again to serve more eagerly awaiting customers. There are of course dozens of Cafe/Bars and Restaurants to choose from between Castellon, Duquesa Marina and along the seafront in Sabinillas but we now have our favourites, either because of the friendliness, the prices or the menu choices but as far as Cafe/Bars go, we always enjoy a visit to ‘El Pasio’ when we walk this route.

Well it would have been rude not to….. !!

A People Watchers paradise !!

They were even out playing on the water !!

We knew that the Spanish would take up all the tables at the restaurant by 2pm, many of the seafront restaurants that we had passed already had ‘Reserved’ signs on the tables. We had considered having lunch out but neither of us had any preference to choice, so we left it to lady luck as to what tables would be available, as and when we made our minds up. Neither of us were feeling particularly hungry, Shazza even suggested that if needs be she was happy to just throw something together when we got back home if needs be. We were just enjoying the stroll back along the promenade, people watching as we went, that before we knew it we were back at the Marina. To our surprise, we found a vacant table at one of the usually popular and crowded Cafe/Bars, one that faced South and had full sunshine, so we leapt at this rare opportunity and had another refreshing drink. We were not in a rush, here we could sit in the sun until our hearts content, just people watching, as well as admiring the boats moored on the pontoons, some of which were coming and going and enjoying the near flat calm of the sea. We had eaten here numerous times, the food was good, cooked to order and although not Michelin star class, it is always very nice. Over our chilled glasses of falling over juice, which were evaporating swiftly in the scorching heat of the day, we made the really tough decision to stay a little longer, refill our near empty glasses and whilst we were at it, well we may as well have something to eat !!

Time for another cool drink before lunch !!

‘Italiano Chicken’ and fries for Shazza

The healthy Omelette option for me though, with rapidly evaporating falling over juice !!! Who left that basket of fries on the table ? Oh well, waste not want not I suppose !!

Pleased to see they managed to deliver my new car as requested !!

A lot of other thirsty people, the bars around the Marina were buzzing !!

We could have stayed longer, but the falling over juice was evaporating far too quickly !! We backtracked to get our dessert course, not that the Cafe/Bar we had eaten at didn’t serve nice desserts, but we knew exactly what we wanted and where to obtain it !!

The choices were overwhelming, the previous day I had partaken of the Coconut and Lime flavour and Shazza had ‘Snickers’ flavour. On this occasion I opted for the Mint Chocolate whilst Shazza stuck with her favourite, again !!

The Chiringuitos (Beach Bars) were still very busy as we headed back towards Castillon. 

Mid-Afternoon and people were still out in force enjoying the afternoon temperatures, and why not.

This is the same stretch of beach we saw the empty dinghy at earlier. Is that a shark fin behind the paddle boarder !!!!

Our regular car parking area at Castillon and always busy with cars on a Sunday due to the number of Restaurants in the village. But it is also a lovely spot to ‘free camp’ !!

It isn’t just the human species that can take the opportunity of enjoying a spot of sun worshipping !!

We had spent a wonderful and relaxing five hours on our local seafront before returning to the comfort of the apartment, where we sat enjoying the remaining three hours of sunshine, and daylight, on our balcony. The days are beginning to stretch out more now with the sun setting at 7:20pm and we are making the most of every single minute of it, as very soon, it will be time to dig out the thermals, wooly pullover, scarves, hat and gloves as we return to the UK.

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I Earned My Stripes !!

Perhaps it was a form of retribution, for me daring to spring a ‘surprise’ adventure on my beloved, for now, she has declared that she has a further three ‘Shazza Adventures’ planned for us !! To be fair, her latest, was not one of those no notice ‘surprise’ varieties as we had been discussing this particular one for a couple of days.

Shazza’s plan was to do the mountain trail walk up in the mountains about 13km away from Ronda. The start of the walk would begin at the ‘Estacion de Benaojan‘ (Railway Station) and finish at the ‘Estacion de Jimera de Libar‘. These are two small mountain towns in the ‘Guadalete Valley’ which are 8.5km apart. The mountain trail follows the course of the ‘Guadiaro River‘ and running alongside is the Ronda to Algeciras railway. Once we had completed the walk we would have lunch in one of only two Bar/Cafe’s in Jimera de Libar, before catching the train back to the station at Benaojan, sounded like a decent plan to me.

It sounded straightforward enough but, and there is always a but, this train line is not a very busy one in the Winter months, so we would have three options, the first option would be, to time our walk so that we could catch the 1pm train back, or option two would be, to wait until the next train at 5pm or, the final option would have been, to walk back the way we came, we both much preferred the first option, funny old thing !!

Our other concern was that in October last year their were devastating floods in this region, we remembered, at the time of these floods, watching the Spanish National Television news programmes and seeing the mountain rivers overflowing in to villages and towns, banks of major rivers just fell away washing huge trees, and other debris, down river including vehicles. Roads and Railways were washed away or severely damaged. Ronda was severely damaged and as there are many major mountain rivers up in those mountains we did not know whether the damage in the smaller villages and towns had been repaired, although Ronda, as one of the largest towns which had a large population and relied heavily on tourism, had very quickly had its major infrastructures repaired. Whether or not the railway link had been damaged or repaired we did not know, although an online check showed no cancellations or stoppages to the schedule.

As I have mentioned before, we are always careful when we select walks in the mountains to ensure the weather is appropriate, so we discount days when the temperatures are low or when the ‘Works of Fiction’ forecast mainly cloudy overcast weather. The weather can change on a sixpence up there, we did experience it when we were touring around the mountains last season in the ‘Little Fokker’, so we are aware of just how quickly it can and does change. For the day we chose to do our walk, Wednesday 27th February, the weather in the area was forecast to be clear and sunny with a High of 18 degrees(c) and only a light wind, perfect walking conditions.

