Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our night in the mountains of La Pedriza

La Pedriza, originally uploaded by Sabihabeautiful.

A few weeks ago, Gunther, Ruben and I hired a car and went exploring in La Pedriza, a natural park in the north of Madrid. We arrived late, but had enough time to walk the short 1 1/2 hours up the valley to a good camping spot. Camping is technically illegal, in that you can't put up a tent, but there are alot of people who start waking at the end of the day or in the middle of the night to reach the good rock climbing spots near the top. They stay the night so they can start climbing first thing.

We found a great cave that was filled with candles and a straw covered floor. We had a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the hills and getting attacked by the bushes and rocks (Ruben and I) or reading quietly on the "throne" rock, enjoying the view (Gunther). We enjoyed the sunset, chatting and joking until Ruben reported that our snug little cave was teaming with spiders after dark.....

Last minute change of plans.... and now its dark, so we scraped together our things, crossed a little river and went back to the spot we saw in the afternoon - a giant rock with an overhang perfect for protecting you against dew. We cut our own straw, laid out our mats and settled in with our head torches for dinner.

So peaceful and mild - what a great night. The stars were amazing with almost no light pollution in the sky. In fact I could hardly sleep - after relaxing and realising that we wouldnt be attacked by wild deer, I couldn't stop watching the bright fires in the sky!! A wonderful experience.

The next morning we woke to the sound of an army of climbers ascending the hill. We were smelly and tired so we stopped at a waterhole and had a little bath in the icy water. We finished the day with a much anticipated beer at the cafe near the car park while we planned our day exploring Segovia.


Camino Mosaic

Camino Mosaic, originally uploaded by Sabihabeautiful.

Playing with my photos Ive made a mosaic of some Camino photos. It all seems so long ago now, that sometimes I have to look at them to remind myself that it was real.

I sometimes think Ive been still too long and Im considering taking some time to walk the north coast route next year. BUT, its just a thought for now..... Getting back out there will be tough after my cruisy lifestyle in Madrid..... Wait and see if I make anything of it ;-)

Monday, September 10, 2007

coming back...

coming back to Madrid was surprisingly great! I felt sad leaving everyone at home - and after a few odd experiences I found myself sitting on the plane feeling very flat indeed..... But after I nearly fainted, cracked my head against the wall in the toilets and found myself lying with my feet in the air outside the loos as the hostess offered my oxygen, that my mind moved to other things..... I treated myself to a massage in Bangkok, had a near-miss with an upgrade, then spent the rest of the 20 hours watching really bad movies and eating "traditional British" meals....yummmmo!!

So to find Elsa and Ruben at the airport, with open arms was a real lift!! We spent the next 4 days recovering from jetlag - Ruben even thinks he "caught" it because he was so tired too, but after that we took a really great weekend in the country to visit the village where his mother´s family comes from.

Grandma and grandpa are living in the house in Almodovar del Campo for the summer with their 12 year old dog, Copy and new kitten "Rocky" (or "Chico" depending on who you ask!). We spent 4 days eating, sleeping, walking, translating, eating, drinking, sleeping, another meal, one more walk and a final sleep before driving back to Madrid! Really peaceful and beautiful.

The village is in the province of La Mancha and is filled with reminders of their most famous character, Don Quixote! The town windmill was just near the house and looked lovely at sunset.

All meals were shared on the terrace beneath the grape vine trellis. There is a shower hose hooked up on one side so we could all cool off after a walk on a hot day. One of their tricks is to sit the "new person" under the shower and surprise them, but I was forewarned so could be properly dressed when the joke was played.

We took a walk in the countryside amongst thousands of olive trees. The village is small but the land owned by the villages is one of the largest in the region. Every morning we walked from house to house buying the choicest tomatoes, lettuce, zucchinis and watermelons from the people who picked them that morning or the day before. Preparing fresh farm food every meal - doesn't get better than that!

The pimientos dried in the sun in the back yard and they will eventually dry completely in the sunlight to be ground into a powder to make paprika! Maybe if there is enough I can get a small amount for cooking ;-)

The area is also famous for the curtains on the doorways - in the civil war years, the wood for the doors was too expensive, so colourful curtains were made to keep the cool air in and the flies out. They now have doors also, but the tradition remains.

Buying the garlic was a big deal - there is only one person that is worth buying from in the area but they weren´t answering the doorbell when we got there, and then when they were home I'm told it was a bit expensive at 8euros for 30 odd heads of garlic! Looks great though.

Bar El Pajarillo - an institution for the family and where you have to watch the football and eat fried frog legs. The enjoyed watching me try them for the first time but really they were a mix of chicken and calamari and not something I would rave about.... They were happy - more for them... It seemed we couldn't drive past without the car parking (all by itself, we were told) so we could have a quick cerveza and tapa before going back to the women!

One day we joined grandpa on a walk and I thought it was to buy some bread etc, but turns out he wanted to take his grandson on a comprehensive tour of the town, since he hadn't visited for 10 years. I followed with the camera and enjoyed watching them talk for hours about the way it was in the old days, during the civil war and the amazing stories he recalled - stories about rivers of blood running out the doorway and down the street of the "prison" during the war, the store owner who dobbed in his competitor as a republican so the man would be arrested and he would get more business and the place where the town used to collect their communal water, where grandpa was arrested for "publico scandalo" because he took his shirt off in public, the tiny house his mother was born etc etc..... A really interesting day...

Of course there is always the men sitting in the squares gossiping, watching and waiting for lunch to be cooked....

We took a drive to a canyon were we explored the river and paths and found a lovely watering hole for a swim..... The place was teaming with dragonflies of all colours who were happy to pose for the camera. The day became extremely hot though and grandpa, uncle and cousins all passed out in the back of the van and we drove home with windows down and fans fluttering...

And at the end of it all we were given a beautiful sunset.... One last meal and we drove back to Madrid, stopping only to replace a flat tire and to fall into bed at 1am!

Our next escape from Madrid coming soon - mountain walking and sleeping rough in the mountains!