La Vera

We were up early on Friday, with 275 miles ahead of us we didn’t want to hang around, especially when we usually end up averaging around 50mph. Some of Spain is very scenic, some of it is repetitive with miles and miles of nothing, except for plains of sandy terrain with an array of colours from beige to brown to red, the odd reservoir and a few billion olive trees. We travelled for hours throughout this “nothing” so did get a bit excited when we spotted Consuegra a town with a castle and windmills scattered down the hillside, and a while later could just about make out a few distant snowy mountain peaks through the haze.

As we got nearer the peaks we became more excited; it wasn’t just the scenery, but there were new birds, big birds, storks flying gracefully overhead. I’d never considered how big they were, let alone that we would see some. We even spotted one perched in its nest on top of an electricity pylon, I’m just gutted I didn’t get a picture.

We were heading to a campsite in Jarandilla de la Vera, a village on the southern slope of the Sierra de Gredos mountains in the Extremadura region. We arrived late afternoon and found a large area next to the river that we could have to ourselves. In the early evening we went for a quick stroll and found that we needn’t had gone overboard stocking up in a big supermarket on the way as there were well stocked local shops and the promise of a market on Sunday.

On Saturday morning we walked back to the village to ask about walks in the area. The guy in the tourist information booth was very helpful, explaining three walks to us, not only in very good English, but also writing notes in English upside down so we could read them as he wrote as well as drawing pictures of bridges, cows and eyes to help explain the walks. A well rehearsed effort, I think! Although we’d probably walked a fair few miles in Ubeda and Baeza we were both keen to get off-road again and explore the local countryside. So after a lazy morning we went for a short walk that had been recommended to us. It was only 3.5 miles in a loop around the village but was beautiful, with a river flowing over large smooth boulders, lots of lavender plants, oak trees with curiously velvety leaves and our first sighting of an azure winged magpie.

We were both looking forward to the market on Sunday, but as we had no need for table cloths, cheap trainers and other such goods we were a little disappointed. We were up for some local food porn, but this wasn’t the place. In the afternoon we went for another walk, this time venturing a little further up the mountain to the village of Guijo de Santa Bárbara. We started on part of the route we had walked yesterday before veering off onto a track and then road. Until that point it hadn’t been the most interesting walk, as we both prefer little paths, but then we spotted some round huts nestled in together down in the valley so went to investigate. After traipsing round the thatched huts we were none the wiser as to what they were. Nobody was home and it looked like nobody was ever going to be home, very odd! We thought maybe they had once been holiday huts.

After some lunch we attempted to walk out in one direction but came to a dead-end at some rocks looming high up either side of the river with the only way across via some kind of abseiling contraption, no thank you! We returned and continued up the other side of the valley, with most of the path doubling up as a stream which made climbing it more interesting. At the top we turned back towards the village, pausing for a few minutes to watch swallows skimming a small reservoir for a drink and then explored the tiny streets and alleys. The oldest parts of the village date from the 18th Century, although it felt distinctly Medieval. Exploring over, we made our way back down to Jaranilla de la Vera via a path next to the river.

By Monday I was keen for a complete day of rest, no washing, no chores, etc, etc. Lisa was keen to get out as the other walks hadn’t been long enough for her so we compromised and went for a wander with a view to sitting somewhere for a few hours reading. As it happened it was a good job we were wearing our walking boots and had loaded the map for the area on the Viewranger app. We passed a good spot for lazing about and reading by the river but carried on to see if we could sit a bit further downstream. We ended up on a path that took us further from the river and after finding my walking legs we decided to carry on. Now it seemed we were going for a proper walk, not sure where initially, but we headed towards Puerte del Sol, another destination recommended by the man at the tourist office. We were confused when we arrived as he’d drawn an eyeball to denote a wonderful vista but we found nothing of note except a sign telling us where we were, which was by a cattlegrid surrounded by pine and oak trees. However the views on route had been amazing with views of the heavily wooded valleys, mountains and ravines all covered in a burst of colour (white, purple and yellow) with the spring flowers in full bloom. We headed east and were rewarded with a path winding through the woods next to a stream covered with white flowers, which we later identified as river water-crowfoot.

We turned off the next path to the right and started what would be a long gentle climb, but we hardly noticed as there was so much to keep the senses amused. Interspersed amongst the large boulders and slabs of granite was lavender and waist-high bushes with tall white flowers giving off a scent similar to jasmine which Lisa later identified as white broom. There were plenty of big birds of prey flying above and we also spent some time photographing a large yellow and black striped butterfly as it danced around a lavender bush. Eventually we reached a wide gravel track that would take us most of the way home with views of villages to the south and east. Some local dogs did their best to make the walk more memorable by ganging up around us. First it was a small mongrel, but over the next few hundred metres more dogs seemed to gee each other up and some bigger dogs joined in. We walked at a constant but brisk pace, only getting assertive with them when they got too close. Eventually the smallest yappiest mutt came in for a nip but fortunately its teeth only brushed against my ankle and didn’t draw blood. We rounded the corner and luckily their owner was there and called them off. After following a beautiful path through the woods we finished up back at the campsite having clocked up a not too shabby 14 miles – not bad for a lazy day!

Now we’d had a good walk in the area we we both content to stay at the campsite on Tuesday and be ready to move on Wednesday.

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