There was some discrepancy between our Guide books estimated walk time, stated as being two hours, and the Spanish National Parque estimation of three hours, so for planning purposes we went with the longer estimation. The drive to Benaojan would be approximately two hours, we elected to do the more scenic route, my estimation also took into consideration that Louis Hamilton would once again be acting as my personal chauffeur !!

Just fifteen minutes from leaving our apartment down on the Coast, and we were up in the foothills of the Andalusian mountains. The whitewashed town you can see in the distance on the right, is the much photographed town of ‘Caceres’

On the morning of our walk, Shazza had set the alarm for 7:30am, but I was awake and up by 7:00am and still enjoyed my early morning coffee on the balcony, although it was still dark outside as the sun does not rise until a little before 8:00am at this time of year. We left the apartment at 08:30 and the sun was up and the outside temperature was 11 degrees(c) but there was still a bit of a chill in the air. Just a short fifteen minutes later and we were up in the lower foothills of the mountains and the temperature had already fallen by 4 degrees(c). We had driven these particular mountain roads several times over the last four years and I have to say that they have improved the road surfaces in that time. It does not matter how many times we drive anywhere in the mountains, the far-reaching views, the various mountain peaks, the variety of colours of the trees in the thick and lush forests, the steep winding roads, all of it just combines and I am always gob smacked by the amazing beauty of it all.

The roads are nearly always pretty traffic free up here, just the occasional sighting of the odd car, tractor or truck. We are also used to seeing people walking on the side of the roads, not tourists but locals, some females with shopping bags walking to the next village to get to the shops or walking the children to school. Men, which I assume because of the way they were dressed, were agricultural labourers, or even the owners themselves, who walk between their various fields or outbuildings on their vast expanse of wilderness to tend to their animals or olive groves.

What neither of us were ready for was for a lone female walker to turn around, when she heard our car approaching, and stick out a thumb to hitch a ride !! Now we do not often stop to pick up hitch hikers, not these days anyway, it is quite sad really because in my younger days as a child, I used to hitch hike all over the place. We were intending to drive straight past, it was not until we got very much closer that we realised it was a female, probably in her early fifties, with a bronzed weather-beaten face, she was dressed quite smartly and wore a coat and headscarf. We decided to stop and at least ask where she was headed, she could speak no English, fortunately, although still not fluent in Spanish, Shazza is pretty good at picking out lots of words and can interpret from them the general gist of what is being said. In this case the lady was going to work in ‘Gaucin‘, a mountain town several miles away, and as it happened, one which we would be passing through, so we gave her a lift. We asked, in our pigeon Spanish, if she walked this route everyday, she told us that she lived on a Finka (farm), not far from where we had picked her up, and looked after animals but she worked during the day in the town. She would set off walking but would sometimes get a lift, and sometimes not, so today was her lucky day. It was not just the distance that this lady possibly had to walk each day that impressed me, but the steep climb, the photo below shows where she was heading towards.

‘Gaucin’, another much higher mountain town which we had visited four years previously on our early ‘Shazza Adventures’. The lady hitch hiker we had picked up was ‘walking’ there to get to work !!

After dropping our unexpected passenger off, who was, as you may imagine, extremely grateful, as would I have been if someone had saved my legs that sort of punishment before commencing a days work, we continued with our very scenic and pleasant journey.

What is that saying ? ‘It is not about the destination but the journey’. We will never tire of this amazing scenery. For anyone worrying about bringing a Motorhome up here, do not be, they are more than suitable and think about it, why would they have Motorhome Aires in some of these mountain towns if the roads were not suitable ?

Two hours later we arrived in Benaojan and parked ‘for free’ right outside the railway station. I always comment on the ‘free parking’ on our travels because in the UK there is very little parking that is free, except in large outdoor retail parks, perhaps there is a message there for town Councils in the UK who comment that the local retailers are going out of business in towns !!

There were a handful of cars parked already, probably locals who caught the early morning train to either Ronda or Algeciras to go to work, but their was no sign of any other human being. Although it felt nice in the car as the sun shone through the windows, the external temperature was still only 7 degrees(c) and we immediately felt the chill in the mountain air when we got out to put our walking boots on. Whilst doing so we noticed a small Bar/Cafe, opposite the railway station, had its doors open and their were tables and chairs set up outside. Shazza needed to ‘powder her nose’ so to speak, so we wandered across to see if it was open for business. There were already two people sat at one end of the very small bar and I noticed that they were not drinking coffee, a bit like a lot of the locals in France, the morning ritual consists of a glass of cognac with their coffee, and so too it appears is the Spanish tradition amongst some, but they forgo the coffee, well we all know by now that too much caffeine is not good for us. I ordered two coffees and we sat outside to drink them in the sunshine, although we kept our hoodie tops firmly zipped up !!

Whilst we were checking our walk directions for the starting location of our walk, an elderly gentleman came out and commenced a conversation with us, politely I said, “Losientos, no hablo espanol” (Sorry I do not speak Spanish) but he just kept talking and sat down in a seat next to us. I pointed to the glass he was holding and said, “Cognac” and smiled, “Non, Whisky” he replied. Shazza put on her ‘Spanglish’ persona and was able to establish that this very nice old gentleman was enquiring whether we were here to do the ‘Sendero’ (Walking Trail). She confirmed that we were and then he started talking again and gesturing with his finger towards the river. Shazza managed to establish that he was telling us that the bridge across the river, our starting point for the walk, had been destroyed in the floods and had not been rebuilt so we could not cross it. The gentleman started to gesture with his finger again, he told us that we would need to walk in the opposite direction, out-of-town, across a road bridge and there we would find a track which would take us down to the opposite side of the river where we needed to be, but it would be a 2km diversion !! I wish Shazza would be more confident in ‘speaking’ to Spanish people more often, she obviously understands quite a lot and can interpret what she hears but she is just not confident in speaking Spanish, but that said, I do not know what I would do without her, and not just because of her interpreting skills !! Another good thing that we have learnt since visiting Spain, especially areas we are not familiar with, is first stop should be the Tourist Information office or if there isn’t one, a Spanish Bar/Cafe and get into conversation with the locals.

