Puente Romano De Alcántara, Tagus RiverApril 4 in Spain
We are enjoying travelling through and staying in the rural Spanish region of Extremadura. There are few enough settlements for us to appreciate one when we come accross it!
After a morning driving we went a little way down a disused road and parked up for lunch. Will went to explore while Vicky took Poppy out and set the table. Will came back in with some yellow rocket flowers for the salad and a chunk of cork he'd pealed off a Cork Oak. Vicky inspected it carefully; the tree she'd seen had ants crawling all over it. It was then that Will saw the first ant emerge and hastily chucked it out the door, regretting the fact he'd carried it in the pocket of his shorts!
The journey brought many gorgeous Spring sights; little pigs foraging amongst yellow wood sorrel in an orchard, lambs with their mothers and even a few brown wooly calves. The rolling plains were coated in blankets of flowers, mostly yellow or white. Above them soared vultures and numerous birds of prey, Kestrals, Buzzards and Black Kites. It rained heavily but intermittently and it was good to see the rivers full, although some fields had become flooded.
Dry stone walling began to replace metal mesh fences; an obvious choice given the abundance of suitable material dotting the landscape. The roads were straight, rolling and good quality and before long we were crossing the old roman bridge and pulling up at what would be our home for the next two nights.
The small parking area was on the side of a ravine spanned by the impressive Puente Romano an old, cobbled and arched stone bridge. Behind us the road led away up the hill and ahead was a walking track along the valley of the River Tajo. Flowers bloomed in great variety and abundance; Corn Camomile, Mediterranean Lavender, Field Poppies and a multitude of yellows, pinks, whites and purples. It was truly beautiful! Our enjoyment was marred slightly by two members of a coach party who began picking the least common and most striking flowers; the poppies. One of them ripped at a flower and pulled up the whole plant, roots and all! We may have said something had it been England, but didn't feel we could here, so just stared disapprovingly.
When the day visitors had left and the sun began to lower, highlighting the warm stone of the bridge, we found ourselves amongst a constant flurry of House Martins and the occasional Crag Martin. After watching them for a while at the edge of puddles, we realised they were collecting mud in their beaks and taking it back to the underside of the arches, where they used it to build and repair their nests! We felt very privilaged to have been able to stay in our 'mobile hide' to observe and identify this behaviour.
You can watch a 60 second movie of the Martins on the VnW Travels You Tube Channel here: https://youtu.be/fdR6VJDhaxw
We need to make progress up north in order to give ourselves time to explore without it feeling like a roller coaster. We were therefore in two minds about whether to stay a second night, but in the end the place was just so enchanting we couldn't drag ourselves away! Vicky wanted to explore the track ahead and Will wanted to hike to a wild swimming pool in the opposite direction, so we split the day in two. The morning walk was Vicky's choice and took us along the Tajo valley, above the swirling river. The sun shone, wildflowers surrounded us and we only met two other people on the entire walk. After a while we came accross an old winch station with a metal cable still attached. We think it must have been used to move goods from one side of the valley to the other at one point, but had since fallen into disrepair. Along the way we were entertained by Black Kites and Griffin Vultures and when we stopped for a snack a Kite cruised hopefully overhead, no doubt assessing how likely we would be to leave food scraps behind. Having turned back, Vicky spotted some plants that our WWOOF hosts had told us were wild asparagus. We'd seen locals with bunches of spears, so we looked very carefully and found one ready to be picked! It was a little way down a very steep bank but Vicky managed to get there and back safely and we shared our find then and there!
After lunch we set out on Will's choice of walk. The day was hot and although we'd lathered on sunscreen and brought water, we found the rocky uphill hike hard going. Grass and flowers grew around us, but all that remained of the shrubs were burned bare branches sticking up from the ground. It looked as if a fire within the last year had killed them and the Eucalyptus grove a little further on. Signposts had been burned to a crisp but the authorities had acted quickly and a new gate, fence and signs had been installed (although the signs hadn't yet been written).
There were so many flowers we didn't recognise but we did identify White Spanish Broom, a native to the Iberian Peninsula, growing alongside the more familiar yellow Broom. We actually walked past the wild swimming pool that was our intended destination and had to double back. We hadn't realised it was the site of a disused quarry! It didn't look promising as we entered but we were soon standing on soft yellow sand with a clear blue-green pool ahead of us, looking up at brown stone cliff faces and huge birds circling above. Somebody had put a lot of work into making the site an attractive local amenity and refuge for nature. We spotted a Black Stork, Egyptian Vultures and Griffin Vultures! We had the place to oursleves for more than 20 minutes. The water was chilly, not having received much direct sunlight, but Will enjoyed a swim or two while Vicky photographed the birds. We were shown how lucky we were to have this quiet time when a school group turned up and their shouts echoed off the quarry walls! Feeling tired we took the shorter route back along the road, our minds full of the wonderful sights we'd seen.
While sitting in the van drinking our cuppas the next morning we were lucky enough to spot a medium sized black bird with a bluish head that we think may have been a Blue Rock Thrush. This was followed shortly afterwards by two Iberian Magpies; birds that look a little like a Jay but with black caps and blue wings and tails. We'd previously seen them from afar, but always so fleetingly we'd not been able to identify them, so to finally get to the solve this puzzle was a lovely end to our stay! (Sorry no photos of these).Read more