Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Confused and undecided.

Benajarife to Vinuela, 22 miles, Camping Pres La Vinuela see, €15, per night, 2 nights 

We never planned to be this far south so soon. There's a spreadsheet on the computer at home where we sketched out a possible itinerary for the trip that had Gill's birthday lunch pencilled in for Porto. In fact we had reached Marbella by November 4th. A chilly spell in Portugal with thundery showers from time to time drove us ever further southwards to find the sun. Somehow though, we have never managed to find anywhere that tempted us to stay awhile, there always seemed to be a convincing reason to move on after a couple of days. Now we are confused and undecided about where to go next. 

The coastal sprawl with big regimented campsites oriented to long-stay over-winterers characterises so much of the Spanish Mediterranean. It's not to our liking. We need to move on. We know we want to revisit the Capa de Gaeta and use some of the free beach side aires. Also, part of our plan has always been to go to Cordoba, and having read about what the Province of Jaen has to offer, in particular the ceramic towns of Baeza and Ubera, it would be interesting to visit those as well The decision we need to make is the order in which we do it, and there are as many compelling reasons for first heading to the Capa de Gaeta as for making an immediate detour north. 

We know from previous travels that in the first half of November the weather changes in the Mediterranean from being a summery kind of Autumn, to a climate that mixes chillier blustery spells with some warm days. Because Cordoba is in the mountains, and even now is recording night temperatures as low as 4°, we convinced ourselves that the sooner we went there the better. Which is why we are staying overnight at Camping Pres La Vinuela a small site overlooking a big embalse in the mountains north of Velez Malaga. 

It is a good, well managed site with excellent free wi-fi and good laundry facilities. The weather is bright but breezy. So, sheets and towels flap on the line as we prepare to do some wild camping where access to a washing machine will become an unimaginable luxury. 

The embalse it overlooks is a relatively recent feature, constructed in the 90s to irrigate the burgeoning fruit growing area further down the valley, as well as the apartment sprawl at Torre del Mar. There is a plan to circle the entire lake with a footpath, but as yet it is only partially completed.

You can walk north from the site and soon reach empty countryside with only clanging flocks of sinewy looking sheep for company. The mountains here are magnificent, reaching almost 2000 metres. We were still in beach mode, so had only taken lightweight cotton hoodies with us which proved entirely inadequate at shielding us from a penetrating northerly breeze. The whole of Europe seems to be having a cold snap. There is snow forecast and minus temperatures at home in Buxton, so being chilly is a relative term. Even so, we were still underdressed for this Andalucian chill, and after a kilometre or two turned back towards the campsite. 

Gill went straight back, I took a detour down the steep, stony slope to the shore of the embalse. I had my DSLR with me, and the light was fabulous. I took a score or more of photos.Reservoirs are strange, no matter how much they purport be be lakes few escape the appearance of having been cut and pasted into the landscape as an afterthought, which is unsurprising since they are no more a natural feature than a lagoon of plasticulture, a phalanx of pylons or a nuclear power plant. 

Spanish 'embalse' are even more otherwordly than most. In the month or two after snowmelt or the winter rains they almost achieve a lacrustine look, most of the year they consist of an enormous stony creek with a turquoise puddle in the bottom. In fairness, the Embalse Viñuela had not quite reached the puddle stage, reflecting perhaps that Andalucia had not been entirely immune from the rainy autumn we experienced in Galicia. 

Nevertheless, scrambling down the scree slope towards the water's edge I was as aware of the dry desert of rock that stretched around me as much as the icy blue water below. The contrast between the two became exaggerated when framed in the camera's viewfinder. As I zoomed in, the dry stone bed revealed by the shrinking reservoir looked uncannily like images from NASA's Mars rover. 

As for petrol blue water, its colour looked equally unearthly, as if CGI enhanced. I wondered if the entire earth may have looked like this before life evolved - bare rock and oddly coloured water full of volcanic minerals. I supposed one day it might return that state. The sun in the far future will shine differently, I don't suppose it would take much to interrupt the intricate biochemistry of photosynthesis, and on that odd evolutionary accident all life on earth depends, apart from at a microbial level. 

What I imagined seeing was impossible, on a lifeless planet how could there be an observer? I concluded that my train of thought was becoming morbid, and as evening fell it was getting very cold. I hurried back to the van. 

"Was that good?" Gill asked. "I got some great pictures." I replied. Which did not exactly answer the question. 

By 10:00am the next day we were completely packed and ready to head north to the aire at Antequera on the road to Cordoba. One last job, disconnect the ECU, the sun was shining, a warmer day than yesterday... Gill observed, "Why are we in such a hurry to move?" I had to admit that I had no idea. So instead of unplugging the cable, I turned the gas back on, unpacked the chairs tables and BBQ that I had only just stored in the rear garage and we settled down to a day of pottering about - confused, indecisive, but relaxed. No need to rush about.


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