Beautifully clean whitewashed town houses. The one on the corner with the chairs outside was a Bar/Cafe and it was deserving of closer inspection. Well actually, after the drive, with all the hairpin bends and sheer drops, Shazza needed to change her shorts !!!

The Cafe/Bar already had two customers, and they were not drinking coffee !!

Well we could not have used the facilities without ordering coffee, it would have been rude not to !! Note the hoodie top Shazza is wearing, the sun may have been shining but the temperature had dropped 4 degrees(c) from what it was down at sea level.

I guess I should state that for this walk I had brought my small ‘Canon’ pocket camera, I refer to it as my ‘point and shoot’ but in reality it has a lot of different settings but it works quite well just set on ‘Auto’ and the zoom lens is not too bad. However, as usual, I took lots and lots and lots of photo’s, but rather than stretch these ramblings out over several episodes I will just be including a much smaller selection, but hopefully enough to give you a real flavour of our route and the scenery. So, no more time to waste, let’s get this walk started.

Not a bad landscape feature to have in one’s garden ? There must be gold in them thar hills !!

This was not part of the ‘officially designated’ walk but a last-minute 2km bolt on, at least this was a nice flat and wide bit of dirt track right by the river.

The bridge that should have been just a 750 metre walk from the rail station and our official starting point. It was destroyed in the devastating floods that occurred in this area in October last year and which had resulted in our 2km diversion. So our 8.5km walk would now become our 10.5km walk.

Eventually we reached the first ‘Way Marker’ that told us the trail had commenced.

We were quite pleased to see that the railway tracks did actually run very close to our walking trail, although we knew that it was not a busy line in the Winter I was hoping that we may see some trains pass along it and was quite pleased when, just a few minutes along the trail, I heard the distinctive sounds of a train whistle.

A bonus attraction, we actually got to see a freight train heading down the mountain !!

Our walks are not just all about getting from one point to another, it is also about enjoying the spectacular scenery !!

We were not expecting to encounter another destroyed bridge but nimble-footed Shazza just took it in her stride !!

Bit too much of a renovation project for us, but fantastic views. Right on the hiking trail, perhaps this would not only provide a comfortable home but also a ‘walkers rest’ Cafe with the sale of a few ‘Snackeroonies’ to help recoup some of the rebuild costs ??????

We already knew that our route would entail quite a few Ascents and Descents, we were after all effectively walking on the side of a mountain so were mentally prepared for them !! The width of the path had become narrower than the nice wide gravelled trail we had approached on but nothing untoward, so far at least !!

Probably just a cautionary sign, we thought ? Well the walking trail had not been that bad so far ?

At this point, the railway lines were above us and the river below but as we climbed higher up the trail, the distance between us and the river below and the rail line got even greater and, as we were soon to discover, the trail got narrower the higher we climbed and just that little bit more hazardous underfoot !!

We were about to lose sight of the Railway track as it disappeared into the tunnel but we were still following the course of the river.

The views were magnificent, there were times when we could hear, but could not see, the rapids on the river below us. However, we had to keep our concentration as one wrong ‘wobble’ could have led to disaster. Now where did Shazza go ?

It was tempting !!

Loose Rocks, Shale and Gravel occasionally made it a bit tricky underfoot !!

The sun had not yet come around to shine on our side of the mountain so in the shade it still felt chilly, but the physical excersion of climbing up some quite steep ascents was certainly beginning to take its toll. We made the right decision to wear our sturdy walking boots and bring bottled water.

During our bouts of jibber jabbering with each other whilst we walked, as you do, I said to Shazza, “It was nice to be able to experience lots of different terrains during this walk“, she gave me a confused look, “What are you on about ! We have only see one Train so far ?” She said. I could not help it, I laughed out loud, “What are you laughing at ?” She said. I tried to stop laughing “I said Terrains” emphasising the word terrains, “Not TRAINS“. She looked at me, “Oh !” she said “I wondered if you were suffering with altitude sickness and were seeing things” she smiled. “Nice try” I said, “But that one is definitely going in the blog“.

Sometimes, seeing the trail stretching that far ahead is not always motivating when you are beginning to feel the calf muscles tightening from the continual ascents and descents !!

The point where the railway track passes over the aqueduct and the course of the river flows away from us

But not for long. The only difference now is that the railway track is now nearer to our side of the trail with the river on the far side.

When people go to the trouble of providing you with a rail to stop and lean on, well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it ? It was a long way down and this was the only bit of fencing along the route. My hoodie was now unzipped but it was still a little too chilly to remove it completely.

When we started along this trail we had seen a couple of walkers behind us, at some distance, but as I was continually stopping to admire the views and take photographs, they soon caught up. However, for the most part, there was little opportunity for us to find space for them to pass us safely. I did wonder what happened in the Summer when this trail had walkers coming and going in both directions. That would probably explain why the vultures were sat perched on rocks on the valley floor, waiting for the inevitable feast that would be bestowed upon them !! Today however, they would have to look elsewhere.

The dry river bed !! Note the walkers on the left of this photo which we eventually let get past us.

Shazza has much better long-sight than I have, it’s an age thing !! But even though I was constantly scanning the rock face on the opposite side of the valley it was her that saw the movement. I followed with my camera in the direction she was pointing and after a few sweeps with my zoom lens I eventually locked on to the mountain goats following their own narrow precarious trail and occasionally stopping for a snack.

Eventually we saw the tell-tale signs of human habitation, through the trees, still in the distance I could make out a number of whitewashed houses, it raised our weary spirits and put a spring back into our step, we were ready for a sit down and a nice cold drink and some food. We came to a bridge across the railway, but there was no way marker to tell us which way to go ?

Do we cross the bridge or not Shazza ?

After checking the walkers guide directions, which stated, DO NOT cross the bridge but carry straight on and then bear left past the goat farm, we came across the said goats.

