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  • Day74

    Cuenca

    January 25, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 8 °C

    Cuenca is an old fortress town in the middle of Spain, an hour on the train, east from Madrid. It is perched on top of narrow gorges carved by the Huecar and Jucar rivers, and known for its medieval buildings that cling onto the edge of the cliff, modified in the 1920s to include balconies that hang off the edge of the cliff. These used to line the cliff edge, but there are only 3 such houses left, and looking at them, I shudder to think of what happened to the others. These balconies really hang over a drop of over 300m, supported by nothing. Not even ineffectual toothpicks pretending to give some structural support.

    Just about 25km from Cuenca is the Enchanted Forest. It is not a vegetative green forest of trees, but one of stones, rocks and monoliths carved through limestone by nature. The resultant formations resemble chatting faces, dog's head, ships, whale's tail, and even a city with high rise buildings and streets. All very amazing, amusing and, enchanting. Not driving, we needed to hire a guide. We found Alberto of Ecotourismo Cuenca for only €100 for a 4 hour tour. The tour included the Devil's Window, a lookout where he sets up a telescope for us to watch vultures nesting. He locates their nests by the white steaks their poos leave on the cliffs. It was really fascinating watching the nurturing side of these much maligned birds. Alberto also pointed out the effects of global warming to the ecosystem. For example, there is a population explosion of caterpillars that feed on pine leaves. The cold snowy winters curb their destruction of the native pine forests. However, without the extended days of cold, these caterpillars continue their life cycle throughout the winter months, and the poor pine trees have no time to recover. Indeed, as we were walking around the Enchanted Forest, we saw caterpillars, huge nests of larvae, and the butterflies.

    There are many trails and treks that surround Cuenca town, around and along the rivers. We just explored and did little treks as none of the trails are very well marked, although attempts have been made at the town end to mark the direction of each trail. Once on the trail, the markers disappear, and one just follows whatever looks like a trail. It either leads somewhere, or to the cliff edge, which always presents great views. Being such a beautiful place, and with nowhere in particular to go, and no time restrictions, except "before it gets dark", we had a great time just walking. We must be starting to get travel weary as we also managed to watch a couple of episodes of House that Kai streamed onto the TV via a HDMI cable that we packed from Perth.
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