Friday, August 25, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 34

I am not highlighting anything specific this week. I have had a lovely week, and have taken so many photos that it has been hard to bring them down to a manageable set for this post. So I hope you are sitting comfortably and that you enjoy travelling through my corner of beautiful Spain with me. 

You will know that we have had a fair number of visitors this year, and now just our son Tom is with us for a few more days. But we have had other visitors as well, from the noisy cicadas to the little, vivid darter dragonflies that bring a flash of bright red or blue to the pool. But one visitor was less welcome when he came to our patio late one evening. The dogs suddenly started barking furiously, and when we went to see what had disturbed them, this fellow was coiled there. He doesn't bother me too much as we rarely see a dangerous snake out here. This is a ladder snake and it is not venomous. Just look at the way his eyes have picked up our light.

When we opened the fly-free door, to turn the hose on him, he quickly uncoiled and slithered away.

But now onto happier things. For Tom's first week he mainly wanted to get away from office business, and just relax, dipping in the pool and soaking up the sun, while enjoying some Spanish food and wine. He usually has a hire car and takes himself off to the beach or to explore, and sometimes goes out on dad's bike for a cycle ride, but this week we have had a couple of nice days out together as well. The following a photos are a mixture of mine and Tom's.
On Tuesday we drove over to a beach on the nature reserve Cabo de Gato which is the land that forms the bulge at the base of the Andalucia region. It was not a beach we had been to before but we had been told about it. It is called Playazo do Rodalquilar. The road takes you through the nature reserve where there is mostly brown rocky promontories and sparse scrub land with a few palm trees.

It was a very hot day and we were glad we had taken our old parasol as, like most of the beaches in C de G, there are no amenities, sunbeds, parasols etc, so it pays to take your own. 

Parking is anywhere on a sandy area near the beach and it was very crowded that day, but we were happy to spot a space right by the beach.

The beach itself is a wide sandy bay surrounded by sandy cliffs. To the right is the Battery of San Ramón, part of the ancient row of fortresses that protected all along the coast. 

When we had had enough of swimming and lying in the sun, we packed up and walked up to this ancient building. From the pathway to it, we had a good view of the beach where we had been.

After the walk we were glad enough to get into an air-conditioned car to drive back home.

Yesterday we had our second excursion and this time we drove inland for two hours to the mountain town of Castril. As we left the motorway and headed in towards the mountains, the roads were lined with fields and fields of olive and almond trees. The olives are not harvested until around November, but the almonds were ready and the trees were laden with them. Most farmers pick them and take them to special almond presses that only open for a month or two, where the nuts are shelled, and the shells are sold on for fuel.
As our journey came to an end, we rounded a bend, and there just below us was the lovely town of Castril, a collection of white houses with two rocky peaks towering above it. Between these is the ruins of the old castle, Castril de la Peña.

We drove in through winding streets and decided to follow a car, hoping it knew where it was going better than we did. Mistake! It was two inhabitants of the upper town who were driving as close as they could get to their house to off-load their shopping. We were in fact at a dead end with one of the rocky towers directly in front of is. You can just see a statue at the top of the rock. The drivers of the car we had followed directed us to where we could turn around and go back down and we soon found a suitable parking place.
Our aim was to do a circular walk that would take us down into the gorge, along by the river and back up to the town again. Tom found a map online and we soon found where it started. As we walked down the first sloping path we could look back at the pretty white houses and the statue keeping watch over them.
Ahead of us the vegetation was lush and green so we knew we were on the right track to find the water.
There were clearly marked signs showing the way and they led us down a shady, tree-lined path.
Then we followed the sound of rushing water and soon came to the river.
There was a suspended board-walk (know as La Pasarela) that overhung the river and we followed that, stopping frequently to take more photos.
It looks very peaceful, and we were happy that it was not full of chattering tourists, but the sound of the rushing water was immense. 
We could hear birds twittering ahead, and round the corner, the opposite rock face was full of holes, both large and small, and they were all home to a flock of pigeons.