The Goat Farm

This little fella kept escaping under the fence so now he has to be tethered, kids eh ?

A little farther along we came to some Information boards, these marked the start of the route back to Benaojan and it stated that it would take an estimated 3 hours, our guide-book had stated 2 hours and we had done it in two and a half hours, what we do to prevent arguments eh ? This however was not the end of our walk, not yet anyway, we still had to make our way to the railway station.

This information board marked the official starting point of the reverse route

Very considerate, information in English. Please note the very last sentence !!

It was a small but very pretty looking village, but with no signs of life, it was like the apocalypse had happened and we were the sole survivors, quite a strange experience really. Where were all the cheering crowds ? Whooping and clapping in encouragement as we staggered towards the finishing line, water bottles thrown at us to quench the fire in our burning throats, just before they patted us on our backs for our achievement, then presenting us with our gold medals, had no-one told them that we were coming ?

. Forget the renovation project, we will take this one please !!

Got to be one of the most scenic Railway stations I have ever seen !!

Plaza de San Roque‘, opposite the rather delightful railway station, was not a large plaza in the grand scheme of things but it had, for us at least, one of the most important aspects, a Bar/Cafe !! Shazza’s research had revealed that here was the ‘Bar Allioli‘ which had received lots of good recommendations for its ‘Speciality Burgers’.

A church, a house, a bar that serves food, mobile grocery vans, a railway station across the road and absolutely stunning views, what more could you want ?

So this is why we did not bring a Picnic, Shazza knew from her research that this bar served special burgers ? The smile says it is on its way.

On the extensive list of Speciality Burgers from several International Countries their were, Camel, Llama, Bison, Ostrich and Zebra listed, amongst other’s, Greek was with Feta Cheese, Italian with a Bolognese sauce etc. I cannot recall the full list and he also served a selection of Tapas. I was intrigued by the ‘Zebra Burger’ so that is what I ordered, Shazza played it safe with a Greek Burger. Over our much-needed cold drinks of Coca-Cola, I turned to Shazza and said, “How will I know if it is really Zebra that I am eating ?” And as quick as a flash she replied, “It will have stripes I would imagine” then she chuckled.

Meet the bar owner, Paul ……….  from Sheffield !! He was a very pleasant, friendly and informative host.

Now at this point I really do have to clarify something before I get inundated with adverse comments from animal conservationists. This is a very small bar in a very sleepy village in the mountains, with very few customers, although I have to concede that it may be busier in the summer months ? But for reasons of financial business acumen, I do not really believe that Paul could practically invest and carry all this stock of different variety of animal meats. My gut feeling is that this is just a ‘gimmick’ and that whilst each Burger he serves comes with the International Flag of its origin, e.g. greek flag on Shazzas, South African flag on mine, I think it is more the additions or spices that have been added that are actually representing the Country, and that the actual Burgers were all Beef, the Feta cheese in one and I am not sure what South African spices or other ingredient was in mine because it actually tasted pretty bland !! But, it was well cooked and it was hot and it came with lovely french fries and I ate every bit of it, I was hungry and to be honest I would have eaten a scabby horse at that stage !! Coming to think of it, horse meat had been on the menu ?

As I stated earlier, this Bar/Cafe/Eatery was only one of two in the village but it appeared that this was the social hub as there were many posters that were advertising forthcoming weekly musical events. Paul told us that he organised events every Saturday night and engaged musicians of all types and from all Nationalities. He even had travelling nomadic musicians, people who lived fulltime in their vans travelling around Europe and ‘busking’ to fund their lifestyle. Every June he held a musical festival with multiple musicians performing and in October he held an Annual ‘Oktober Bierfest’.

Musical Events every Saturday night in the small Plaza.

No entrance fee, Paul runs the bar and an external caterer provides the food, both of which do have to be paid for of course. But the event is an annual one and is always well attended, Motorhomes from all over turn up and Park in the streets around the town, although there is a Campsite quite literally just down the road.

Zebra Burger for me, well after this walk I believe that I have well and truly, “Earned My Stripes

Paul enjoys his Specialty Beers !!

Now it was a good thing that we got talking to Paul, if we hadn’t we may well have been stood at an empty railway station for hours, waiting for a train that was not going to arrive !! Because of repairs to the line due to the devastating floods, there had been a restriction on the number of trains permitted to use it, being Winter here in Spain with few tourists to speak of, it meant that the 1pm and the 5pm trains were cancelled, a mini-bus replacement service had been put in their place, that would be the mini-bus we saw leaving as we were eating our burgers then ? So we now had to make the choice, lay down in the sunshine on a railway station bench and wait for three and a bit hours for the next bus, or, walk the 10.5kms back along the same route we had taken to get here, deep joy !! Now I have to say that the first of these options would have got my democratic vote, but that is only good if you are in a democratic sort of relationship, you guessed it, onwards and upwards !!

As you may imagine, with basically the same scenery, I took a great deal less photo’s on the return leg of our walk than I did on the outward one.

This goat was up on its hind legs eating buds and leaves off the tree, but the look certainly said “Who is that interrupting my lunch”

Being down and this close to the river meant only one thing ? We had a lot more steep ascents before we would get back !!

What could be more refreshing than ice-cold water from a mountain stream ? Any excuse for another rest stop !!

I have to confess that it was a little harder going on the way back, both the ascents and the descents felt very much steeper and we both thought that we had stopped for breathers much more than we had on the outward leg of the walk. However, we were both extremely surprised when we got back and checked our watches to discover that we had made it back in two and a half hours, exactly the same amount of time. We knew well before we reached the car that we would suffer for this one, our 8.5km mountain walk ended up being over 20km and our calf and thigh muscles were already tightening up !!

