Unfortunately, Seville will have to wait until later this year or maybe next year as we’ve now moved north west into the Extramedura region. Doing two cities back to back was a stretch too far for us as we felt we wanted to get back into the countryside away from people! We spent two nights wild camping at Embalse del Retortillo, a reservoir, in the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Hornachuelos, west of Córdoba.
The landscape, made up of oak, cork and olive trees, wasn’t as dramatic as the Segura National Park but was pleasant with plenty of birdlife to see. We cycled an out and back route along the western side of the reservoir as there isn’t a circular route around. We stopped to take a photo, startling three deer across the valley, which darted off over the hill out of sight.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any footpaths in the area so had to make do with a short walk along the edge of the reservoir on a camber in the sandy soil. It’s one of the things I take for granted in the UK that we are never far from a public right of way with the myriad network of footpaths, bridleways and permitted paths available to us.
After two nights at different locations on the reservoir we continued on towards Zafra on a minor road for about 35km which wasn’t wide enough for two cars to pass but thankfully very quiet. Passing only two cars and a cyclist, we were relieved to get back onto a major road again after nearly an hour! One of the hazards, apart from meeting other vehicles, when taking the smaller roads in a van our size, or any van come to that, is being taken through narrow villages not knowing if there will be enough room to get through, especially if cars are parked. Fortunately, Tim is less stressed than I am about it which is just as well seeing as he is doing the driving! We’ve had a couple of close calls where I needed to get out of the van to run to the end of the road to scope out what was around the corner to make sure there was enough room to get through. We had this problem trying to get to the aire at Alanis, which was going to be our next stopover, but with cars parked along the entry road to the aire it was too narrow to get through. Even if we had got through there was no guarantee we would get out again the next morning, especially as it was market day! We, therefore, continued on to the next town of Guadalcanal to park up for the night in an aire on the edge of the town.
The next morning we made our way to Llerena, with it’s pretty plaza and 13th Century church, stopping for some lunch and a stroll around.
Continuing on we’ve now been at the free aire at Zafra for the last two nights. It’s on a noisy junction but we’ve been able to pick up some free wifi from somewhere.
Zafra old town is very welcoming with some lovely Plazas, a fifteenth century fortress, a convent, several churches and many interesting buildings.
We were able to find a footpath out into the hills south west of the town for a descent walk. We were hoping to see some vultures but they are proving to be a bit illusive.
We got back to the aire to see a huge bird soaring high up above us – a vulture! Doh!
We woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain hammering down on the van roof. I opened up the blind to have a gander and we may as well have been in England. The cloud was down over the hills in the distance covering up what was a pretty good view yesterday. It’s the first real rain (other than overnight or the odd shower) we have had since arriving in Spain four weeks ago.
We’ve been taking the time to do various admin jobs until it clears and we’ll be moving off later this afternoon to the Sierra de Arecena area to find some walking routes. The loose plan then is to cross over into Portugal to visit the Barragem d’Alqueva, the largest reservoir in Portugal.
Loose plans do change though!