The boards we were walking on were smooth and fairly even though there were gaps big enough for a small child to put their foot through. But they felt sturdy enough.
Less sturdy was a suspension bridge that we had to use to cross the river. It was made of plates of metal mesh and swayed on its cables, so I got over as fast as I could while Tom was laughing at me and taking a video!
He was much braver than me, and stopped in the middle to take more photos.
On the other side was very dark tunnel, that went round a bend so there was no light at the other end. Here I am braving the entrance.
Half way along it there was a passage off to the side that led back out to the river and gave a wonderful view of the waterfall. On our left, look how the sun is turning the top pool golden.
As it slid over the stones at the top, it made lovely swirly patterns and looked like polished glass.
Directly ahead of us, water from another source also pounded over the rocks to join the main flow.
Then together they flowed on down almost like a gentle river. It was strange to see it so loud and forceful one moment, and quiet the next.
Our path then left the river and we walked through rocks and quite fertile ground. It was good to see a chumba, looking very healthy and covered in prickly pear fruits. The white fly that has wiped out most of them around us, doesn't seem to have penetrated this far inland.
I love this tree. It probably fell over with the rock it is growing on, many years ago, and has gradually found its way skywards again.
We came to the site of the old mill, now a bar/restaurant, so we had a cool drink and then set out on the last stretch of our walk. So far it had been relatively flat and easy, but the web page had warned that the last part was difficult. It was quite short but very steep! Made up of steep gravel slopes and uneven stone steps, it was a challenge, but we were equal to it. We stopped every time a tree offered a patch of shade, to drink some water and get our breath back, and then it was onward and upwards again. I was too busy looking where my feet were going to see much of the view but I had to take a photo of these two rocks. To me they both have ancient faces looking down on anyone mad enough to do the climb! 
Zooming in on the right hand one, you can see two buildings clinging to the rock face. It makes you wonder how they even got building materials up there, let alone lived in them.
As I finally reached the top and sank onto the final step, Tom took this very unflattering photo of me. I have to say, he didn't look that much better himself!

We were now back in the village, and we made our way back round to the centre, stopping at a pretty fuente outside someone's house, to splash cool water on our faces.
We walked on passed narrow streets, steep enough to need a handrail, but not wide enough to take a car (I am glad I don't have to carry my shopping up there!).

We came to a patio where we could sit and rest, enjoying the breeze, and the shade provided by tall trees sporting colourful lanterns.
Tom really wanted to climb up to the statue but it looked too high and steep for me after our last haul, so I said I would sit at the bottom and wait for him. As it turned out, the road has been recently renovated and it was a series of smooth modern steps that I could have managed, but Chris has promised to bring me back when the weather is a little cooler, and I can try it then.
But Tom made it, and I used my zoom lens to catch this picture of him up at the statue.

He doesn't use a zoom, but if you look carefully, or maybe click on the photo below to enlarge it, you will just see me in the centre, looking up at him.
This is the best photo we have of the statue of Christ.
Tom took some amazing photos from the top and I am sharing just three. The first is the view over the village below.
The second is looking away from the village, where the swathe of green vegetation clearly shows the path of the river through the gorge.
And finally this one which he didn't even realise showed a bird of prey (I think it may even be an eagle) soaring between the two rocky towers. The right hand tower goes even higher to the place where the statue is sited. On the left hand tower you can just see a simple cross and this is where the statue was originally placed when Franco gifted it to the town in 1951.

Then it was time for the drive back home. As we reached the motorway, the sun was setting and we took lots of photos to try to capture it. We even stopped at a garage to get a better view. Out of the many we took, I have chosen this one. Before long it had changed to this...

 And as we got back home this was all that was left.
And so it was the end of a lovely day.

I am adding the link to short video that Tom took as we walked along la Pasarela. It will give you a much better idea of the surroundings and the noise of the water. I hope it plays OK for you. I photo-bombed it, waving my camera around as usual! To see it click HERE. It is a high resolution video so it may take a while to open and play.

A big thank you to those who have stayed to the end. I hope you have enjoyed  looking through this window into my world. Those of you who think I write too much, I am sorry, but please remember this blog started as a diary for my family to see what our new life is like, and the habit has stuck!  I promise that next week's post will be shorter, though we do have one event to look forward to. I wonder if you know what it is?
I will leave you wondering and go to link this with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 33

Hi folks. I was only missing for one week but it seems such a long time. This week's post is really a photo story of the week my family were here. It was such a happy time so smiles all the way.

I am starting with a special smile and this photo of myself with my lovely grand-daughter. She is married with two little boys, so we both live in a rather male-oriented world, so a bit of 'girly time' together was special. (She wanted the pink bougainvillea to be in the picture).

All ten of our visitors flew over together and they were due to arrive here on Sunday at teatime. That morning we had a little drama as I found the cats gathered excitedly around the back door where a young bird had managed to trap itself between the perspex that hold the cat flap and extends half way up the outside of the door railings, and the fly screen net that covers the entire inside of the railings. The gap between them is so tiny; goodness knows how it got there. Anyway, no amount of enticing would get it out, and in the end Chris had to unscrew the top of the perspex so I could get a hand in to catch him. I released him over the green zone and he flew away, apparently none the worse for the experience.