The Bar/Cafe we had used in the morning was still open, there were several chaps sat outside drinking beer and chatting but they all turned as we approached and said “Hola”, we managed to gasp a sort of Spanish type pleasantry in return. The old chap who had given us the information about the bridge being down earlier that morning, the one who had started his day with a whisky, was stood inside at the bar but now he was drinking Gin & Tonic, we do not know if he had been there all day. Once again he started talking to us and Shazza did the honors with the interpretation, he was surprised that we had decided to walk back instead of taking the bus, you’re not the only one mate, I thought to myself. But it dawned on me that, in the morning he had kindly informed us about the bridge, but he had failed to mention that there were no trains to bring us back and that we would have to catch a bus !!

The healthy option at that stage would have been to order two cold bottles of water to re-hydrate ourselves, instead, we ordered two cold beers and I cannot tell you what it tasted like, as it never touched the sides when it went down !!

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Jurassic Park Walk – Part 3

Well I trust you enjoyed your refreshment break, we certainly did and it gave my ‘clicker’ finger a break from the camera !! But, no rest for the wicked, time to get on with this walk as there is so much more to see………..

This trail was sometimes very uneven and I certainly would not have wanted to attempt it after, or during, rainfall when the smooth rocks would have been even slippier under foot than they already were !!

I had not expected to see erosion in such a uniform manner !!

It was steeper in places than either of us had expected, not sure whether using the word ‘walk’ for this was the best terminology ?

One minute we were hiking through rocky outcrops, the next, on well worn earth pathways

Are you sure the trail is that way ?

“Okay, where did she go ?”

She can run, but she cannot hide !!

Or maybe she can ?

Look at how this tree has grown into the rock face ?

Back to rocky inclines, it will certainly be a fitness challenge !!

Surrounded by rock face, we felt quite alone but we knew that there were others somewhere along the trail, in front and behind us, but this nature reserve was so expansive we were not falling over hoards of other walkers, or should that be hikers ?

The different shapes on this rock formation created by erosion by natural elements provided a truly stunning spectacle. But on the top right, is that the face of a sleeping Lion or could this be the Sphinx they mentioned ?

Now this was a bit of conundrum, depending on which angle you viewed the top piece of rock it could have looked like three different objects, a sheep or goats head, or right on the top a sort of gargoyle face and from the other side, the head and beak of a bird.

Giant Shrek with a backpack carrying a wreath perhaps ? Oh you don’t half need a good imagine for this game, or perhaps a bit too much falling over juice !!

That little robot out of the first Star Wars films, was it called R2D2 ?

But sometimes it was just all about standing still, looking and enjoying the landscape that had been here for 150 million years !!

Looking down at the other walkers on the trail really put the sheer enormity of this place into perspective !!

Not quite on the Grand Canyon scale but there are faces in them there rocks !!

Flipping heck, if that rock were to fall sideways on Shazza now, she would not need to worry about Diets ever again !!

The end of this tremendous walking experience is in sight !! But looks can be deceptive, we still had a bit of a hike to get back to the Visitor Centre.

At least the trail at the bottom looked a lot easier.

These circular slabs of stone looked like they were separate pieces stacked up on each other.

Nearly at the finishing line, but first, a view from the top !!

It was still very hazy, although you cannot clearly make out the adjacent mountains you can see the town we drove through to get up here.

Using the camera zoom lens, you can see the road we drove on.

Almost feels like being at the top of the world from up here !!

I am certain that tower wasn’t here 150 million years ago !!

But the tower did mark the end of an extremely enjoyable ‘Jurassic Walk‘ (hike) and we were both quite relieved when we got back to ‘Wuxly’. The ‘Works of Fiction’ had actually got this one right and we were grateful for that, another one to cross of the ‘To Do’ list. Worth noting that the Cafe is reasonably priced, two coffees only cost us €3 and although we did not partake, they served food as well so you would not have to bring a picnic or hot drinks, but the two things you do need are, good sturdy footwear and bottles of water !!

There is ample parking space in the Visitor Centre car park for cars, vans, and reasonably sized motorhomes or camper vans, probably up to 7.5 metres. We observed numerous ‘pull ins’ on the way up which were suitable for motorhomes who were self-sufficient and perhaps wanted to overnight. However, just 30-40 minutes further up the road was ‘Antequera’ which has a ‘free’ Motorhome Aire which, according to my ‘Camperstop’ guide book, stated that it could accommodate twelve vans and had services if you needed to empty/fill your onboard tanks. The roads are very well surfaced and maintained, and they are wide enough for two vehicles. The only negative aspect that I would certainly take into consideration is the weather, I wouldn’t want to do it when there was snow and ice up here, and they do get that up here in the mountains, but also check the weather as whilst it may be sunny and clear down on the Coast, the low cloud can drop up here in an instant and visibility can be down to a few feet and the temperatures can fall dramatically in a matter of minutes. Worth noting, there are plenty of fuel service stations on the main A7 Coast Road (Mainly Repsol or BP) that sell bottled LPG, or for motorhomes with fixed refillable cylinders or underslung tanks, with external gas filling points, there are GPL (Autogas) pumps.

As we departed the Visitor Centre we got a much clearer view of the surrounding landscape

It was good to still see lots of blue sky for our journey back home

Simply Idyllic !!

 

A very old steam roller now a piece of ‘Road Art’ on the main road up the mountain

We were both pleased when we got back down to sea level and rejoined the main A7 motorway, we are always amazed at how clear the majority of these roads are in the Winter months, although I doubt they remain this way in the Summer months !!

Now this is what all motorways should look like during a mid-week late afternoon !!

I hope you enjoyed this walk with us, albeit a virtual one, but with four weeks left of our current Winter break here, we still have sufficient time to get some more adventures in and I can guarantee that Shazza is already waiting to surprise me with a few !!

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Jurassic Park Walk – Part 2

I know that I am stating the obvious, but no matter how much I may enjoy looking at these photographs again in the future, reminiscing perhaps, once our travelling days are over, but there is no way that a camera lens can emulate the human eye, never mind two eyes, or just the depth and periphery of vision that the human eyes provide. So these photographs, whilst I hope you enjoy them, are no substitute for actually being here and seeing these things for yourself.

