And the little piggies and the huge big piggies as well probably did go to market, for we are well and truly in the jamon area north of Huelva, concentrating on the Sierra de Aracena.
Valverde del Camino was a lovely free Aire spot, slightly noisy on a busy through road to Badajoz near the Portuguese border, and as David has already said, capital of riding boots for Spain. Now what on earth would I want or need with a pair of riding boots. I have never ridden (have wanted to) and don’t have a horse, so why o why would I need riding boots. Well one very good reason is because I already have a pair. A pair that was brought in this very area on our previous Elddis motorhome tour in 2016. They are lovely, knee high, soft brown and black leather that have been on my feet perhaps a handful of times, so another pair of boots were definitely not for me, this time, maybe, perhaps?.
Unfortunately, what was for me on that Monday morning as we set off on our cycle, was a new tyre. For when we got the bikes down, my back tyre was completely flat. We could find the tear in the tyre, but David couldn’t find the hole in the innertube, and so we took the wheel of the bike and headed to a thankfully not far away bike shop. The man in the shop completely understood our google translate of the issue, and also perfectly understood and spoke English, so all good. A new innertube fitted all for the princely sum of €7. So, when the wheel was fitted back on my bike of we cycled, choosing to ignore the via verde that the area is also known for and head towards Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto, is actually a mining area and the well-known international mining company is named after the river and the area, and David was enthralled to see it. However, the cycle there on a B and an A road, both green penned, for their stunning beauty, turned out in our minds not to be that stunning. These two little piggies, nearly ended up in hospital with the lorries thundering past on their way either to the still operating mines, or to the border, none of them giving an inch on speed or distance, and none of our frantic Victor Meldrew waving had any affect. The tapa lunch in Rio Tinto made up for it slightly, but did not make up for the fact that we had just missed entry to the mining museum by some ten minutes, well for David anyway, I have to confess I was more than relieved!!
The next day, we really were in need of some electrical power, the sun over the last few days hadn’t been that strong that it was fully charging our leisure batteries, and we of course have many electrical goodies that need charging, including our now low e-bike batteries, and so we made the journey on the same ‘stunning’ b road to a little but perfectly formed campsite in the village of Cortegana. It was my turn to drive that day, and I made sure I got my own back on the super speedy lorries and cars by driving just about as leisurely as I possibly could, carefully guided Buster through the twists and turns. Nothing like a slow moving motorhome to take the wind out of your sails, and of course, they generally never realise it’s a woman driver as I’m on the wrong side for them, so David gets all the dirty looks and any other friendly gestures.
Cortegana, is an average Spanish working town, nothing really to write home about and upon our entry there, we were both like really, why are we here. However, after parking and powering everything up we took what turned out to be quite a walk to Almonaster del Real, which is a Bonita Pueblo and it really was, with it’s small but amazing Mesquita, on the outskirts of the town. The Mesquita was perfectly preserved and free of charge and after our lovely tapa lunch in the only bar in town was a lovely end to the day, other than the six mile walk back.
It was here that Spain let itself down again. On the walk there, we saw the piggies roaming free in the wooded fields and forests munching on the acorns that give them their very distinctive flavour, but it was we presume in the same farm that we saw some 20 odd dogs, not only chained up and lying just prostrate on concrete outbuildings, but also three other dogs trapped in an empty swimming pool, with no way out of the pool. What could we do, and what could we say? Yes, the piggies roam free, but ultimately, they have a price on their heads and are valued for precisely that, but why treat these poor dogs like that. Were they guard dogs for the pigs in the night, we didn’t think so, as they all seemed to have lost the will to exist. So, for us, the next day we left the area with very mixed feelings, especially when we stopped at a jamon village on the way out to buy some of the precious jamon, thinking that this very man could also be the equally cruel dog person.
On Thursday, we headed out of the Sierra to Isla Cristina, which is a wetland area more or less bordering the Portuguese border and is famed for its birdlife, as nearly all migrating birds have to stop off here on their way to Africa. It has been an area that we have intended to head to for some time, but have of course been stopped by the dreaded. When plan Z was operational, we also intended to cross into Portugal and travel around there, but that of course was not to happen and the border is currently very firmly closed, as we know from the motorhomers parked here on our new home, who have been turned away at the border. For us now, with only weeks before our ferry trip back to the UK, even if the border did open, are ‘plans’ are now just to stay in Andalusia, as we are supposed to due to Covid rules, and will then make our way up to Santander after a last visit to our friends in Marbella.
To torment ourselves even more, we cycled to Ayamonte, where the river forms part of a natural border to Portugal. We could almost smell the chicken peri-peri, which to be honest is about the main reason, other than port that we were visiting, and of course to see David’s brother George, currently residing there. Instead, we waved at George across the water and will have to do with Keith’s peri-peri when we get home, which in fact is as good, probably better than any of the Portuguese stuff. It is of course Easter this weekend, and although all the usual Spanish parades have been cancelled there still is a very festive air about from all the locals.
We have a good spot on at our new home, with Buster sitting proudly overlooking the edge of the wetlands with Ayamonte and the actual town of Isla Cristina in the distance. We have our binoculars out and have spent many a few hours already watching out at the passing birds. David and I, are of course well known for our animal watching and identifying skills, well-honed by many safaris in Africa. Thus far, the bird count is two magpies, some small brown feathered things, could be sparrows and a ‘lesser spotted prickly pear bush’ bird. David Attenborough watch out!
With the ‘90/180’ day rule now operational for us UK passport holders, it’s now quite interesting if and when you see UK registered motorhomes. The question now being, “Are you resident” rather than the old one of “how did you get here?” For of course unless, you are in the process of residency or have residency, or like David on a EU passport than we shouldn’t be here, like me!. Rumours are many, about how overstaying your welcome will be dealt with by the Spanish when we exit here, but with UK still only just coming out of restrictions we have decided to take a chance on our late exit. We did of course have a good excuse for our late exit, the 24th was the only date a pet cabin was available, but our excuse is now thankfully already in his new home in the UK, and we are all pleased to say Pino has settled in very well and is loving house, home and garden life. Pino will give you his own update on his new life very soon. No ferry dates were available for us to change that date, without again huge cost to us, and even to give up the sacred pet cabin, which we did we still had to pay more money for a different cabin on that sailing!
So these little piggies hope you all had, are having a lovely Easter, enjoying your new found freedom and fingers crossed it continues.
These little piggies today on Easter Sunday never stayed at home, nor did these little piggies have roast beef, nor chocolate eggs either and as for one little piggie going wee, wee all the way home, we’ll leave that to your imagination, but our bladders aren’t what they use to be!. However, these little piggies did have the most marvellous grilled turbot and a stunning tiramisu in the sunshine.
Happy Easter and oh what’s that I see in the distance… it’s a bird, big, long legs, pinkish in colour. Yeah, it’s a flamingo………..