Our visitors plane landed at Almeria around 7.30. Chris went to collect some of them, and the rest had a hire car. So by the time they had sorted out children, luggage and cars, and driven home it was gone 9.00 when they arrived. Of course a dip in the pool was essential before they had some food and fell into bed.
Some days they went out together while Chris and I stayed at home, and others we went with them. One afternoon we all went up to the lovely public pool at the top of the village. It is huge, spotlessly clean and lovely and warm, with amazing views of the Cabrera mountains. Unfortunately it is only open in July and August.
All the children are water babies, and they had a lovely time there, stopping only for a brief snack and drink, before jumping in again.

On Thursday, in very uncharacteristic August style, it was forecast 100% chance of rain. So that day we headed out to Mini-Hollywood in Tabernas, with the conviction it wasn't likely to rain in the desert. (Tabernas is the driest region, and the only true desert in Europe, and it is only about an hour and half drive from us). Mini-Hollywood is the set where some of the Spaghetti Westerns were filmed back in the sixties. It is now a theme park where you can see the old buildings, watch a Wild West show and can-can dancers, and then wander around a zoo, and have a cooling dip in a swimming pool.
The scenery is breathtaking, and much of it reminds me of our visit years ago to Arizona. This was the view as we queued to get in.
The set of the township.
We watched the Wild west show, complete with several shootings...
...and even a hanging! The men did all wave at the crowd though to let the children know they hadn't really been shot or hanged!
Then it was time to pose in the Wanted poster... 
...or the stocks...
... or to sit on a horse.
My son did his own bit of amateur dramatics.
Next we wandered up to the zoo. We walked under the bridge, but, of course, the boys had to go over it.
My favourite of the wild animals will always be the tigers. Much as I hate to see them confined to a cage, these animals all had big, interesting enclosures, and they did look healthy and content.
But these are the ones that stole everyone's hearts. They are sand foxes; not much bigger than a cat, with honey coloured coats and huge ears, they really were very cute.
We let the boys have a quick dip in the pool, but it was very crowded so we didn't stay long. Then it was a long walk back to the car, but a stop at the cowboy shop made this little man's day.  At the main gate we stopped to look at the photos taken as we entered, of the children all in cowboy hats and holding guns, though it was interesting to see that the older ones did not want to handle the guns.

We stopped at a beach café in Mojacar on the way back for some food, where the threat of rain looked far more likely.
In the end we only had a few spots, so we all had our tea and then the children entertained themselves on the beach...
... while we had a few drinks and watched the light fade over the sea.
My grand-daughter passed the time trying to teach me how to get a better angle on a selfie!
We enjoyed a couple of days on the beach, but often there was too much wind and the red flag was flying, so they had to be content playing on the edge of the water. I love this picture of my great-grandsons with their daddy - all in matching swim shorts.
It was good to have some younger company in the house, and we enjoyed watching the 'young adults' having their fun in the pool after the little ones were in bed.
On Saturday night, as it was their last evening, I took some of them down to Garrucha for a walk along the promenade, while the others went to a bar in the village. It was so busy down there. I hadn't expected that. But my great-grandson did manage a fairground ride while his little brother was sleeping in the pushchair.

One thing I need not have been so worried about was our big dog Kim. He has no experience of 'small people' and I was unsure of how he would react. But in fact he was wonderful with all of them, and they loved him to bits. He made lots of new friends..

... and not only with the children.
Foxy was a bit more cautious, but she is a rather nervous dog anyway, but she had her share of cuddles too.
Soon it was their last day. Little Alfie had a sleep and I managed to get a cuddle before he woke up enough to realise every one was having fun in the pool.
We decided to have an early-ish barbecue as they needed to get organised and be at the airport by 6.00.
Then it was time to fill the water bombs - an inspired buy when I spotted them in Lidl's that week. They were in bunches that fitted on to a hose and were so easy to fill.
The ensuing fight was enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Then there was just time for one last photo with everyone in the pool (except the teen who had bleached his hair and didn't want to get chlorine on it!), before they dried off and loaded up the cars.
Phew!! That was quite a week. Thank you for staying with me through the marathon.

I shall now link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll leave you with one last picture of our big bad boy. He has never been on the furniture before, but this week he discovered that it was a perfect fit for his bed, and now I can't keep him off it!