The amazing thing is that a tourist attraction like this, in the UK, would cost a fortune on both vehicle parking and then an Admission Fee for each adult and child, here, it is absolutely free !!

Let the adventure begin.

It was not long before we got our first sight of Ibex. Were they watching us or were we watching them ?

Boring…. It’s just another biped, I’m off for an early lunch !!

The start of the joint Green & Yellow trails were pretty much well worn and easy to follow albeit a little narrow in places !!

Not sure, but both these rock formations appeared to have multiple faces on them ?

The rare luxury here of a bit of wide, relatively flat track. I think I was already suffering with ‘Altitude Sickness’ as I was seeing faces in the rocks everywhere, I felt surrounded. A bit spooky, have you ever seen that scary film ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ ? “Shazza, slow down and wait for me !!

Some, like these two, looked like they could be Transformers ?

Sometimes it wasn’t about looking for faces or shapes, it was just the sheer size of the rock formations as they spread before us or towered above us.

It was difficult at times to follow a defined trail, more like walking on the surface of the moon !! I have included a lot of shots with Shazza in them to give some depth and perspective.

Some of the rock formations had been eroded in different ways so that it looked as if they could topple off at any moment !!

Giant Lizard perhaps ? (on right of this picture)

Sometimes we just did not know what we were heading into !!

Photographs can be deceiving ? Looks as if I was close enough to touch this rock formation.

But not really !! There is a big drop between where I am stood and the rock formations behind me. “What’s that you say Shazza ? You want me to take a couple of steps further back !!

There was certainly a lot of climbing up and down and the uneven rocky ground meant having to be extremely careful !!

Shazza explaining to me that the Green and Yellow trails separate at this point.

Maybe she thought that I would not be able to interpret these by myself ?

Just an amazing feeling, we were so small amongst these huge structures, I could have spent hours just picking out faces and shapes, but Shazza was getting a bit ‘stoney’ faced herself with all my stopping and taking photo’s, whereas I was thoroughly enjoying this adventure.

No Shazza, don’t put your head in their mouth !!

She survived !!

And off she scurries once more !

I was just taking this shot when I heard her call to me, “Can you see them ?

It took a while for my eyes to focus on what she had seen, more Ibex, but they were inconspicuous at the distance we were away from them. If it had not been for eagle-eyed Shazza I would probably have not noticed them at all.

Oh my goodness, is it going to make it across ? They don’t jump as such, they spring off all four legs at once !!

Of course it made it, that little gap was nothing for these experts 

A bit more ‘Follow my Leader’

These are two looking strange wide-mouthed, bug-eyed beasts !!

Shazza, are you sure climbing up this rock face is the only way to get out ?”

“Hey up lass, wait for me, that was a steep climb up you know and I am not as young as you !!”

Now then, you may need to stare at the top of this rock for a while before you see what I saw. Think Alaskan Fur Trapper ? Bearded man in a thick fur coat and one of those hats with the flaps that cover the ears ? If you cannot see it then better call for those men in white coats to come and get me !!

 

And at this point we stopped for a short break and a well-earned drink of water, so we should allow you to do the same, we will continue the walk in Part 3…………….

 

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Jurassic Park Walk – Part 1

I was sat on the balcony, gazing out of my ‘glass curtains’ at the sea, as you do when you have nothing better to do on a grey and dismal day. Suddenly I observed something that I had not witnessed before from my vantage point, a Naval Military Warship heading South, now it isn’t as if I have never seen Naval Warships before, but not one passing this close to the shoreline, and believe me, it was well close to the shore for a Naval Warship ? I grabbed my binoculars just to confirm that this vessel was what I thought it was, once I confirmed that my eyes were not playing tricks on me, I called out to Sharon, who was pottering in the kitchen, to come and look. We both made the same assumptions, it was either on its way to intercept more ‘refugees’, making their way to the Spanish Coast, or to intercept more drug smugglers who have been arriving in Spanish Waters in speedboats.

A few weeks ago we were walking down the promenade when we saw a ‘Guardia Civil’ helicopter hovering low over the sea not far from our Marina, then we saw ‘Guardia Civil 4×4’s’ go racing up the street with their police lights flashing and sirens blaring. They had intercepted a speedboat and ushered them into shore and onto the beach, whilst being arrested, one of the ‘drug runners’ actually tried to do a runner, shots were fired and he was chased and captured. Oh we do witness some excitements here in our Winter retreat.

The Naval Warship went out of sight and I got on with the task of gazing out of the ‘glass curtains’ and looking out to sea, as you do on a grey and dismal day with nothing better to do.

Two days later, whilst reading ‘all’ of the doom and gloom in the International News headlines, on my iPad, I came across a report, supported by a photograph of a Spanish Naval Warship of the same type that I had seen from my balcony window a couple of days earlier. The report stated, that this Spanish Naval Warship had sailed to Gibraltar and with their powerful guns, uncovered and manned ready for action, ‘ordered’, yes ordered, Commercial freight vessels anchored off Gibraltar, which were in British Territorial Waters, to immediately leave as they claimed that these vessels were in Spanish Territorial Waters !! We British of course responded immediately, with our equally sufficient force of Naval supremacy consisting of, a Naval Launch which was suitably supported by a Naval RIB !!! But this was more than enough to see them off and the Spanish Warship returned from whence it came, cowering in fright with its tail between its legs……… Yes I can hear it now, those hearty renditions of “Rule Britannia, Britannia Rules The Waves……” as our superior vessels and crew returned to their defensive readiness positions and without a single drop of ‘Sangria’ or ‘John Smiths Best Bitter’ being shed in the confrontation !!

