Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Entre los elefantes

San Sebastian to Parque de la naturaleze de Cabárceno, 125 miles. 

Two years ago, on our first big trip, Gill took to picking the brains of any Brits we came across about good places to stay, particularly free aires. We got lots of good suggestions, however one place recurred more than most - the motorhome parking at the Parque de la naturaleze de Cabárceno near Santander. It's unique selling point - you can watch elephants! This was not much help at the time as we were travelling in southern Spain, but we agreed, if we visited the north, the ''elephant aire ' as we called it, was a 'must see place'.

Even without the wildlife, the  Cabárceno aire would make a great overnight stop.

So here we are, elephant observing, and it is remarkable that you park your moho, walk about 100 metres up a track and watch water buffalo, ibex and elephants gathered around a waterhole at evening. The paying customers have to shell-out €26 and take a ride in a cable car, we could peek over the perimeter fence for free. I will have to Google elephants, because these ones were slightly different to others I have seen in zoos. For a start they were a reddish brown colour, and a little smaller and looked a bit furry. Perhaps they are Asian rather than African elephants.

Aside from the delights of elephant watching, the aire is a great place for an overnight stop, level and with plenty of room. The parking bays overlook a large ornamental lake. At dusk scores, hundreds maybe of slender white egrets roost in a particular tree. In the gathering shadows the effect is magical, as if the tree had blossomed white birds. The birds perch stock still in the branches or stand like statuettes in the shallows nearby. Then suddenly a host of them took flight and the semi-darkness was filled with shimmering wings, for a minute or less, then they settled as quickly as they had stirred as night fell.

Of course we tried to photograph them, but it was transcendent moment, impossible to capture, one of those rare occasions that you sense is unique and extraordinary. Elephants and swarming egrets, what a wonderful way to end the day.


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