As a responsible British Citizen, and in light of this incident, I have of course now offered my services to the Gibraltar High Commissioner. Having such a commanding view of the coastline from my vantage point, I have suggested that I could act as an Early Warning System to the British Sovereign Territory of Gibraltar in case of any potential repeat incursions of this type of aggressive behaviour. To date I am still awaiting an official response from Gibraltar to what I deemed as my very patriotic offer, but I of course realise that the High Commissioner is a very busy man and I am confident that he will respond very soon, being that this is a most urgent matter of National Security !!

The ‘Aggressor’ (Photo courtesy of SKY News)

As you may recall me telling you in my last ramblings, we have had an unusually cold and windy few days down here in our Winter paradise. Although we have had no rain to speak of, just a few spits and spots here and there that lasted no more than two minutes. The ‘Works of Fiction’ had, however, forecast that on Monday 18th, we had a 95% risk of heavy rain !! Now to me, a 95% risk is almost as good as a damn certainty !! So with that in mind we had ensured that we got our daily exercise regimes completed on both the Saturday and the Sunday and planned for a ‘Wet weather day’ on the Monday. So, Shazza did all the laundry on the Sunday afternoon, leaving the ironing for the following day, which she would do whilst watching more of her ‘American Soap Dramas’ on Netflix. I on the other hand would spend my time……………….??? I am sure something will spring to mind !!

On the Sunday night, I once again double checked the forecast for the following days weather, a bad habit that we have gotten into, but now, the ‘Works of Fiction’ had decreased the risk to 65% !! Now in my book that was still greater than 50/50, so I decided it best to stick with the wet weather programme. It would have been so disappointing for Shazza to have gone to all that effort of doing the laundry and, having planned to get it all ironed and out of the way, whilst watching her cherished TV programmes, for me to then selfishly suggest that she cancel her scheduled activities at short notice, just to go out with me to do some exercise, no, I just couldn’t do that to her could I ? I kept all thoughts of my own health benefits to myself, I am really considerate like that, and of course, I am after all still on lookout duty for the Gibraltar High Commissioner, and I will of course reassure him of my continued dedication of duty, to him and the people’s on the Island of Gibraltar…………. when he gets in touch that is ?

Monday morning arrived, I checked the ‘Works of Fiction’ once more, it still forecast a 65% chance of heavy rain. I looked out of my Glass Curtains, it was still a little breezy out there and the Palm Trees were still having a bit of a thrash around, but every so often the sun would peek out from behind the clouds, but more importantly, there was no sign of rain (or Spanish Warships). We made the joint decision to risk it and went for our four-mile walk along the nature trail route. Once back at the apartment, and having checked the ‘Work of Fiction’ forecast for the following day, which showed that it would be warm, around 17 degrees(c), partly cloudy with some sunshine and no wind whatsoever, I conceived a cunning plan ?

It was 7pm, it had not rained at all during the day, as threatened, by you know who ? Shazza and I were sat on our balcony with a coffee, enjoying the last of the daylight before it turned to dusk, “What do you fancy doing tomorrow ?” I asked. She had been playing ‘Candy Crush’ on her iPad and she didn’t even lift her eyes from the screen when she answered, “Don’t Know, what do you want to do ?” came the less than enthusiastic response, “Well” I started, “The weather is improving again now, and, up in the mountains, it is forecast to be quite warm during the day, sunny and, surprisingly, there is not going to be any wind whatsoever” I paused, waiting for her response. I had got her attention, this was not the way these conversations were supposed to go, she looked over her iPad at me, she peered across with half closed squinted suspicious eyes, one eye brow raised, “So what have you got in mind ?” she asked, in a questioning manner that said, ‘I am supposed to spring these surprise adventures on you and not the other way around !!’

I reminded her of our trip to Antequera a couple of weeks earlier, but more specifically to our stop at the Visitor Centre at the ‘El Torcal Nature Reserve‘ on the way back down the mountain. We had not had sufficient time, on that particular day, as well as being quite tired from our earlier visit and walk around the Citadel and mountain town, to then do one of the walks and so we had put it on our ‘To Do List’ for another time. “It may not be as scenic as last weeks riverside walk, but I really would like to do it and the weather tomorrow will be perfect” I said quite enthusiastically, to my surprise, even though this had been my suggestion and not hers, she put up no resistance or offered any alternative ‘Shazza Adventure’ and so we set about making our plan for our ‘Jurassic Park Walk‘.

It would be a 90 mile drive just to get to the nature reserve, and from what we could remember from reading information on one of the notice boards, the walk we had been interested in completing was estimated at taking around two-hours, but that was not accounting for the time that would certainly need to be added on, for my frequent pauses to take the mandatory photographs !! So this, allowing for the drive home, was going to be an all day ‘Eric Adventure’ and would require us to get an early start.

As you know, we are history heathens so I am not going to bombard you with facts, figures, diversity of the area, flora, fauna, ecology etc. etc. after all, if that is what interests you then that is what ‘Google’ is for, isn’t it ? However, here is a brief resume, the El Torcal Nature Reserve is set within the ‘Sierra del Torcal Mountain Range’ of Andalucia. The ‘Jurassic Age’ limestone is about 150 Million years old. The erosion of the rocks have formed various shapes and some resemble everyday objects such as the ‘Sphinx’, the ‘Jug’, the ‘Camel’ and the ‘Screw’.

We set off at 9:15am, the sun was up and already warm, the sky was virtually cloudless, just a few wispy streaks here and there, the sea was sparkling blue and although the mountain peaks looked clear, their was a bit of heat haze so we were not sure what sort of views we would get once we were up on the mountain. There are several individual mountains that make up the Andalusian mountain range, the one nearest to where our apartment is located is the first, if you are looking South to North, our destination for the walk was on the fourth one up in the range. As usual we started by heading North on the main A7 Coastal Road, we chose the ‘non-toll’ route as we were not in any particular hurry and so, as usual, we would pass the tourist resorts of Cala Honda, Mijas Costa, San Pedro Costa, Puerta Banus, Marbella, Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Torremollinos and Malaga before turning North on to the more scenic rural countryside roads where we start our ascent up the wonderful winding mountain roads with their fantastic hairpin bends, which were now pretty familiar and presented no problems for my driver, Shazza (alias Louis Hamilton).

Once off the motorway we entered the much more scenic rural areas of Andalucia

The roads were so quiet and the countryside so green and lush !!

The neat rows of Olive Trees abound in these rural areas

A Lone cyclist, and without the aid of Electric Power !! does he know about the mountains in this neck of the woods ?

We did not realise it at the time, but that mountain, in the distance, was the one we would be walking in !!

We would have to pass through that town on the left of photo, so we had already anticipated that we would meet more uphill gradients  and hair pin bends, no problems for my little Louis Hamilton. This was one of the rare stretches of road that didn’t have a steep ascent with hairpin bends as we had already done several and on this part at least, we were descending, but not for long !!

The mountain appeared to get closer but it was an illusion, we were still some way from it and would have to encounter a ‘few’ more twists, turns and steep gradients !!

Surely it would be easier to invest in one of those exercise bikes where you did not have to leave the house ?

Another crazy person, are these people mad or what ? Perhaps he was part of the ‘Tour de France’ and has not realised yet that he has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the route ? Perhaps we should throw him a bottle of water or better still, subject him to a ‘Dope’ Test ?

Finally we drove through the town, but where was everybody ? It was far too early for Siesta !!

How do you lose a mountain ? Perhaps it is hiding behind that big  lump of rock ? The roads up here were terrific, well surfaced and wide enough for two vehicles and the views were incredible.

And still we climbed, we had remembered to bring bottles of water but had forgotten the oxygen cylinder !!

Oh dear, wrong turn Shazza, not again !! Perhaps we should ask directions from these nice people in the Camper Vans, if we can get around the apparent dead dog in the road !! (It wasn’t dead really, just sunbathing). I wondered if they had found this location on the Park4Nite ‘App’ ?

At last, the road up towards the Visitor Centre and Car Park but we still had a long, but extremely scenic, drive to the car park.

It was still quite a long way up the mountain road, but the scenery was magnificent !!

Should have brought the ‘Little Fokker’, could be nightfall before we get there at this rate ?

At long last the Visitor Centre buildings came into view, camouflaged in the rocks (to the left of shot)

We had selected to come midweek, mainly due to the weather, but also because it was midweek and so we thought that it would be much quieter than at the weekend. We got that one wrong !!

There were plenty of Motorhomes and Campervans in the car park, these were just three, however, this was not a Park4Nite location as they closed the barrier on both this car park and the barrier at the bottom of the road, at around 5:30pm !! Pity, would have been a good overnight location, although pretty cold at night down to -5 degrees(c), and they are the Summer night temperatures !!

Our first stop was at the small Cafe, after the drive Shazza needed a ‘Comfort Break’. We could hear the noise from the school kids well before we actually saw them. We had seen at least five large coaches in the bus parking area and so, once we had encountered this relatively small group, we hoped that the larger majority had already commenced their walk and we would not encounter the noisy rabble when we started our own walk.

The coaches we had seen in the bus park had brought these ‘little darlings’ up on a school day trip !!

Hopefully that group we could see on the hilltop were more of the school trip crowd at the end of their circuit !!

After a brief coffee stop at the Cafe, we returned to Wuxly and put on our walking boots, a good decision as it turned out, much of this terrain was not suitable for normal trainers and certainly not Shazza’s normal footwear, Flip-flops !! We sauntered across to the information boards and re-confirmed our decision on which trail we would follow. Although the car park was virtually full, we did not see many people so they would be somewhere along the walk. You could bring your dogs on the walk, but because of the wildlife that abounds here, purportedly, as we only encountered Ibex (Mountain Goats), they had to remain on leads. However, as we witnessed, once on the actual walk, there is always the one who believes that such rules do not apply to them !!

Very considerately they had an information board in ‘English’. You may need to enlarge this image if you wish to read it but basically there were two trails, the Green being the shorter 45 minute walk, the Yellow being 2 hours

Shazza, We of course chose the Yellow Trail !!

Now what I did not know, before we commenced our walk, is just how amazingly awesome the rock formations would be or just how many there would be. So, on this occasion I had elected to take my larger and better ‘Canon Powershot’ camera, as the zoom facility is much greater and I had envisaged, incorrectly as it turned out, taking more long-range shots of the surrounding mountain scenery and landscapes. My much smaller, pocket-size Canon, ‘Point and Shoot’, is exceptionally good, in fact most of the photographs that appear in many of my blog posts are taken with the smaller camera and, whilst it has a pretty decent zoom range, it is somewhat limited for the shots that I had envisaged taking on this particular walk.

What I am aimlessly rambling on about is this, I took over 200 images just on this walk !! The power on my camera had to be left turned ‘on’ all the time as their were just so many photo opportunities, everywhere I looked, by the end of the day my battery power had run out, but fortunately this was on the way home. Yes, I do have two extra batteries for this camera, however, I left them in the camera bag back at the apartment, stupid boy !! But a good job that I didn’t actually need them ?

Now then, normally, I would download all of the photo’s, review and where necessary, edit them and then choose a selection to place in my respective blog post. However, even after reviewing and editing all of these and discarding many, I am finding that there are just so many that I still would like to share with you, but to put all of them in one blog post would be far too many. Therefore, I have taken the decision to divide these particular ramblings into three separate blog posts. Parts 2 and 3, which will be published in due course, will be mainly ‘Photographs’ with perhaps some text below them as ‘Comments’, so if after viewing Part 2, you have had enough of our walk and looking at rock formations, then you do not have to look at Part 3. What is that saying ? One Photographers view of rock formations are just another persons lump of rock !! Who said that ? …………..Me, just then, wer you not paying attention !!

So hopefully you have now prepared your five-course picnic ready and your several bottles of falling over juice, it would be rude not to you know, in readiness, and are sitting comfortably to join us, albeit virtually, on our ‘Jurassic Park Walk’…………………..

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